The Pennie Hive

Mar 16, 2020

The Pennie hive is a top bar hive made of two half barrels: an inside red cedar chamber floating on a layer of insulation contained in an outer white cypress shell. It is covered with a heavy insulated roof and is supported by a stand at chest level.

The inner chamber is made of a half cylinder 70 cm long for a diameter of 30 cm, which is equivalent to a volume of 25 liters, topped with a straight volume of 10 liters for a total of 35 liters for the whole inner chamber. As usual I tend to build on the lower volume of the natural size which averages 40 liters. I want to make sure the bees are induced to swarm every year thanks to the restricted volume. The swarming is a natural protection to fight proliferation of the varroa mites. My note book describes the dimensions in more details, in particular the half barrel is made of 6 planks 8 cm large cut at 15 degrees angle on both sides.

The inner chamber fits well in the outer shell and the volume in between is filled with home insulation. This insulation is light, cheap (left overs) and efficient.

Once the layer of insulation is in place, wedges will secure the inner chamber within the outer shell.

The top bars are cut in red cedar with a central groove which will hold a wedge coated with bees wax. The bars need to join each other precisely as a continuous roof for the bees. I place a divider board for the first year. I usually leave the divider as the last bar within the hive at the end of the season adding insulation in the back.

The roof sits on top of the bars as shown on the picture, it is also insulated and covered with reclaimed fencing boards. These two pictures do not describe the final version of the roof which proved not to be waterproof. I added at a later stage two full boards of weathered wood, which can be seen on the first picture of the article. The roof is actually heavier than the hive itself. The quality of the roof is very important in a top bar hive which has a large top surface to be protected from the weather as it is a horizontal and not a vertical hive. It also is critical to build the roof wide enough so that rain drips far off the body sides.

The hive is then mounted on a stand. It has been placed at the edge of the woods and will get bees as soon as the swarms start and move.