I am so naïve. I thought there was only one type of hive, you know, the traditional one that you see in cartoons. But no, there’s at least twelve that I’ve seen so far and multiple variations of those. So, which hive should I get?
How to choose a hive
Bear in mind I am a total beginner so take any of this with a huge pinch of salt, but for what it’s worth, the choice of hive is really about what we want as beekeepers. Bees would quite happily find other places to live and make do with trees and all sorts of nooks and crannies.
There are a ton of sites out there that describe what type of hives there are, too many to list in fact, but it always seems to boil down to your appetite for lifting, the care given to bees, how large you might want your colony to be, ease of honey extraction and cost.
Here’s one site I read from the many: https://www.biobees.com/library/hive_other/popular_hives_UK.pdf
For me, the National seemed to be useful as it’s widely used. I see a lot of bee sellers using the national frames and its modular design made sense. I could expand it as needed, move frames in and out, extend with supers (for the honey) and harvest relatively easily.
Then I saw the top bar. It’s very cheap, it seems to be quite natural for bees to use as they draw out comb according to their instincts but looked like a pain to harvest from as a result.
Oh but nothing could have prepared me for what I saw next: The Flow Hive.
This looks like a major leap forward in hive design and as I’m a geek anyway I immediately wanted to learn how it works.
The frames are compatible with Langstroth hives, which is great because that’s been one of the main standards since the 19th century, much like the National. It also means that bee nucs can be transported in Langstroth sized frames and bee suppliers use them, well, some do.
The twist (quite literally) is that the “supers” where the honey is stored, have food-grade plastic comb that the bees build on and fill. And when you want to harvest the honey, you twist a crank, it cracks the comb and honey pours out via a tube. Twist it back, the bees repair any cracks, clean up and start to fill again.
Pros: Less invasive for bees, extremely convenient for the beekeeper and removes the need for lots of extraction equipment. It’s exactly the same modular design with brood boxes, queen excluder and supers.
Cons: Very expensive, slight risk that the bees would be slow to build over the plastic and eventual mechanical failure at some point.
I maybe need to think about this, your comments are welcome!