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  1. #1
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    Default question on honey production vs langstroth

    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?

  2. #2
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    Default Re: question on honey production vs langstroth

    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).

    Cheers, Thomas.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: question on honey production vs langstroth

    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.

    Peter

  4. #4
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    Default Re: question on honey production vs langstroth

    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.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  5. #5
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    Default Re: question on honey production vs langstroth

    have you measured honey production on your langs vs tbh?

  6. #6
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    Default Re: question on honey production vs langstroth

    >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.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  7. #7
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    Jul 2012
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    Default Re: question on honey production vs langstroth

    How do you keep brood out of the honey comb areas?

  8. #8
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    Default Re: question on honey production vs langstroth

    I use no excluder in any of my Langstroth hives. It works the same. The bees are not looking to put brood scattered everywhere. What is a "honey comb area" other than the place the bees put the honey?
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  9. #9
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    Default Re: question on honey production vs langstroth

    [QUOTE=Michael Bush) It's not how much honey you get per hive, it's how much honey you get for your money and labor that matters [/QUOTE]

    And how much money you get for your honey!

    Ramona

  10. #10
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    Nov 2011
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    Peace River, AB Canada
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    Default Re: question on honey production vs langstroth

    The cost of the equipment or the price I sell my honey for does not determine my hive production but will affect my profit.
    So how much production can nada expect from a TBH compared to a Langstroth hive. Those who run TBH's should have some idea what they typically harvest in a year.

  11. #11
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    Default Re: question on honey production vs langstroth

    It seems like a simple question to answer, but it isn't. To me, the top bar hive is too new to western beekeeping to have a lot of answers for what it's full potential is.

    As Mike Bush says, they are cheaper to build, but they are more expensive in terms of time to manage.

    Most people I have seen using tbh's (including myself - I have 5 of them) are not using them with a focus on maximum production. I have removed as much as 25 or 30lbs out of mine, but have never come close to taking the majority of what they have. This year, I didn't take anything from them.

    After three seasons running them, I would say that if you want to maximize production, you need to start removing honey early enough in the season that they are still building comb. It's the same as with a langstroth, except that you can't just add space - you have to remove stores to make room, and you have to do so when they're still going to use the resources to make more comb - and not just plug everything up and swarm.

    If I were pushing for maximum yield, I would likely take a comb or two of honey at a time beginning in July and probably take it as close to where the brood nest begins as possible, so there is a lot of bee density and they're most likely to quickly rebuild comb there. I might do that two to four times beginning in July and going until September, when I would estimate their stores for winter and perhaps take any surplus then. It would be best if you could just store the removed combs and do all the crushing and straining at one time - and would allow you to add some of it back to weak hives if you wanted.

    In my own world, I would maintain a big chest freezer for storage during the season. But that would only work for a handful of hives.

    This is only an estimation based on a few years of working them - The fact is, there haven't been enough people (who contribute to these forums) trying to push the production limits of the tbh to really have it figured.

    Bottom line for me is that in order to answer the question of how the two hive types compare, the two have to be run and managed for the same reasons, by equally competent beekeepers. And generally they're not.

    Most people who want to make a lot of honey will put their time and energy into langstroths. People in developing regions who are using tbh's for production generally don't have the means that the western world has to through at really push them - and as the paper suggests, most of the people using them there are beginners, or people with less than 5 years experience.

    I think that holds true here as well.

    How's Les Crowder doing with them? What has he found?

    Adam

  12. #12
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    Default Re: question on honey production vs langstroth

    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).
    Jeffrey Maddox
    www.MaddoxBees.com

  13. #13
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    Default Re: question on honey production vs langstroth

    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.

  14. #14
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    Panama City, Florida, USA
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    Default Re: question on honey production vs langstroth

    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.

  15. #15
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    Default Re: question on honey production vs langstroth

    Quote Originally Posted by Maddox65804 View Post
    ..The costs and time are almost the same for both...
    How do you manage that?

    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.

    Adam

  16. #16
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    Default Re: question on honey production vs langstroth

    >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.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  17. #17
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    Default Re: question on honey production vs langstroth

    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.

  18. #18
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    Dec 2011
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    Springfield, MO, USA
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    Default Re: question on honey production vs langstroth

    Quote Originally Posted by Adam Foster Collins View Post
    How do you manage that?

    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?

    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.

    Adam
    Both a Lang and a TBH are essentially boxes. So they are essentially the same - one stands vertical and one is horizontal. A TBH with the same amount of space inside actually takes slightly more wood to construct than a Lang. Both have lids but a TBH has a larger lid - so more material. A Lang has a bottom board.

    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.
    Jeffrey Maddox
    www.MaddoxBees.com

  19. #19
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    Jan 2011
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    Brainerd, MN
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    Default Re: question on honey production vs langstroth

    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.

  20. #20
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    Default Re: question on honey production vs langstroth

    Dan, what is the dimensions of your top bar hives. Width of the bars, depth and width at the bottom. Just curious.

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