Hive designs and their advantages and disadvantages
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  1. #1
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    Default Hive designs and their advantages and disadvantages

    There are hundreds of variations of hive designs proposed over the years. I'm going to attempt to describe these designs in terms of common design and use features. From this information, a beekeeper can make choices of hive type and management required.

    Skep type hives, box hives, clay tube hives, and bee gums (chunk of hollow log with top and bottom added) all share the same basic structure and method of management. Bees are housed in a cavity with enough room for brood and surplus honey. These type hives are labor intensive for harvesting honey but relatively low maintenance otherwise. Skeps are harvested by removing the bees either by driving them from the skep or by killing them with sulfur. Box hives and bee gums can be opened from the top and honey harvested from above the cross-sticks. Clay tube hives as used in Egypt are harvested by opening the back of the hive and cutting out combs of honey. These type hives are least common denominator in terms of cost to build and operate. They are commonly used in subsistence agriculture. It is difficult to achieve significant honey production with these type hives.

    Top bar hives are oriented horizontally so the bees will make moveable combs. The first truly moveable comb hive was arguably the Greek inverted cone straw hive which is a moveable frame type hive with topbars from which combs are built. This hive dates back a few thousand years and counts as the first moveable comb hive. The defining characteristic of top bar hives is that the combs can't be extracted. They have support only from the top bar and don't stand up very well to being spun for extraction. Top bar hives can be made from wood, half a 55 gallon drum, plastic containers, or other available materials. Honey is collected by cutting combs from topbars, squeezing, and straining. The primary advantage of topbar hives is that hives can be split, inspected, re-queened, etc. The disadvantages revolve around primitive methods of harvesting honey.

    Box hives with frames are the next general category. These hives are usually oriented horizontally and do not have separate boxes for honey storage. Box hives are a step up from top bar hives because the frames can be extracted. These type hives are relatively labor intensive because the beekeeper has to be there to remove frames full of honey, extract, then return the frames to the hive to be re-filled. The Layens hive common in Spain and various horizontal frame hives such as are used in large parts of Russia and Ukraine are examples of this type. These hives have all the advantages of modern hives but are relatively labor intensive for honey collection and require more management by the beekeeper.

    Frame hives with separate honey storage are industry standard. These hives are exemplified by Langstroth and modified Dadant designs. One or more boxes is dedicated for brood and winter stores while more boxes are used for surplus honey. Moveable frames with bee space are used throughout. The advantages include ease of splitting, re-queening, producing queens, collecting honey, etc. The disadvantages are primarily that common hive designs are inherently flawed but because they are standard and widely used, there is no incentive to change. Langstroth hives have a flaw that one box does not provide enough brood space for a prolific queen. Dadant hives have room for a prolific queen but are very heavy when full. British Nationals are even more confining than Langstroths. Frame spacing varies from 31 to 40 mm center to center with 35 being most common. The most important disadvantage is that these hives are relatively expensive compared to the others. This precludes use in many 3rd world economies.
    NW Alabama, 50 years, 20 colonies and growing, sideliner, treatment free since 2005, 14 frame square Dadant broodnest

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Hive designs and their advantages and disadvantages

    >It is difficult to achieve significant honey production with these type hives.

    One of the most profitable and productive beekeepers in American History was using simple box hives (no frames) and set against using any of the "patent" hives. Moses Quinby would completely disagree with your assessment. He produced a lot of honey, a lot of queens and made a lot of money at it.
    http://astore.amazon.com/thepracbeek...ail/1435744691

    Nicol Jacobi would also disagree. He was doing the same back in 1578 when he wrote about grafting queens and doing walk away splits and keeping bees in boxes with no frames.
    http://astore.amazon.com/thepracbeek...ail/1614762570
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 42y 40h 39yTF

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    Default Re: Hive designs and their advantages and disadvantages

    Michael Bush: -
    Quinby and Jacobi just affirmed what I was already beginning to figure out: - that the bees will make the most of almost any shelter available. You could probably raise them in old tires and they would do OK. When I started, I decided to go with Langstroth hives, but looking back, I can see that whatever system I chose would be because of a perceived advantage for me. The bees could care less.
    I want bees that make up for my mistakes.

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    Default Re: Hive designs and their advantages and disadvantages

    whatever system I chose would be because of a perceived advantage for me
    Putting bees into a small box that limits their ability to expand would still be a problem. Otherwise, I agree that so long as the box is big enough, the rest of it is based on management convenience for the beekeeper.

    Moses Quinby would completely disagree with your assessment.
    I wrote that with full knowledge that Quinby flooded the market with comb honey using box hives. My statement was intended to highlight per hive averages. Would you argue that keeping bees in boxes is more productive than in a moveable frame hive where they can be manipulated to become more productive?

    Did anyone else notice that I did not mention the Warre hive above? Where would it fit?
    NW Alabama, 50 years, 20 colonies and growing, sideliner, treatment free since 2005, 14 frame square Dadant broodnest

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    Default Re: Hive designs and their advantages and disadvantages

    >Would you argue that keeping bees in boxes is more productive than in a moveable frame hive where they can be manipulated to become more productive?

    I don't live in a place where it is a choice, so I have not considered it too much, but have been intrigued by Quinby's view that it IS more productive. He held that you can't make money in beekeeping if you spend it all on equipment.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 42y 40h 39yTF

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    Default Re: Hive designs and their advantages and disadvantages

    you can't make money in beekeeping if you spend it all on equipment.
    I would add, "You can't make money in beekeeping if you spend it all on labor." There has to be a point somewhere in the middle where cost of equipment and cost of labor are at a minimum so profit can be realized.
    NW Alabama, 50 years, 20 colonies and growing, sideliner, treatment free since 2005, 14 frame square Dadant broodnest

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    Default Re: Hive designs and their advantages and disadvantages

    Quote Originally Posted by Fusion_power View Post
    ...Did anyone else notice that I did not mention the Warre hive above? Where would it fit?
    Not only Warre, you missed Perrone, Rose, Japanese, Slavic, Ukranian long, etc. I do not understand your point? Was it that bees can live in any suitable size cavity? The design of the "cavity" is heavily affected by purpose of beekeeping, convenience, particular cultural traditions etc.
    Серёжа, Sergey

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    Default Re: Hive designs and their advantages and disadvantages

    Was it that bees can live in any suitable size cavity?
    Yes, this is precisely the point. Bees need a cavity of about 1500 to 6000 cubic inches volume for the brood nest. All other hive design characteristics are for the beekeeper. This means the beekeeper should look at resources available and method of management to determine the type hive to keep bees. A dirt poor farmer in Tanzania is not likely to be able to afford Langstroth equipment. He will use a top bar hive or a hollow log. A gentleman farmer in England will likely use British National because that is the most common hive in Britain. An American commercial beekeeper will most likely use Langstroth deeps because it is the standard here and it has a time proven management style.

    I'm particularly impressed with the Rose hive and associated method of management. I would not use Rose hives because I can see their inherent design flaws. Each box contains 12 frames with nominal comb space of 105 square inches per comb and requires 24 frames (in 2 boxes) for nominal wintering hive configuration. He got a huge amount of the design right, especially as compared with Langstroth hives. He missed that a single large brood chamber is more cost efficient and more efficient for queen laying than using multiple boxes. He also missed that there are a minimum of 24 frames to inspect to find a queen or otherwise go through a colony. By comparison, I am using square deep Dadant hives with 14 frames which gives nominal capacity almost identical to 2 Rose boxes but is more efficient for queen laying because there are fewer corners in the frames and there are only 14 frames to inspect for the queen. It is very important to me that the brood nest be easy to inspect as I intend to produce queens! If not for the desire to produce queens, I could easily have chosen the Rose hive design.

    Japanese garden hives are very similar to a frameless Warre. Ukrainian hives are very similar in function to Layens.

    Perone hives get a lot right, particularly the part about having a large hive for the bees and plenty of room to store honey. They are not a movable frame design and finding and managing the queen would be very difficult. If I were keeping bees under primitive conditions, the Perone hive would be a good candidate because it can be built and managed at low cost and with low technology tools.

    To give perspective, here are the reasons I chose to convert to Dadant square deep hives.

    1. There are only 14 frames to examine to find a queen, inspect, etc.
    2. All of the brood a prolific queen can produce will fit in one brood box
    3. It has enough room for wintering in one box
    4. It is designed to run a horizontal 2 queen system using a divider
    5. It reduces crowding effects so the bees are less likely to swarm
    6. The wide entrance improves ventilation
    7. The brood nest is more consolidated instead of being spread across multiple boxes of combs
    8. My extractor was made to handle this size comb, the frames will fit my existing system if I need to extract
    9. Easy to use to produce queens, just put a divider in place like a cloake board and have at it
    10. It allows me to re-use the shallow extracting frames I already have, just add square supers.
    11. It is highly efficient for space utilization
    12. It costs less for a complete working hive than most other movable frame stackable super designs
    13. It is much less likely to blow over in a strong wind
    14. Square modified Dadant hives can easily be palletized

    and here are the detriments
    1. A box full of honey will weight a bit over 100 pounds, not good for the back
    2. These are obviously not standard which is a detriment if I ever sell out
    3. Equipment is not normally available in the U.S., I have to custom build the frames and other hive components
    4. Splitting has to be done by moving frames instead of separating boxes.

    Compare the above 14 points carefully with the Rose hive and you will find that the Rose system falls short on 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, and 11 of the advantages but gains ground on items 1 and 4 of the detriments.
    NW Alabama, 50 years, 20 colonies and growing, sideliner, treatment free since 2005, 14 frame square Dadant broodnest

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    Default Re: Hive designs and their advantages and disadvantages

    Quote Originally Posted by Fusion_power View Post
    Frame hives with separate honey storage are industry standard.
    Are there still some states that don't require removable frames for inspection? Quinby may have lucked out in that regard.

    Nice summary, Dar - thanks!
    After 40 years of beekeeping, I've come to realize that the bees can fix most of my mistakes.

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    Default Re: Hive designs and their advantages and disadvantages

    >I haven't read that book, but can someone who has tell me how he produced so much honey? Is it just by the shear amount of hives he had?

    He was a very good beekeeper.

    >Are there still some states that don't require removable frames for inspection?

    Still? No. At one time (in Quinby's lifetime) they all did. Now a few have just wiped the books on apiary laws and have no restrictions.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 42y 40h 39yTF

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    Default Re: Hive designs and their advantages and disadvantages

    Fusion, since you've done so much research on all these different hive designs, could you say why you concluded the layens design is labor intensive for honey collection and requires more management? I listened to Dr. Leo Sharashkin's speech on the Layens and he is a large proponent on this design, with one of the greatest stated advantages of it being the minimal maintenance required. He presented it as though the hive was designed and commonly used by beekeepers who visit it once in the spring and once in the fall. I see how honey collection may be tricky using a lang deep honey extractor, but surely there must be an extractor that fits these hugely deep frames? I'm seeing a lot of advantages to this hive design that make a lot of sense. Of course I have to mention that I'm not a commercial beek and have no intention on transporting my hives. But the strong insulation of the hives, their ability to expand with the broodnest horizontally, and allow for up to 16 inches of uninterrupted vertical comb seems like a great advantage over the lang deep design that requires the bees to move up every 9 inches or so to reach the super above.

    I'm all ears

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    Default Re: Hive designs and their advantages and disadvantages

    You can purchase an extractor from Swienty that will handle Layens frames. It will be expensive. You are correct that there are advantages in terms of the bees and their needs, especially as compared with Langstroth equipment. The difficulty comes with overall size of the hive. The stated design capacity is @6400 cubic inches of volume as compared with two Langstroth boxes which are about 6000 cubic inches. The problem is that a strong colony will completely fill up two Langstroth boxes and typically needs 2 times - or more - that much honey storage space. The way this is managed in Spain is to pull frames of honey as they are capped, extract them, then return the frames to the colony to be refilled. This infers many more visits to the hive than "once in the spring and once in the fall". Read through his site carefully and you will see that he recommends making it larger if your area will support more honey collection. Let's say you double the size of each hive giving equivalent of 4 Langstroth deeps in capacity. Now you have a hive that is way too large for a wintering colony and no easy way to reduce the volume. You could make follower boards, but that would separate the combs in one side from the bees in the other leaving the combs unprotected and open to wax moth and hive beetle damage. Layens' design is not amenable to adding a super on top such as with Langstroth or Dadant equipment, in fact, adding a super would eliminate most of the advantages of a horizontal hive. If you made the hives to a fixed size based on his dimensions, the bees will fill that volume and then swarm repeatedly. You would have to use foundationless frames with this hive, nobody on this side of the pond makes it that large. That means a huge amount of drone comb. Short summary, there is no flexibility with this hive type to add or remove honey storage space, an extractor will be expensive, and you will be forced into foundationless frames.

    Any hive design you choose will have deficiencies and represents a compromise between what the bees need and what the beekeeper needs. Honeybees are happy with any open cavity with from 2000 to 4000 cubic inches of open space and have very little preference for the shape of that cavity. Beekeepers need a hive small enough to lift, large enough to be cost efficient, easily expanded for honey storage, large enough for good wintering, and standard enough to be easily sold in the future.

    The insulation value of 1.5 inch thick pine is about R=2. You would be far better off to add a 3/4 inch thick sheet of polyisocyanurate with R value of 6 to get something high enough to be effective.


    He was a very good beekeeper.
    Quinby was an exceptionally good beekeeper, however, he could not hold a candle to a modern beekeeper using the right equipment and understanding bee behavior. Read through his writings carefully and there are dozens of small but significant mistakes such as using a hive too small for a prolific queen and insisting on small storage boxes for the honey crop. The way he made so much honey was from having so many colonies of bees. This means his labor costs were much too high by modern standards.
    Last edited by Fusion_power; 06-27-2016 at 01:25 PM.
    NW Alabama, 50 years, 20 colonies and growing, sideliner, treatment free since 2005, 14 frame square Dadant broodnest

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    Default Re: Hive designs and their advantages and disadvantages

    Quote Originally Posted by Fusion_power View Post

    Quinby was an exceptionally good beekeeper, however, he could not hold a candle to a modern beekeeper using the right equipment and understanding bee behavior. Read through his writings carefully and there are dozens of small but significant mistakes such as using a hive too small for a prolific queen and insisting on small storage boxes for the honey crop. The way he made so much honey was from having so many colonies of bees. This means his labor costs were much too high by modern standards.
    I have snipped FP quote; I think that the same thing applies to most all the historical beekeepers. I think often isolated writings are quoted in discussions as being definitive proof of a concept in a present argument, when many of their other equally held beliefs could be called to question. Appeal to antiquity. No doubt many of todays authorities will be found similarly treated by history. The relative value of things change.
    Frank

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    Default Re: Hive designs and their advantages and disadvantages

    In Australia, it is illegal to have hives that do not have movable frames. That cuts out some choices. What can a hive produce with movable frames. Some commercial beekeepers in Western Australia regularly produce over 300kg (660lb) and many produce over 250 kg (550lb) per hive per year so I would say movable frames do not restrict teh honey flow. Yes, it does help having a good climate and flora and no real pest and diseases.

  15. #15

    Default Re: Hive designs and their advantages and disadvantages

    Ive read all posts in this thread and thanks to Dar, who send me the link.
    I would have avoided many mistakes if I had seen it earlier.

    Bernhard, you use "Kaltbau" or am I wrong? Ever tried "Warmbau"? I wanted to use Dadant square because of that. But so far thought it too much stress on the bees to change winter and summer arrangements.

    The 90 arrangement, do you see any disadvantage with ventilation?
    I leave the floor boards in the whole year and small entrance ( 12cm). This to have better defense.

    Please comment on this, but remember its not production of honey I go for ( no discussion about that, please), but rather resistance.

    My question about burr comb was answered in this thread. I dont want to use a queen excluder, going another path with beekeeping.
    My first mentor in bee class used 10 frames dadant without excluder and had no brood in the top supers.
    He had Carnicas and they rather swarmed than expand into the super.
    With other bees it could be splitting.
    His bees, even established, stayed in the bottom box.

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    Default Re: Hive designs and their advantages and disadvantages

    I want to give a hearty "Thank you," "Freundliche Gre," and all other greetings/thanks/appreciation to the posters of this thread. It has collected much in the way of observations, suggestions, solutions, and rationale for many things I've been puzzled over and have been considering doing. As a result, I will probably not make as many mistakes as I would have made.

    For instance, DarJones' summary of the MSDJ tells me that my thought of making double-medium Langstroths is probably missing the boat on some of the flexibility of square geometry and that the 12 7/8" frame size may not be exactly stupid but might need some more thought. So much information of great value is included here, and I'm only 1/3 of the way through the thread now.

    I've had a few PMs with some of the posters here, and even about these things, but didn't know of this thread until today. Thanks again. Maybe I can contribute something besides simple appreciation within a year.

    Michael
    "I thought I made a mistake once, but I was wrong." (heard often from the late David Sebree) Still making them, myself

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    Default Re: Hive designs and their advantages and disadvantages

    Quote Originally Posted by H Mitchell View Post
    Does this mean that Odfrank will then be running 8 frame boxes 12" deep? What depth boxes do you use Charlie?
    Don't listen to anything Charlie writes. He is at onset of dementia and drools on endless BS wasting all of our time. SAD what aging does.

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    Default Re: Hive designs and their advantages and disadvantages

    I am now tired after reading this fascinating thread. I will be changing nothing due to exhaustion. Lol

    I change from necessity only. I cannot afford to change due to concepts etc. I had read the rose method and decided that I could do that with an all medium setup. I put mediums under my hive deeps to encourage them to move. Then this year they were booming and it was necessary to split them. Then I decided to expand more and bought splits and they were in deep frames. Then I wanted to give a split some help and it was deep frames to be donated to mediums.........okay this is not fun any more.

    I habe some extra deep combs now. I take a coue out in my spare box in my wheelbarrow. I have moved everyone back to deep brood nests. They seem to like those and I still need to be matched up with my fellow beeks from whom I get help or trade splits etc.

    Its all about necessity not theory. I am making lots of changes regarding lifting etc due to need not theory. Inthought about using 8 frame stuff so I tried to lift some mediums with only 8 not enough lighter. So ten is fine and I move frames not boxes. In theory 8 frame is better, not not enough to make the change.

    This all being said, to make the point, I try it and see if it works for me. Theory is for education, but has to be integrated with my reality and abilities.

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Hive designs and their advantages and disadvantages

    Quote Originally Posted by lharder View Post
    So I have cut the wood for my first modified dadent boxes. Enough for 4 hives. Just mediums for now figuring I would use 2 mediums for a brood box and try to manage these as Bernard illustrates. Will be able to introduce some extra deep frames as I go along I think. I figure a max of 5 mediums should be enough for the bees at their peak with a couple of extra boxes to spare. How tall do these colonies get?
    What is going to make an all medium hive qualify as a Dadant hive?

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Hive designs and their advantages and disadvantages

    ODF, I have them cut and packed ready to ship, but USPS wants $60. I'm waiting on a trip to birmingham when I can go by UPS and ship them cheaper.

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