Gum Hives

Apr 20, 2019

The so called ‘gums’ have been used until the 50’s in the South of the USA.

John brought two logs of Sweetgum (Liquidanbar styuraciflua) in June 2017. Sweet gums are common in regrowth areas and unmanaged prairies. As they age they turn hollow. These two logs were over 6 feet long with a 2 feet diameter, way over the size I carve log hives in and way too bulky in any case to be moved up in a tree. As I did not know what to do with them, they remained on the side of the barn, enduring the elements.

1- Jenny fits well in the logs.

2- The logs languish along the barn.

The World History of beekeeping and honey hunting by Eva Crane  reports on pages 305 to 307 the early records of traditional beekeeping in the USA and in Canada and refers to ‘Gum’ hives as traditional hives. In particular  a picture showing upright log hives of black gums (Nyssa sylvatica) in North-Carolina in 1958 pointed at a potential solution for these two logs. Photo by W.A. Stephen.

A picture by W.W Turnbull shows Joe Murray, pioneer trapper and fur farmer with one of his ‘Gums’ of cottonwood (Populus) north Central BC, Canada. The idea came that I could limit the volume of the chamber by fitting a ceiling and a floor and fill the rest with some insulation. The overall structure would weigh a lot (it turned out to be about 500 pounds) but I would be able to set it up at the top of the hill with the tractor.

Finally, an article on Tree Beekeeping by Jonathan Powell further convinced me that setting hives in structures as big as a living tree was possible. It actually had been done for a thousand years so I was not exactly breaking through. The beekeeper was accessing the combs by a door cut on the side of the tree while the bees had one or two entrances on the east-south/east. This door was hidden by a a bunch of twigs and foliage held together by a rope running around pegs set all along. I went on to combine the old vertical gums with the concept of the tree hive.

1- The first idea of the gum hive in my note book. The volume of the chamber is about 100 liters.

2- The first step was to create the door so I can set ceiling and floor.

3- Fitting the door, it is cut in two pieces at 1/3 from the bottom to make it easier to open with a small axe. The pegs are visible, the cut of the door in two pieces is also visible.

The build ended up to be fairly simple. The most delicate part was to cut the ceiling to fit closely to the inner shape of the logs. I finally ended up building it like a wooden floor with planks of rough cedar adjusted by trial and error and set onto internal beams with wooden pegs. The insulation in contact with the ceiling and the roof  is made of red cedar shaving 15 inches thick and topped with house insulation to save a bit on the weight. The insulation is held together by a mesh at the bottom and the hive is set on bricks so air can circulate underneath- so no moisture accumulates. The top insulation is contained by an inner roof topped with a weather proof telescopic roof. The walls of the log are more or less  7 inches thick and the top and bottom insulation are about 22 inches deep. Two 1 inch holes at 1/3 of the top and 1/3 to the bottom of the chamber were drilled. In retrospect, I find it more efficient to drill the bottom hole closer to the floor so that the bees can drag debris and other foreign material easily out, they prefer to use the top hole when foraging. I keep both holes open in winter and the bees do not propolize them- even partially. I read that two holes allow an optimal air flow in winter, but I never have corroborated it.


1- The hives are finished and moved out the workshop

2- The hives are set in place. The access door of the nearby Gum is hidden with a bunch of branches.

I captured two swarms early May 2018, one of them I followed in an epic chase with the car till it landed across the pond. I did not want to take the chance of having swarms move spontaneously. After all the holes were only 35 and 42 inches above ground and I was concerned the scouts would not find them. This was a bit irrational, scouts have found once a tiny crack close to the ground in an old hive I had in the barn, doors closed…. I think I just wanted the hives to be inhabited the first season as I was very curious to see how the bees would fare in such structures. They moved in on the white sheet.

1 to 4 – The bees are moving in.


The hives are now a reference point for the animals wandering in the vicinity.

I opened the hives in September 2018 by curiosity, again.  Both were pretty much built in already, the walls were evenly propolized. I took a clip in each of the hives. It is important to note that the first hive swarmed end of July or beginning or August. The swarm was small and the remaining colony kept on functioning and is very strong this year. However in September 2018, it was rather small. The swarm did not make it even though I hived it right away in a Warre hive and fed it with honey comb. This was the first time I encountered such a phenomenon. It is however described in ‘The biology of the bees’ by Mark L. Winston on page 182: “Up to 40 % of the swarms which successfully establish new nests will swarm again, causing the secondary peak in swarming at the end of the summer.  This is a curious behavior, since it is highly unlikely that such swarms and the new colonies they issue from will survive the winter.” well, this particular one survived the winter and thrives this year.

How the bees behave in one of the gum hives end of March 2019.

Ruche Gilbert Veuille

Apr 19, 2019

The Gilbert Veuille Hive is adopted by La Ruche Rebelle sans recolte de miel, it can be found at

also for complete information, you may visit the site:…/


La ruche rebelle sans récolte de miel proposes various designs of hives to re-wild honey bees in the yard. Would I be in France would I be particularly interested in re-wilding the French black bee. The principle of their hives is that they are not to be opened and the honey remains for the bees. I cannot agree more. For this specific hive, Gilbert Veuille designed a combination of a Warre (wedged bars, quilt box and telescopic roof) with a sloped body that brings a singular touch. I suspect that this belly would tend to mimic a chestnut log hive, especially when the log has been cut close to the root system. I decided over a winter rainy week-end to use some planks let over from the house and give it a shot. The cypress planks are 2 inches thick and procure a fair insulation to the inner chamber, likewise the entrance slot is small (similar to Japanse hives having to deal with the asian Hornet like in France) and the top is covered by a heavy roof under which a quilt box of red cedar shaving covers the bars topped by a mosquito net so the bees don’t chew on the quilt. I use now this mosquito net in all my Warre hives and this prevents the quick chew of the fabric, even when it is impregnated with wax. The summary of the design is as follows:

The first finished model had this appealing look of stability. I recycled a roof from a previous project with minor modifications, which proved to be too short in the front after the first rains. I extended the front at a later stage.

I built a platform to support the biodiversity hive in the trees. The principle is that the weight of the hive on the platform presses on the lever up and down along the trunk and provides sufficient pinch to keep the platform horizontal and set at the desired level. The great advantage of such a contraption is that the platform can be moved up and down along the trunk fairly easily but also as it holds by pressure it does not harm the tree with nails or screws.

A swarm moved in the hive on May 2, 2019.

By mid-June, the bees started to get real warm in the afternoon. The temperature was customarily reaching 95 degrees Fahrenheit- 35 degrees Celsius with close to 100 pct humidity.

Freedom hives

Apr 13, 2019

The first freedom hives I have built have been placed in private yards on tripods, today they are set in trees across the county.

The freedom hive was designed by Matt Sommerville, you may refer to his site ( for original information. Most of my Freedom hives show an inner volume of 60 liters I refer to as the inner chamber. It is a large volume considering that the distribution of natural nest-cavity volumes is usually between 30 and 60 liters with an average at 45 liters (Seeley, the honey bee democracy, page 51). Each of the 12 sides of the inner chamber is 7.8 cm wide and cut at an angle of 15 degrees on each side, forming an assembled barrel of 15 cm radius, which is wide as the average cavity described by Dr Seeley is 20 cm in diameter. The height of the inner chamber is 84 cm for a total volume, as said, of approximately 60 liters. I also have built freedom hives of 27 liters, equivalent to a volume built by the bees the first year in a Warre hive, or an equivalent to one and a half Warre box. These small hives are easy to lift in the trees, cheap to build and suitable for a colony to swarm every year. See post on small hives for more information. As a note, a hive of 30 cm in diameter for a volume of 45 liters is 64 cm high. Each of the 12 sides is then 78 mm wide cut at 15 degrees. I build the inner chamber in red cedar, with the rough cut inside the chamber. The diameter of the outside chamber will be such that it manages a space of about 5 cm all around with the inner chamber that will be filled in either with a home insulation, which is not my favored option (see picture), or with wood shavings, preferably red cedar. I build the outer shell in cypress and i use planks 1.5 inches thick from the local mill. The height needs to be longer than the inner box to allow a top and bottom cover of the inner chamber to fit in (and additional insulation, if chosen). I personally add insulation between the top cover of the inner box and the top cover of the outer shell, likewise for the bottom. I build these covers in cypress. I set vertical beams in the space between the outer shell and the inner chamber on which I screw the two cylinders.

1- The first picture shows the inner and outer chamber for comparison next to each other. The outer chamber was a bit too short to allow for an additional layer of insulation between the two tops and the two bottoms.

2- The beams are being fit. They will be cut at the length of the outer chamber and will be used to screw to top cover and the bottom.

3- One finished hive, it took about 14 hours of work to complete one hive when I started to build freedom hives, it still takes more than 10 hours after a good dozen built.

4- I add a telescopic cover on the overall hive to make it proof and get the water drip far from the sides of the inner chamber. The telescopic cover gives a garden look to the hive and I make sure that the hive owner is the one setting it up once the hive is installed.

1- The first freedom hive I installed along an old fence in a 300 acres native prairie in Mississippi. It was populated with a swarm poured from the top.

2- The first freedom hive was not properly anchored, it toppled in a strong wind.

3-A freedom hive in one of my bee yards. I gave this one away shortly after a storm destroyed the hive on previous picture. It is imperative to fix the tripod in the ground with additional posts so that the hive does not topple, the center of gravity goes up as the bees store honey.

4- A freedom hive in a suburban area in Mississippi. The diversity of forage in little towns is probably what can best happen to bees well hived. This being said, they will also encounter herbicides, pesticides and even the municipal truck spraying the streets against mosquitoes.

5 and 6- The new owners set the telescopic cover on their hives.

7- At the end of the first season, the hive checked with the owner so he can see the job accomplished by the bees. The visual inspection  happens through the bottom, limiting intrusion, gaz exchange and drop in temperature of the brood. If there is a good honey stash I will sample a small piece of comb with the owner, but all the  honey will remain for the bees. It is exceptional we take any.

1- It is recommended to affix a cross inside the chamber to support the comb which stretches freely and is not necessarily well anchored on the inner walls. I install the cross a bit below the top entrance. The upper entrance is at 1/3 to the top of the chamber (I drill a 1″ hole), the lower entrance is close to the bottom so the bees can eject debris and foreign material easily. I have drilled a third hole at the half in some of the hives in order to reduce bearding that does happen during the Mississippi dog afternoons. It was a series of try and errors for these crosses. This first picture shows what not to do: it is obvious that the bees stopped building at the cross as they viewed it as an obstacle (same thing happens in the Warre hives). The bees will keep on building only if the bars have sharp top and bottom hedges and present a slim shape to the progression, contrary to the shape of the bars on the picture.

2 and 3- The bars were well cut and the bees built through the cross during the first season. They occupied a volume equivalent to 50 liters on the first year which is a good building performance, this hive is now 3 years old. The last picture shows the insulation in between the shells and one of the beams supporting the structure between the inner chamber and the outer shell.

Freedom hives are better hives in trees. They are light to lift and their regular shape allows to orientate them easily once a place has been found, rotating the hive will not affect its position along the tree.

1- Setting a 60 liters freedom hive in an isolated tree in a freshly burnt prairie in Hudsonville, Mississippi.

2- Tom and his new freedom hive.

This freedom hive got inhabited a week after its installation.