There are a number of different types of honey bee hives. Some are more popular than others, and in part, this may depend upon the country in which you live.
So which bee hive is best? To an extent, your view will depend on your philosophy with regard to beekeeping, and why you wish to become a beekeeper.
Honey bees are magnificent creatures, they are engineers, and left to their own devices they'll construct their nests in the wild in tree stumps or caves.
On the otherhand, combs may be seen exposed and hanging from the boughs of trees.
In the past, skeps (pictured below) – essentially straw baskets - were used, and as soon as honey had been produced by the poor bees, a number of the colonies were destroyed and the honey taken. Nowadays, skeps may be used more commonly for capturing swarms. (Read more about the history of beekeeping).
Here is a description of some of the types of honey bee hives available.
Top Bar Hives
Used by those following the increasingly popular 'natural beekeeping' movement.
The top bar hive pictured above is by Phil Chandler, a prominent beekeeper in the 'Natural Beekeeping' movement. It is taken from his free download explaining how to build such a top bar hive, and a link to that page is featured below - see top bar bee hive plans.
Top bar hives
are designed to allow the bees to make their own honey combs and cells
according to the size and shape they desire.
Vertical or horizontal top bar hives may be used. The vertical top bar hive was especially advocated by Emile Warré in the early twentieth century. He designed the Warré hive, which he also called ‘The People’s Hive’.
Above is another type of top bar hive, this one designed by Corwin Bell.
Corwin Bell has also produced a DVD, advocates biodynamic beekeeping, stating that his primary focus is "on improving bee ecology and beekeeping methods that respect the honeybee".
In general, Natural Beekeeping aims for a low level of interference by humans, with Warré beekeeping traditionally advocating the least interference of all the methods.
The Langstroth Hive
Widely used in the USA, it has a deep brood box and about ten frames.
The National Hive
Commonly used in Britain and Europe, and similar to the Langstroth hive, used widely in the USA.
This hive - featured above - was designed
by by William Broughton Carr around 1890. In Britain, it is the image
many people have of the traditional bee hive. Often thought of as being
inconvenient to have and dismantle.
Used sometimes in Scotland. Holds 13 frames, and built to similar dimensions as a National Hive.
Again, similar to a Langstroth Hive, and all the parts are interchangeable. The Dadant is often used in France and also in some parts of Spain.
Having the same dimensions as a National Hive, this honey bee hive is designed to encourage a large volume of honey in the supers.
I do wonder if humans have created problems for wild honey bees, through engaging in practices that have caused or promoted disease in domesticated honey bees, which have then spread through to wild populations.
There are now
relatively few wild honey bee populations. However, it’s always worth
remembering how, without domestication by humans, honey bees survive in
the wild. I can’t help feeling that there are some lessons for all, and
not just beginner beekeepers. Indeed, some beekeepers are working to address this, such as Corwin Bell, who says:
"Our hope is that by introducing new hobby beekeepers to the rewards of beekeeping that there will eventually be backyard beekeepers worldwide that will help bring back the feral bee population and improve the genetic diversity of the honeybees. This diversity is critically important to the survival of this most precious natural resource."
In the wild, honey bees naturally seem to like to nest in the cavities of trees, caves or buildings.
In doing so, they manage to reproduce and establish new colonies to continue generations of bees.
The honey bees make their own combs with a structure and cell size deemed by the bees to be appropriate for larvae and storing the honey. They will then eat the honey they have stored in the honey combs during the winter months when forage is scarce and conditions mean they avoid venturing out of their nest.
Honey bee hives, however, were invented by man, as a way of
domesticating honey bees in order to exploit them for honey, but if we wish to continue harvesting honey, it is incumbent on us to look at bee hive design, just as Chandler and Bell have done, with the aim of providing the best solution for the bees themselves, so that beekeeping is as api-centric as possible.
Learn more on the following links.
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