Why top bar hives?
Top bar hives are less expensive to build or purchase than Langstroth or other foundation/frame-dependant beekeeping equipment. They do not require honey supers, extra frames, foundation, queen excluders, uncapping knifes, extractors or other expensive tools; they are almost fully self-contained beehives.
In addition to being a low-cost alternative to traditional equipment, they are significantly easier to work in than a Langstroth hive. When one inspects comb in a horizontal top bar hive, only 1 comb at a time is exposed, thus leaving the rest of the colony undisturbed. This makes for less agitated bees, and a more enjoyable experience for the beekeeper.
There are no boxes to lift. This alone has led many a beekeeper with an aching back down the path of the top bar method. Traditional honey supers and deeps can weigh upwards of 50 pounds each, which takes its toll on the body of the beekeeper. The heaviest comb you’ll need to lift with this style is a single 3-7 pound, honey-laden top bar!
In recent years there has been a resurgence in foundationless, top bar beekeeping throughout the world as beekeepers look for low-cost, low-impact alternatives to traditional Langstroth, frame beehives. They are especially effective in developing nations that cannot manufacture or purchase the precision milling equipment required to use traditional hives. In many areas of Africa these hives have been critical in turning low-profit honey hunting and log hive beekeeping operations into profitable endeavors.