Refitting a Freedom hive.

Jun 23, 2019

Converting a 65 liter into a 32 liter Freedom Hive.

Tom’s hive died on its second season. I strongly suspect the fact that the bees did not swarm as the reason. The varroa kept on thriving as the bees were keeping on building. Eventually the colony got overwhelmed.

The comb network from under the hive, which stands on a tripod.

Swarming seems to be a critical component to fight the mites. The queen about to swarm will stop laying eggs and get fit to fly. It will take the new queen a couple of weeks to start and lay eggs, interrupting the propagation cycle of the varroa. Therefore the volume of the hive needs to be spacious enough to hold sufficient stash for winter but snug enough to induce the bees to swarm every single Spring. I have been toying with this idea for the past two years and I have built some 25 to 30 liters hives which were installed in March of this year, including a few small hives for the small hive project and the Maggie hive, which I have high expectations on. However I cannot show any results to prove my point yet.

Seen from the top, the original design for a 65 liters chamber looks as the picture below. The insulation between the inner chamber and outer body is limited to these sheets used for mountain cabins. It may be sufficient to retain the heat in the Mississippi winter, but I doubt it prevents the scorching summer heat from increasing the temperature of the brood. The bees had been bearding, but not in a very dramatic way though.


While exchanging ideas with Matt Somerville, it was decided to limit the volume of the inner chamber by reducing its diameter while keeping the outside body untouched. This modification would increase the gap between the two cylinders, which would be filled with additional insulation. I chose some home insulation I had left. A colony of bumble bees had elected this material as their home in the workshop.

The diameter has been reduced from 34 cm to 24 cm while keeping the height at 72 cm. Each of the 12 planks is 6.2 cm large and cut with an angle of 15 degrees.

It was important to recut the original planks so that the chamber remains propolized for the next colony. I had to remove the comb which could not be refit. Recycled combs spend a short week in the freezer and are reused for other hives.

The inner body before and after the reshaping.

The slimmer body on its original bottom that has not been recut yet.

The new inner chamber requires thicker beams to secure it to the outer shell.

Insulation between the two chambers, inner top with an insulation layer, additional inner insulation layer, thick wood roof and the telescopic roof.

The comparison of the hive before and after refitting. Each access tunnel through the front holes are bored through the beams. The hive wall is now 13 cm thick as a succession of outer wood shell, insulation sheet, insulation fiber and the inner shell wall.

As I was working on the hive a few bees moved in attracted by the nice smell of propolis and wax.

The hive was set back in place the next afternoon on June 23, 2019.