Types of Beehives
The Langstroth hive was developed by a very famous beekeeper of the same name, Lorenzo Langstroth. In his design he formally recognised 'bee-space' and produced the first practical movable-frame hive around the 1850s.
In the Langstroth hive bees build their comb on frames which can be moved and manipulated. Though Langstroth was primarily interested in bees rather than honey, his developments provided the basis for modern honey production.
The 'modern' Langstroth has differing dimensions than that of the original 1852 patent however the principles remain the same.
Langstroth hives utilise differing widths predominately catering for either 8 or 10 frames in a box and there are also a number of variations in depth. Examples of the differing frame depths include:
- Ideal - 144mm
- W.S.P - 195mm
- Full Depth - 214mm
In the simplest form the Langstroth hive has two boxes, the lower box is often referred to as the "brood box" as this is where the Queen Bee lays eggs and new bees are born. The upper box is referred to as a "Honey Super" and commonly though not always separated from the brood box by a Queen Excluder . When fitted, due to the size of openings, a Queen Excluder prevents the Queen from accessing the honey super. Therefore, as there are no eggs or brood in the honey super, it is the frames in this box the beekeeper removes to harvest honey.
The Langstroth style of hive is the most popular hive in Australia.
Similar in principle to the Langstroth , the Flow Hive is a relatively new arrival to the beekeeping fraternity. Invented by Australian Beekeepers Cedar and Stuart Anderson around 2015, the Flow Hive differs from the Langstroth primarily in the makeup of the Honey Super.
Anderson's ingenious design of plastic frames referred to as "Flow Frames" allows the beekeeper to harvest honey without removing the frames from the hive. A special tool is inserted into the flow frames and through a twisting motion temporarily splits the frame along a vertical axis allowing the honey to flow to a channel at the base of each frame out of a tube and into a container. Once the honey has been removed the tool is twisted again to reset the frame to the original position for the bees to clean up and refill ready for the next harvest.
The Flow Hive has become popular with some backyard beekeepers as although the Flow Hive is significantly more expensive than a Langstroth hive, the beekeeper does not require any additional equipment for honey extraction.
A Warre (pronounced: WAR-ray) hive is a vertical top bar hive that uses bars instead of the more conventional frames used in a Langstroth hive. These bars usually have a wooden wedge or guide from which the bees build their own comb, just like they do in the wild.
The Warre hive is named after its inventor, French monk Abbé Émile Warré. He studied hundreds of different hive styles and settled on this one as what he considered to be the most ideal for bees and beekeeper. His design focused on simplicity, ease of management, and mimicry of honeybees’ ideal natural environment. This hive is a vertically stacking top bar hive that incorporates natural comb and the retention of nest scent and heat.
As the honeycomb on the frames is created in a natural unsupported format honey extraction is primarily achieved through pressing or crushing the comb
Top Bar Hive
The top bar hive is perhaps one of the oldest and most commonly used hive styles in the world featuring individual timber 'bars' laid across the top of a cavity.
The bees build their comb down from these bars naturally, without the use of a 4 sided frame or foundation found in a Langstroth or a Flow Hive. Generally the bars feature a wooden wedge or strip with a guide to encourage bees to construct combs which hang straight.
Basic management of a top bar hive requires frequent monitoring to ensure the bees have adequate space. As the colony grows, an internal divider board can be re-positioned down the hive cavity and extra 'bars' added.
In a top bar hive, bees also tend to attach their comb to the walls of the inner hive cavity. This requires an extra step: detaching comb from the hive before pulling bars out.
Honey harvest in a top bar hive requires the beekeeper to cut the comb from the top bars, crush and strain.
Valkyrie Long Hive
A typical Valkyrie hive holds 24 to 30 standard langstroth deep frames however these are all aligned in a long horizontal configuration rather than vertically in separate boxes.
Similar to a top bar hive but using frames rather than just bars, The concept is the colony starts building in a small section of the hive and additional frames are then added to the right until the entire box is full. In the model pictured, each Valkyrie lid has an installed bracket for holding frames, bee brushes, hive tools, etc.
It is suggested the Valkyrie system is easier for beekeepers to maintain as there is no heavy lifting of boxes. It is also adopted by some wheelchair bound beekeepers as it has a lower height accessible to those in a wheelchair.
About a few thousand years ago, beekeeping progressed from robbing wild nests to housing swarms in upturned baskets (Skeps) - the swarms that escaped were captured to replace colonies that were killed for their wax and honey.
You cannot realistically keep a colony of bees in a skep because it is almost impossible to inspect them. However, a Skep is sometime useful to catch a swarm in.
In Australia it is not acceptable to keep bees in a Skep style hive because legally beekeepers must conduct regular inspections to insure a disease free environment and that can only be achieved with hives setup with removable frames of comb.