If you want to learn about the pros and cons of horizontal hives then you are in the right place.
Some of the main pros include flexibility, weight and ease of use; whereas some of the cons include that inspections are needed more regularly and that there is less information surrounding horizontal hives available.
Let’s take an in-depth look at all of the pros and cons to get the full picture.
Pros of Horizontal Hives
More Flexibility with Hives
Who doesn’t want more flexibility? When it comes to your apiary, horizontal hives provide much more versatility than traditional ones do.
The implementation of a follower board makes it easy to split your colony. This allows you to simply move the queen to the other side of your hive when you want to split and start another colony. These offer so much flexibility.
Less Bulk to Lift
Perhaps the most common compelling reason to go with horizontal hives is the weight. It can get quite heavy when vertical hives are laden with honey- and bees! When you need to move bees or harvest honey, there is no getting around it: you will need to lift heavy, bulky boxes.
Horizontal hives are different. You are only lifting and moving one frame at a single time- so the weight is substantially less on the beekeeper.
The horizontal hive box remains in place during routine apiary tasks, like splitting colonies, harvesting honey, or moving bees.
It is simply much easier on the beekeeper, which is important to consider given how much beekeeping already is.
Less Equipment Required
One of the great perks of keeping horizontal hives is that everything is right there, handy for the beekeeper.
In general, top bar beekeeping in an apiary requires much less equipment, which equates to more ease and less work for you. One is that there is much less equipment required, everything is right there.
Less Stuff to Store
Since everything is right there with your horizontal hives, there are no bulky, unused boxes to store during off time.
You add boxes as the colony gets bigger, but in general, having fewer boxes can help a colony stay warm during chilly weather. You can keep a smaller hive by using your follower board if you wish.
The beauty of horizontal hives is that you won’t need a place to store your extra boxes when you are not using them. This is great for beekeepers with limited room or space.
Less Stress on Bees
One of the most compelling reasons to use horizontal hives is because it is simply easier and gentler on the bees. The routine inspections and other beekeeping tasks are a lot less invasive and intrusive to the bees than in a vertical style hive.
Messing around with vertical boxes can be very stressful for your bees. Using a horizontal hive may keep them calmer, less agitated, and less aggressive- which means fewer stings.
When you are only removing a single frame from a horizontal style hive, there is less chance of you dropping it or setting it on top of bees- so there is less risk to your colony, overall, with horizontal hives.
Boxes get heavy and this added weight could cause some beekeepers to shake or drop them, which can cause great harm to bees. Horizontal hives are safer and less stressful for bees.
No Queen Excluder Needed
Another significant benefit of a top bar hive is that you do not need a queen excluder to keep the bee brood out of the honey. Horizontal hives give the Queen ample room to move around and the freedom to go wherever she likes.
By using a horizontal hive instead of a vertical style one, you are reducing the need to purchase queen excluders- which is a money-saving perk (great if you are trying to make a profit from your hobby as well). Not to mention, using horizontal hives saves the effort and labor of installing and removing the queen excluders, which is routine practice with vertical type hives.
No Foundation Necessary
Top bar hives have another intriguing benefit, which is that they do not require a foundation. Bees will build and create the cells that they need and want for their hive- it is actually quite fascinating.
This method of beekeeping may also reduce the risk of mite infestation in your apiary, which is good news all around for both bees and their keepers.
More Ease for Hobbyists
Is beekeeping a hobby or DIY project that you are trying out? If so, horizontal hives make much more sense.
They are inclusive, in a way- that is, you won’t need all the boxes of a regular vertical hive. A single box is all you need for a top bar hive, and you can really make it whatever size you wish and that is easiest for you to construct.
Cons Of Horizontal Hives
As with anything, there are also some distinct drawbacks to horizontal hives. Depending on your distinct preferences, these may not necessarily be cons for considering horizontal hives in your apiary:
- Your choices are more limited when working with horizontal hives. Langstroth hives are the most common kind that you will find widely used and available.
- Since not all beekeepers use horizontal hives, finding reliable sources of support or information may be challenging. A good place to start is online forums dedicated to beekeeping.
- You will need to perform inspections more often with these types of hives.
- Since you are not using foundation, your bees may be more inclined to build comb that connects across multiple hive frames. It can be difficult, damaging, and disrupting to remove cross comb from a hive. Frequent inspections may help you to catch it early.
- If you are limiting the bees’ access to the open spaces in the hive with a follower board, you will need to check the hive often to ensure your bees have plenty of room.
- Single boxes of honey and comb can be heavy, challenging to remove.
- With horizontal hives, you can’t keep adding honey supers as needed, and this limited space may result in less honey at harvest time.
All aspects considered, it does seem that horizontal hives and top bar hives may not be the most effective and efficient options for a commercial apiary.
Thinking about horizontal hives in your apiary? Consider these pros and cons to determine if it makes the most sense for your colony.