a lot of people seem to be saying langstroth makes substantially more honey than top bars, but are there any studies that show one way or another?
a lot of people seem to be saying langstroth makes substantially more honey than top bars, but are there any studies that show one way or another?
Yes I found two pretty quickly: http://docsdrive.com/pdfs/medwelljou...08/310-315.pdf is from a study in Nigeria and http://www.bhutanstudies.org.bt/pubF...Rethinking.pdf is from a Kenyan study (focusing on comparing Langs with KTBH).
Read critically when researching hive types, particularly top bar hives. The "kenya" top bar hive was popularized by aid workers in Africa looking for ways to enable local people with no money or significant machinery to keep bees and generate food and income. Scrap lumber (or in fact, reeds, straw, brush, etc) can be used with simple hand tools to make hives that cost little or no money and enable adequate handling of bees.
Top bar hives have been around since the early Greeks at least, going on 3000 years now, but that is NOT to say they are a better option for beekeeping. Very early civilizations didn't have power tools, and the amount of work required to make wooden hives and frames made them unobtainable for beekeepers. Little enough evidence of significant amounts of furniture of that level exists, let alone farm equipment.
Top bar hives, as my buddy who got all excited about them found out, can be a real pain. Crush and strain is the only significant way to remove honey, the combs are fragile even when hardened with use, and it's much more difficult to re-arrange the hive since you can only go sideways. They can also work well, but for real production, you are going to need to extract -- all that comb that gets turned into wax cakes every time you crush and strain gets re-used in Langstroth hives. Huge increase in honey right there, probably a couple shallow frames per box every time.
There are many other systems in use around the world for keeping bees, but all the successful ones use full frames of some sort. Only a Langstroth type system with separate stackable boxes will allow the beekeeper to keep piling on the supers as long as the bees want to fill them, all the rest require removing honey on a regular basis if you want a big crop.
I see the separate boxes as the most advantageous part of the system -- need more room? Add a box of frames. Want to feed, just put a hivetop feeder on and the bees have instant access to gallons of syrup. Hard to do on a top bar hive, since it's not really a top bar hive once you start adding things over the bars....
You can successfully keep bees in top bar hives. Bees are quite adaptable. However, as many people will tell you, for a large number of hives there is a strong tendency to use Langstroths. No one has come up with a significantly better design after more than 100 years, I suspect, other than dimensions, there won't be.
It takes different management for Top Bar Hives than Langstroth hives. If both were managed optimally for the Top Bar Hive, then the Top Bar Hive would make more honey...
My choice of a top bar vs langstront would be on how you need to be able to manage it. If you are building your own top bar hive, then you have little invested in the equipment. Especially if you can make it from free scrap lumber. Moses Quimby always insisted that you could not be very productive in making honey if you spend all your money on equipment. He was one of the most successful honey producers in the US and he was only using box hives up until the laws forced him into inventing his own movable comb hive (a simplifed leaf hive with no hinges). The point is if you are keeping your costs down your profits go up. If your hives cost nothing, you make more money. And that is the point of making more honey isn't it?
Personally I have a few top bar hives in my backyard. They are easy to get to and check on. I have none in my outyards because they require more frequent checking. My outyards, and most of my home yard are eight frame medium Langstroths because they require less frequent manipulations. In the outyards I can pile on the supers at the start of the flow and not come back until fall. I can't do that with top bar hives and if I don't check them until fall they will have swarmed three times and not made much honey.
have you measured honey production on your langs vs tbh?
>have you measured honey production on your langs vs tbh?
No. I really think it's irrelevant. What is relevant is how much money and time I invest to get how much honey... but I do find Langstroths better for outyards in that regard as I don't have to make frequent trips. Again, if they were in my backyard, and I built them from scrap lumber, I think the top bar hives might be better if I had the time to spend to build them and check them more often. It's not how much honey you get per hive, it's how much honey you get for your money and labor that matters and that will depend a lot on how far away your hives are, how handy you are with woodworking, how much free lumber you can get etc.
I don't see where Michael said they are cheaper to build. He said a TBH can be made from scrap lumber. So can a Langstroth/vertical hive. I make both. The costs and time are almost the same for both. So the cost of one design vs. the other is really equal. And, therefore not really a decision making factor. (I'm not speaking for Michael! this is my experience only).
I think it comes down to two things: #1. the bees; a lousy producer is a lousy producer no matter what type of hive they are in. #2 location. A TBH on 100 acres of blooming basswood will produce far more honey than a Lang on 100 acres of sand dunes.
I rate both these things equally. A good bee will not produce much in a lousy location, and a poor bee will not produce much in the best location.
Always question Conventional Wisdom.
If the literature is correct, the bees can construct enough comb out of 1 pound of wax to store 25 lbs of honey. This is based on African beekeepers who maximixe for wax (tbh style). it is also commonly held that bees consume 8 pounds of honey for every pound of wax they produce. That means that any crush and strain operation will lose 8 pounds of honey for every 25 they store.
So a lang that produces 100 lbs of surplus would only produce 68 pounds of surplus in a TBH. Just round it out, a crush and strain operation can only produce about 2/3rd as much surplus honey a system that re-uses drawn comb.
Ask almost any keeper (almost, because we are beekeepers and can never reach agreement) and they will say "Drawn comb is like gold". There is a reason for this saying.
A tbh is a much simpler design with far fewer parts. How do you find the two the same in cost and time? Are you building frames?
How can building a typical tbh with 30 (or so) bars - 40 or 50 pieces of wood, and no frame assembly be the same as a typical lang with two deeps and a medium or 5 mediums, requiring anywhere between from 160 to 250 (or so) pieces of wood and all that assembly - be "the same"?
Man, if you can tell me a way to make langstroth gear in the same time and material cost as a top bar hive, I'm all for it.
>I don't see where Michael said they are cheaper to build. He said a TBH can be made from scrap lumber. So can a Langstroth/vertical hive. I make both.
It's easier to find the right size for Langstroth (as the pieces tend to be smaller) but requrires more skill than most people have in woodworking. So most buy their Langstroth equipment.
As far as combs, it's not the honey cost of secreting the wax to build the comb, it's the TIME lost during a flow when there is no where to store the nectar. Drawn comb will make a lot more honey expecially in a short heavy flow, than when they have to draw the comb. This is probably the biggest loss in production in a typical top bar hive. But you can extract a top bar comb if it's older and you can figure out how to fit it in your particular extractor. It is not hard to do them in a tangential and even a radial could work.
I've seen a video of someone extracting from a top bar on YouTube. It was a two frame extractor, but there is no reason it wouldn't work on larger extractors.
I think that Top Bars are good for a hobby, but for production you would need langs. For me the fun is "messing with the bees" and having a few hives in the back yard were I can spend a few minutes every few days is easy. Its also fun for me to make the hives, which I can do with top bars, but I don't have the equipment to make langs. If the hives were an hour a way it would be a bit of a problem.
Michael, I am going to respectfully disagree to a point. A lot of the following is for the wider audience as I realize you are intimately knowledgeable on these items, more so that myself, so correct where necessary.
It is lost time and honey to wax production and lost foraging due to lack of storage.
Honey consumed while secreting wax and building comb:
The lost time does equate to lost honey and not just lost foraging opportunity during flow. From literature, a colony of about 50,000 bees can secrete about ½ pound of wax per day. That equates to about 3 medium frames per day of wax. The bees that are secreting are doing just that and only that. The carbohydrates these bees burn during this period comes from consumed honey. This is where the 8 pounds per pound of wax is lost. Four pounds a day for consumption during comb building. It is my understanding that the hormone level in bees rise when their honey stomachs are full and this initiates wax secretion. Also foragers and just emerged bees are not the bees secreting wax. It is primarily the bees that are 2 or three weeks old.
Honey lost due to inadequate storage:
Three medium frames of wax hold about 12 pounds of ripened honey. Nectar weighs less. Most plant nectar is 40 to 50% sugar with the balance moisture with a few percentage points of other inclusions (these give different honeys different tastes). Therefore nectar requires greater storage volume. If you figure that nectar is 40% sugar/60 % and is dried down to 18% water(moisture content) then nectar conversion to honey changes the ratios from 40/60 to 82/18 sugar to water. 1 pound of nectar has 9 ounces of water in it and 7 ounces of sugar. 1 pound of honey (18%) has about 2.8 ounces of water remaining in it. So for every pound of ripened honey stored the bees collected 2 ½ pounds of nectar (more or less). So during a heavy flow when honey cannot be dried fast enough additional comb is needed to accommodate the wet nectar. About twice as much as for ripened honey. This allows for some ripening (moisture reduction) to occur during glow. This means that the bees in an average size colony (50,000) can generate enough comb per day to accommodate about 12 pounds of ripened nectar which should eventually yield about 5 pounds of honey. Using these numbers, if there is not comb available for storage, then the bees are limited to about 35 lbs of “surplus” honey per week production during a otherwise boundless nectar flow. These numbers are ballpark as there are few if any absolutes in beekeeping.
So as you say, there is certainly lost foraging due to no storage space during a heavy flow if there is not drawn comb available for use. I would be interested to know what actual field weight gains are from similarly populated Langstroth with drawn comb and a Top bar with no spare honey comb sitting side by side are during a short intense flow.
Also unconsidered above is flow timing and comb building:
The bees that produce the wax are generally 2 and 3 weeks old. If the flow is early, before the hive has a maximum supply of wax building bees, then they will not be able to produce enough wax to store the honey coming in. This results in additional loss of surplus due to not having drawn comb.
Hive configuration losses:
It has been mentioned that top entrances can increase honey production. This could be in part due to quick and close access of the storage areas to the house bees. Less distance the bees have to travel to store equates to more foraging time. More foraging time equates to more nectar. In a Langstroth hive with the standard bottom entrance, the bees can move from the bottom of the hive directly along many paths to the top of the hive. On a TBH they have to transit the entire brood next before reaching the storage area. This equates to lost foraging due to the foragers having to “wait” for the house bees for a longer period. I imagine that a TBH with a slot entrance on the side that can be adjusted as to the entrance position could be utilized to give the foragers and house bees quicker access to the storage areas. This may also reduce the swarm instinct by decreasing traffic through the brood areas.
All the above is academic to actual field experience. And mileage may vary. From my experience with my TBH and langs, the langs far out produce the TBH. My TBH produced about 20 pounds of surplus the first year. Second year about 10. I then added some lang supers to it and they filled up 2 supers (75# honey). My langs have all averaged 100# per year or better. I will have to qualify that a bit as the TBH was completely treatment free and yielded 2 splits and then swarmed in its second year. It doed out due to mites and SHB this past fall and I was glad to see it gone.
If you are not concerned about honey production and do not extract and are prepared for the extra management a TBH entails then it should be cheaper to get started with. Mine was more frustration than it was worth
I use simple designs for all of the parts. I find that as the designs get more complicated, the differences are greater between the different hive styles.
I have both vertical hives (Lang or Warre designs) and horizontal hives (Top bar or with Frames). So I am not advocating one design over another.
For me, once I have the design templates for a hive created, putting the wood together and building the hive is pretty much the same no matter what type of hive I'm building. I feel like I'm just building different shaped boxes. I still have to pay attention to measurements and joints and all those details, no matter what style of hive I am making.
The only thing I don't make is frames. They are just way too cheap to buy compared to the time I would have to spend to make them. Topbars are easier to make, of course.
In my two years of experience, my first year Lang gave me more honey than my wintered TBHs. My two TBHs didn't seem to want to move past the two foot mark in the hive and would swarm. Last year I bought a nuc and put it in a Lang and got some honey off of it in it's first year. That sold me. Both of my TBHs have died this winter and I will not repopulate them. I will put their comb into a Lang and put the comb to use. I may leave a comb or two in the TBHs and use as a swarm trap. Who knows maybe I will get lucky!
Not Michael Bush. My name is Dan. Sorry for the confusion.
Dan, what is the dimensions of your top bar hives. Width of the bars, depth and width at the bottom. Just curious.
So the two are not comparable. The lang is significantly more complicated and expensive because of the frames.
You can whack out a complete and functional tbh with reclaimed material and basic tools pretty easily. Not so with a lang. The frames add too much complexity to do that.
Last edited by Adam Foster Collins; 01-08-2013 at 10:56 PM.
I can build a TBH with volume equal to three medium lang bodies for about $50.00 from new wood from Home Depot. Medium lang bodies are no cheaper to build from scratch than to purchase pre-cut (at hobby quantities). I figure a lang body with frames is about $15.00 each (foundationless) so the boxes and frames are $45. The bottom and top add about another $5.00 or so. So the cost is about the same. Assembly of the langs will take longer (3 boxes to assemble and paint, 30 frames, a top and a bottom). If you use foundation in the langs add another $22.00 or so to the cost.
I respectfully disagree Adam. I build and use both types of hives. It is just as easy to build a Lang or a TBH with reclaimed material in my experience. As I said before, they are both boxes - one is horizontal, the other is vertical. If I "whack" one out, it takes less time than if I build one well - not matter which style I'm constructing. If I build them well, they both have joints and inside dimensions and other design factors that all need to be considered so all the parts fit and work well together.
Both types of hive (horizontal or vertical), can be run with topbars or frames. Frames are really simple to build and use (and easier on the bees). I don't see the monster of "complexity" in frames. I can put together 100 frames in about the same time that I can mill out 100 top bars. Both frames and topbars need some type of starter strip to work well. (Yes, I know a starter strip is not necessary, but they work better with one)
From my experience there is not much difference in the equipment, if they are built to the same quality standards. I suppose I could build an overly complicated TBH and then compare it to a simply designed Lang if I wanted......
There are differences in the management strategies.