4 top bar hives
How does these work exactly? Buy the way your apiary really looks good. I like how you have the hives all nice and neatly set out.
Thank you for the comment about apperance. I like it to look decent, but also functional.
About the top bar hive. It never grows vertically, only horizontally. In side there are two boards that are false backs, they are called follower boards. To start with, those follower boards may be 8 bars wide. As the colony grows, you move the follower boards further out and add more bars for the bees to build on. Once you get to the point of wanting or needing to harvest honey, you simply remove the desired number of bars that contains honey comb and replace them with empty bars on which the bees will begin to build again. The bars have no foundation and no frame. They are simply pieces of wood that span the top of the hive. They usually have (mine do) guides running down the center of the bar that the bees will use as a straight line so they build straight comb. The guides on my bars are nothing more than a groove cut in the bar then popcicle sticks glued into those grooves. When harvesting honey, you simply pull the bar, cut the comb off into a bucket, crush and strain. The bees get to build comb the way they like it, you get to harvest honey simply and wax as well. If you do not wish for wax, it may be a bit of a waste (the wax harvest that is). You can learn more about top bar hives on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Top-bar_hive
... Oh, also inspections are quite easy because of two things... 1. I have an observation window so a lot can be done from it, many times there is no need to do an actual inspection, just open the window, take a peek and close. 2. When you inspect, you are not opening the top of the entire hive. You are simply removing 1 bar exposing only that bar to the outside.