In modern beekeeping, a Langstroth hive is any vertically modular bee hive that accepts frames that are locally referred to as "Langstroth" frames. The actual dimensions of so-called Langstroth frames differ slightly by manufacturer (try to always use the same manufacture so they will fit together when you move frames). The advantage of this hive is that the bees build honeycomb into frames, which can be moved with ease. The frames are designed to prevent bees from attaching honeycombs where they would either connect adjacent frames, or connect frames to the walls of the hive.
What about top bar hives? The fact is, many states have antiquated laws that require beekeepers to use "framed" hives. Personally I believe the wording should be changed to movable honeycombs, or something along that line. In the early part of the 20th century, many states recognized framed hives as being essential to keeping healthy bees, because they allowed the hive to be inspected more easily for disease (this was mostly in comparison to using skeps, not other alternative hive types). Therefore, many states at that time passed apiary laws requiring beekeepers to use hives with movable frames. In these states, any type of top bar hive is technically illegal, whether its top bars are fastened to the hive body or not. As I said... Antiquated laws. The main point is skeps have to be destroyed to get to the bees, and skeps are illegal to use (thought they are very attractive as decorations). We don't care how you choose to keep your bees so long as they're healthy, and it's likely that your state's apiary inspector won't care either. However, he or she might. Just be prepared with a long blade to cut the honeycomb from the side of your top bar hives should the inspector visits your apiary.
Now you have choices, What do I put inside the frames? Foundation? Plastic or wax? wired or unwired? What is it your trying to do over all? Do you need strength to reinforce the honey comb during extraction, or do you want to sell comb honey? Do a little reading on each type of foundation and you will see that there is a different type of frame for each type. The term "plastic foundation" refers to plastic sheets embossed with the worker cell pattern. Bees add wax to the foundation to make a complete comb. Extracted honey can be produced in supers of any depth but they usually need wire reinforcement embedded into the wax to keep the comb from blowing out when spun at high speeds for extraction. The frame just holds the honeycomb and makes it easy to extract.
Movable frames in the brood box are also a big plus. There are times you will need to be able to move frames of brood around. If you have a hive that is just getting started it can be a big boost if you can add a frame or two of brood from another hive. This will give the new colony young bees that will be emerging in days instead of weeks. Even if you can only give empty drawn comb, it gives the queen a place that she can immediately start laying eggs.
Next, if the colony becomes honey bound, you will need to move some of the frames with honey away from the brood and add new foundation or drawn comb. If the queen runs out of space to lay eggs she will swarm. moving frames is one way to prevent that.
Moving frames can be done to create a artificial swarm. You will hear the term "splitting the hive" this is how beekeepers grow the numbers of bee hives they have, or to make up for winter losses. They take some of the frames out and place them into a new hive box. they will then either add a new queen or let the bees make their own.
And of course movable frames allow for the inspection of the honey bees and the brood. There are a large number of diseases that can only be diagnosed by removing the frames and looking at the brood. American foul brood and European foul brood are two of the ones that come to mind most often, but there are others.
Beekeepers own bees, they do not just "have" bees. To have bees you do nothing beside put them into a box and hope they live. Owning bees requires that you pay attention to them, know if they are honey bound, are they healthy, are they queen right, and to do this you need to be able to open a hive, move the frames and inspect them. Especially if your going treatment free you need to know how the bees are doing. One hive that is diseased then dies out can affect every hive for miles around. Don't be the one who killed every honey bee around just because you didn't want to look to see if you had American foul brood.
There are many things to learn and to know about when it comes to honey bees. The type of frame you use is just one little part. Are you ready?
You are becoming a beekeeper. Do your part. Keep the honey bees safe.
If you have already started I Hope Your Having fun with your honey bees. and If your looking to start this next year now is the time to read up on the type of bee hive you want, the type of frames you need and get ready to place your orders by January. (it's not that far away)
Have a Great Day!