When people think of housing requirements, they usually think of apartments, condos, houses, maybe even mobile homes. Beeekeepers think of Langstroth and Top Bar bee hives. Where your bees live is one of the most important decisions you can make as a beekeeper. It can have a substantial effect on the health of your hive and the quality of the honey it is producing.
In the United States the most common type of bee hive is the Langstroth hive. The Langstroth hive is a rectangular box with wooden frames that held the honey combs. The combs themselves are rectangular or square sheets that can be lifted out of the hive for easy collection of the honey. Despite popular belief, this kind of bee hive does not have a top or a bottom, just a set of walls that hold the frames in place. Most of the framed combs have a sheet of plastic or wax on one side that the bees can use as a starting point for making their honey. After the bees have built up their own comb structures they will start making honey to fill them.
Most commonly used in Africa, the Top Bar bee hive is an alternative to the Langstroth hive that is starting to gain a lot of support in the United States. As the name suggests a Top Bar hive is built by placing a set of bars along the top of the bee hive frame to allow the bees to build their honey combs from. There is no starting template like the Langstroth hive, but this kind of hive produces the most natural kind of honey comb possible in a contained situation. The downside to the Top Bar hive is that the combs that are produced can not be used again, the bees have to start all over after each harvest. While this may seem like a deterrent to using the Top Bar hive, the quality of the honey and honey comb is well worth the additional time. If you want to start selling in-comb honey products, take a close look at the Top Bar hive before you get started.
Choosing a location for your hive is almost as important as what kind of hive you intend to use. Look into the local laws surrounding beekeeping to make sure you are not going to do anything illegal — your local city hall is a good place to start. Do not try to hide your hive amongst the bushses in your back yard, your bees need to have open space around them in order cover the most ground. If you pin them in, they will not go very far and will not be able to collect much nectar. Do not put the hive in a residential or recreational area, you will probably get people stung and possibly send someone with a bee allergy to the hospital. The pending law suit will likely use up all of your honey profits. If space is a problem, try asking a local farmer for permission to keep the bees on his property. He will know how important bees are to the health of his crops and most likely do not have any problems with keeping them around. You also need to make sure that the bees have a plentiful source of water while at the same time they are well protected from the elements and predators. Anyone who has taken a trip out to their hive following a rain storm knows that soggy bees are angry bees. Follow these tips and your colony of honey producing friends will be happy and healthy all year round.