Homesteading, Organic Gardening, How to Farm, Preparedness, Self-Reliance
I'm wondering if anyone has experience with the top-bar hive method of bee keeping and if so, how does it compare to the more traditional type of frames? We're in the planning stages for having a few hives and the little I've read on the top-bar method sounds appealing (lighter to work with, easier to see what's going on etc) but it would be great to hear from someone who's experience with both.
Thanks for reading and for any advice.
Definitely start with a Langstroth hive before trying a top bar. My boyfriend does our beekeeping and the first year there is so much to learn - you will have failures and successes. There is tons of info on Langstroth hives, but not so much on top bar, so if you need help a Langstroth hive will be easier to research. Once you have that down, you can try the top bar, but just be prepared for challeneges. We still have not perfected ours.
Thanks very much for all the advice so far!
Just came in from the beeyard. Wanted to pass along an example of an issue you can face with top bar hives. Each bar has a starter strip down the center. It is supposed to help guide them so they build straight comb and not build across the bars. In my situation they are building on each side of the starter strip instead of using the starter strip. The comb is straight but they are attaching each bar together by building two combs on each bar instead of one. When I removed bar 10 to look at it today one side was attached to bar 9 and I lost a comb full of larvae. That is weeks of work for the bees. This hive was started on the same day as a Lang. These kind of setbacks have the Lang far in advance of the Top Bar. I'm going to try a couple things with the top bar to see if I can get this straightened out, but each problem I encounter in the top bar puts it further behind the Lang. Since the original question was about comparing the types of hives I thought this example would be constructive.
Yes indeed, really helpful with such a practical example of their differences - thanks so much for taking the time to share this.
When I started last year, I started with two Langs. I would suggest which ever way you go (Lang or TB) that you get two of each. That way, if one of the hives goes queenless or is lagging behind the other, you can take a couple of frames (or bars) and put in the slower hive. Acts as an insurance policy. I noticed one of my hives was queenless last week, so I took a frame of eggs and larve from the hive next door and placed in the hive. Hopefully in a few weeks I will have a new queen. If not, I will just join that hive with the other and then split them off in September and put a new queen in.
Heather, I would suggest you start with two hives - a Lang and a Top Bar because they each fit different goals. A top bar is not likely to produce as much honey as produced in a Lang, so if honey is your goal the Lang would fit you better. On the other hand a Top bar hive is about as natural as it comes, so if that is your goal it would be a better fit. Top bars have issues with cross comb and if not caught early the hive quickly becomes a mess. Maybe not for the bees but certainly for you if your looking to get honey. Management of the hives is also quite different, so if your looking to "double your fun" so to speak, try one of each. And don't be afraid to go foundationless in the Lang. I think you will discover it works out quite well. If you later decide to expand to more hives you will then have experience with both and know which way you want to go.
Wonderful video Jon. I love the top bar hives - love the whole concept, but after trying it out this year, I pulled the comb and moved it back to a Lang. As excited as I was about going to a top bar, it just became too much of a pain with cross comb. The hive spent two months stuck on bar 9. By that I mean each time I lifted bar 10 to inspect, it pulled down the comb on bar 9. While my Lang was going bonkers (both hives were started with packages on the same day) my top bar was stuck repairing and repairing and repairing, over and over, the damage done as I tried to get things straightened out. What I am totally excited about is a version of the top bar. Foundationless frames in a Lang. The Lang that was started same day as the Top bar has half a super full of honey, built in foundationless frames.
I guess each of us have our own experiences with things and sadly, as much as I wanted to make a go of it with the top bar, my experience has been the langs are much easier t manage. I'm a little jealous. Still have the top bar as I have not been able to sell it yet. The whole thing feels a little like a boondoggle and thats why I'm a little jealous. Good luck to you! Love the looks of what your doing with the top bar.
Hi Heather! I trust your move went well! One thing I'd like to add is to make sure you have appropriate fencing at your new place to keep bears away from your hives! I've held off getting hives for that very reason. Our "foundation" has to be in place first; then we'll put out the $$$ for animals and hives and the like... A bear can do some major annhialation of a hive in no time goin' for their sweet stuff!