(PART 1 OF 5)
Welcome the amazing world of honey bees! When your journey into beekeeping first begins it is vital to know the decisions you will have to make to get started. Historically, new beekeepers did not have many choices to make. Modern-day beekeepers have many!
What type of hive will you house your bees?
How will you get bees to put in your hive?
Will you use chemicals in your hive or will you keep your bees chemical free?
What additional equipment do you need or want to get started?
How much protective gear is right for you?
We will begin by learning about the different hive designs’ pros and cons.
Langstroth 10 frame or 8 frame Hive
A TRADITIONAL STACKED HIVE THAT GROWS VERTICALLY
Invented by Rev. Lorenzo Langstroth, this hive design revolutionized beekeeping and made modern
methods of beekeeping possible. Langstroth’s key insight was the notion of “bee space,” providing wooden frames and combs spaced precisely the correct distance apart so that honey bees will not build more comb between them. This makes the frames “moveable.” The corollary is that frames and other equipment built to these dimensions are also interchangeable.
Langstroth hives also offer the advantage of simple vertical
expansion or contraction by the addition or subtraction of standard-sized boxes and frames.
VERSATILE & CONVENTIONAL
Langstroth hive equipment is ubiquitous, meaning you can easily find compatible equipment for honey extraction, pollen harvesting, hive moving and other colony manipulation. If you want to resell your equipment or colonies, they will likely have more value on the open market if contained in Langstroth equipment.
Langstroth hives were designed to hold large colonies and lots of honey – consequently, they can be heavy and may require physical strength to manage and harvest honey supers. Supers are the boxes that hold the frames of honey, bees and brood in a hive. Each super can weigh from 20 – 75 pounds, depending on size, and whether or not it is full of honey. If you are concerned about having to move heavy boxes of honey off the top of your hive, then a Langstroth hive may not be for you. On the other hand, you have the option of harvesting one comb at a time, thus reducing the burden. Placing the hive on a stand facilitates accessibility if bending or stooping is difficult for you.
Top Bar Hive
A HORIZONTAL HIVE WITH BARS, NO FRAMES
NATURAL COMB BUILDING
Top bar hives require bees to build their comb from scratch in whatever configuration they choose. Seeing newly fabricated comb hanging from the top bars can be fascinating!
NO MUSCLES REQUIRED
There are no supers to lift with top bar hives, and you will work and harvest honey one top bar at a time.
EASY ON THE BACK
Because top bar hives can be worked standing up, at waist height and without bending over, they may be a better choice if your back prevents you from lifting or bending.
Because top bar hives require constant intervention to enforce comb building on only one top bar and eliminate comb attachments to sides, this option will demand more of your time.
DIFFICULT TO MOVE AND INSPECT
Combs built on top bars have no reinforcement or wooden frame to facilitate manipulation, movement and inspection. One can inadvertently cause the comb to become detached from the top bar (especially on a hot summer day), and it is very difficult to inspect for embryos, larvae, queen or disease. Moving a top bar hive can cause the combs to fall off the top bar.
Your bees will have to work harder to heat and cool a top bar hive because the space is difficult for them to thermoregulate themselves.
Small hive beetles have more hiding places in top bar hives.
BEE WEAVER’S COMPROMISE
THE BEST FEATURES OF BOTH LANGSTROTH AND TOP BAR
If you want the features of a top bar hive,but the management advantages andhoney production potential of a Langstrothhive, then the hybrid is for you.
You can start a hybrid hive with a nuc or a package, or by installing an established colony.
Add honey supers to the Langstroth portion and extract honey from frames using typical extraction equipment, or pull top bars from the top bar portion to enable easy comb or chunk honey harvesting.
BUILT-IN HIVE STAND
The hybrid hive is elevated on removable legs, to ease back strain and put both top bar and Langstroth brood chambers at waist height.
Bringing the two hives together increases the initial cost of buying a hive to begin beekeeping.
Sometimes the bees have a hard time transitioning between the two hives. Initially, special beekeeping practices
may be needed
There are several other hive types that may interest you. Warre hives, garden hives, and even indoor observation hives. We suggest trying one of the more conventional hives initially before working with a more challenging system. For more information and support go to our BeeFilm. Next time we will explore the different kinds of bees, how bees are packaged for transport, and what you will need to move bees into your new hive.