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langstroth vs top bar

Why Every Beginner Should Start with a Langstroth Hive

getting started keeping bees

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 beginners 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. 

Here are the reasons why you should start beekeeping with a Langstroth style beehive:

  • Most beekeeping books YouTube videos and blogs are for people using a Langstroth hive. It's harder to find information for other style hives. This may not seem like a big deal now, but when you 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 or bee forums, 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 & encourages 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 shed.



Langstroth Vs. a Top Bar

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.

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