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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have been lurking here for a while and dipping my toe into a few conversations and its time to take some positive steps. So, a little bit of introduction.

Why do I want to get into bees? I have for a long time had a background interest in beekeeping without the ability to indulge but now opportunities have opened up. A couple of years ago I made some enquiries with a commercial beekeeper and the response was, well, I could set you up for about $1000. The immediate response was scratch that idea, I'm not that keen. But it kept niggling away. Being who I am, I read a lot, collected a long list of bookmarks and lurked here for a few months before I joined.

What I am doing will not suit everybody so, a few of my ground rules. I am in this for interest, entertainment, learning and maybe a bit of honey. I am at that stage where maintaining engagement and activity, mental and physical, is important. I have no experience with bees but I know research, genetics and large scale breeding programs (not in bees), can learn by reading and am reasonably practical.

This will not be a commercial operation, if I had visions of becoming commercial I would go Langstroth, no questions, the standardisation would win. There are a lot of comments in these pages from Langstroth people along the lines of going to mediums, 8 frame etc. to make lifting easier. I am already past that, which basically mandates some sort of long hive with frame based manipulation. Of course, like most newbees I am going to work on my own hive design, not because I have some earth shattering insight but because the design and build is part of the enjoyment and standardisation has low value to me.

Anything is up for discussion, I have no delusions that I am going to come up with anything revolutionary and, the more I read here, the more I think that I will be lucky to come up with anything original. No problem, its the journey that counts. I am going to talk about my decision making and experiences, I hope they will be at least interesting and perhaps the process, if not the specifics, may be of interest to others thinking about beekeeping in similar circumstances. In an ideal world there may be some serious discussion of designs and techniques. I am hoping not to get too far into beekeeping 101.

That's it for now. Next will be some ruminations on design and dimensions.

Sel.
 

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Have you looked inside a working beehive?

If not, I would STRONGLY recommend spending some time with a knowledgeable beekeeper so at least you have an idea of how bees work before you design and build the hive.

Get him to show you the workings of the broodnest, why the bees have it where it is, the thermal dynamics of it, where they like to store honey and why, the reasons for certain entrance placement, all that stuff.

You are unlikely to get the required degree of understanding just from books, or the net.
 

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..............I could set you up for about $1000. The immediate response was scratch that idea, I'm not that keen. ........
That's it for now. Next will be some ruminations on design and dimensions.

Sel.
Indeed, look into acquiring "free bees" (e.g. swarm catching) and building your own (whatever existing design you choose or even invent your own).
Pretty much what I have been doing.
This approach will free you in many ways.
Beekeeping as a hobby can be very cheap hobby on your side moneywise if you chose this way (no $1000 setups are required).
 

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"No thousand dollar setups required" Have you seen the price of lumber...?
You have to take out a 2nd mortgage for like 6 2x4's & a piece of plywood lol
 

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"No thousand dollar setups required" Have you seen the price of lumber...?
You have to take out a 2nd mortgage for like 6 2x4's & a piece of plywood lol
I have so much free lumber pulled from the dumps, I can no longer park in my garage.
Nothing prevents you from just picking up free lumber (of course, you may need to pull few nails).

Of course, if people want everything spunky new and shiny - then pay and don't complain.
I can build you a pretty looking long hive and even paint it and deliver too - for $$$. :)

So - the free lumber is always there and the bees don't care.

To be sure, I checked CL for free lumber as we speak, sure there is plenty for those willing to work with it (not that I need any anymore):

63934

63935

63938
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thank you everyone for their interest. I want to take up a couple of points, not to be argumentative but maybe to avoid being dismissed as someone going into this dumb, blind and ignorant.
Have you looked inside a working beehive?
Short answer, yes. I have friends who are large scale commercial beekeepers and I am developing relationships with local beekeepers. I have no doubt that it would be simpler to obtain second hand Langstroth gear from them and do what they tell me but what would be the fun in that? That said, please feel welcome to comment and question anything I say, your comments are always knowledgeable and reasonable. If I start to react defensively I hope someone will administer me a figurative smack in the ear.

I am encouraged by the many comments here that the bees survive in spite of what beekeepers do to them and I intend to stay somewhere within accepted practice even if not within commercial practice.
Indeed, look into acquiring "free bees" (e.g. swarm catching) and building your own (whatever existing design you choose or even invent your own).
Pretty much what I have been doing.
That's essentially what I am intending to do. Without trying to put any responsibility on to you for what I am doing, I have read a great deal of your stuff on here and much of it resonates with me.

I am using scrap timber recycled from some renovations around my house and have already scoped out some wild hives which may be good sources of swarms. If all else fails there will be a major influx of hives to the district when canola pollination season comes around but I would prefer a swarm from a hive which has survived at least one season locally. I just need to be ready when the season comes around.

Sel.
 

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Short answer, yes.
That's what i wanted hear. There has been posts similar to yours and the guy has never even seen a real beehive, and of course the project ends in tears.
There was no malice in my post, just sharing what I thought to be important info before you start your project.

I have no doubt that it would be simpler to obtain second hand Langstroth gear from them and do what they tell me but what would be the fun in that?
Oh that can be pleny of fun. (y)

However if you want to chart your own course, I will follow with interest.
 

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I have no doubt that it would be simpler to obtain second hand Langstroth gear
The second hand gear would be good for the swarm trapping gizmos - so there is value in that.
After you get the bees you are free to experiment in any way you want.
 

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5 ,8 ,10 frame, and long Lang
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Sparky,
I somewhat started the "normal" way with 10 frame Lang.
then with age added the 8 frame, then with time added the 5 frame, then from curiosity added the 44 frame double deep long lang.

getting some second hand gear and jumping in would be a good idea, all of the different sizes keep a little different, so like driving a tractor, you can learn to disk, then plow, then chop corn, etc, each having some of the same features but also being somewhat unique.

I can also offer if you plan to market or intro a "hive" design of your own, starting from scratch is not necessary , and for me for example, if a lang frame did not "fit" into it I would not even try it, due to the current investment I have.

I have went from a 5 frame NUC to the 8 or 10 frame box. I have also made 6 -5 frame NUCs out of the long lang when it had swarm cells. Easily moving from baby to production to queen breeding for me is an essential feature. Not to mention the price and availability of frames and foundation and extractors are somewhat driven by the Math of what is in the field.

dance your own dance, but maybe look at where the musicians are today as well.

BTW I go from Log to hive with a middle sized wood shop, also a nice thing to have,, then making and trying an idea is faster.

Good luck

GG
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
I continue to be impressed with the generosity with time and advice of people in these pages. I hope there is a little entertainment in my ramblings and not too much frustration when I wander off down some sidetrack that you have all seen before.

Just to reiterate, there is nothing commercial in this and I have no delusions that I am likely to make any breakthrough in hive design.

I suspect like a lot of people, Leo Sharashkin's site was one of my early entries into this arena of alternative hives and my reading went through Lazutin, Dadant, Brother Adam, Dave Cushman, Michael Bush, Randy Oliver and countless pages in this forum. Dave Cushman's site is a treasure trove of alternative hive designs and dimensions (and many other things). I admit find a comment he made about British hive builders woodworking to tolerances of a tenth of a millimetre be hilarious. I am an average sort of wood butcher and I'm building beehives, not furniture, if I get to the nearest millimetre I am having a good day. I don't have a table saw and dado blades, I have a decent mitre saw, an Aldi thicknesser and a trusty Triton workbench.

In all the variety of hive and frame designs there is much talk about various dimensions and the differences between many of them are not large. At the risk of committing heresy, I don't believe that any of it means much to the bees. Bee space and frame spacing affect bee behaviour but mainly to make it more convenient for the beekeeper and the rest really does not matter much. Most of these designs have probably come from someone doing basically what I am doing, building something that suits them and is not too outlandish to the bees. A few have become more widely known because individuals had influence in their district and a couple have taken off because of a combination of commercial support and Government decree. The accuracy of dimensions only becomes important in the service of standardisation, to simplify a beekeepers parts inventory and to facilitate exchange. Neither of those are great drivers for me and maybe not for many hobbyists.

Where were we? The first decision made (#1), it is going to be a horizontal hive with frame based manipulation.

Next decision, what frame length (top bar length)? I sort of have a free hand because I have no store of legacy equipment but this is set against lots of advice that compatability with Langstroth is the way to go and everyone I may have to deal with will be on Langstroth equipment. If I need to buy bees, they will come on Langstroth frames, if I need to dispose of bees, they will go into Langstroth hives and so on. I suspect that there are also a few out there thinking that they have seen all this before and , after I get over my youthful (I wish) exuberance I will see that light and end up in Langstroth gear. They may well be right but I will have enjoyed the journey.

Lazutin and others talk about the size of natural tree hollows and many use that as input to frame design leading to narrow deep frames. Lazutin makes the point that the trees and therefore the tree hollows we see today may be considerably smaller than those seen in the bees evolutionary history. He adopted the Dadant or Langstroth frame width as consistent with that theory (and because it was available).

So, second decision, frame length will be standard Langstroth (Australian) bottom bar length (as per Cushman) of 448 mm. That is the outside of the frame. The inner width will have some variance because of tolerances and material variability but who cares, its not really important because of:

The third decision. The frames will be foundationless.

Time to make some sawdust.
 

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Re: accuracy - it's important in certain areas (as bees themselves are only a few mm in size), but completely irrelevant in others. The Horizontal or Long Hive is particularly forgiving in this respect - being a one-piece box it can be slightly out of square, even with a slight twist, and no-one cares. But not so with multi-box stacks where multiple touching surfaces are involved.

The only critical measurement is the space between the frame top-bar and the Crown Board (Inner Cover) - that is, if you choose to use a hard cover. Using a soft cover (which many do) eliminates that issue completely. The distance between the frame side-bar and the hive wall is less critical - I find that anywhere between 5 and 12-ish mm is acceptable. I have never once seen any of my side-bars 'glued' to the hive wall. Bottom space can be anywhere between (say) 7mm and 30-40mm depending upon frame depth. With frames 12" or deeper, in practice even 2 or 3 inches doesn't present a problem.

So that just leaves the inter-comb space. Langstroth was of the opinion that comb spacing ought to be adjustable "at will" by the beekeeper (see his 2nd Patent, 1863), and I agree with him. I use small spacing screws set at 32mm to achieve 100% worker comb, then open them out to 34-35mm when they're fully drawn. I also ensure that around every 1 in 10 is drawn-out drone comb.

Do give some thought to frame depth, as generally speaking a shallow 'landscape-format' frame encourages bees to store honey above the brood nest (which is why vertical Langstroth stacks are so efficient, honey-wise). Conversely, a deep 'portrait-format' frame encourages bees to store honey at the sides - indeed, beehives used to be classified as either 'side-storage' or 'top-storage' hives rather than vertical or horizontal, as they are today.

BTW, I'd also suggest that you knock-up 3 or 4 bait-hives/swarm-traps over the winter, so that they are ready for deployment early next year. Lemon Grass Oil is good as a swarm attractant, but imo nothing beats some really dirty old comb stinking of propolis. Maybe a local beekeeper could gift you some ? Or even some slum-gum ? Neither have any value, except for swarm attraction.
;best,
LJ
 

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Not sure what others think of this, but I have always imagined that the ideal sized hive from the bees perspective, would be a langstroth box but wide enough to take 12 frames, and the frames about 50% deeper. Just one would function for the brood nest, with the same size used for the honey supers also.

Issue being, it would not work for the beekeeper the weights involved would just be too much for one person.

So the standard langstroth size is a fair compromise between bees needs and beekeepers needs, the bees do fine in it.

Re the idea that bees are adapted to smaller hives than a 4 or 5 box langstroth, it is true most wild hives are quite a bit smaller than that. But the other side of the coin is that wild hives do not produce a honey harvest for a beekeeper every year. Bigger hives make bigger honey crops.
 

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It sounds like you know what you are getting into (meaning in part that you know there is a lot you don't know), know how to gather information, and have no delusions of grandeur.

It is a fine start for a hobby! Enjoy yourself, learn much, and share the results, we'll be standing by!
 

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Bigger hives make bigger honey crops.
Not necessarily.
With smaller hives you simply take off smaller increments and do it more often (is it a benefit OR a hassle - it depends on your case). The end of the season result can be just the same.

Just one small hive benefit - while the big hive guys are still waiting for their colonies to build up for some expected "main flow" - well the small hive guys are already out there selling off their spring honey (at the double-triple price).
And this is only the start (all the while you have reduced risk of your precious back injury).

It does not matter how much honey you make - what it matter how much money the honey brings. :) This is if you care of the sales (again, that depends).

This guy is a prime example (I got many more):
 

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Anyway - here is one hassle and pain with the long hives (why I am working to develop my own CVH solution)...

With large frame/long hive solutions you will have issues of isolating honey until the very end of the season. You will also have issues isolating any targeted mono-floral honeys.

All along the season most frames will contain both brood-nest and honey - all on the same frame.
Only later in the season, there will be pure honey frames at the ends of the hive - this may or may not be your case, but the real possibility is there. So I said it.

Issue with the long hives is that they are mostly well suited for the late season honey harvest (but not the early harvests).
This is how it historically has been, in fact, and works really well for the peasant bee management style.
In my location, for example, it means inability to harvest early spring/black locust honey if running long hives.
 

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Bigger hives make bigger honey crops.
Not necessarily.
With smaller hives you simply take off smaller increments and do it more often (is it a benefit OR a hassle - it depends on your case). The end of the season result can be just the same.
Try telling that to any commercial beekeeper LOL ;)

I would agree that if running nucs through a season you will have to incrementally take honey out of them, but it will only be a few frames it won't equal what a full hive would give you.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
I find all this information and commentary fascinating as well as useful, it makes things more understandable.
The only critical measurement is the space between the frame top-bar and the Crown Board (Inner Cover)
LJ, this is one I am not aware of, I have seen pictures of burr comb under Crown Boards and the like but I can't recall discussion of specific spacing or I have not twigged to the significance. In my case I am starting out with touching top bars and bottom bee space so it may not be such and issue but I'm still interested.

I am working on an 8mm lateral beespace and the bottom space will be on the generous side but I don't have a hard number for that yet, depends to some extent on hive construction.

My bait-hives are next cab off the rank. I thought it easier to build the frames to a consistent size then make a box to fit.
(why I am working to develop my own CVH solution)...
Keep publishing that stuff won't you, I am reading. I'm not wedded to the long deep hive as the only solution, just the best one for me to start with. I actually think that a long hive will be easier to learn from than a Langstroth. I could solve the lifting problem but that would undoubtedly require equipment and setup that would make it a pain to unstack the thing to look at what is going on. I am much more likely to open the top and slide some frames aside to check the inner workings and let the bees educate me.
Do give some thought to frame depth, as generally speaking a shallow 'landscape-format' frame encourages bees to store honey above the brood nest (which is why vertical Langstroth stacks are so efficient, honey-wise). Conversely, a deep 'portrait-format' frame encourages bees to store honey at the sides - indeed, beehives used to be classified as either 'side-storage' or 'top-storage' hives rather than vertical or horizontal, as they are today.
Frame depth has certainly taken up a fair bit of thinking, it seems that every remotely achievable frame depth has been tried. I get the impression that the deeper frames (in locally developed hives) are more popular in areas with harsher winters. I am certainly not in harsh winter territory and I cannot imagine trying to handle a three foot deep frame full of bees and honey so I give all those a miss. British Nationals are 305 deep, CP Dadant was happy to overwinter in a single 300 deep, Langstroth hives commonly have two deeps or three mediums for the brood. My conclusion from that is that a single Langstroth deep is not deep enough. Lazutin made an attempt to calculate a required depth from first principles. Using 250mm as the diamater of the cluster the observation that the cluster moves upward at 1mm per day through winter as it consumes stores he came up with 430mm required depth and made his frames a bit deeper than that because it suited his materials and because he was building his own.

Given that winters here are a completely different kettle of fish to those in central Russia the transfer of this calculation to temperate Australia is highly suspect but if I drop two months off the length of winter from Lazutin's 180 days I come up with a depth of 370mm. It just so happens that 367mm plus and minus allowances for top and bottom bars will fit into a Langstroth box and a half which gives me a relatively pain free way to migrate to standard gear if I need to.

The resulting frame is a big sucker. I am happy with the depth but still have reservations about the width. It is almost entirely driven by the compatibility argument, without that I would have a narrower frame. I have already put some thought into it and have a workable solution for making the equipment narrower if I need to go that way. It will be a pain and there will be unhappy bees but I will not have to throw away all my gear.

Time for more sawdust and perhaps some glue. Sparky
 

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Try telling that to any commercial beekeeper LOL ;)

I would agree that if running nucs through a season you will have to incrementally take honey out of them, but it will only be a few frames it won't equal what a full hive would give you.
I am not going to argue with an old timer commercial beekeeper.
I don't know any better - myself.

However (yet again) the old conventional wisdom has been overturned by other commercial beekeepers.
That an example above - a small scale/full-time commercial beek.
(to be sure - his entire family lives off his bees - that's plenty commercial - if they don't sell honey and make enough money, they don't eat).

But how could I forget my another favorite - commercial migratory beek - the migratory six-framer!
Drying up his supers after extracting a batch of 2021 rape honey:
 
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