HIVE TYPES Top Bar Hives are often classified as either: horizontal or vertical. The 'Warre' hive is a vertical top bar hive. The Kenyan Top Bar (KTBH) is an example of a horizontal hive. Our Warre hives are made to the specifications laid down in Warre's Beekeeping For All. Our horizontal Top Bar Hives are similar to the well-known KTBH design - with a few modifications for
Frame hives include:The Smith hive, Langstroth hive, Modified Commercial and the Modified Dadant - as well as the most popular hive in the UK - the British Modified National Hive.
TOP BAR HIVES Vs. FRAME HIVES Top Bar Hives do not require frame or foundation. The 34mm and 38mm bars we produced are pre-waxed in a routed groove. The bars are positioned in such a way as to allow the colony to build comb down from the timber 'Top Bars'. Top Bar Hives have some advantages over the more common 'frame hives' - but they are not for everyone.
The lack of frames and foundation and other pieces of hive hardware result in lower start-up costs for the new bee-keeper. We would advise new beekeepers to consider starting out with a Top Bar Hive for a few seasons or so - until they have decided that beekeeping is for them. A beekeeper purchasing one of our assembled cedar Top Bar Hives will enjoy a 'ready to go hive' at just over half the cost of most cedar frame hives.
Horizontal Top Bar Hives require less heavy lifting than frame hives. This allows many beekeepers to continue keeping bees - without the necessary heavy lifting of full supers and brood boxes. For those with limited mobility a vertical Top Bar Hive affords the convenience of an accessible working height for all manipulations.
If you are a beekeeper who is trying to increase wax production and is less keen on honey production - Top Bar Hives are likely to be a welcomed addition to your apiary. Similarly, if you prefer comb-honey to filtered honey then Top Bar Hives are a good choice for you.
It should be noted that the absence of frames and foundation may result in lower yields of honey production. From our experience, we tend to achieve approximately 10-20% less honey yields from our Top Bar Hives compared to our framed hives (Nationals) - this should not be taken as a proven average that will be found throughout. For our purposes the trade-off of a little less honey for a lot less hassle is favourable. For most commercial honey producers (except organic cut-comb producers) this may not be so acceptable.
It should also be noted that although Top Bar beekeeping does often require less time per hive for the beekeeper; it does not mean that the bees are left entirely to their own devices. This would be neglectful. Regular swarm checks from April to the end of August, Varroa and other pest monitoring, and over-wintering provisions are still just as essential. Top Bar Hives are well-suited for all the necessary manipulations that may be required by all but the most specialist of beekeeping practices. The full-length observation windows - in particular - are a genuine step forward for modern low-impact forms of beekeeping.
For all but the most commercial beekeeping enterprises - there is no real need to definitively choose one type of hive over another. Many beekeepers we supply to keep two or more different types of hive side-by-side in their apiary. Some welcome the resurgent interest in Top Bar Hives and are keen to experiment with various hives to practically evaluate pro's and con's of respective designs. Others have one or more Top Bar hives so that they can run the colony for wax-production - others so that they can use them as a teaching aid - some because they want to encourage the honey-bee for pollination of crops - without the outlay of more expensive frame hives, some are starting off with a Top Bar Hive to try their hand at beekeeping without the cost and fuss of frame hives and may, as their experience grows, move to other types of hive, some...
HORIZONTAL OR VERTICAL TOP BAR HIVES? The Warre Hive is possibly the better choice over the horizontal Top Bar Hive if you are a beekeeper located in isolated spots - where prevailing winds or extreme weather may be a problem. The 1" think walls and vertical design of the Warre hive possibly allow for less heat-loss from the clustering colony when over-wintering. With that said our horizontal Top Bar Hives are also available with removable floor trays that help to reduce draughts. Space is also left in the apex of our horizontal Top Bar Hive roofs where insulation can be added if the cold winter weather is a regular problem for your bees.
The Warre hive is not as easy to manipulate as the horizontal Top Bar Hive. Boxes can become heavy in late summer and upper-body strength is as necessary as with most frame hives.
If the colony is having an exceptionally good season it may be necessary to add many boxes to the Warre Hive - this can result in a rather top-heavy hive. Any one of a number of beekeeping methods can of course be used to stop this becomming a problem.