Which hive to choose and according to what?

My hive and I
New hive directly from St. Claus with love

Last Christmas – during lockdown 2020 – Santa Claus gave me a wonderful brand new hive. My very first hive! I will take care of it personally and soon it will be full of joyful bees (or at least I will do my best!). Soon we´ll publish updates regarding this hive 🙂

But which is the structure of a hive? And above all according to which criteria you can opt for a kind or the other? If you are interested in finding out more, we suggest you to keep on reading. We will give you also some details regarding the hives that we use.

What is the structure of a hive?

I have seen a hive very close for the very first time only after visiting Sebastian. I must admit that I got enchanted from the very beginning! If you have never had a close encounter with a hive, be aware that its structure is as simple as interesting. In general it can be divided in:

Look at our hive!
Granpa Heinz during a hive inspection
  • (starting from the bottom) a varroa tray. Varroa is a widespread and harmful parasite for our friends bees; 
  • a net for the air circulation, but also against unwelcome guests (such as mice eheh);
  • the entrance, from which bees enter or leave the beehive. This gap size can be regulated according to the season and the number of bees living the hive;
  • the brood box, that is the part of the beehive where the beequeen lays eggs;
  • the honey box, where you can find mainly honey. Dunno if you already knew, but between the brood and honey box there is a special net called Queen excluder, that does not allow the beequeen to enter – since she´s much chubbier than the other bees of the kingdom. “Ah so beekeepers don’t ‘steal’ all the honey from the bees?“. The answer is absolutely NOT, at least not good beekeepers for sure! This for example was something that I did not know before meeting Basti. This means: there is a part of the beehive where the honey is stored and where the beequeen can’t enter (and so it will be without brood). Only this part – the honey box – is used for harvesting honey by the beekeepers. Bear in mind that of course we can find honey everywhere in the hive. Indeed approx. a quarter of the brood box too contains honey and food for the bees. Brood box and honey box contain the honeycombs, whose number and dimensions depend on the kind of hive.
  • At the top – the inner cover and outer cover

How many kind of hives exist?

Good question! Consider that there are various kinds. As a matter of fact, beekeepers from all over the world use different beehives according to their traditions and personal & environmental needs. Nevertheless, let´s start with the two main categories:

  • vertical hives
  • horizontal hives

Vertical hives

Why are they called this way? because the honey box is above the brood box, so it develops upwards.

These hives are for sure the most handy and popular among the professional beekeepers. Are you wondering why? Well, mainly for their modularity. This is a big advantage: the uniformity of honeycombs, boxes,…makes life far easier!

Among the vertical hives, the most famous are:

1) Langstroth Hive

  • Boxes dimension: 46,5*38*24 cm;
  • The honeycombs are parallel to the beehive entrance, and so? Keep calm, I will tell you more later below 🙂
  • The brood and honey box have the same dimensions, so the honeycombs used for one are perfect for the other one as well;
  • Disadvantage: such a honey box, with these dimensions. can become very heavy.

2) Dadant-Blatt Hive (the most used in Italy)

  • It’s very similar to the Langstroth one, but they are higher: 31 cm high instead of 24 cm;
  • Here too the honeycombs are parallel to the beehive entrance;
  • Some can have 10 honeycombs, others 12;
  • its peculiarity is for sure the smaller honey box in comparison to the brood box (indeed this one is 17 cm high!) – What does this implicate? For sure, the fact that is easier to move and carry around;
  • Disadvantage: unfortunately it’s less modular. For example, the frames that are used for the honey box can’t be used for the brood one, and viceversa.

Horizontal hives

I don’t know if you have ever heard about it, but the Top Bar (also known as Kenyan hive) is the most famous hive among the horizontal ones. It’s not so complicated to take care of it and it does not need additional parts, such as honey boxes or wax sheets. Something more about the Top Bar Hive?

  • It is considered as a natural hive, with which the beekeeper does not disturb so much the bees, since it requires less actions than usual;
  • Disadvantage: as far as honey production is concerned, it is not so practical compared to the other hives. In this case, the beekeeper can proceed with squeezing the honeycomb. Of course, this compromises its reuse (in other words, bees will have to build from the beginning everything again). Moreover, there is not a clear separation between brood and honey box – In your opinion, what does this cause? It becomes harder to understand how much honey you can harvest for yourself and how much leave to the bees;
  • Generally they are avoided by nomad and professional beekeepers. However, many people are mesmerized by this hive and decide to use it together with the most traditional ones.

More to be considered when you want to buy a hive?

Another point that you should consider: are you or would you like to become a nomad beekeeper? For example, in this case, you should opt for lighter hives, with 10 honeycombs instead of 12. Generally these hives have in their front part a little porch.

Last point not to forget: have a look around, which are the most popular hives? It´s not a matter of copying anyone, but simply the most used hives will have good and accessible providers or potentially other beekeepers that will be able to hand over their hives or giving you practical tips.

And the Gäblini? Which hives do they use?

Regarding our hives, I don’t know if you noticed from the pics, but…they are squared! This is the most used hive here in the surrounding. If you are wondering about the dimensions, here they are: length 44,50 cm, width 44,50 cm and heigth 32 cm.

The coolest fact is that since they are squared, you can put the honeycombs either perpendicular or paralel to the hive entrance! Why could this be so important? What does this mean?

I have asked Basti to tell me more about because I wanted to better understand – in short:

Hive frames positioning and air circulaiton effect
What happens when the frames are parallel to the entrance?
  • Honeycombs parallel to the hive entrance: this means that there is a more direct and quicker air exchange. Hence, the internal temperature is less high. So, it’s perfect for summer! Indeed, always remember, ok summer, sun, warmth,… they are wonderful but if it’s too hot this is good neither for the bees nor for the honey. Placing the frames in this way is far better to decrease the hive internal temperature.
  • Honeycombs perpendicular to the hive entrance: this means that the air circulates all around the honeycombs, therefore, there’s still a good air recirculation but less strong and direct. This helps much in keeping warmer the internal temperature in winter.
Hive frames positioning and air circulaiton effect
What happens when they are perpendicular to the entrance?

Keeping on with a look at our hives, what else we could tell? They have 11 honeycombs, slightly smaller than the usual ones mentioned above. Basti thinks these beehives are not too much heavy (I’ve just asked him if he thinks it would be feasible for me to carry them around and he answered with a prompt NO 😀 but please consider that I’m a dud!)

Other positive point regarding the beehives we use is that since the’re less big, it’s easier for bees to keep the internal temperature.

Basti admits that he knows well only the kind of hive we use, because basically they have always used only this one. Hence, he can’t compare much. Nevertheless, he likes the hives we use. He believes they’re very handy. In any case, in the future we would like to try out a Top Bar hive, we’re getting more and more curious about it!

Which is the hive that appeals the most to you? Which hives you see more often in your surroundings? We would like to know more about your experience 🙂 leave a comment here below and if you enjoyed the post, don’t forget to share it on the social networks!

A hug,

The Gäblini

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