Forget beekeeping ideology, I’m a pragmatist. And here’s what I’ve come to realize about the benefits and drawbacks of top bar and Langstroth bee hives.
|Characteristic||Top Bar Hive||Langstroth||Notes|
|Easy on your back||A TBH is a dream for anyone with back problems.|
|Hive management||To me, TBH requires more time to manage due to frameless combs and non-moveable boxes.|
|Ventilation||Lang hives make better use of the chimney effect by allowing heat and moisture to rise up and out of the hive if you’re using a ventilated top cover.|
|The naturalness factor||There is something so lovely about watching bees hang comb according to their own whims.|
|The beauty factor||Personally, I find TBHs gorgeous.|
|Standardization||Langs make it easy to lend out brood comb to a friend in need on the other side of town.|
|Cost||I know a guy in town who builds his TBHs for $20 a pop.|
|Harvesting honey||There’s nothing like the ease of harvesting honey from a Lang using a clearing board and extractor.|
|Moving hives||Langs are far easier to deconstruct and move across town if you happen to have a too-assertive hive in a densely populated part of town.|
|Build Your Own||Several options for TBH plans||10-frame Langstroth plans (PDF)|
I started my beekeeping adventure 3 years ago with 2 TBHs. Last year, my husband and I switched to Langstroth hives for a variety of practical reasons perhaps idiosyncratic to us and our lifestyle. It was a tough decision for me as I learned the craft with TBHs and felt a strong emotional pull to their beauty.
Though I continue to harbor an aesthetic love for TBHs, for now we’ve found it easier to work Lang hives in the city with our full-time jobs.