Another type of beehive, called a top bar hive, is gaining in popularity with some. They are very simple and economical to construct. As the name implies, these hives consist of a box with a number of wooden bars across the top. The bees build a honeycomb suspended from each of these bars, rather than in four-sided frames.

“Beekeepers can still remove and inspect each comb, and so they comply with our apiary laws,” he said. “Top bar hives are managed in slightly different ways, and generally don’t produce as much honey as a Langstroth hive, but many backyard hobbyists enjoy the simplicity of their design.”

Melissa Zabecki Harvey, of Parkin, has been keeping bees since 2004, having become hooked after taking a class. She uses both the top bar and Langstroth hives.

“I like the concept and the naturalness of the top bar hive,” she said. “It’s a more simple design, requires less equipment and is less expensive to keep.”

While top bar doesn’t produce honey like the Langstroth hives, there’s still plenty of hobby satisfaction. “We like to watch the bees doing things more naturally,” Harvey said.

People still keep bees in all sorts of primitive hives in different parts of the world, Zawislak said. But some version of the Langstroth hive is really the standard type for efficient honey production.

“Today the skep is more of a symbol of beekeeping's quaint roots than it is a part of modern beekeeping,” he said. “Like plowing behind an ox might be quaint, but you wouldn't want to have to make a living that way.”

(For more, see: Honey bee consumption outpacing food gathering)