The housing market for Apis mellifera

On Friday, while Adam and I were poking and prodding at the hives, he mentioned that Mayflower and Greystoke were looking a bit more shabby-chic than he liked, and he might invest in fresh new hive bodies next spring. He’s also thinking he might possibly switch to top-bar hives while he’s at it.*

The vast majority of bee-keepers use Langstroth hives; that’s what we have. However, top-bar hives are becoming more popular among small-scale, backyard bee-keepers. (Mistress Beek has an excellent rundown of the pros and cons of each here.)

At a future meeting, we can talk about the aesthetics of our hives and what, if anything, we want to do in the way of makeovers but I told Adam there’s no way we’d be splurging on top-bar hives at $500 a pop. I did spend some time on the google machine to see if prices had dropped or if there’s some useful DIY plan out there, and I’m sharing some of my more interesting findings here.

The Thrive Hive. This is more of a design project than an actual plan or product but it looks very cool. It’s a top-bar hive crafted out of bundled straw, so it resembles an old-fashioned skep cut in half and turned on its side. Scroll down and you can see a photo of the construction process.

The Honey Cow. This is the best DIY top-bar design I found. Well within the collective Green Oasis skill set and materials would cost a couple hundred dollars, total. If that. All my packratty/upcycling, power tool-loving impulses are pushing for its construction. (Not to mention–honey cow! How could you not want a honey cow?) However, I think the general disadvantages of top-bar hives still argue against our switching over. And the vibe is rather “sofa on the porch, Chevy up on blocks” — which makes me all homesick but probably isn’t the look Green Oasis wants to embrace.

The Robo-Hive. [Sorry, I couldn’t find a downloadable pic. Go to their site and click on “images”] Actually an insulated form of regular old Langstroth hives but it looks very Dalek-meets-C3PO. This is an ingenious design and after last winter’s weather-slaughter, I’m tempted to buy them and price be damned. Alas, they’re made in Turkey and not available in the U.S. But the idea of using foam insulation is something we’ll consider in our plans for winterizing this year.

The Bee Shed. I come from a long line of dedicated shed-builders and definitely inherited the shedophilia gene, so I can’t even tell you how much I love this. But it’s desirable even by normal-person standards: sheltered from the weather, accessible and safe for the handicapped and bee-keepers of all ages. However, the description is frustratingly opaque; I can’t figure out how the hives work to allow inspection. Hinged doors on the back? Drawers that slide out? It does mention “horizontal frames,” which I can’t even wrap my tiny mind around. That’s not how bees build comb! Really, I’m just indulging my shed fetish. And trying to figure out how this could be adapted for regular Langstroth hives…

The Post-It Hive. Not a hive for bees at all but a construction that relies on geometry similar to that of honeycombs. I’m including it because it reminded me of how precise and functional those cells are, and how beautiful. I wish I could tell you more about the project but the architect’s website is in Japanese. (Maybe Sammy can translate for us…?)

So take a look and we can discuss these issues at the next meeting. Or not, as the membership desires.

*I know I’m often sloppy in referring to decisions “we” will make about all four of “our” hives. It’s a little confusing and it came up at the last meeting so I’ll explain here. Financially, there’s a firewall between the hives that belong to Green Oasis (Flower, Stripey) and those that belong to Adam (Mayflower, Greystoke). He and I always confer with each other about the equipment needs of all four hives and consolidate everything into one order, because that’s cheaper for both of us. However, he pays for whatever Greystoke and Mayflower need; on occasion, he’s also covered smaller expenses for all four hives. As far as sharing the honey: We’ve had two extractions so far. Both times, we kept track of whose frames were whose, mostly due to curiosity about how the taste of the honey differed from hive to hive. Both times, the two sets of hives were more or less equivalent in production, so it amounted to splitting the harvest two ways. When it looked like we might be harvesting from Mayflower alone, he offered to split the honey with Green Oasis. (I doubt we’ll be harvesting from any of the hives this season but that’s another story.) About maintenance: We inspect all four hives together because it’s much easier that way, and it’d be sorta awkward and creepy not to.  We confer but neither of us has, nor wants, veto power over the other’s decisions. He’s the supreme leader and totalitarian despot of his hives; I do not make major decisions without informing and consulting the GO membership. Adam and I have similar bee-keeping philosophies, I respect his judgment, his upper-body strength is superior to mine, and his friends have truly astonishing queen-spotting skills. All in all, he’s a good egg and his participation benefits Green Oasis generally and me personally. I hope this wall o’ text clarifies things; if not, just ask!


About jan

little beek in the big city
This entry was posted in bee art & info, hive maintenance. Bookmark the permalink.

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