For the beginner beekeeper, finding the best type of hive can be challenging. There are many different beehive types available. With some being more common than others.
In today’s modern world of beekeeping, there are three common types of beehive people choose between. These are the Langstroth, the Top Bar and the Warre. All can help improve comb production.
Each type of beehive comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages. And ultimately, there is no right or wrong choice to make.
But beyond these three main types of beehive, other options await. From the Lusitana beehive to Reversivel beehive, you are spoiled for choice.
In the United Kingdom, the average cost for a new Langstroth beehive averages out at £275 for a basic setup.
The Portuguese equivalent, the Reversivel beehive comes with wax moulded frames, and an outer cover, etc. clocks in at €38.00 (£33.92).
Meanwhile, the Lusitania beehive comes with a choice of roof types and outer covers. Along with included wax cast frames costs around €44.00 (£39.41)
So let’s take a closer look at each of the 3 types of beehive, plus the Portuguese equivalents. Hopefully, it will help you workout which type is better suited to your needs.
The Top Bar Beehive
Unlike the other beehives on this list, the top bar beehive cannot be expanded.
However, it does have similarities to the Warre beehive in that it uses guide strips instead of frames to encourage natural comb construction.
Beneath the long, rectangular roof of the top bar beehive you’ll find twenty-four individual wooden bars. These bars are where the guide strips are held and where the comb will be drawn.
As this beehive design does not allow for expansion, you may be wondering what makes it so popular?
The main draw for the top bar beehive is that its height makes it easily accessible for beekeepers.
When you combine this with the ability to remove individual honey-soaked frames instead of lifting a heavy, honey-laden super, its simplistic design makes it extremely beneficial.
Typically, the top bar beehive is favoured by bee hobbyists instead of larger scale beekeeping. However, if you were starting out with just one colony, this could be a fantastic choice for you.
Benefits of the Top Bar Beehive:
More natural comb production
Easily accessible and maintainable
No need to lift heavy supers
Has an attractive design
Easily harvested honey
The Langstroth Beehive
When people think about beehives, the Langstroth hive is typically what they visualise. This is the Godfather of beehives and his being around since 1852.
Of course, as time has passed, the Langstroth has evolved. However, it still retains its expandable, modular foundations.
The inventor of the Langstroth hive, Rev. LL Langstroth proposed a set spacing distance between the hive frames. This served to prevent the bees from joining the frames together with propolis or comb.
This ‘Bee Space’ proved to be so successful that it is now used across all major beehive types. Another great thing about Langstroth beehives is their flexibility. With standardised modular dimensions, expanding your beehive is simple. Boxes are added for additional hive space.
As the Langstroth is standardised, purchasing components from various manufacturers is possible.
Benefits of Langstroth Beehive:
Easy to expand as and when required
Controlled comb production
Increased honey output
Easy to find accessories for
Easily removable frames
Great for commercial beekeeping
We have a whole other post on the Langstroth beehive and why it is a great choice for honey bees. You can check it out here.
The Warre Beehive
The Warré hive was designed by Abbé Émile Warré, a French monk who wanted to mirror the natural nesting sites of bees.
This resulted in a vertical top bar hive design mimicking the hollow of a tree that bees would typically inhabit. Inside the Warre beehive, basic slats are used in place of frames.
These slats encourage the building comb toward the base of the hive, Creating a more natural environment for the bees.
However, one major difference between the Warre beehive and the Langstroth is the way that additional supers are added.
With the Langstroth Beehive, supers are added on top of existing supers. Meanwhile, the Warre beehive has you place new supers at the bottom of the hive.
This can make expanding the hive more difficult for a beginner beekeeper. But once you have the hang of it, it becomes much easier.
Inside the roof of the Warre hive is a moisture absorbing quilt box. This quilt box act as a sponge and soak up any condensation produced inside the hive.
Ultimately, this can reduce the beehives moisture levels, especially during the winter, and prevent the growth of unwanted bacteria and fungi.
Benefits of the Warre Beehive:
Reduced interior moisture levels
Mimics natural nesting sites
Lightweight and expandable
Compact design for limited outdoor space
Great for honey production
Lusitana and Reversivel Beehives
Both lusitana and reversivel beehives are based on Langstroth beehives and look similar in design and style.
The major difference between them is that the super boxes and brood boxes are the same size with the Reversivel, while the Lusitana mimics the Langstroth.
This can make removing the honey super from the reversivel extremely difficult. Especially if you don’t have much upper body strength.
However, the main draw to these types of beehives is their simplistic design… and affordability. Bees build their comb on frames, just as with the Langstroth hive.
There are not many places in the world where you can buy a complete beehive (including queen excluder) for less than €40! This is a fraction over the building costs of a DIY hive.
Of course, if you are outside of Portugal then you can expect to pay more as shipping costs and potential import duty will soon add up.
While complete, these types of beehive arrive flat-packed. So if you struggle with IKEA furniture, building these hives might get the better of you.
Once the hive is constructed, it provides honeybees with the perfect home. Exceptional ventilation and increased brood box space allow a colony to thrive more naturally.
If you don’t mind building your beehive from a flat-pack kit, both the Lusitana and Reversivel beehives can save you a small fortune!
Bigger brood boxes and supers
The most affordable beehives
No glue, adhesives, varnish or paint
Large supers full of honey
When it comes to choosing the best type of beehive for beginners, the right choice is the one that you choose.
Take your budget and available space into account before making your mind up.
You could always opt to buy a second-hand beehive. But you never know if that secondhand beehive is harbouring harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites or fungi.
Finally, you should never let another beekeeper tell you that you are making the wrong choice. What is right for them might not be right for you.
It’s true that we all have our own personal preferences when it comes to the type of beehive we use. But ultimately, the choice is yours!
If you are new to beekeeping, our Honey Bee 101 Guide for Beginners will be useful for you.