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Advantages and Disadvantages


Hi Matt,

My husband and I are interested in the Top Bar System, but most of the beekeepers here in Seattle favor the Langstroth hives. What would be the advantages and disadvantages that you can see. I could see the accessibility would be greater in a top bar hive, and not having to move boxes to inspect your whole hive.

Thanks, Colleen



One of the biggest advantages to me, aside from accessibility and not lifting boxes, is the fact that top bar hives allow the bees to build their own natural comb without foundation. I think this is the most important aspect of top bar beekeeping, as I believe natural comb is critical to a healthy colony.

There’s more information to be found here: http://www.beethinking.com/topbarhives

In my mind, the disadvantages to top bar hives are the lack of standardization and mentors. This is changing quickly, however, especially in places like Seattle, WA and Portland, OR, as our cities seem to be a hub of top bar beekeeping activity!




Thanks Matt,

That’s good to know, I think that next year we will try a top bar to add to our hives.

I have a question about extraction…it is more difficult to extract honey from a natural comb formation? Do they form like the burr combs we’ve seen in our Langstroth hives?

Thanks, Colleen


Having harvested honey from both Langstroth hives and foundationless top bar hives I actually prefer foundationless. Unless you have an electric extracting machine that holds a significant number of frames, I find crushing and straining in a fruit press to be more efficient. If you’ve only got one horizontal top bar hive you can probably get away with using mason jars and cheese cloth – crushing the honey comb in one jar, putting cheesecloth over the top, and upturning it over an empty jar. This is how I did it the first season and it worked great!

If you’re referring to the actual process of removing combs from the hive, then I think it depends on the type of top bar hive (horizontal top bar hive or Warre hive). Horizontal hives are actually very simple to remove combs from – the bees do usually attach the honey combs to the sides of the hive, but using a hive tool you can easily detach them and remove them. With Warre hives you generally harvest entire boxes at a time, cutting the comb out of the boxes once you get it to the location where you’ll be pressing it.