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 (beekindbees.uk) 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.