Is the Bee-Space necessary ?
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  1. #1
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    Default Is the Bee-Space necessary ?

    This question is perhaps the ultimate act of beekeeping heresy. The 'Bee-Space' was 'invented' around 1850 by Langstroth, Dzierzon, and Baron August von Berlepsch, although it's usually Langstroth who's credited with the invention as a result of mentioning this spacing (although not claiming it) within his 1852 Patent.

    Did the Bee-Space exist before 1850 ? Well, actually no. But that's not to say that the bees hadn't been creating such a spacing between their combs for several million years before then, it's just that the Bee-Space per se didn't exist until someone observed, measured and thus defined it.
    In exactly the same way, 'Gravity' didn't exist before Isaac Newton. Sure, apples used to fall to the ground well before humans had ever existed, but they didn't fall to the ground as a result of Gravity before 'The Law of Gravity' (as an idea/concept) had been invented around 1680.

    There are two kinds of bee-space: that which only humans create - between a frame top bar and whatever is above it, and between the frame sides and the side-walls of a beehive. The space below the frame bottom-bar is of less importance, unless that bottom bar is directly above another frame.

    The other kind of bee-space is that which the bees themselves create, between adjacent combs and between a comb and other structures - so the spacing of removable frames in particular then becomes important, so that the bees are able to maintain a desirable spacing between framed combs, just as if they had chosen that comb spacing themselves from the outset.

    Ever since 1850, beekeepers have been indoctrinated into believing that the Bee-Space is an essential component of a well-managed beehive. But is it ? It would appear that the answer is a resounding "YES" for certain styles of beehive, and an equally resounding "NO" for others.

    For Langstroth and Langstroth-style beehives (such as the British National), any failure to respect the Bee-Space will result in 'misbehaviour' by the bees. But not so in other styles of framed-comb hive. This became clear to me this morning whilst pulling a few graphics from de Layens' "Elevage Des Abeilles (12th Ed.)" for another thread.

    Take a look at this graphic (DON'T CLICK ON IT - unless you like adverts):


    Layens Frame

    Where are the Bee-Spaces ? Over an inch of space exists at the sides of the frame, and similar spacing above and below. The only Bee-Spaces in that hive will be those created by the bees themselves between the combs which, as already stated, partly results from appropriate frame spacing by humans - but the precise spacing between those combs will always be bee-determined.

    Here's another one (DON'T CLICK ON THIS ONE EITHER ...):


    Polish PoW 'Sentry Box' Beehive

    It's exactly the same story again: an inch or more of space at the sides of the frames, perhaps the same above (?) - difficult to tell from that picture - and a whacking great void below those enormous frames - there's not a single man-made Bee-Space in sight !

    So - why have I started a thread about this - is this observation of any real importance ? Well, perhaps it is - because - what is considered to be arguably the most important and fundamental design consideration in modern beehive design turns out on further examination not to be essential at all - it would appear that it only has relevance for specific hive designs, albeit those which have become the most popular.

    But what exactly does a man-made (as opposed to the inter-comb bee-determined) Bee-Space actually do ? Quite simply it thwarts the bees from doing what they would choose to do 'naturally', that is, what they would do if that spacing wasn't present. So, does this imply that such human trickery adversely affects the bees in any significant way ? Well, it's impossible to say for sure - as there appears to be no evidence for this - but it has occurred to me that thwarting an organism from exercising it's natural behaviour is little different from how slaves used to be shackled during transportation to the colonies, and insodoing thwarted from escaping. I can't believe that honeybees are as seriously affected by bee-spaced frames as that however, as some 'Natural Beekeepers' are suggesting, for if they were, then they'd simply abscond. But nevertheless I'm left wondering if their lives would be improved - if only a little perhaps - by adopting a style of frame, and by implication a design of hive, where 'The Bee-Space' has been shown to be completely unnecessary.

    Food for thought ?
    LJ
    A Heretics Guide to Beekeeping http://heretics-guide.atwebpages.com/

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  3. #2
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    Default Re: Is the Bee-Space necessary ?

    Not heresy at all.
    (...deleted unnecessary rants...)

    Will think about it and respond later, but..

    This bee-space thing - I don't give a lot of hoot about it.
    Does not matter much to me.
    And will demonstrate some facts of my own production.

    One thing, bees behave differently in shallow hives (picture a "fruit tray" used by Langstroth himself) vs. classic deep hives of the Old Euro (deep, single-level hives are where the bee ergonomic requirements are satisfied). Langstroth did not know about or did not care enough of the Old World beekeeping ways (as not commercially convenient enough maybe).

    The most important thing is - where in the existing volume the bees demarcate their own nest boundaries?
    The bees spaces are of use for inside the bee nest.
    Does not matter a bit for anything outside of the bee nest (outside of the nest <> outside of the physical hive/bee-tree).
    Bees then treat differently the spaces inside the nest and outside the nest.

    Well, if you are the mainstream follower and are on Lang/Dadant dimensions (especially, multi-tier - bee space matters).
    If you go rouge, very well may just ignore the bee space.
    Mostly irrelevant to me; I do what works and call it done.

    The bee space may matter when I will build some multi-tier, vertical hives - different subject.
    Last edited by GregV; 11-24-2019 at 11:02 PM.
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

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    Default Re: Is the Bee-Space necessary ?

    Bee space is pretty handy to keep combs where you want them and not where you don't want them. But, of course, the bees don't care...
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 42y 40h 39yTF

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    Default Re: Is the Bee-Space necessary ?

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Bush View Post
    Bee space is pretty handy to keep combs where you want them and not where you don't want them. But, of course, the bees don't care...
    Unless you don't do multi-body hives (e.g. conventional Langs).
    Now and then a quick slice of a bread knife does the trick - which is expected anyway once you run 100% natural comb and allow the bees a degree of freedom.
    Rather an occasional issue.

    I got these 40 liter multi-purpose hives (initially just swarm traps; until I realized much wider usage context - and liked it).
    20161127_132538.jpg
    All are constructed this way (about 2 inches of free space along the vertical sides of the frames):
    LayensNuc.jpg

    Looking back now, I would have probably made them similar to the LJ's hives.
    But ultimately I will keep them as is - because it does not matter that much and my time is now spent elsewhere.
    The talks of mandatory bees space are overblown as they only apply to certain squat & multi-body equipment designs (shallow frames and tight tolerances).
    Not changing anything - not a significant deal at all to me.

    The entire premise of the Lang/Dadant conventions (and associated problems) is not set in stone to be followed.
    Partially why I am very reluctant to do multi-body hives.
    This season I ran a testing round around conventional Lang dimensions - not excited.
    Following 100+ year old Root designs/dimensions in todays day and age ... i don't know what it is outside inflexible thinking.

    Here is just one internet seller outside of the US right now (click the GB flag for English version):
    https://www.rusuley.ru/
    Take a look and you will see how some of the designs depend on the bee space, while the others are indifferent to it.
    Now, this is 21st century beekeeping I can understand (not the Walmart approach).
    Last edited by GregV; 11-25-2019 at 09:03 AM.
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

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    Default Re: Is the Bee-Space necessary ?

    Quote Originally Posted by little_john View Post
    Food for thought ?
    LJ
    Neat post, LJ. I enjoyed the read and the follow-up comments. Thought-provoking questions...
    Ecclesiastes 11:4

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    Default Re: Is the Bee-Space necessary ?

    Quote Originally Posted by Litsinger View Post
    Neat post, LJ. I enjoyed the read and the follow-up comments. Thought-provoking questions...
    I'm glad to hear that ... thanks.

    I've looked at that graphic of a Layen's frame what - maybe fifty times or more over the years, but I only noticed the absence of 'Bee-Spaces' around it for the first time yesterday. And then I remembered about the Polish PoW hive, which was similar - hence this thread. I'm not entirely sure where any of this may lead - maybe nowhere - but I thought it might be worth at least discussing.

    Several people - Greg in particular - have noticed that, providing the frame is large enough, and specifically deep enough - then there can be several inches of space below that frame in which the bees don't draw comb - quite simply because they have no need to.
    A large number of people have taken to using 'soft materials' for a Crown Board (Inner Cover), such as feed sacks, plastic sheets and the like - and so by doing this they've removed any need for a 'Bee-Space' above the frame.

    That leaves only the inter-comb space - which the bees will dynamically adjust themselves, providing the frame spacing is within a few millimetres of what they require - and of course the frame side-spacing.

    I've built many different kinds of bee-boxes over the years, and sometimes I've made the side-spacing a little tight, and at other times I've been over-generous - but on not one single occasion have I ever seen the bees be 'creative' there. Until now I'd assumed that they had some tolerance for that particular space and that I'd simply 'got away with poor workmanship'. But I've never deliberately created a whacking great space, such as around 30mm as De Layens appears to have done. So that needs to be tested next ...
    LJ
    A Heretics Guide to Beekeeping http://heretics-guide.atwebpages.com/

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    Default Re: Is the Bee-Space necessary ?

    Somehow I think you are missing some requirements. A third dimension? Parallel planes? Forces? Mass is a cubic function and area is a squared function so the Jolly Green Giants legs will fail because of "gravity" - a function of time and space, so they say. Will not mention creep failures.

    I sure would hate to spin the Pov frame or carry it. Love 9 frame "pitch" spacing in a 10 frame super. Like large area brood frames. I think Langstroth was controlling removable, parallel surfaces. After spacing size matters but to whom?

    I have yet to see a foundation-less frame between two drawn frames drawn out in orthogonal directions.

    It would be interesting to study a free form hive produced in a cavity. Contours for ??? Direction changes for???

    Just what are those bees thinking when they free form in 3D space? What tools do they use?

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    Default Re: Is the Bee-Space necessary ?

    I really want to give the bees foundationless frames in a super (I do box hives now) just for the very purpose of letting bees do what they want - draw comb.

    But that raised an interesting question - in a foundationless frame, why do the bees attach comb at the wood representing the _edge_ of the frame, rather than go past it to the wall of the hive? We are tricking them into behaving like _combs_ extend to within 3/8" of the wall, but when it is a foundationless frame, they still pretty much cooperate and use the edges of the frame as though those were the edges of the box.

    For which I am eternally thankful. Dealing with wonky comb is a danger to the bees and to my enjoyment of beekeeping!

  10. #9
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    Default Re: Is the Bee-Space necessary ?

    Quote Originally Posted by trishbookworm View Post
    ........... in a foundationless frame, why do the bees attach comb at the wood representing the _edge_ of the frame, rather than go past it to the wall of the hive?........
    Like I have been theorizing - precisely because to them the _edge_ of the frame de-marks the nest boundary.
    Granted, they have enough space to construct a natural comb to their liking - they are satisfied.

    I propose - once you meet the bees ergonomic requirements, they simply have no urge to expand further in any dimension (rendering bee space issue irrelevant).

    Very roughly, a cube with the internal side of ~300mm (~12") does this when using standard materials (it fits nicely an ideal cluster of bees with the diameter of ~300mm without compressing it from any direction).
    The diameter of ~300mm of a perfect bee cluster has been discussed and documented multiple times by persons much higher qualified than myself - so I omit the discussion.
    This is pretty predictable and pre-set due to well know colony size limitations (subject to some variation, "person by person", but still the colony max size never exceeds X - the fact, similar to the fact of a human never growing to the size of a horse).

    Any time this ideal bee cluster is deformed from the perfect sphere approximation - this causes the bees to try to compensate in the best possible way they can - here come "bee space", "cleaning the floors", etc, etc....
    For example, a shallow, squat hive compresses the idealized bee sphere sort like pictured here (resulting in "floor cleaning" which I personally do not observe at all - on the DEEP frames):
    ClusterFormingDiffFrames.jpg

    I have plenty of documented observations by now to show how the bees show none of these behaviors when their ergonomic requirements are met.

    Yes - I know, bees only cluster during the cold season.
    Meanwhile, bees build only during the warm season.
    Disagreement? I don't know.
    I only theorize and observe, while not having time/means to conduct some "proper science".

    PS: I did not forget, I wanted to post some latest observations relevant to this - just the time....
    Last edited by GregV; 11-26-2019 at 10:52 AM.
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

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    Default Re: Is the Bee-Space necessary ?

    All the bees ever want to do is draw their combs with as few complications as possible. If they find starter-strips which suggest a good place to start, then they'll commence drawing from those. But if those strips are either in an unsuitable position, or are spaced inappropriately, then they'll simply ignore them and resort to building how they would 'in the wild'.

    There are three kinds of comb-building: the first is invoked when there is a good-sized space below the chosen starting point. They then proceed to form chains and begin building comb from that top position downwards, initially in the form of an ellipse, which is widened-out to the woodenware later. It is the inability to form these chains within a restricted space which is the secret behind the success of the bee-space.

    The second kind of comb-building is comb-repair, where chains are not formed when dealing with minor repairs, but rather the bees stand on the already existing comb to work - but repairs which require extensive work such as large holes in comb, are often left 'open', as again chain-formation would have been required to build from the mid-rib outwards, but it's impossible to form such chains within such a confined space.

    There is a third kind of comb-building which is relatively rare, and can be seen when the bees build new comb either from the bottom upwards, or from the sides inwards (as would be required if (say) building a nest within an open chimney, where attachment to a top surface is then impossible). An example of this is shown at: http://heretics-guide.atwebpages.com/beek15a.htm (4th and 5th graphics from the top).

    So - theoretically, the bees could use this last method to overcome the presence of bee-spaces at the sides of frames - but as Greg has already commented - if they are already satisfied with an ample-sized comb then they simply will have no urge to get involved in a mode of comb-building which is probably fairly awkward for them when compared with their usual technique of drawing comb - which I would suggest is precisely why top-down comb-building via the use of chains IS their preferred method.

    We think we control bees behaviour, but we really don't - if our frame spacing fits-in with what the bees want, then they'll proceed to use that spacing. In a sense, they tolerate such spacing and any slight 'less than ideal' deviation from it. But - if we get it badly wrong: too wide, or too narrow - then watch out - 'cause they'll very readily revert to 'doing their own thing'.

    LJ
    A Heretics Guide to Beekeeping http://heretics-guide.atwebpages.com/

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    Default Re: Is the Bee-Space necessary ?

    Quote Originally Posted by Robert Holcombe View Post
    .....Just what are those bees thinking when they free form in 3D space? What tools do they use?
    They are not thinking much.

    Just like apple is not thinking when falling down (not UP).
    Just like bubble is not thinking when forming into a perfect sphere (not a cube).

    Elementary physics.
    Gravitation.
    Surface tension.
    Surface to volume ratio (and related energy efficiency).
    If everyone in the crowd tries to get to the center so to get warm (because the outer most edges of the crowd are the coldest) - the shape of the crowd will be approaching a circle (a sphere, in the 3D).
    Here you go - the bee-think.
    Most things are simpler than presented.
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

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    Default

    Great discussion. Thanks for the reply, LJ.

    FWIW, this reminds me of Mr. George Imirie's musings of his ubiquitous shim. He full-well understood that it violated the rules of 'bee-space' so its proper use (as defined by Mr. Imirie) involved several caveats, one of which was assuring adequate volume to meet the colony's current needs before introducing it in the supers (never in the brood area).

    While using upper entrances that double as feeding shims I have sometimes observed that comb being drawn in the shim can serve as a cue that more space is needed below.

    I've also anecdotally noted that some colonies are much quicker to utilize this 'head room' for comb building than others. Makes me wonder if there might be a genetic component to this equation as well?
    Ecclesiastes 11:4

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    Default Re: Is the Bee-Space necessary ?

    To me, the best way when building a hive to understand a bee space, is not in terms of some magic number that is measured in fractions of an inch. But in a space that is convenient for a bee to fit through, to get from one part of a hive to another. Anything too small for a bee to fit through is no use to the bees so they propolise it, and anything much bigger might be of use to put comb in so they will do that.

    So we try to force the bees to have a frame filled with comb with no holes in it, if we are successful the only way for a bee to get from one side to the other is around the edge of the end bar, so if we have a just right sized gap where the bees find they need it, they will leave it undisturbed.

    But bees may not have to have a bee space, example shown in Little John's photo of the sentry hive. Towards the bottom of the combs a square corner will not be conducive to clustering and keeping the correct temperature, so the bees forget about building the comb to the edge and haveing "correct" bee space and have a much bigger gap, for different reasons. In other situations they may close a bee gap, if it is somewhere they just don't need it.
    "Every viewpoint, is a view from a point." - Solomon Parker

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    Default Re: Is the Bee-Space necessary ?

    Quote Originally Posted by Oldtimer View Post
    So we try to force the bees to have a frame filled with comb with no holes in it, if we are successful the only way for a bee to get from one side to the other is around the edge of the end bar, .
    But if you don't force a bee to live on comb without any holes (which is only natural - the natural combs are full of holes) - none of the "going around the edge" is needed.
    God forbid - plastic foundation or plastic frames - that is where the actual animal abuse is, If you ask me.
    Bees go around and through the combs as the see fit.
    No "going around the edges".
    Bees don't go around the edges when they live in trees and in the walls.
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

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    Default Re: Is the Bee-Space necessary ?

    OK, finally posted the pics.
    Good demo of how the natural nest does work.
    https://www.beesource.com/forums/sho...43#post1768243

    I will also post a page from my TS's book copy with excellent demo of how Langstroth came up with his "bee space" and what really caused it for him and why he noticed the phenomenon (my speculation).
    I just recently read that section; very relevant to this exact discussion.
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

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    Default Re: Is the Bee-Space necessary ?

    Hi Greg - so you've been working too ? I've decided to translate my copy of Layen's 12th Edition, as it's now impossible to get a free copy anywhere on the Internet. I originally sourced my copy from 'apiculture-populaire' which now links to a sex-site, so the Internet Archive is currently blocking related searches. Sign of the times ...
    It's only 122 pages, but it'll take me a while to do as my French is seriously rusty. A page or two a day will make it my Winter project.

    I've just finished the preface, in which De Layens writes:
    "Not being an inventor of new beehives, we have simply chosen, among the best models, that which seemed to us the easiest to manage, and the most in harmony with the natural instincts of the bees. This hive has, moreover, been proven in the hands of many beekeepers."

    So - is he just being modest, or did somebody else nail the first box together ? Not that it really matters much - just a tid-bit for interest.

    Also, I may have figured out why De Layens used V-closures rather than touching Top Bars - but I'll wait to see if his text supports my theory before bragging about it.
    'best
    LJ
    A Heretics Guide to Beekeeping http://heretics-guide.atwebpages.com/

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    Default Re: Is the Bee-Space necessary ?

    Quote Originally Posted by little_john View Post
    Hi Greg - so you've been working too ? I've decided to translate my copy of Layen's 12th Edition, .......
    LJ
    Good deal LJ.
    I wish I was working....
    Fixing client database issues here.

    I really foresee myself selectively translating some historic Russian language materials into English.
    There is so much information researched and tested and published 100-150 ago - it is a terrible shame almost none of these are available to a general English-speaking audience.
    Were it available - many questions/issues would be marked as "general public knowledge" and the mistakes not repeated.
    Of course, the equipment is a huge area of discussion.

    One of the best books that I occasionally and cursorily scan - "Shimanovski, Methods of Beekeeping, 1923" (I got the PDF).
    A comprehensive overview of the current beekeeping of that time.
    He includes most all Russian and European practical methods of most well known beekeepers (including their custom equipment) up to and current with the author.
    He does discuss the Layens methods in detail as well.
    In fact, he discusses Dadant/Langtroth methods too - just among, I say, about 20-30 other notable and deserving methods.

    A must read (BUT in Russian only that I found).

    Lots of work to be done LJ!
    Last edited by GregV; 11-27-2019 at 04:21 PM.
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

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    Default Re: Is the Bee-Space necessary ?

    Quote Originally Posted by GregV View Post
    One of the best books that I occasionally and cursorily scan - "Shimanovski, Methods of Beekeeping, 1923" (I got the PDF).
    Greg, could you point where to get this one to read?

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    Default Re: Is the Bee-Space necessary ?

    Quote Originally Posted by AnVil View Post
    Greg, could you point where to get this one to read?
    Posted here:
    https://www.beesource.com/forums/sho...27#post1768627
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

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    Default Re: Is the Bee-Space necessary ?

    "The 'Bee-Space' was 'invented' around 1850"
    Bull crap. It was observed and utilized.
    "Bee space" has always been the space left by bees between bottom butted twin cell comb sections that are right at 1 inch through and through that comb.
    Bee space was simply an observation of man, who simply realized "Hey, what if we limit what we allow the bees to build on to a basic 1 3/8" layout, ie. 1" comb, 3/8" space, 1" comb, 3/8" space, ..."
    Do a few cutouts, or hive removals. the spacing is the same in every one of them, regardless whether the comb is straight or curves. It is comb, space, comb, space, ... And where that spacing doesn't fit, some random generally useless comb is placed to fill the void leaving comb, space, come, space, ...

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