The Maggie hive

May 25, 2019

The Maggie hive is a small quasi-cylindrical chamber inside a rectangular outside shell.

The small hive project is based on the fact that bees don’t build more than 1 Warre box plus half the other one beneath during the first season, and if left to these two boxes, the colony will swarm the following spring, allowing to better fight the Varroa mite. The construction of the small hives by using reclaimed Warre boxes does not satisfy me entirely, as the almost cubical shape requires to secure strips of foundation on the ceiling and the insulation is not better than in an usual Warre box, meaning that the walls need to be pretty thick (over 2 inches thick preferably) to be efficient. This being said, the heat in winter is diffused in a cube and dispenses energy beyond the cluster boundaries, which is less the case when the shape is a cylinder.

While I was building these small hives, came the idea to build a cylindrical chamber of the same volume, like a freedom hive, but simplify the outer shell to a box made of single panels of white cypress that remained from building the house. The cylinder, actually a 12 sides barrel, is made of red cedar 1 inch thick and is secured to the outer shell by two beams, one in the front and one in the back. The entrances are drilled through the front beam creating a tunnel 8 inches long connecting the outside world to the inner chamber.

I call it the Maggie hive.

The first sketches were drawn on January 13, 2019.

Each of the 12 sides is 6.6 centimeters wide, cut at 15 degrees on each side and assembled with wooden pegs. I glued the panels on the exterior half of the sides, ensuring no glue would get at the seams inside the chamber. The cylinder is 60 cm tall for a volume of 29 liters. For a 35 liter volume the cylinder would be 70 cm tall. The diameter of the chamber is 12.7 cm, so well below the 20 cm in the average tree cavities. The outer chamber is 15 inches on the large side and 12 inches on the short side. The top is sloped to support a roof made of one single panel for the rain. The inner chamber is closed by two lids made of red cedar, the top lid is waxed and prepped with two pieces of comb hanging. Red cedar shaving fills the space between the outer and inner chamber for better insulation.

1- the Maggie hive seen from the top without the wood shaving.

2- the Maggie hive closed.

The Maggie hive was set on march 23rd, 2019 with Stephanie on the Property of Strawberry Plains Audubon Center in Holly Springs, far from the Davis House where the bees colonies are known to live and at the border of a wood with a newly burned prairie in restoration. The entrance orientation is 147 deg East with the coordinates: 34 deg, 50′, 35″ North and 89 deg, 27′, 59″ West.

I could not find the hive any more when I went to check the small hive project on this property. I only found 2 hives out of the 4 we had installed, one of them had bees, the other one empty. It was already a great news that a cubical one had been invested by a colony, I thought that the volume was so constraining that the bees would never  choose such a narrow place, but they did. Stephanie is one of the biologists of the center and she knew how to get to the two other hives, she would venture at the occasion to check the two unfound hives. I received a message from her on the 23rd of May 2019, so exactly 2 months after we had installed the hives.

This was a great news, I had to go and check as soon as I could. Stephanie took me to the Maggie hive on the 25th of May 2019. The activity is still pretty limited but the bees are definitely in.