Alternative Hive Options in Atlantic Canada

Thursday 9 June 2022

There is a lot to think about when you first start beekeeping. An important decision that needs to be made is what type of hive to use. This decision usually depends on what kind of beekeeper you want to be and for what purpose you will use your bees. Some hives are best suited for honey production, others are good for pollination, and some are perfect if you want to have easier access inside your hives.  The Langstroth, Top Bar, Warré hive, and Flow® Hive will all be discussed to help determine which is right for you.

Alternative Hive Options in Atlantic Canada

Langstroth Hive

Langstroth hive:

The classic Langstroth hive, designed and crafted by Lorenzo Lorraine Langstroth in 1852, is the most common beehive style in Atlantic Canada. This hive can be built with minor differences but usually consists of a bottom board that provides an entrance and stability, an inner and outer cover, and middleboxes commonly called supers. These supers come in three different sizes; deep, medium, and shallow. By stacking new supers on top of existing ones, you can expand your hive, giving the colony room to grow. Inside these supers, there are ten removable frames with foundation on which the bees build comb. The Langstroth hives allow the keeper to inspect the colony and observe brood, honey production, and overall hive strength.

Top Bar Hive

The Top Bar hive has a much different appearance than the Langstroth. Its box is approximately three feet long and raised from the ground to be at a more comfortable height for beekeeping. This type of hive gets its name from the bars at the top, which replace the need for frames. These top bars allow the bees to build their combs without foundation. This type of hive allows expansion horizontally with the following board moved as additional space is required by the colony.  

Warré hive

The Warré hive is a combination of the Langstroth and Top Bar hives. It was designed by a French monk named Abbé Émile Warré. Warré created his hive to more closely mimic hives that are found in nature. It uses the top bar design to allow the bees to develop their own comb. This system also expands vertically using supers. However, unlike the Langstroth hive, the supers are added to the bottom of the existing hive. By doing this, it encourages the bees to build new combs downward. While adding the new supers to the bottom, the top supers can be removed to filter out the old combs and keep the hive clean. This hive can be low maintenance and collecting honey from the removed top supers is relatively easy. 

Flow® Hive

Flow ® Hive:

A newer hive on the market is the Flow® Hive. It was introduced to Canada in 2015 by Stuart and Cedar Anderson from Australia. It is designed to allow easy collection of honey. Much like the Langstroth hive, the Flow® Hive uses supers containing ten frames. However, these frames have mostly completed cells, made of plastic, already in place for the bees to fill. When it comes time to harvest your honey, you can drain the honey without entering the hive, using specific hive tools. As this hive was initially designed for an Australian climate, its minimal use here in Atlantic Canada has not provided the opportunity to fully prove its adaptability to our winters!

These four hive styles all create a perfect home for honeybees. The best one for you will depend on what you plan to do with your hives and your preferences. However, for beginners, the Langstroth hive may be a good bet. In Atlantic Canada, Langstroth equipment is widely available, relatively inexpensive, and well established. This familiarity will provide available support and advice from mentors and other beekeepers.  So, Langstroth equipment will be easier for new beekeepers while they are learning all the ins and outs of apiculture.  Typically, your first bees will arrive as a nucleus colony, or nuc, ready to be established in a Langstroth hive.  The Langstroth hive is also what is used for pollination services.  So, if this is a current or future consideration, this style of beekeeping is recommended.

Written by Rebecca Campbell, ATTTA Summer Research Assistant

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