In the last few days a guy posted some info about the cavities which exist in older American timber-built houses - which I found intriguing. This immediately suggested to me that if bees really do find these cavities attractive, and if they go on to live in them successfully - then why not deliberately supply bees with something which approximates to those cavities ?
So my first idea was to simply clamp a few stud-based cavities to the outside of a building, but this was quickly overtaken by the somewhat more practical idea of making a purpose-built bee-shed - using those stud-based cavities to support the roof.
This in turn gave way to the idea of enlarging the cavity from 3-4" to 9" ... which brings us nicely into 5-Frame Nuc Box territory. And that's the basis of the current 'plan' - to build a small bee-shed with the walls made - essentially - from the equivalent of 7-foot stacks of nuc boxes with a horizontal section (external) of 18" x 9".
Now although bees love nuc-stacks, I've never built one more than 4 boxes high - this limit having always been due to the lack of stability which grows with height - but in the case of this wacky bee-shed, these 7-foot stacks would be inherently supported by the shed structure itself. 4 deep boxes have a height of 3 feet, and equate to 20 frames - a reasonable enough sized colony by British standards - so that two such colonies could always be housed in one cavity by means of a mid-height horizontal divider.
With the cavities forming the walls of the bee-shed, there's also the prospect of creating 'cupboard doors' on both inner and outer skins, such that colonies could be inspected either from the outside in good weather, or from the inside if conditions should warrant this.
As to numbers - a 14ft x 6ft shed would house 21 colonies (on British National frames), or 42 if the cavities were half-height. And that's a helluva lot of weight for such a small shed !
I'm sure there are many issues to be considered - one of these being lighting, which could be achieved by keeping the cavity height to (say) 6 feet, and having a one foot high 'ribbon' of windows running around the shed between the top of the cavities and the roof structure.
The only significant 'negative' I can immediately see is that the frames (which could be of any height of course) will need to be placed 'face-on' within the cavities, so that all five will need to be removed in order to inspect each one - just as with the Alberti Hive (the fore-runner to the classic A-Z Hive). Is that going to be a major issue ?
The reason I've posted in this sub-forum and not Hardware/Equipment, is that from an individual colony's point-of-view they are very much living in a compact vertical stack - it's just that there will be lots of them, all 'bolted together' under a common roof.
Thoughts, criticisms etc - welcomed and encouraged.