Posts Tagged ‘Beehives’

Beekeeping Video – Life Inside A Top Bar Hive

Sunday, November 20th, 2011


I found this amazing video showing bees working in a top bar hive. It starts with the colonisation of the empty Beehive, then shows 3 months (condensed into 2 minutes!) of activity. You’ll notice the number of bees suddenly drops – this is because they swarmed.




Components of the Modern Beehive

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

All modern beehives are based on the Langstroth hive, named after Reverend LL Langstroth, a 19th century beekeeper. He discovered the idea of ‘bee space.’ If a space is left within the beehive of between 1/4 and 3/8 inch, it is large enough to allow the bees to pass back to back, and it will remain untouched by the bees. Any smaller and the bees will fill it with propolis, any larger and they will fill it with comb.

Using this idea, Langstroth patented the first moveable frame hive. Without the correct bee space, moveable frames were not possible, as the bees would ‘glue’ them together, making them immovable.

The basic Langstroth type hive is shown below (image courtesy of


Modern beehive components

The components of the Langstroth beehive (from the bottom up) are as follows.

Hive stand

The stand which keeps the hive off the ground, to stop any dampness getting into the hive. Bees can handle cold, but they cannot tolerate dampness.

Bottom board

This is a wooden stand which the hive rests on. This also includes the entrance for the bees to get into (and out of) the hive.

Deep super

Also known as the hive body or the brood chamber, this is where the queen lays all her eggs and all the bees are reared. Some honey and pollen is also stored here for the bees own use, but most of the comb is filled with brood.

Queen excluder

This has openings large enough to allow the smaller worker bees to pass through, but too small for the larger queen. This means that the queen is confined to the brood box and will lay all her eggs in it, so the shallow supers are used only to store honey.

Shallow super

These are the boxes containing the moveable frames of comb where the bees store the honey. The frames can be wired or unwired, and come with a wax foundation, which the bees then draw out with honeycomb.

Inner cover

This provides extra insulation, and prevents the bees from attaching comb to the outer cover.

Outer cover

A lid to provide protection from the elements.

The exception to this basic design is the top bar hive, which has no frames (just ‘top bars,’ hence the name) but they do still use the idea of bee space, and the bars (with comb attached) are moveable.

Langstroth’s ideas radically changed the face of beekeeping, and it is not without reason that he is considered the “father of American beekeeping.”

Top Bar Beekeeping – Good For The Bees

Friday, April 2nd, 2010

Top bar Beekeeping is beekeeping using top bar hives (or Warre hives, which are simply vertical top bar hives). There are two main types of Beehives used by hobby beekeepers – ‘conventional’ modern beehives, based on the Langstroth hive, and top bar hives. Although Langstroth type hives are still the most common, top bar beekeeping is becoming more and more popular.

So what is so good about top bar beekeeping? The strongest argument is that it is good for the bees.

The fundamental difference between the top bar hive and a Langstroth hive is that the top bar hive is frameless, so the bees always have to draw their own honeycomb. There is no pre-printed, one size fits all wax foundation used.

The disadvantage of this is that the bees have to make more wax (and so as a consequence will make less honey). But there are real advantages.

In top bar beekeeping, bees will make the comb exactly as they want it – not just the way the beekeeper wants it. It must be remembered that the Langstroth hive was invented to make life easier (and the bees more productive) for the beekeeper, not for the benefit of the bees. Bees are perfectly happy in a more natural setting (such as a hollow in a tree), and advocates of top bar beekeeping argue that the top bar hive is much closer to what nature intended.

Also, the foundation wax used in frames for Langstroth hives is recycled wax from other beehives. While recycling is normally good, in this case the recycled wax will often contain high amounts of chemicals and pesticides – particularly since most of it comes from commercial beehives.

In a recent Pennsylvania State University study, 87 types of pesticides were found in beeswax, with up to 39 different detections in a single sample. None of this contaminated wax is introduced to the hive in top bar beekeeping, as all the wax is ‘freshly’ made by the bees.

Another advantage of top bar beekeeping is the shape of the top bar hive – trapezoidal, with sloped sides. This allows the bees to make their comb in a ‘parabolic’ shape that comes naturally to them – again, as they would in the wild.

Top bar beekeeping is not for everyone. If your main aim is maximize honey production, then Langstroth hives will be more suitable. But if you are interested in becoming a ‘natural’ beekeeper, then top bar beekeeping could be for you.