The Langstroth is a popular hive in countries like the United States and Australia. But in Europe, the Layens is a horizontal style of hive that reigns supreme.
Each hive is distinct with features and benefits that will appeal to different styles of beekeeping. In this comparison guide, we’ll explain how Langstroth and Layens differ, to help you decide which is right for you.
Quick tip: if you’re short on time skip down the page to our handy summary table of the Layens vs. Langstroth. It sums up all the main points.
What’s the difference between a Layens and Langstroth hive?
A Layens hive is made up of one large horizontal box that is filled with frames and a division board. Like the Langstroth, it also has a roof and screened bottom board. The key feature of a Layens is its 16” deep frames which are twice as deep as a Langstroth.
You can get lots more detail on what Layens hives are here.
The Langstroth is a more hands-on style of vertical hive that uses vertically stacked boxes for the honey bees’ brood and honeycomb. Unlike the Layens hive, a Langstroth can easily expand with the colony. When it comes to harvesting the honey, suitable extraction equipment is much more readily available for the Lang.
Check out our more details about Langstroths here.
Is the Layens hive or Langstroth best?
The Langstroth is an excellent hive for beekeepers focused on honey production, queen rearing, bee removals, and pollination work. It is a flexible hive that accommodates different styles of beekeeping. Outside of Europe, you’ll find accessing hive parts and local support much easier if you choose this type of hive.
The Layens is a large hive capable of providing a lot of honey and its design is simple, so building one is very affordable. There’s no heavy lifting of boxes and inspections are less intrusive as the beekeeper checks one frame at a time. Layens hives will appeal to beekeepers wanting to avoid heavy lifting but interested in maximizing honey production.
The above comparison gives a quick overview of the two hives. Let’s take a closer look at how each one compares to help you make the right choice.
The colony live, raise their brood, and store food resources in boxes. The Langstroth and Layens have completely different designs which each have their pros and cons.
A Layens hive has one very large horizontal box that houses the frames. Having one box means there are no cumbersome supers to move around during inspections or harvesting, but the flip side is that moving a Layens isn’t easy.
The walls of a Layens are made for the harsh European winters. A horizontal design means there’s nowhere for the warm air generated by the bees to escape. Condensation buildup is also less of a concern when compared to vertical hives.
A Layens is usually double-walled with insulation between each layer. Overwintering is easier with a Layens, but if temperature extremes are a problem where you live, the Apimaye hive may suit your needs better.
Langstroths use rectangle boxes that need to conform to exact dimensions so that they can fit on top of each other. You can take a closer look at the Langstroth hive dimensions here. Anyone looking to make their own Lang boxes will need to measure precisely to ensure the hive’s bee space is respected.
Unlike a Layens, the Langstroth hive easily expands as the hive grows. This feature reduces the chance of the hive swarming and allows large quantities of honey to be produced.
Approach to hive size
Adding a package of bees to an entire Layens would be too much space for the colony to deal with. A division board is used to screen off most of the hive, providing just enough space. As the hive begins to flourish, the board can be moved across, increasing the available hive space.
Beekeepers also start a Langstroth off with a relatively small space – often a brood box and a super or two. As the hive grows, additional boxes can be added. Increasing the size of a Langstroth takes more lifting and disrupts the hive. The beauty of modular hives is increased flexibility for the beekeeper. Splitting or combining hives is easy.
A Layens frame is exactly twice as deep as a Langstroth’s. The benefits of this design are more honey on one frame and the shape is closer in size to a tree trunk.
The biggest obstacle to using a Layens is honey production. Extraction equipment that is suitable for the over-size frames isn’t easy to find in many parts of the world.
One way to overcome this is to attach two Langstroth frames together. When it comes time to extract the honey, the frames can be separated. Keep in mind this extra task soon becomes a lot of work, the more hives you own.
The beauty of Langstroths is the availability of hive parts and equipment. You should find a ready supply of new and used parts, especially in North America.
Both types of hives will require inspections. The beekeeper may check for varroa mites, inspect brood, repair comb, look for the queen, or cut out unwanted propolis.
Inspecting a Layens is much easier and has less impact on the bees. Moving boxes can be hard work, the bees don’t appreciate their home being opened, and some may get crushed under boxes.
In countries like Australia, New Zealand, and North America Layens hives are harder to find than Langstroths. If you can’t find a local beekeeping equipment supplier that stocks them, they may be available online. Making a Layens hive is cheap and achievable for anyone handy working with wood.
Langstroths are sold everywhere which also means getting spare parts and the correct equipment is easy. Correctly sized honey extraction equipment is much easier to source if you own a Langstroth.
Summary table: Layens Vs Langstroth
|Hive boxes||One large, double-walled horizontal box.||Smaller boxes that stack vertically.|
|Frames||Deeper frames.||Shallower frames.|
|Approach to size||Manage size of hive with a division board.||Manage hive size by adding and removing bodies.|
|Inspections||Inspections are less intrusive, and no heavy lifting is needed.||Inspections are more intrusive and require lifting.|
|Hive availability||Easy to find in Europe.||Easy to find in most parts of the world.|
The Layens hive and Langstroth are both well-respected hives that have their own set of pros and cons.
Langstroths will appeal to beekeepers that want to harvest a lot of honey and easily be able to source additional hive components and equipment. Being widely used, it’s also a lot easier to get local advice from beekeeping clubs; especially if you live in the United States.
A Layens hive is also an excellent option for anyone wanting to produce a lot of honey. It will certainly appeal to anyone that wants to avoid lifting. This hive is an all-in-one solution that is easier to manage and inspect. You’ll want to make sure you have a solution for extracting the honey if you opt for a Layens. You don’t want to get to harvesting time and not be able to source equipment that’s compatible with your extra-deep frames.