Yesterday at the farmers’ market, I bought a top-bar beehive from Steve Wall. He’s been selling me honey there for about nine years, but he also sells empty hives (more on getting the actual bees later) designed by top-bar proponent Les Crowder. Regular readers of this blog might remember that we already have a beehive. But evidently, about a year after my wife built our hive with Les (about 15 years ago), Crowder changed the design, which meant that our model ultimately needed to be replaced with the new design in order for imported bee colonies to properly fit in their new home.
When most people visualize a beehive, it’s a standard Langstroth design which looks like a chest of drawers. But, like lots of things around Santa Fe, we prefer to go about our business a little differently. Top-bar hives are accessed from the top rather than from the side and are especially appealing to the over-forty set because they don’t require as much heavy lifting. They produce a little less honey than Langstroths because the former requires that the bees put some energy into making comb. The later provides man-made comb, so the bees (who, as we all know are already quite busy) can get quickly to the matter at hand: making honey.
Some say the slightly slower honey from top bar hives tastes better than the stuff you get from Langstroths. Some say that’s baloney. I have no idea, but I would not be surprised if slow honey beats the industrialized version—the lazy-bee version—of one of the greatest tastes on Earth. The “sweat” (Yes, if bees perspire, I mean bee sweat. If not, I mean the metaphorical equal.) of all of the hard work that goes into comb making could be a critical ingredient bringing out the true sweetness of the honey by the sweaty brow of a bee.