For an alternative method to the normal techniques we have been discussing. This article introduces some interesting alternatives.
Top Bar Hive – An Alternative Beekeeping Method
The topbar beehive is not a new concept. Historical reference to the top-bar hive date back to the 1600’s. Most of today’s top bar bee hives are derived from work in the 1960’s. It was perfected for use in Kenya, Africa, and is often referred to as the Kenya Hive. Today it is also used in many other developing countries for it’s simple design and cost effective management methods. In recent years it has also become more popular in the United States.
The traditional Langstroth beehive consists of several boxes (supers) and numerous other parts that are either difficult to build or expensive to buy. In addition to the beehive, the Langstroth hive requires many other pieces of equipment to harvest honey and manage your bees. Not so with the top bar hive as you can read below.
Simple 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. Bees build their own comb which eliminates the need for costly frames. The top bars are re-used after the harvest.
The top bar hive is healthier for bees. 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.
To harvest your honey, you simply remove the bars with honeycomb. Unlike traditional methods, you won’t have to take the hive apart and disturb the bees as much. Not only is the top bar hive less stressful to harvest for you, it also does not disturb the bees as much. 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 either. (For the beginner I do advise to use some kind of protection, gloves and veil as the minimum!) Once you remove the honey comb, the bees will go about their business as usual. Try that on a Langstroth hive.
The top bar hive is designed for the bees’ optimal living conditions. 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. Besides healthier bees this will save you hundreds of dollars in medication as well as disappointment.
Why doesn’t everyone use top bar hives?
The top bar hive is not designed for maximum honey production, although there have been reports otherwise. For the hobby beekeeper a few pounds less honey are well worth the ease of management. 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 honey for your whole family and friends.
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As you can see there are many different ways to the normal beekeeping techniques we have become accustomed to.