The Various Common Types of Beehives

For many new beekeepers just starting out, it may be incredibly daunting to have so many decisions to make regarding the correct equipment, tools, clothing, and even the species of bees to house. One of the most significant decisions they will have to make is still the choice of a beehive. 

All About Beehives 

The beehive is vital in the beginners’ journey of beekeeping as it poses as an attraction to visitors as the beekeeper passionately explains their love for bees and simultaneously functions as a place for the bees to reside in while their colony continues to thrive.

Moreover, beehives have several other purposes; it is where the magic happens or rather, where honey is produced, and it can also assist with the pollination of nearby crops. With some of these reasons mentioned, the type of beehive a beekeeper should choose would be no less important than the other impending decisions. 

There are many types of beehives that can range from specialized kinds to ones that are just simply fascinating and may require a closer look to understand the mechanics behind them. Although each type of beehive has its individual pros and cons, the factors revolving around the beekeepers’ respective surroundings and intentions should be prioritized when making a decision about the kind of beehive to get. There are three common types of beehives that are most recognised and talked about – the Langstroth, Warre and Top Bar.

The Langstroth

To start off, the universal image that comes to mind when a beehive is mentioned is a Langstroth, invented in 1852. 

This is a legendary iconic invention of a beehive and although much has changed with the original design over many years, the fundamental model retained is an expandable type of hive that is convenient and easily accessible; whereby the highlight of this innovation is the practical use of frames that hang vertically from where the bees will build their comb in. The way the Langstroth is expanded is by supporting the introduction of boxes over the existing ones. These boxes are called super and typically come in various depths such as deep, medium and shallow.

The way the frames form gaps in individual boxes are very intentionally respectful of what is known as “bee space”. The hive contains specific gaps that are formed by the spaces that bees generally take great care to not combine together with comb. In this regard, Langstroth had invented a hive that would benefit both the beekeepers and the bees. On one hand, the bees get the space they require and on the other, the beekeeping process becomes more favourable and considerably easy for the beekeeper. 

Although the concept of the ‘bee space’ was first introduced in the Langstroth hive, it can also be seen as a familiar characteristic in the other hive designs manufactured today, including the Warre and Top Bar. In addition, another fundamental aspect of the Langstroth is that its measurements are standard and the components can be easily accessed and purchased from various manufacturers.

The Warre

Next, we have the Warre, which resembles the Langstroth in certain ways with the square boxes used in building the hive. A French monk called Abbe Emile Warre had designed it with the intention of representing a beehive that followed the kind of space wild bees typically choose in a natural setting. 

The main difference between this design and that of the Langstroth is that instead of stacking them on top, the new boxes are introduced beneath the existing ones. These boxes brought in are likely to be smaller and lighter than the ones in the Langstroth. The process of moving up the boxes while replacing them with a new one thus makes this particular design more suitable for a beekeeper who has difficulty with heavyweights. 

The Warre displays a sequence of slats that bridge the opening of the box with bees typically building their comb in a downwards fashion. This can also imply that Warre beekeeping does not require many foundations and can be said to be a design that requires low maintenance; an overall plus point in many beekeepers’ books.

There is a roof at the top of the Warre also known as a quilt box. As the name suggests, it includes a type of material that is able to soak up condensation that the bees typically generate. This is especially essential during the winter season, whereby very cold surrounding temperature might come into contact with the warmth produced by the bees in the hive, which can result in an accumulation of dampness in the hive; causing possibly dangerous situations to arise.

The Top Bar

Last but not least, the Top Bar Hive, commonly referenced as “TBH”, possesses a unique design compared to the Langstroth and Warre. The Top Bar is a relatively more recent and modern design that is deemed the most homelike and comfortable for the beekeeper. In this hive design, the lifting of boxes is not required and instead, the hive itself exhibits the bees with separate frames of comb. The bars for this particular hive are situated at the roof of the box and each bar boasts a strip known as a starter strip, where bees hang vertically and build a comb from. 

The key factor of a Top Bar Hive’s design is that it is characterised by a simple, long box. While this can mean that the extent of expansion is very limited, it also pulls in many hobbyist beekeepers with its simple and fuss-free design.  

Besides the three types of hives mentioned, there are definitely other alternatives such as the increasingly popular horizontal Langstroth, which is influenced from the designs of both the Langstroth and the Top Bar, integrating significant characteristics from both hives and providing beekeepers with a win-win situation that satisfies their individual specific needs. As such, feel free to do your research and take your time to pick the right beehive suited to your wants and needs. We hope that you now realize the importance of choosing the right beehive and that this article has brought you one step closer to making your final decision!


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