The Jenny hive

Oct 20, 2020

The Jenny hive is a modification of the Gilbert Veuille hive, also called Ruche Chalet, which original design can be found in the book by C. Locqueville “Ruches Refuges“. You can also consult the related article on this site. The Ruche Chalet has a large base and a narrow top funneling the cluster in a snugger space as the bees progress upward during winter. It is more energy efficient in the cold period and the new brood starts in a space easier to heat right prior spring. However, the square angles may let excessive moisture accumulate and the 3 cm thick cypress boards I use are not sufficient to insulate the hive in summer triggering frequent bearding and wasting energy to cool the brood down . The Jenny hive is a wooden construction of circular section at the top with a larger oval base covered with a mix of clay and dung. It respects the general idea of the Veuille design, but removes the angles and improves the insulation. The body of the Jenny hive is complex to build while the Ruche chalet is very simple.

The circle at the top is 27 cm in diameter and the long side of the oval base is 41 cm for a total height of 45 cm. This shape creates a cavity of 34.3 liters. The colony population will dwindle early in Fall and will swarm early in Spring limiting the varroa propagation. The quasi-cylinder has 10 sides, angled at 36 degrees (therefore cut at 18 degrees), each half cylinder meets a triangle cut at square angle with a base of 14 cm as the bottom sketch shows.

As the front half-cylinder leans backward against the triangular shape, each of the 5 sides needs to be cut at angle top and bottom. The front board is cut at 90 degrees with a 17 degrees transversal cut. The two following boards on each side need to be cut at 80 degrees with a transversal cut at 9 degrees and the far sides need to be cut at 70 degrees with a rectangular transversal cut. The inclined cylinder becomes horizontal at the top and bottom. This is the most delicate part of the construction.

The pictures below show the construction assembled and secured with temporary zip bands.

The wooden construction is covered with three layers of clay and horse dung. I did not add any straw to the mix. It takes about a week to 10 days for each layer to dry out. The prime is made of plain clay and is covered with a natural yarn for a better grip of the first layer. It is dry in a couple of days.

Once the prime is dry, the first layer of clay/dung mix can be pressed.

Second layer over another round of yarn.

The third and last layer: the dung and clay wall is 7 cm thick against a 1cm red cedar chamber.

I decided to build an eco box for the bottom. It is made of a recycled Langstroth deep covered with a cypress board cut to provide a wide rim inside the cavity leaving the litter exposed at the center. The eco box remains a vast field of investigation. I cannot assure of its actual benefits and a full exposure to the litter is not what I observe in Nature: old hives are always very clean at the bottom and even display a very thick layer of propolis. I will test with this inside rim, which combines the concept of the eco floor while maintaining a surface the bees can propolize.

The hive top is a straight plain cypress cover to which the bees will start and hang the comb. The board will be sealed to the body with additional clay at moment of installation of the swarm. It is covered with a telescopic top in the form of a Russian hat, adding insulation and limiting access to other insects.

A first short cone is added to the Russian hat. It is filled with insulating wool and secured to the hat with pegs. A second cover in the form of a long cone freely rests on top of the first cone providing additional proof and insulation.

The finished hive is brushed with a few layers of boiled linseed oil easily absorbed by the clay. It will be installed in February ready for the first swarm of the season.