While not as common in the US, Horizontal hives are used a lot in Europe. Lately, this type of beehive has been gaining interest, as it is a simple hive that work with natural beekeeping methods. Horizontal hives also work great for backyard and urban beekeepers.
There are 3 different types of horizontal hives. The top bar, horizontal or long langstroth hive, and the Layens hive. This article will talk about the different horizontal hives, compare them to the langstroth, and list some horizontal hives for sale.
What is a Horizontal Hive?
While Langstroth hives are vertically stacked boxes, horizontal hives are single story hives that expand the width of the box in order to hold many more bars or frames. When on a hive stand, horizontal hives sit at waist level, making them easy to work on.
The biggest benefit of horizontal hives is no heavy lifting. In traditional Langstroth hives, you’ll need to lift boxes that weigh 50 lbs or more to access the frames underneath. With horizontal hives, the only thing you will be lifting are the frames.
Top Bar Hive
The top bar, which I already wrote about on this website, consists of horizontal bars laid across the top of the hive. Instead of using frames, the bees then build their comb hanging down from each of the bars.
Typically, no foundation is used for top bar hives, however some beekeepers do provide a small piece of starter wax for the bees to build upon. This is to allow the bees to build comb in the same way that they would in a natural cavity.
Horizontal/Long Langstroth Hive
The horizontal, or long Langstroth hive consists of a long wooden box that can fit at least double the amount of frames than a regular langstroth box. The long Langstroth hive uses the same frames as standard Langstroth hives, so it’s easy to switch over and finding replacement parts should not be a problem.
In a way, you can say that the Long Langstroth hive has the benefits of a top bar hive, but also the advantage of using standard equipment. Frames can use foundation or be foundationless. The inside of the hive will have 2-3 inner covers, so you can expose part of the hive at a time.
The Layens Hive is named after Georges De Layens, a French botanist and apiculturist. This hive is extremely popular in Europe, where millions of Layens hives are used today. It has a similar set up to the long langstroth hive, with the difference being the frames.
In the Layens hive, the frames are taller, allowing for more honey production. These large frames are ideal for overwintering and spring colony build up.
The Layens hive is meant to mimic the bees natural habitat. De Layens spent 2 decades creating this hive that encourages sustainability and requires minimal management. In fact, the Layens hive and it’s system only requires 2-3 visits a year.
Plans to build your own Layens hive can be found here.
Horizontal Hive vs Langstroth Hive
While the Horizontal hive uses much of the same parts as the Langstroth hive, it has some key benefits.
- Horizontal hives require no heavy lifting.
- All frames in the Horizontal hive are the same size.
- The Layens hive needs minimal management.
- Top bar hives require no frames.
- Good for overwintering.
- Strong spring build up.
- Larger frames of the Layens hive allow the queen to lay without interruption.
- Horizontal hives are self regulating – the colony will expand at it’s own pace throughout the season.
Horizontal Hives for Sale
Because they aren’t as popular in the US, it can be hard to find horizontal hives for sale. Top bar hives can be ordered online at Bee Built and Mann Lake. For more on Top Bar hives, see my post here.
Amazon has a gorgeous horizontal hive listed from Calico Creek Millworks. It holds 31 standard size 10 frames and can house 2 colonies.
Horizontal hives for sale can also be found on Etsy. I like this one from LittleLarueApiary.
If you are interested in the Layens hive, I recommend visiting https://www.horizontalhive.com/index.shtml. There, you can purchase a Layens hive with frames, a Layens swarm trap, and various supplies and equipment. If you’d prefer to build our own Layens hive, horizontalhive.com offers several free plans to build a Layens hive.
Managing Horizontal Hives
Horizontal hive management is simpler than traditional Langstroth hives because there are less parts and simpler equipment. You do not need to unstack heavy boxes to gain access to the frames below. Instead, all of the frames are at waist level.
Horizontal hives don’t even need a queen excluder, as the queen will only lay in the brood nest, which is naturally separated on one end of the hive, while workers will store honey on the other end. This means that when you harvest honey you will not need to disturb the brood nest.
Because horizontal hives are self regulating, they don’t require as many inspections as Langstroth hives. Since the hive has many frames, the colony will naturally expand when it is ready.
Horizontal hives are long wooden boxes that hold twice as many frames as the Langstroth hive. The Top Bar hive, Long Langstroth hive, and the Layens hive are all forms of horizontal hives. Benefits of the horizontal hive are that it requires no heavy lifting and needs minimal management.
It can be difficult to find horizontal hives for sale, but there are a few websites that have them. There are also free plans online for those who want to build their own Layens hive.