Kenya Top Bar and Langstroth beehives are among the most common structures in which domesticated honeybees live. Undomesticated honeybee colonies live in natural beehives. Men have been plundering natural beehives for hundreds of years to obtain honey, bee larvae and beeswax. Nowadays, the word beehive generally refers to artificial hives made by man as opposed to the natural ‘nests’ inhabited by undomesticated honeybee colonies.
Modern beehives are divided into two basic hive types: “Langstroth hives”, which have enclosed frames to hold the honeycomb and the “The Kenya Top Bar Hive (KTBH)”, which only have a top-bar to support the comb.
Top Bar Hive
Use of the Kenya Top Bar Hive increased in Kenya in the 1970’s. Since it is a movable-comb hive, it acts as a rational middle step between fixed-comb hives and movable-frame (Langstroth) hives.” This hive is a middle technology hive which is more accessible technologically and more feasible economically, than the Langstroth -type hives. The combs in the hive can be removed and replaced without being destroyed, as in traditional fixed-frame hives. This makes it capable to control crowding and to employ basic queen-rearing techniques to enhance colonies.
The frames of Top Bar Hives have only a top bar, and the bees make the comb so it suspends below from the top bar. This makes it possible for the bees to store honey separately from the areas where they are raising the brood, and the brood can survive harvesting. Honey production is relatively high because the bees have to rebuild the comb after each harvest. Honey is harvested from newly built combs, so it is of higher quality than the honey harvested from traditional fixed-frame hives.
The two main drawbacks of Top Bar Hives are that it is difficult to move the colonies without breaking the combs and that the bee colony can only expand horizontally (since the combs are attached to the top bar of the hive). Although this may limit the increase of the brood, it should not greatly affect small-scale beekeeping projects. Top Bar Hives are trendy in a lot of developing countries, and they are as well used by small-scale apiarists in the U.S. and in other countries.
The American Reverend Lorenzo Langstroth, who invented and patented his design in 1860, named it as The Langstroth beehive. Langstroth style beehives are generally accepted standard all over the developed world – except Britain, where the British Modified National Hive and the WBC hives are the most widely used kinds of beehives.
All the above mentioned beehives are movable-frame beehives, used in current, technically superior beekeeping. They let the bees to make honeycomb in frames, which includes a piece of beeswax stamped on both sides with a model of honeybee cells that serves as a base to guarantee straight, centered combs in the frames. The main differences in different movable-frame beehives are in sizes of the hives and quantity of frames they hold.
A basic feature of this kind of beehive is that its structure offers bee space between the frames and between the frames and the box holding them, which is the same as the space bees naturally keep between their combs. This bee space lets bees to move and enable them to use several boxes of frames in a lone hive.
The movable frames on which the bees create their honey are positioned within rectangular, standard size topless or bottomless boxes. The boxes are loaded up in piles. The lower boxes, called “hive bodies”, are used to keep the young bees (brood chamber). The boxes stacked on top are known as ‘supers’, and that is where the honey is stored. The boxes may be made of wood or Styrofoam and the frames are suspended parallel to one another within the boxes. Movable frame style beehives make it possible to interchange both frames and boxes without killing the bees – a system that permits a high level of beekeeping management.
The advantages of movable-frame, Langstroth-style hives are:
o Combs can be easily removed, inspected, and interchanged
o Combs with honey are removed for harvesting, honey is separated from combs by centrifuges, and the bare combs are then returned.
o The bees don’t need to rebuild new combs and this increases honey production. Honey quality is also enhanced because only combs containing pure honey are removed and extracted.
o Because honeycombs are securely attached to the frame, bee colonies can be moved with limited comb breakage, meaning that bee colonies can easily be moved to areas where nectar flow is better, for example.