There's a lot to learn when you're first getting started keeping bees. One thing you don't have to worry about is what kind of beehive you should get. Really! I recommend ALL beginner beekeepers start out with a Langstroth style beehive. If you'd like to experiment with other hive styles, thats great, but, do that once you're comfortable keeping bees, not when you're first starting out.
5 reasons why you should start beekeeping with a Langstroth style beehive:
- Most beekeeping books YouTube videos and blogs are for Langstroth hives. It's harder to find information for other style hives. This may not seem like a big deal now, but when you're a new beekeeper and have an obscure problem you need to solve, 2 months into having bees, you will wish you had a Langstroth hive.
- Most beekeepers use a Langstroth hive, so when looking for help from your bee association, finding a mentor or going to a bee forum, there will be a lot more people to help you if you have a Langstroth beehive.
- It's easy to find equipment for a Langstroth hive. All of the major beekeeping supply websites sell equipment for Langstroth hives. Whether or not they will sell parts for other hives will vary.
- It's easy to operate. Langstroth frames have 4 sides which keeps the honeycomb from falling over. This may not seem like a big deal, but if you pull a heavy piece of honeycomb out of a top bar and it's hot out, you tilt that frame even just 10 degrees to the elf tor right and there's a good chance your comb is going to fall off. Reattaching this to the frame is simple using rubber bands with a Langstroth frame, but is almost impossible to reattach using a top bar.
- Langstroth hives encourage honey production and healthy bees. Some beekeepers say that other hive styles are best for keeping bees healthy. However, I've talked with beekeepers who are breeding varroa resistant bees and who keep thousands of hives. All of them use a Langstroth beehive. I'm sure bees are healthy in other style beehives, but your bees will be healthy and happy in a Langstroth hive. On a side note, I've also seen healthy bees in an old refrigerator and in a large cardboard box.
Langstroth Vs. Top Bar Hive
I kept bees in a top bar hive my first two years and I regretted it almost immediately, literally. I built my top bar hive pretty cheaply and installed a package of bees a few months later. The bees left in a week! I later found out that it is common for bees to abscond when you install them in an empty top bar hive that's never been inhabited by bees. I tried saving money by making a the top bar and instead wasted $80 on a package of bees that took off!
Langstroth hives have a frame that bees build comb in. With a top bar, you don't have the support of a wooden frame on all 4 sides. This makes the comb very fragile. It's a lot more difficult to inspect a hive and see what's going on both sides of the frames. It's also very common, at some point, for the beekeeper to have the comb fall off the top bar. It's also tricky to get the comb back on the frame. If this happens with a Langstroth frame, you can use rubber bands to put the comb back in.
It is possible to overwinter a top bar beehive, but it is also a lot trickier. My first year, the bees starved to death even though there was food. This is because the bees were on one side of the hive, starving, and the food was on the other side.
You can't use an extractor with a top bar hive.
A Langstroth hive is a lot easier to move. Some people move their hives into a sunny spot or to a place with a windbreak for the Winter. Some people have to move their hive because it's affecting neighbors or animals. There are just times you might need to move a beehive and a Langstroth hive is easier to move than a top bar, if it's being put onto a vehicle.
Other Things to Consider When Looking at Hive Styles
No matter what style hive you use, it is the responsibility of every beekeeper to keep their bees in a hive that you can inspect. It is illegal to keep bees in hives without movable frames in some counties.
The One Exception
The one time I do not recommend a Langstroth hive is if someone has trouble lifting something that is over 30lb. If that is the case, a long Langstroth hive is the next best thing. It is a hybrid of a top bar and a Langstroth. It uses Langstroth frames, so you can still use an extractor and have the ease of inspecting comb in a frame, but the hive is long and on legs so you don't have to lift heavy honey supers to get to the brood section.
Want to learn about the parts of a Langstroth hive? Check out our equipment articles:
- The Purpose to an Inner Cover.
- Langstroth Beehive Lids Styles Explained
- How to Light a Smoker, so It Stays Lit
- Langstroth Frames & Foundation Explained
- Medium, Super, Deep. The Boxes of a Langstroth Hive explained
Want to Build Your Own Beekeeping Equipment?
I did it and it was pretty easy! I took a wood shop class in college and that was about the extent of my woodworking knowledge. I bought a mini table saw for $70 and used rabbit joints instead of finger joints. These boxes are still doing well 5 years later! They're, actually, doing better than the boxes I made more recently with finger joints.
Here's a link to a ton of beehive plans for almost every piece of beekeeping equipment you can image.
Want to learn more about beekeeping?
Join our newsletter for blog updates, beekeeping videos, sales and contests.