Hive Types - Part 2: Top Bar Hives with Christy Hemenway (S3, E49)


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We continue with our five-part series on hive types other than the standard Langstroth, with Christy Hemenway. Christy has been working with top bar hives for just over 14 years now and has developed a good sense of how they work.

She started out liking them because – It’s all about the wax – clean wax was important to her and top bar hives produce clean wax. No foundation to fuss with and no contaminants to worry about, so it’s perfect for cut comb honey, or the crush and drain method of harvesting liquid honey.

But there’s a lot more. NO heavy lifting is a definite plus with these hives, because all you ever have to lift is a single frame at a time.

The top bars are set such that they snuggle up next to each other, so no openings in the top of the hive when you open a top bar hive, which keeps the bees inside, not flitting around, giving you a hard time. And, because they are beveled on the bottom, there is actually more surface for the bees to attach the comb than if just a straight wooden stick. There are a few tricks to learn when handling top bar hive frames, but overall, pretty straight forward with lifting and turning and rolling frames.

The only downside she sees is that these hives won’t produce a ton of honey for you and they are a tad more difficult to move around than a Langstroth, but they are perfect for a smaller scale backyard beekeeper who worries more about the bees than the honey.

In a lot of ways, these are very different from a Langstroth hive, but again, if it’s good for the bees, it’s probably not so good for the beekeeper. Which would you prefer?

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Podcast music: Young Presidents, "Be Strong"; Musicalman, "Epilogue". Original guitar background instrumental by Jeff Ott

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