Langstroth, Top-Bar or Warre?: Choose the Right Hive for You and Your Bees


| 10/25/2013 4:55:00 PM


Tags: beekeeping, North Carolina, Lindsay Williamson,

If you’re interested in beekeeping but are debating which type of hive to choose or if you’re already a beekeeper and are wondering about different types of hives then read on.  Here I’ll talk briefly about the three different types of hives I use and discuss some basic pros and cons.  Let’s start with the the best known and most popular.

Pros and Cons of the Langstroth BeehiveLangstroth Beehive In Field

So, chances are if you’ve ever driven by a house or piece of land and seen beehives, you were looking at a langstroth hive. These are the standard hives used in the United States and most developed countries.  Imagine a wooden rectangle with wood frames that slide in vertically and rest in place on a top lip like a file folder.  Inside the frame is a thin layer of wax foundation printed with a hexagonal pattern that the bees will use to draw out their comb.  There is a removable top cover, a bottom board upon which the hive rests and a narrow entrance or slit between the bottom board and the hive body from which the bees come and go.  To add room for an expanding colony or for honey stores you add a super (basically another hive body, frames and all but shorter in height) directly on top of the hive body, then replace the cover on top of the super.

Pros

- Langstroth hives are standardized so it’s easier to find solutions for a specific problem.  For example, during my first year of beekeeping, one of my hives had so depleted their honey stores that their population had grown dangerously low. I was able to obtain a frame of brood and two frames of honey from a fellow beekeeper and save my colony. Due to the standard dimensions of langstroth, there are a lot of accessories for pest control, harvest, expansion, etc. that are readily available.
- When you harvest from a Langstroth, you slice off the tops of the honeycomb and spin the honey out of the cells.  You then put the frames back into your hive ready to go. It takes 8 lbs. of honey to make 1 lb. of wax so because the bees aren’t building comb from scratch every year you will be harvesting much more honey from a langstroth.
- Extraction is also much easier because honey extractors are built to work exclusively with langstroth frames.

Cons

-There is no way to know where your wax foundation is coming from or what contaminants it has been exposed to.
- Bees draw wax out from the cell size printed on foundation which is larger than cells in natural comb.  Some beekeepers feel that this contributes to problems like the varroa mite.
- Bees naturally want to move down not up which can prove to be a problem while overwintering.  Sometimes bees will starve to death because they have no honey stores at the bottom of a hive even if they have one or two supers full of honey on the top. 

Pros and Cons of Top-Bar HivesTop Bar Beehive Honey Comb

A top bar hive (TBH) is a long manger-like hive that has wood bars covering the top from front to back and some sort of roof over that. The bees will draw a comb from the bottom of each bar (no frames or foundation here). The entrance can be a slit in the front or a few holes in the side.  TBH’s can be an inexpensive DIY option or you can spend a pretty penny on one made of cypress or cedar complete with an observation window.  My point is that it can be as basic or fancy as you want and that in itself should probably count as my first pro.

Pros

- My number one pro here is that in all three of my top bar hives my bees seem to be unusually docile and prosperous.  They just seem to be really happy in this architecture and don’t mind inspections.
- Watching your bees build their own, pure white combs down from a bar of wood is really nothing short of magical.
- There are no supers to deal with during inspections which means little to no heavy lifting.Top Bar Beehive Comb
- As previously stated TBH’s can be a very inexpensive option so if you’re on a budget it’s worth doing some more extensive reading on this subject.
- The honey and wax you harvest will be from your colony only.  This is especially important if you’re planning on using the wax you harvest to make cosmetics.
- Comb honey generally sells for more money.
- You will have much less hardware to store through winter months.

beeutifulbees
11/6/2013 9:30:40 PM

Here we teach new beekeepers all aspects of beekeeping so they can choose the type of equipment that best suits them and see it in use for their own evaluations. The article is great as it lists pro's and con's of each type allowing new beekeepers to consider where they personally fit in hive preference. Langstroth, Top Bar and Ware. There was no mention of Beehaus, British Standard National (single or double brood box), or WBC (William Broughton Carr) and having each type of beehive currently in production or use allows a beekeeper to become educated quicker in beekeeping preferences.


betty
11/2/2013 4:49:20 AM

Lindsay, I do still wire my shallow super frames. So although they don't have the vertical wires in that were in the wax foundation, they do have 2 horizontal wires. So far I've noticed no difference in how they hold up during extraction. Betty


lindsay
10/31/2013 8:54:35 AM

Hi Betty, thanks for the tip about modifying the frame to encourage the bees to draw straight comb. I have started the same experiment (replacing old comb with an empty frame) in some of my langstroth hives but have not yet tried to extract from those frames. Please share more on extraction and other time saving tips you have if you'd like.


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10/30/2013 11:43:19 AM

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betty
10/28/2013 5:33:38 AM

Last year I started letting the bees draw out their own comb in my Langstroth hives. As I culled old comb, I gave them frames with no wax foundation at all and they built their own comb quite nicely without the contamination and cost that comes with buying wax foundation. An added benefit is the bees build the size comb that suits them! When you take out the removable wedge that usually is nailed back in against the wax foundation, simply nail or staple it back in sideways so that it hangs down a bit, creating a starter-strip slat for the bees. PersimmonRidgeHoneyFarm.com


betty
10/28/2013 5:33:30 AM

Last year I started letting the bees draw out their own comb in my Langstroth hives. As I culled old comb, I gave them frames with no wax foundation at all and they built their own comb quite nicely without the contamination and cost that comes with buying wax foundation. An added benefit is the bees build the size comb that suits them! When you take out the removable wedge that usually is nailed back in against the wax foundation, simply nail or staple it back in sideways so that it hangs down a bit, creating a starter-strip slat for the bees. PersimmonRidgeHoneyFarm.com





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