FoodProduction101

What is the Best Type of Bee Hive?

If you are a beekeeper or are thinking of becoming one, one of the first questions becomes, what type of bee hive should I use to house my bees? There are three main types of hives: the Langstroth hive, the Warre hive, and horizontal top bar hives. Each of these has their own advantages and disadvantages. To answer the question of which hive is best for you, it is necessary to learn more about the hives.  

 

The Langstroth Hive

Benefits

  • It is by far the most common hive used today, so parts and supplies are easy to find and cheap to purchase.

  • Great for honey production.

  • Easy to find a mentor, as most beekeepers are familiar with this hive.

 

Drawbacks

  • While the parts are readily available and inexpensive, there are a lot of parts to purchase, and the price does add up.

  • Not particularly natural for the bees, as you force the bees to build up, while in nature they build down.

  • Most people using these hives use foundation for the frames, which is not natural for the bees and makes it more difficult for the bees to deal with varroa mites. Having said that, you can use foundationless frames, and have a very natural hive.

 

Langstroth Hive Opened (Super Frame out)

The Warre Hive

Benefits

  • This hive is extremely low maintenance. Warre beekeepers typically only go into the hive a couple of times a year to add space or harvest.

  • Very natural setup, bees build down just like in nature.

  • Top bar setup lends to natural beekeeping lessening the need for treatments.

  • Comb honey is extracted.

 

Drawbacks

  • Space is added to the bottom of the hive, so the entire hive must be lifted. This will require at least two people.

  • Hives are rare, so finding a mentor and equipment, is not as easy as the Langstroth hive.

  • Less honey production than a Langstroth hive.

 

Warre Hive Front

Warre Box with Top Bars

Horizontal Top Bar Hive

Benefits

  • Very simple hive set-up, relatively inexpensive.

  • No need to lift any heavy boxes.

  • Top bars lend to natural beekeeping.

  • Comb honey is extracted

     

Drawbacks

  • Less honey production.

  • The space of hive is limited to maximum size of hive. Boxes can’t be added.

  • Humidity has been known to be a problem.

  • Hives are rare, so finding a mentor and equipment is not as easy as the Langstroth hive.

 

Horizontal Top Bar Bee Hive

I chose Warre hives for my apiary. I like the low maintenance for myself, but also for the bees. I also liked the fact that it was expandable, where the horizontal top bar had limits to expansion. The natural beekeeping style of the Warre appealed to me as well.

 

I took a two day bee class, and I was appalled by the invasiveness of commercial beekeeping. After we had a hive open for an hour, I asked the instructor if it put stress on the bees to open the hives so often. In the class they recommended getting into the hive once a week during the season. He said it wasn’t a problem. I realize that I am a new beekeeper, but I do know that the bees work very hard to keep the temperature and humidity in the hive just right. Every week the bees’ house gets opened up, and the propolis is broken, and the climate is out of whack. So every week, the bees have to fix their house and the temperature and humidity, not to mention the fact that an average of 125 bees gets killed in the process. I don’t see how that couldn’t put a lot of stress on the bees.   

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