More the Same Than Different – Discussing Top Bar and Standard Hives, Part 2

Reader Contribution by Christy Hemenway

Hello, Kim — 

Nice job – that’s a very neutral start for a blog about a subject that still occasionally seems to hit some beekeeper’s hot buttons.

There were definitely times in Gold Star Honeybees’ earlier days when I was referred to as “that top bar whacko”, and it seemed to me like I was everybody’s favorite target, but I have to say now that much of the… what would I call it… animosity?  hostility?  heat?  Whatever it was, it has mostly faded away, or at least cooled down several degrees.  

People eventually got curious and started asking questions and finally, it seemed like they began to worry a little less that they might lose their beekeeper badge if they investigated the features of a beehive other than the good Reverend’s stack of rectangular boxes.  Not that everyone’s changed their mind or made the switch – but it’s definitely a saner world today.

Of course, while we’re on the subject of hot debates – one could actually take both terms “Natural” and “Traditional” and toss them out the window.  There’s not much natural about asking bees to live in boxes where we can manipulate the very structure of their nest – and 158 years really isn’t all that long in the world of tradition.  

But if we’re going to accept the concept of “managed beekeeping”, and the need for “movable comb” hives, then it just makes sense to try to do what’s best for bees in this crazy time when it’s not so much about what kind of box you’re using – it’s really all about the bees.

I will add one more to the list of well-known top bar beekeepers, and that’s my buddy Phil Chandler of – from “across the pond” in the tiny town of Totnes, England.  Phil’s website was the first resource I found when I started looking for alternatives to the Langstroth hive, and it’s been my pleasure to have made his acquaintance since.  His influence is obvious in the design of Gold Star Honeybees’ Top Bar Hive kits.

So – with all that said – let’s talk about bees, Kim!  Where would you like to start?

Christy Hemenway runs Gold Star Honeybees, and Kim Flottum is the Editor of Bee Culture Magazine.  For more information about top bar beekeeping, check out