For a long time I vacillated between (1) a Lang hive with all medium boxes and foundationless frames and (2) a Kenyan top bar hive (TBH). Either way I wanted the bees to make their own comb (see my beekeeping philosophy).
I’m the kind that researches out all the pros and cons of everything. There are multiple places online that talk about the advantages and disadvantages of Lang vs. top bar. For example, this one has a handy summary chart, though some of the conclusions are debatable depending on your point of view. Michael Bush’s page is also very informative even though it appears he mostly uses Langs.
After much indecision, I decided to go the Lang route mainly for the convenience of interchangeable parts. I had just ordered a Lang hive when I had a chance to see a TBH with a plexiglass side window courtesy an experienced beekeeper John Paul. Being able to see the bees working was amazing! That tipped the scale back to a top bar hive, so I called and changed my order the next day.*
My kids love to look in the window to see the bees. I love to look in the window to see how things are, and I can unobtrusively observe behaviors like the dances at the hive entrance.
The top bar hive definitely fits with my beekeeping philosophy, listed point by point
- I’m in it for the bees, not the honey… It’s said that a top bar gets less honey than a Lang, but that’s OK with me.
- Our bees will live as much as possible like they would in the wild … The bees will build their own comb with the cell size they want. While it’s possible to do this with a Lang too, top bar hives are ideal for this.
- Keeping bees will be an enjoyable connection to the natural world and a rich educational experience for me and my family. The observation window that my top bar hive has is very educational and just plain cool.
- This is a hobby, not a business. The more frequent but lower intensity maintenance with a top bar hive suits me perfectly since I have a single hive in my yard instead of hundreds of hives scattered like a commercial keeper would.
I’m definitely glad I got a TBH instead of a Lang!
* I got my unassembled hive from beethinking.com, based in Portland. I got the screened bottom board with wooden roof. I definitely have multiple quibbles about this hive and it wasn’t inexpensive, but overall it seems solid.