Saturday, February 9, 2013

Hive Choice

After deciding to get bees in the spring there were some decisions to be made.  Among there were:
  • Top bar or Langsroth hives?
    • While both types of hives are productive there were a few reasons that I chose to go with the Langstroth hive over the top bar.  The main difference between the two is that inside a Langstroth hive the box is filled with frames that the bees build their comb in.  The top bar is so named because there is just a top bar that the bees suspend their comb from.  Some argue that the top bar is more natural for the bees, giving them the choice on how to build their comb.  You end up with a comb that is shaped something like a U. 
Top Bar Comb
    • The comb that comes out of a Langstroth hive is built in a frame that can be removed from the hive and replaced once the honey is extracted.  Eventually I would like to get a honey extractor that spins the comb, pulling the honey out.  This will allow you to put the comb back in the hive, saving the time that the bees would spend rebuilding it.
Langstroth Frame
  • What size Langstroth Hives?
    • A "traditional" Langstroth hive is made up of boxes that contain 10 frames.  The boxes, called supers, come in 3 depths.  Shallow 5 3/4", medium 6 5/8", and deep 9 5/8".  Traditionally the bottom two boxes would be deeps for the brood chamber, then mediums or shallows on top for honey.  Having three different size supers would mean that one would have to manage and maintain three different sizes of frames as well, to include three different sizes of foundation.  To simplify things many beekeepers are standardizing on only using medium supers.  I'm all about simplicity, definitely going with all mediums.
    • Additionally I've chosen to go with 8 frame hives instead of 10.  This is simply because they are lighter.  A full 10 frame super weighs around 50 pounds compared to a 40 pound eight frame super.  If the bees need more space they can expand up into the next super. 
  • Where to purchase the bees/equipment/hives
    • The gentleman that introduced me to bees also introduced me to the concept of small cell chemical free bees.  This could be a post on its own so I'll just say that we're getting our bees from the FatBeeMan (Don Kuchenmeister) at
    • I ordered all my beekeeping equipment (smoker, veil, tools, small cell foundation, etc) from  I REALLY liked their hives also, but after adding shipping the price was cost prohibitive.  They are a family owned business that manufactures in house. 
    • I ended up buying my hives from Rossman Apiaries because it was within driving distance.  Their hives aren't box jointed and they didn't have a 8-frame medium kit so I had to piece it all together.  I drove down to their shop and have to say that I wasn't too impressed with them.  I suppose they are used to the professional beekeeper coming in with large orders.  I got the feeling that my two hives was almost an annoyance.  You could tell they do most of their business through the mail.  The young man that boxed it all up was awesome though.  He had it down to a science.

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