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  1. #1
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    Default vertical vs. horizontal movement

    It seems that one reason (among others) that many if not most beekeepers prefer vertical hives to long hives is the belief that bees do not move as readily sideways as they do up and down. Anyway, a lot of people believe this. On the other hand, a number of folks say they move as well horizontally as vertically-- and often these folks are those with extensive experience with both sorts of hives.

    Is anyone aware of any scientific studies dealing with this idea?

  2. #2
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    Default Re: vertical vs. horizontal movement

    Quote Originally Posted by rhaldridge View Post
    ... belief that bees do not move as readily sideways as they do up and down. ...
    I am not aware of any scientific research on this matter, but in Russia they used horizontal logs to keep bees for centuries. They do use them even now. Wax comb has some mechanical properties, which prevents bees to make taller comb. How tall comb may be in the nature? From another hand, nothing prevents bees to add additional "plate" of honeycomb - horizontal expansion. So, it seems to me that in the natural environment, horizontal move should not be a problem. In artificial environment, if bees are trained to expand vertically - they will adapt and do it. If they trained to expand horizontally - they will do it. I have one hive, which prefer vertical expansion (6 medium tall last year) and another - horizontal, they completely in denial to idea of vertical expansion. Horizontal 2x Lang with top bars is doing remarkable well this year. Last year I had a great success with vertical hive...
    Серёжа, Sergey

  3. #3
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    Default Re: vertical vs. horizontal movement

    I am by no means an expert and I don't have any experience with horizontal hives but I once read that if the bees have vertical room to move they will move vertical, if they have horizontal room they will move horizontal. If they have both then they will get "confused" and not move at all. Maybe the writer of the article was full of it but it made sense to me. People have lots of success with top bar hives (horizontal) and of course the lang or warre hive (vertical).
    Jason Young

  4. #4
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    Default Re: vertical vs. horizontal movement

    The only other thing I have read is that bees won't go up very well w/o being bated up. Going horizontal is fine as is going down, but not up. I haven't done anything but langstroth hives so far so I can't speak to how well / how poor top bar hives work. I was seriously looking into it when I was starting, but due to the hindrance of being able to move the hive I went for the lang.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: vertical vs. horizontal movement

    Quote Originally Posted by delber View Post
    The only other thing I have read is that bees won't go up very well w/o being bated up.
    When using foundation only above...I agree. Bees don't to be baited when moving up onto comb.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: vertical vs. horizontal movement

    Bees will move in any direction if they are forced to. Moving up is easiest.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: vertical vs. horizontal movement

    Michael, can you elaborate on why they find it easiest to move up?

  8. #8
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    Default Re: vertical vs. horizontal movement

    For colder regions I think it is thermal mass and conservation of energy. What little heat escapes the cluster will rise up and warm honey up above vs. below. If the cluster ate the honey in the downwards direction the honey would be colder and thus lower their body temperature. There would be no thermal mass above to temper the air temperature because the combs would be void. In the summer it may not be as important which way they go but moving honey for preparation for colder months would increase the work the hive has to do in fall so I think they have figured out what to do to reduce overall work to a minimum. This is all conjecture on my part.
    Brian Cardinal
    Zone 5a, Practicing non-intervention beekeeping

  9. #9
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    Default Re: vertical vs. horizontal movement

    Yes, heat rises. Remember I keep bees in an area that just had it's first cleansing flight since December, low temperature of -22F, and several weeks of single digit temperatures during the day and -10 at night.

    I see it best when comparing nucs in different configurations. 8 frame nucs...either 8 frames in a one story, or 8 frames, 4 over 4. In Late winter and early spring the 4 over 4 nucs have no difficulty rising up to get the honey above. The singles sometimes get stuck on one side and don't build up as fast. Also, in the summer, the singles don't jump right on the foundation frame at the far wall, but they sure do when it's above them.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: vertical vs. horizontal movement

    Very interesting!

    I'm not sure I understand the "heat rises" discussion. I'm sure there's a chimney effect, causing heat to rise, but it's hard for me to see how this makes for a warmer cluster. If the cluster is low, then the chimney effect will suck in cold air to replace the warm air that rises. If the cluster is in the top of the chimney, then there's nothing below it to create heated air to rise. A home with low ceilings, all else being equal, takes less energy to heat than a home with high ceilings. But maybe this isn't a good analogy.

    I do see that honey above would take less energy to consume, if it were a little warmer than honey to the side. Does anyone know to what extent the heat given off by a cluster is radiant?

    I found an interesting page on Ukraine beekeeping. This is a fairly ferocious climate, but horizontal hives are traditional.

    http://outdoorplace.org/beekeeping/ukraine.htm

    Apparently they were used successfully in many northern European and Asian areas. Of course, that doesn't mean they are the best solution, but it does indicate that they are feasible.

  11. #11
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    Default Re: vertical vs. horizontal movement

    Problem with this thread so far is it's nearly all conjecture, guesswork and theory.

    First up are we talking winter, summer, expanding hive, shrinking hive, what?

    If we are talking an expanding hive, best way for anybody who really wants to know is set up a hive with a cluster and give it room with comb in all directions to expand any way it wants. You'll find it will primarily go up. As has been asserted by the only poster I see in the thread with experience in a good number of hives and being able to see what bees actually do, rather than some theory what they "should" do.
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  12. #12
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    Default Re: vertical vs. horizontal movement

    Quote Originally Posted by Oldtimer View Post
    ... You'll find it will primarily go up. As has been asserted by the only poster I see in the thread with experience in a good number of hives and being able to see what bees actually do, rather than some theory what they "should" do.
    What about Warre? My understanding is that colony expands down, nadiring.
    Серёжа, Sergey

  13. #13
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    Default Re: vertical vs. horizontal movement

    Well that's cos nadiring is French for putting the new boxes underneath. There's no room up so the bees can't go up. One of the reasons they swarm more. Can't go up.

    Which is why I said give them comb in all directions, and see what happens.

    Try it. Then you'll know.
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  14. #14
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    Default Re: vertical vs. horizontal movement

    One thing. If we are talking foundationless, then it's hard for bees to go up into an empty box. Cos they have to hang the comb from the top. They need a comb or two to give them a "bridge" to the top after which they will start building more combs in the box.

    So if we are talking about them expanding upwards into a totally empty box, no, it's easier for them to go downwards they can just build a bit more on the bottom of the comb. They will feel more congested though.
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  15. #15
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    Default Re: vertical vs. horizontal movement

    Quote Originally Posted by cerezha View Post
    What about Warre? My understanding is that colony expands down, nadiring.
    Down is still vertical but they can just as easily expand horizontal in a protected area like a ceiling joist of your house. I think you will find that given the choice in an unheated barn they will pick the walls to build their nest over ceiling joists.
    Brian Cardinal
    Zone 5a, Practicing non-intervention beekeeping

  16. #16
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    Default Re: vertical vs. horizontal movement

    I experimented with this vertical direction question last spring and summer.

    Hive 1: started with a 10 frame foudationless deep (9 5/8") chamber. Once the deep was drawn and full of bees and brood, added a western (7 5/8") foudationless chamber above and a western (7 5/8") chamber with foundation below. The nest chose to move upward and "drew comb from the bottom bar upwards".

    Hive 2: started with an 8 frame medium (6 5/8") chamber with foundation. Once the medium was drawn and full of bees and brood, added a medium (6 5/8") chamber with foundation above and below. The nest chose to move upwards.

  17. #17
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    Default Re: vertical vs. horizontal movement

    The 10 frame double deep hive "winter cluster" was on 5 frames in the bottom chamber and 5 frames in the top chamber.

    The 8 frame Jumbo hive "winter cluster" was on three frames in the center of the chamber.

    My experience shows that vertical upwards is their choice, unless forced to decide other wise!

  18. #18
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    Default Re: vertical vs. horizontal movement

    Quote Originally Posted by rhaldridge View Post
    it's hard for me to see how this makes for a warmer cluster.
    Don't think it makes for a warmer cluster, but the cluster has an easier time moving into a warmer part of the hive vs a colder part of the hive, and the warmer part will be above them.

  19. #19
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    Default Re: vertical vs. horizontal movement

    Quote Originally Posted by Oldtimer View Post
    Problem with this thread so far is it's nearly all conjecture, guesswork and theory.

    .
    Yep. That's why, when I started the thread, I asked if anyone knew of any scientific studies of the question. So far, no luck.

    I'd have to say that the only real evidence offered was Michael Palmer's observation that 4 over 4 nucs seem to get off to a better start than the same amount of bees in a single box. Everything thing else, as you say, has been conjecture and assertion. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but I was actually wondering if the question had been studied scientifically.

    From a perspective of total ignorance and no experience whatever, I can see that it should be physically easier for a cluster to move up than sideways, just because of the way the combs are arranged. Sideways requires the cluster to go around the comb, vertical movement can proceed in the spaces between the comb. On the other hand, moving vertically between boxes require the cluster to cross the space between top and bottom of frames, though that strikes me as less of an impediment to movement than having to circle around the frame.

    Some beekeepers with experience have asserted that the bees don't seem to have any difficulty moving sideways-- Michael Bush, for example.

    The question of whether horizontal hives are less likely to survive winter is a separate question, but the evidence of high latitude beekeepers in Europe and Asia using these hives successfully makes me think that the answer may be complicated, at the least. Nothing prevents them from using vertical hives-- and in fact, I saw pictures of a beekeeping museum in Ukraine that had tall log hives on display, so it's not as if the concept of vertical hives was unknown there prior to the adoption of the long hives.

    This spring I plan to start 4 hives-- two Langstroth 8 frame hives, a top bar hive, and a long Lang hive. This is too small a sample, and there are too many confounding factors for this to be a useful experiment, but I'm just doing this because it's an interesting thing to do. And I like honey.

    Quote Originally Posted by Oldtimer View Post
    If we are talking an expanding hive, best way for anybody who really wants to know is set up a hive with a cluster and give it room with comb in all directions to expand any way it wants. .
    Have you actually done this? If you have, I'd love to hear details.

    I guess I could do that with my horizontal Lang hive, because it's set up so it can be supered, but my purpose in trying a horizontal hive is different. My thought was that it might be a better setup for a hobbyist like me, someone who only wants a few hives, mostly for fun. The long hive has a number of advantages in that situation, or so it seems to me. But that's a different thread.

  20. #20
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    Default Re: vertical vs. horizontal movement

    I think there are two issues here. The most common one that comes up is to do with overwintering. Bees will move sideways to food, just as well as up, but given a vertical hive, they tend to move up and leave food on the sides. Given a horizontal hive this does not happen. But if there are stores on both sides they will tend to work their way to one end and leave honey at the other end because they had to choose and once they get to the end, moving back is difficult. From a wintering point of view this happens in vertical hives as well, where stores get left behind and a colony might starve with food in the hive.

    The other issue is expanding the brood nest. In my experience it takes some effort to get the bees to expand the brood nest horizontally. It's not hard, but you have to put some empty frames in from time to time or they tend to stall out. Part of it is once they make a wall of capped comb at the end, they don't tend to enlarge the brood nest without you putting empty bars in the brood nest. But again, in a vertical hive I often have to put in some empty frames as well because overhead is capped honey so they won't expand up and there aren't empty boxes below to expand into...
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

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