By far the most common question we hear is, "Which type of hive should I get?". This is a complex question that boils down to: what do you want to get out of beekeeping? Is it strictly pollination and support of honeybee populations? A little honey? A lot of honey? Based on these types of considerations, you will want to determine what hive type will best suit your needs. We ask our bees what they prefer all the time but they never offer an opinion either way! Bees will be bees in whichever type of hive you choose.
The three most common hives used in the United States are the Langstroth Hive, Horizontal Top Bar Hive, and the Warre Hive. These are the three hives we sell and use in our own apiary. Each design has its own benefits and drawbacks; none of them are perfect for every situation. This handy table will help you determine which hive type is right for you.
TOP BAR HIVE
|Overview||Rising in popularity for backyard beekeepers due to its simplicity, ease of access, no heavy lifting, and few accessories required.||The most hands-off hive, ideal for those looking for a simple-to-manage hive with lighter boxes.||Most common hive in North America. Heavy boxes, lots of accessories and resources available.|
|Cost||Low to high. Costs range from very cheap (building your own) to high-end with all the bells and whistles and everything in between. Few accessories required.||Low to high depending on if building your own or purchasing one. Few accessories required.||Mass produced hives are relatively cheap, but required accessories and components add up and are costly.|
|Maintenance||The most frequent maintenance and monitoring, but no heavy lifting is involved.||The least maintenance. Boxes added to the bottom in the spring. Harvest in the fall.||Relatively little maintenance. Boxes can be added early in anticipation of colony growth or a strong nectar flow.|
|Weight||The easiest on the back. Once the hive is in place, lifting only involves 3-7lb combs.||Significantly lighter than the Langstroth, heavier than the horizontal top bar hive.||The heaviest and most awkward to lift and maintain, between approximately 30 and 80lbs, depending on the box size.|
|Production||Some expert top bar beekeepers maintain they harvest similar honey quantities from their Top Bar Hives and their Langstroths. More frequent inspection required.||Comparable production to Langstroth as long as boxes are added on time.||Arguably the highest honey production of the three, due to large box sizes.|
|Colony Health||Natural, foundationless combs improve colony health.||Natural, foundationless combs improve colony health.||With foundationless combs, the same likelihood for survival as other designs.|
|Next Steps||Choose a Top Bar Hive→||Choose a Warre Hive→||Choose a Langstroth Hive→|