I began my beekeeping this year with top bar hives because almost all the beekeepers I know in Santa Fe use them, and that is largely because of Les Crowder's class in beekeeping at Ecoversity.
My assumption was that they would be cheap to build, easy to maintain, and better for the bees -- an all-round winner.
Now, I'm not so sure. The price of building a new hive out of new wood seems to be about the same as a hive starter kit out of the Betterbee catalogue. I know I could build them out of scrap wood, but so far, I've been running to Home Depot every time the hive swarms.
Most of the people I know now seem to believe that the TBH is more intensive to work. I have one friend who has kept bees in top bar hives, and now has one Langstroth, and he says the Langstroth is much less worry. And it sounds as if it is much more flexible in terms of adding hive bodies and supers, and the swarm prevention techniques seem better developed.
That leaves "better for the bees" from my list. (And also I don't have to store supers, extractors, etc. My house is packed).
As I think about next spring, I don't know whether I should add more top bar hives to the back yard or start ordering Langstroths. I would like to eventually be able to sell a little surplus honey. (The Langstroths also take up less yard room being vertical rather than horizontal).
What ARE the advantages of top bar hives? I was really sold on them when I started. I'm not so sure now.
[size="1"][ July 26, 2006, 11:27 AM: Message edited by: pcooley ][/size]