Does incorporating Alternative style Top Bar and Warre hives into a Langstroth hive apiary make one a better beekeeper? It does make for a lot more work! 3 different hardware styles, none of the parts are interchangeable. The reason and purpose why the 3 hives were developed are different with 3 different management styles. But- keeping a multi-style hive apiary can’t help but hone a keeper’s skills. Working with the bees under different conditions, using different methods of management in different hives does make one a more aware, skilled, and tired keeper. Keeping bees in 3 different style hives at the same time can be used as a measurement of skill but may also be used as a measurement of sanity :-). One important fact I learned is that each hive style was developed with different reasons, purposes and expectations in mind. Each requires a different management style. Learning the technical side of managing 3 different styles will expand a keeper’s knowledge and patience. The bees in Alternative hives are given more “free rein” to do what they want. Managing bees under those conditions does require a bit of patience. My often used description of this “free rein” management style is- “Bees don’t read the instructions” Briefly, here are descriptions of the 3 hives of a multi-hive style apiary.
Rev. Lorenzo Lorraine Langstroth developed the Langstroth hive in 1852. He saw honey as a resource and the honey bee colonies as little natural industrialized societies that, with the proper habitat or “factory”, could produce a large amount of products for humans. He saw the bee colony as an industrial factory and the apiary as an industrial complex. His hive and management focused on a maximum production concept. This hive has different size boxes and frames and can be managed by the frame and box.
Abbe’ Emile Warre developed his hive and management in the early 1900's attempting to incorporate a happy medium of the bee’s natural world and mankind’s desire for products from the hive. Emile called his hive The People’s Hive and it is managed vertically and although it can be managed by a bar at a time it is easier to work the hive by the box. Of these 3 hives it requires the least management and hive products are less then the Langstroth.
The Top Bar hive has the “deepest” past with versions of it being mentioned as far back as ancient Egypt. During an era of skeps, clay tubes, and hollow logs, versions of top bar styles began to appear as methods of managing hives without struggling with fixed combs. Credit for the present day Kenyan Top Bar hive seems to go to Dr. Maurice Smith of Canada who developed today’s sloped sided version of the hive in the early 1970's. This hive is managed horizontally, in a single box, and by a single bar at a time. As with the Warre, produces less hive products then the Langstroth.
The most important thing I learned that is the most valuable for me to realize and the greatest benefit to the bees. “One can not assume that the health of a colony can be guaranteed based solely on the style of hive they are kept in.” Choosing any particular style of hive didn’t grant me a freedom from management as in “hands free”. Each hive style presents a different style of management. Alternative hives may require less management but it is less management in relation to maximizing hive production. For many reasons in today’s beekeeping, all hive styles require a vigilant management for colony health.
It’s all about the bees