The history of bee keeping is almost as diverse and dynamic as the bee species themselves. For thousands of years we have been developing methods of keeping bees. Since the early days of recorded history humans have been moving the bees around to pollinate their food crops. The styles and techniques have developed and evolved over time, and today there are many ways to keep bees. Industrialisation has led to a standard method that most people stick to. Most equipment is made to these standards, and this makes it easy to aquire the parts and start keeping bees.
In the Middle Ages in Europe, bees were kept in a cane woven baskets that were rendered in a clay. This method relied on destructive extraction (where the hive is destroyed to aquire the honey). It was a convenient way to handle and move the bees around to the crops of those days.
Log Hiving is an old technique which has been used for hundreds of years in Europe and Africa. It is a good mobile method, but allows the bees to build un-structured combs which is harder to manage for extraction and inspection. The mobility of the hives can be reduced in this method due to the weight of the log itself. People still keep bees in log hives, and the method is often advocated as creating a more natural experience for the bees than with square hives.
Langstroth Hives is the standard type of hiving that is used throughout the world. It is the easiest and most commmon way to learn how to keep bees. It was designed byReverend Lorenzo Lorraine Langstroth aroung 1851 and was widely accepted as the easiest way to keep bees and soon became the industry standard. This hiving technique has been industrialised to make extraction easier and to create a standard that works both domestically and industrially.
Top Bar Hive is a method that was developed in the 1960’s by bee keepers who felt that it was a more natural way to keep bees. “Long” top bar hives are a horizontal hive with end boards that you move together or apart depending on the size of the colony. The frames in the hive don’t have a bottom or side bars. They are just a top bar which allows the bees to build an unsupported comb. As the colony gets bigger, the moveable internal ends are moved and another top bar is put in to allow the colony to expand. The combs are scratched or decapped carefully and the honey drips out of the comb for extraction.
Depending on the environment and local conditions, different types of hiving are suitable for different locations. Log hive’s are used well in the desert and in the cold. The thick walls of the log hives can help with the temperature to stay stable in the hive. In the warmer more temerate regions keeping the hive at the right temp is easier and so top bar hiving seems to work well.
The methods and techniques for keeping honey bees are changing and developing all the time. There are some great websites that have great pics of what people are doing with bees in the world.