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  1. #1
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    Default Best hive for backyard hobbyist?

    As a complete neophyte, I probably shouldn't be asking that question. Still, my first spring as a beekeeper has given me a full complement of opinions, and I'd like to see if I can be talked out of them.

    I have three 4 foot long horizontal hives in my backyard, and I really like them. I also have a couple Langstroth hives in another location that I don't like nearly as well. Here are my horizontal hives:



    The hive in the middle is my best one. I started it from a nuc in March and from it I've made two splits, taken honey, and brood to shore up a weaker hive. The hive uses standard deep frames, 32 of them in all.

    This is what it looks like inside:

    openlonghive.jpg

    The nearest hive is a split I made from the first one. The furthest hive-- pale green-- is my most troubled hive, started from a package in April. It superceded at least once, and when I got back from a road trip a couple weeks ago, it had become a laying worker hive. The boomer-- the yellow hive-- has been furnishing frames of open brood for that problem hive every week since and the laying workers seem to be largely suppressed. I'd like to save the hive, because it has drawn small cell comb (it was a Wolf Creek package) and it still has a lot of bees and a lot of stores. Now if I can just get it to make a queen...

    All my hives are foundationless, and I have to wonder why any hobbyist bothers with foundation. I have bees from 3 different suppliers, soon to be 4, and all of them have drawn beautiful comb. Here's some honey we took from the boomer last weekend:

    newcomb2.jpgcutcomb.jpghoneyjars.jpg

    So why do I like these hives so much better than the Langstroth hives?

    They're cheap to build. Mine are of plywood with solid timber stringers. I expect them to outlast me, because they never get wet, due to the metal roofing over them. The legs are pressure-treated.

    They're so easy to work. The legs hold them at a very comfortable height, so working them involves no bending or twisting or lifting anything heavier than a small piece of plywood-- except for the cinder blocks that hold down the roofing. And they aren't necessary. You could use a strap instead. This ease of inspection is a good thing for a beginner like me, and encourages me to poke around and try to learn what I can.

    The bees seem to remain very calm, even when you're making a frame by frame inspection. The inner covers are sectional, so only the part you're working is open to the sky, and no boxes have to be removed and set on end to get at the brood nest. Until my boomer got to be massive, I was able to shove the frames down the ledge and get plenty of room around the frame I wanted to lift, so no rolling of bees. I guess I could still do that, since the box is not yet completely full, but I've gotten lazy, and now I just pry out the frame I want.

    If you want to feed a colony, it's very easy to do it in a way that precludes robbing, because a Boardman-type feeder can be set against a notch in the follower board that closes off the unused portion of the hive. The feeder is thus all the way at the back of the colony from the entrance, and robbers would have a struggle getting through the whole hive. The feeder is protected from rain, and accessible without disturbing the hive.

    The hives are very stable, due to the wide base. We have hurricanes here, so that's a consideration.

    Because the hive is equipped with standard frames, you have none of the attachment problems of top bar hives. In fact, I would say that this type of hive has all the advantages of a top bar hive, and only one of the disadvantages.

    That one disadvantage, which is the only one I can think of, is that it would be very difficult to move one of these hives with full combs. I expect the whole thing, full up, might weigh close to 300 pounds. In fact, if I have to move one of these monsters, I plan to break it up into nucs and move it that way. So obviously these hives are impractical for anyone who is running a lot of hives.

    So tell me why these hives are not the best choice for a backyard beekeeper.
    Last edited by rhaldridge; 07-17-2013 at 05:18 AM.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Best hive for backyard hobbyist?

    Where did you find plans for the horizontal hives at??

    How do you add for honey flow to get the honey?

    How do you keep the brood out of the honey frames?

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Best hive for backyard hobbyist?

    Great job! Could you post a pic of your empty frames so we can see what kind of comb guide you're using? Thanks!

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Best hive for backyard hobbyist?

    Quote Originally Posted by jdmidwest View Post
    Where did you find plans for the horizontal hives at??

    How do you add for honey flow to get the honey?

    How do you keep the brood out of the honey frames?
    Jd, these were my own design, but each is really nothing more than a standard deep stretched lengthwise so it holds 32 frames. I'm a semi-amateur boatbuilder, so I used the idea of strengthening ply with solid stringers, an idea used a lot in boats. The sides and bottom are 3/8" ply, the ends and top covering boards are 3/4". There are lots of examples of long hives on the web, and I expect most of them would work fine.

    I haven't yet had to add any space to my largest hive, though maybe I would have had I not made splits and used frames of brood for other hives. The top covering boards are sectioned into sizes that would allow you to super the hive with 8 frame equipment, if the hive gets big and strong enough. This would complicate the hive somewhat, but why not plan for the best?

    I initially built up the broodnest by inserting empty frames into it every week or so, and once I had a critical mass of bees, they started building honeycomb on the outside frames. The dozen or so frames closest to the end entrance are broodnest. Everything else is honey, and I haven't had any trouble with the queen laying in the honey frames. You could probably build a queen excluder to fit, but I wouldn't bother.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Best hive for backyard hobbyist?

    Quote Originally Posted by BigDawg View Post
    Great job! Could you post a pic of your empty frames so we can see what kind of comb guide you're using? Thanks!
    I don't have a pic of the comb guides handy, but I can describe them easily. They have a triangular cross section, a fairly narrow equilateral triangle with the base upward. I make them on a table saw by cutting 3/4" stock to a length to fit between the frame end bars. Then I set my fence to a 3/4" space, and tilt the saw to make an acute angle. I run the stock through the saw, flip end for end, and repeat until the stock gets too skinny to be safe. I glue and brad them to the top bars of the frames.

    I'll see if I can take a pic and post it later.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Best hive for backyard hobbyist?

    Im liking that, never seen one before. The disadvantage is not major. Keep a few extra lang boxes around if you need to move or build a few out of cheap wood for moving.

    Way better than TB. I have never liked the idea of a TB, but what you have is a nice hybrid. Tb are fragile, finnicky with wild comb and crushing comb makes me cry. Its messy and honey is dirtier when crushed than from an extractor. And if the flow is still on bees have to rebuild all the comb instead of just refilling.

    I may just have to build one this winter. I wonder how they winter up north compared to sunny FL in a horizontal vs lang. Do you have plans??

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Best hive for backyard hobbyist?

    Quote Originally Posted by rhaldridge View Post

    So tell me why these hives are not the best choice for a backyard beekeeper.
    I don't think anyone will say that they aren't the best choice for some backyard beekeepers. I think that it depends on your goal. If it is to have some bees to enjoy in the backyard, those hives will work just fine. I sell honey and bees and right now my production hives all have 20 deep frames and 60 medium frames on each hive. That would be a long hive. Vertically they don't take up much space and I just put the extras in storage when I go back to 20 frame hives.

    So the type of hive you have and like the best will probably be defined on your beekeeping goals.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Best hive for backyard hobbyist?

    Quote Originally Posted by beedeetee View Post
    I sell honey and bees and right now my production hives all have 20 deep frames and 60 medium frames on each hive. That would be a long hive. Vertically they don't take up much space and I just put the extras in storage when I go back to 20 frame hives. So the type of hive you have and like the best will probably be defined on your beekeeping goals.
    I was gonna make the same comment. With a horizontal what do you do when a slamming flow hits and you can't harvest. Super positional hives have practically infinite volume hence the name. I've removed a feral hive at Kentucky Kingdom early this month filling about twice the volume of the horizontal. 8-9 gallons of honey.

    I do like langs alot but for me im small and a horizontal sounds like a fun experiment, just one to be trendy and different ;-)

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Best hive for backyard hobbyist?

    Quote Originally Posted by beedeetee View Post
    I don't think anyone will say that they aren't the best choice for some backyard beekeepers. I think that it depends on your goal. If it is to have some bees to enjoy in the backyard, those hives will work just fine. I sell honey and bees and right now my production hives all have 20 deep frames and 60 medium frames on each hive. That would be a long hive. Vertically they don't take up much space and I just put the extras in storage when I go back to 20 frame hives.

    So the type of hive you have and like the best will probably be defined on your beekeeping goals.
    True.

    I suppose if you had the sort of nectar flow that would support a hive of that size, you could put 9 medium supers on one of my hives without needing a stepladder to get to the top ones. That's because each layer would be three supers. That would take away some of the advantages of the long hive, of course. Maybe next year.

    Though this does make me think of another advantage for the backyard hobbyist-- no supers to store. You can regulate the size of the hive to keep it all in one box, by removing honey as it reaches the end of the box. Another is easier swarm control. When the best hive was booming in the spring flow, they started queen cells on a couple of occasions. I put several empty frames into the brood nest and they tore them down. It's slightly more complicated to do that in a 2 deep brood nest, I would imagine.

    I think if raising bees is a goal, then long hives might be pretty practical. They are very flexible in terms of space allocation. You could get quite a few mating nucs into each hive, and the way I make my top entrances, you could change space around very easily. Still have to put nucs in nuc boxes to sell, I guess.

    This is an entrance/feeder board for a langstroth hive, but the principle is the same. I just routed out a 3/8" slot in the edge of my covering boards for entrances. You could put a half-dozen or so nucs in a single long hive, with division boards for each. At one point I had splits in each end of a single hive.

    topenter1.jpg

    Probably the most worrisome criticism of this system that I've heard is that bees are more reluctant to move sideways than vertically. I haven't had any difficulty getting them to expand horizontally, but I'm a beginner, so I may run into trouble soon.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Best hive for backyard hobbyist?

    I really think, that for backyard beekeeping, long hive is a really good choice:
    - easy to build;
    - bees love deep frames!
    - bees ARE calmer in the long hive!
    - management is easy
    - etc.

    I have Lang and the long one. My long hive is 20 frames - it is too short, but it could be easily supered with standard Lang boxes. My personal mistake is that I am using top-bars instead the foundationless frame. Comb with honey is too heavy - a few times it collapsed. I added sides to my TBs and problem solved

    Rhaldridge made a good point - this hive is much-much calmer than others (Langs). In Russia, long hives are quite popular and people reported 100-200 kilos honey yield per hive. They also "winter" Russian winter Right now, my long hive is a hybrid - long and vertical. It is in the shape of "L" now. I tried to split long hive unsuccessfully, as a result, bees occupied vertical part (which supposed to be a split) and now it is a nest. Horizontal part is a storage.

    Oldtimer from New Zealand thinks that long hives are less productive than Langs and it is more natural for bees to expand vertically. I have to admit, that my bees love both parts vertical and horizontal
    Серёжа, Sergey

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Best hive for backyard hobbyist?

    .
    Thanks for the thoughts Cerezha and I've got to say it was a great pleasure looking at the beautiful pics both you and Raldridge have posted of the nice honeycombs.

    Quote Originally Posted by rhaldridge View Post
    my first spring as a beekeeper has given me a full complement of opinions, and I'd like to see if I can be talked out of them.
    Can't imagine it.

    However the long hives certainly seem to be working for you and you've also done very well for a first year beekeeper getting all the combs drawn right with no mess, obviously taken it seriously and done the research. For you, long hives seem to be a good fit.

    Next year, you may find another downside to long hives, being swarm control is pretty difficult. This season you've been in expansion mode so swarm control has not been an issue, but if the bees come through winter in good shape they will be wanting to swarm and hard to stop unless you split them, taking honey out alone won't be enough if the bees are healthy. Other than that though it all seems to be going well.
    Last edited by Oldtimer; 07-17-2013 at 02:49 AM.
    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: Best hive for backyard hobbyist?

    Great to see you are doing well and to see more photos Rhaldridge

    I totally agree with all the positive comments. I love my Horizontal Lang.

    For those wanting to see what it's like with supers on it:



    This season could be interesting with swarming, it's been very mild. As of today I'm already seeing drones and we haven't even finished winter yet!
    I'll be doing more testing of my theory on "Opening the Sides" of the brood nest this season, for swarm prevention.

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Best hive for backyard hobbyist?

    Quote Originally Posted by Oldtimer View Post
    ....Next year, you may find another downside to long hives, being swarm control is pretty difficult. This season you've been in expansion mode so swarm control has not been an issue, but if the bees come through winter in good shape they will be wanting to swarm and hard to stop unless you split them, taking honey out alone won't be enough if the bees are healthy.....
    My long hive is in its 2nd season and it does not look like have intention to swarm. When possible, for all my beehives I do a checker-boarding and it seems to me helps. My lazy approach is that I remove extra honey at periphery and insert 1-2 empty frames in the nest at every opportunity, once a month may be. I do the same with Langs too! As for vertical vs horizontal, Oldtimer, my bees are much smarter than I am they use one horizontal and one vertical deep for the nest right now! I am going to do walk-away split with vertical part. I just need to find space for the 5th hive on our tiny property (away from neighbors). How is your winter, Oldtimer?
    Attached Images Attached Images
    Серёжа, Sergey

  14. #14

    Default Re: Best hive for backyard hobbyist?

    Long hives (we call them trough hives) are popular here in Germany, at least in some parts of Germany.

    For a short description in German see: http://bienen-ruck.de/_upl/de/_d-upl..._120_Flyer.pdf

    The hives have special floor boards, that allow an inhive split with the queen and recombining 14 days later after the split as a swarm prevention.

    The floor has two storeys and in the first floor two channels to the front entrance. The channels are separated from each other. With a follower board you can make a queen split within the hive in the back of the hive.

    Colonies build up very strong very early and this hive is a honey cow. It is supered with a deep or a shallow. Less lifting! Very comfortable to work with. Also the follower board allows a lot of manipulation techniques. For example the broodnest can be tighten in early spring, to 5-8 frames, so the brood nest is very compact and warm.

    You cannot migrate with those hives, but that's about all downsides I know of.

    Placed on an elevated stand those hives are really comfy to work with.

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Best hive for backyard hobbyist?

    Quote Originally Posted by cerezha View Post
    My long hive is in its 2nd season and it does not look like have intention to swarm. When possible, for all my beehives I do a checker-boarding and it seems to me helps.
    I actually think my best hive was on the verge of swarming a couple times this spring, because they built queen cells. They probably weren't supercedure cells, because the queen in this hive is great, laying up dense slabs of brood. Some of her work:

    nicebrood.jpg

    I don't know for sure, but I think expanding the broodnest by inserting empty frames was a factor in preventing the colony from swarming. Each time I saw queen cells, I added new frames in the interior of the broodnest, and a week later the queen cells were literally gone. I have a feeling this ready access to the broodnest, and the ease of manipulating it may be helpful in preventing swarming.

    As I think Bernhard is saying, a cut-down split would be pretty easy to do, with the queen and a couple of frames of bees residing in one end of the hive, and the main colony in the other. Eventually, you could combine the colonies and harvest some queen cells to make increase. Now that I think about it, I can't help but wonder if the presence of the queen in the same box might delay the development of laying workers in the main colony. Be a good way to manage a brood break, too, I would think.

    Some of the European longhives are fine examples of the woodworker's art-- as is Matt's. Mine are pretty crude in comparison, but I kind of like the way they look. My wife painted them for me. She's experimenting with cottage colors, in the hope that I'll build her one in the North Country..

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Best hive for backyard hobbyist?

    Quote Originally Posted by burns375 View Post
    Im liking that, never seen one before. The disadvantage is not major. Keep a few extra lang boxes around if you need to move or build a few out of cheap wood for moving.

    I may just have to build one this winter. I wonder how they winter up north compared to sunny FL in a horizontal vs lang. Do you have plans??
    My plans are in the form of some scribbled dimensions in a notebook, but I'll try to put something together to show what I'm doing.

    One experiment I'm making involves screened bottoms. The first hive had a completely open bottom with 1/8" screen, and that was a bad idea. The follower board put enough pressure on the screen so that it sagged, and I had to C-clamp a stick under the follower to keep bees out of the unused portion. The next was built with several screened 3" holes, and the bees did fine. The latest has no ventilation holes in the hive except for the top opening, and the bees seem to do okay-- though this is a new hive from split, so it isn't very big yet. But we'll see.

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Best hive for backyard hobbyist?

    Quote Originally Posted by BernhardHeuvel View Post
    The hives have special floor boards, that allow an inhive split with the queen and recombining 14 days later after the split as a swarm prevention.
    Very interesting Bernhard, I met a German guy who keeps bees (langs) in my country I had to do a disease inspection of his hives and could not understand the way they were set up. But then he showed up & explained to me that the way they were split with a queenless part was a method of swarm control very common in Germany. I have never seen anything like it, it is not done here. But it did look like it could work.

    Always can learn something new.
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  18. #18
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    Default Re: Best hive for backyard hobbyist?

    Quote Originally Posted by rhaldridge View Post
    I don't know for sure, but I think expanding the broodnest by inserting empty frames was a factor in preventing the colony from swarming.
    Yes, expanding the brood nest, and then the hive generally, is one of the best ways to reduce swarming.
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Best hive for backyard hobbyist?

    Do you have any problems with SHB control with all that available space?
    Last edited by B-Rant; 07-17-2013 at 10:39 AM. Reason: Grammar

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Best hive for backyard hobbyist?

    Quote Originally Posted by B-Rant View Post
    Do you have any problems with SHB control with all that available space?
    I haven't yet, but I'm a beginner, so who knows? I have seen a small hive beetle, but I haven't found any damage yet. The unused space is closed off by a follower board, but of course if it were tight enough to keep out beetles, it would be too tight to move easily. I do have traps in the hives, both the kind that is filled with mineral oil, and the CD case traps, baited with a mixture of pollen sub, honey, and boric acid. I haven't caught any, but I'm sure it's just a matter of time.

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