Back in the time of Robin Hood, Friar Tuck used to keep bees in a straw skep. Bees were plentiful back then so beekeepers could just reach in to a skep and grab a gob of honeycomb and go on with business. If a beekeeper wanted to harvest all of the honey, they simply destroyed the hive (sometimes by placing the skep over burning sulphur… yummy honey I bet). Anyhow, in 1851, the Reverend Lorenzo Lorraine Langstroth invented a beehive such that bees would build orderly honeycomb on frames that could be removed and inspected. Honey harvest no longer meant that the bees had to be destroyed. Frames could be removed, honey extracted and the frames replaced. This type of hive is the one most people think of when they think of a beehive…you know, the white boxes out in a field.
This style is not the only type of beehive though. In the United States, laws require that bee hives have removable frames for easy inspection. Beyond that, it does not stipulate how those frames must be arranged.
So, some new web friends of mine have sent me some pictures of their Top Bar hive. In this type of hive, bees are encouraged to build their own honey comb from scratch (not on wax “starter” comb that most Langstroth beekeepers use). The shape of the honeycomb frames is typically like a blunted triangle rather than a rectangle like a Langstroth hive. A TBH encourages lateral colony growth (as opposed to vertical in a Langstroth hive) and many say healthier growth. Please enjoy these pics and narrative by Bob and Gail, beekeepers who use both TBH and Langstroth hives!
from Bob and Gail…
Here’s a couple of natural comb shots. As you can see from knowing the Lang- there’s no side or bottom bars, there’s plenty of brood along the bottom of the comb and honey along the tb.
So, why bother? Here’s a great narrative by Bob and Gail that explains it perfectly!