As a complete neophyte, I probably shouldn't be asking that question. Still, my first spring as a beekeeper has given me a full complement of opinions, and I'd like to see if I can be talked out of them.
I have three 4 foot long horizontal hives in my backyard, and I really like them. I also have a couple Langstroth hives in another location that I don't like nearly as well. Here are my horizontal hives:
The hive in the middle is my best one. I started it from a nuc in March and from it I've made two splits, taken honey, and brood to shore up a weaker hive. The hive uses standard deep frames, 32 of them in all.
This is what it looks like inside:
The nearest hive is a split I made from the first one. The furthest hive-- pale green-- is my most troubled hive, started from a package in April. It superceded at least once, and when I got back from a road trip a couple weeks ago, it had become a laying worker hive. The boomer-- the yellow hive-- has been furnishing frames of open brood for that problem hive every week since and the laying workers seem to be largely suppressed. I'd like to save the hive, because it has drawn small cell comb (it was a Wolf Creek package) and it still has a lot of bees and a lot of stores. Now if I can just get it to make a queen...
All my hives are foundationless, and I have to wonder why any hobbyist bothers with foundation. I have bees from 3 different suppliers, soon to be 4, and all of them have drawn beautiful comb. Here's some honey we took from the boomer last weekend:
So why do I like these hives so much better than the Langstroth hives?
They're cheap to build. Mine are of plywood with solid timber stringers. I expect them to outlast me, because they never get wet, due to the metal roofing over them. The legs are pressure-treated.
They're so easy to work. The legs hold them at a very comfortable height, so working them involves no bending or twisting or lifting anything heavier than a small piece of plywood-- except for the cinder blocks that hold down the roofing. And they aren't necessary. You could use a strap instead. This ease of inspection is a good thing for a beginner like me, and encourages me to poke around and try to learn what I can.
The bees seem to remain very calm, even when you're making a frame by frame inspection. The inner covers are sectional, so only the part you're working is open to the sky, and no boxes have to be removed and set on end to get at the brood nest. Until my boomer got to be massive, I was able to shove the frames down the ledge and get plenty of room around the frame I wanted to lift, so no rolling of bees. I guess I could still do that, since the box is not yet completely full, but I've gotten lazy, and now I just pry out the frame I want.
If you want to feed a colony, it's very easy to do it in a way that precludes robbing, because a Boardman-type feeder can be set against a notch in the follower board that closes off the unused portion of the hive. The feeder is thus all the way at the back of the colony from the entrance, and robbers would have a struggle getting through the whole hive. The feeder is protected from rain, and accessible without disturbing the hive.
The hives are very stable, due to the wide base. We have hurricanes here, so that's a consideration.
Because the hive is equipped with standard frames, you have none of the attachment problems of top bar hives. In fact, I would say that this type of hive has all the advantages of a top bar hive, and only one of the disadvantages.
That one disadvantage, which is the only one I can think of, is that it would be very difficult to move one of these hives with full combs. I expect the whole thing, full up, might weigh close to 300 pounds. In fact, if I have to move one of these monsters, I plan to break it up into nucs and move it that way. So obviously these hives are impractical for anyone who is running a lot of hives.
So tell me why these hives are not the best choice for a backyard beekeeper.