Alternative Beekeeping Techniques

Top Bar Hive – An Alternative Beekeeping Method

The top bar hive is by no means a new idea. Historical reference to the top-bar hive date back to the 1600’s. Most of today’s top bar bee hives are derived from work in the 1960’s. They are often called the “Kenya” or “Africa” hive, it was perfected for use in Kenya, Africa. Because of it’s simple design and cost effective management method, you will see this type of hive in use in many developing countries. It’s only recently that the top bar hive as become more popular in the US.

The hives that you see today are mostly Langstroth hives that are made up of several boxes (called supers) and a plethora of bits and parts that can be pricey or difficult to construct. Not only does the Langstroth hive require the use of equipment to harvest honey and mangage the bees, but there’s the complexity of the hive itself. Not so with the top bar hive as you can read below.

Easy and Maintenance Free

The top bar hive has only a few components: the hive body (box), 20 to 30 top bars (frames), and a lid. That’s all you will ever need. Compare that to your Langstroth hive. The bees do the work of building the comb which eliminates your having to buy pricey frames. The top bars are re-used after the harvest.

Non-Invasive Design

This type of hive is ultimately healthier for the bees themselves. To check your bees, you will not have to take the whole thing apart. Hence, your bees will be less disturbed by your presence and checking of the comb.

Simple Harvest

To harvest your honey, you simply remove the bars with honeycomb. You don’t have to take the whole hive apart (which is disturbing to the bees), unlike the traditional Langstroth method. So in addition to the not disturbing the bees as much, the top bar hive is less stressful for you to harvest. In addition to honey, the top bar hive has more beeswax to harvest. You also do not need a honey extractor/centrifuge or uncapping knife which saves you thousands of dollars. Smoking is completely unnecessary and many top bar hive users do not wear protective clothing. (for novices, i recommend using at a minimum, some kind of protection, such as gloves and veil). Once you remove the honey comb, the bees will go about their business as usual. This is not easlily done on a Langstroth hive.

Happier Healthier Bees

Bees have an optimal living condtion that the top bar hive easily recreates. This makes a colony much stronger and enables it to fight off pests and diseases on their own, much better than in a Langstroth hive. Not only will this save you hundreds of dollars avoiding having to buy medication, but you will have healthier bees.

If the top bar hive is so great, why isn’t everyone using it?

Basically, the top bar hive just can’t produce the same amount of honey. Hobby beekeepers often choose this method because it’s easier and they don’t mind getting a few pounds less honey. You will harvest more beeswax with a top bar hive though. Any hobbyist should have more of an interest in keeping healthy bees than in squeezing out a few more pounds of honey from a stressed, overworked colony. With just one top bar hive, you will still have more than enough organic honey for your whole family and friends.

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