Margaret modified Langstroth hives.

Mar 27, 2022

The Langstroth hives for Margaret are modified to provide a better insulation and to give a natural access to the bees. The usual functionalities of a standard Langstroth are kept. This hive is designed to remain compatible with standard frames. Honey can be extracted with the standard equipment, the Integrated Pest Management can be performed with no additional effort and the many usual manipulations allowed by the Langstroth hives remain possible.

The bottom box is usually made of a deep with additional external insulation in the front and the back. One or two bars are set to hold the bottom screen, which will retain the shaving that fills the deep. In this example, I have built new boxes as we did not have enough deeps to make 5 complete hives in total.

As usual it is paramount that the hives are horizontal transversally and a bit tilted frontwards so that the rain does not run in the holes. This configuration keeps the frames hanging perfectly vertical. The verticality is the proxy of the direction of the sun used in the waggle dance. This language of the foragers informs its sisters where the bountiful patch is. Would this verticality be compromised by having the hive leaning to the right or to the left, would the information become approximative. First picture is the tilt to the front, the second picture is the transversal horizontality. This first critical step is better taken with only the bottom box on so that any modification to the ground can be done easily without having to lift the whole heavy set of boxes already stacked up.

Margaret had slated racks that I recycled by adding a cut of cypress, internally on the sides and externally on the front and back. I usually do not use these racks, so I cover the shaving with a full cypress board. I also have been using insect screens, stapled to the frame of the box, but I am not so satisfied by this method as the bees have less incentive to propolize the plastic screen, while they will fully propolize the board and in this case they will propolize the racks which have been scarred with a metallic brush.

The deep is modified by adding a board on each side internally. It reduces the volume of the deep from 40 liters to 32 liters and will hold now 8 frames instead of 10, the bee space is respected on the outside of frame 1 and 8. The insulating boards in the front and back are added externally so that the standard frames can still be used. If the insulating boards were added internally, the standard frames would not fit in anymore. The walls are now 6 cm thick. The bees access through a 1 inch diameter hole drilled in the middle of the box at the bottom 1/3. The bees do not access through the usual opening at the bottom, which is too large compared to a natural hole preferred by the bees. The bees will enter directly between the lower part of frames 4 and 5 where they will set the dancing floor.

The super is insulated the same way but does not display an access hole. All the boards are raw cut so that the bees can fully propolize them and ensure a complete antiseptic envelope of the colony. They will also abundantly wash board the raw front panel.

As the boxes are now longer than the standard ones with their additional insulation in the front and back, the standard telescopic roof does not fit any more. It fits on the sides though as the modifications are inside the boxes on the right and left. As a consequence a quilt box needs to be built (or a new roof) that will bridge  the super to the roof by its front slope. An organic cotton fabric is stapled to the bottom of the quilt box and will contain the shaving. Bees will chew on the fabric if it is not protected. A cut of insect screen is inserted between the top bars and the quilt box to protect the cotton fabric. The quilt box also adds insulation over the hive and its design of cotton fabric topped by shaving also allows to absorb humidity while maintaining a steady slow ventilation.

The notched top board and the telescopic roof complete the hive. The front slope of the quilt box is more visible in the profile picture below.

Other similar hives installed at Margaret’s are shown in the pictures below. A total of 5 hives are now set on her property and are ready to host nucs purchased from a local beekeeper. The hives in the field are about 100 yards apart to limit the drone drift and each is emblazoned with a unique circular painting, which each colony will recognize as its own hive even if their differences are rather subtle. Bees are amazing.