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Hive body shape.  RSS feed

 
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If you were going to cast a hive body to shape what shape would it be?  Inside shape will be standard langstroth 10 frame mid so thinking outside shape.
 
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Same as langstroth exterior.

The convenience of having equipment that stacks and stores easily cannot be understated. Having non-stacking kit would turn into a storage nighmare.
 
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Cast? As in cast iron or cast in bronze? Maybe some sort of resin or plastic?

Not sure exactly the plan but it seems just for aesthetics. As fun as that sounds I have to agree with Michael. One hive can quickly become three & then a dozen. With several boxes for each hive. Many people keep a spare set too. Boxes get added & removed according to the bees needs & the seasons. Storage is important. It can get out of control quick.

I could see having some poofy artsy things on the sides just for fun & visual appeal. In my opinion though, the ability to stack is not negotiable. One can store 2 or 3 complete sets of boxes on the same footprint as a single box.

To answer the question. Bear faces or totem pole objects. That stack.





 
C. Letellier
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From my reading and videos the biggest winter threat to the bees is moisture and second is cold.  So I had looked at all the various answers the styrofoam, wrapping, plastic hives with molded foam, thicker wood hives etc.  I had also watched for where the hive boxes in the youtube videos were failing.  Nearly all it looks like the corners are the starting point of moisture failure.  That lead to thinking on wanting lap sided shaped boxes with mitered ends so no exposed end grain and hidden dovetails done in western red cedar for reduced weight and thicker wood for better insulation.  But the joinery to do that is getting wild and I was going to have to get the cedar log so I could do the boards in the shape I wanted to start with.  I had just started hunting the western red cedar logs to try when I tripped over the DYI aircrete info and it changed my thinking.  

Here is a material that is light enough it floats, is fire proof, rot proof, basically weather proof and insulates nearly as good as styrofoam and being concrete can be molded to nearly any shape. It is still a bit weak and fragile and open to damage.  But what if a skim coat of standard concrete was added to the outside with a fiber mesh in it for strength?  That should most solve that.  Now the ideal would be if the skim coat could be placed in the mold and the aircrete poured behind it so the 2 layers are fully chemically bonded together.

So here is my thinking for hive sidewall shape.  See attach picture.

hive.JPG
[Thumbnail for hive.JPG]
 
Michael Cox
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I'm going to take a guess here and say that you have limited direct experience working with bees?

The solution you propose - shaped edges - would be a nightmare in practice. Bees don't like cracks and gaps. They go to extreme lengths to fill them, as they would otherwise provide safe spaces in the colony for pests to hide. To do this they use propolis; an incredibly sticky resin made from tree saps that has strong anti-microbial properties. In your proposed designs they will fill the cracks with propolis, but then you will have no way to separate the sections again afterwards. When we inspect a traditional hive we use a hive tool to get leverage between the boxes to break the propolis seal. You have no access to do so. Not being able to separate the boxes is an absolute red flag on this approach.

As a more general issue, this "problem" - that of moisture in hives - is less to do with moisture entering through cracks, and more to do with cold spots allowing condensation to form. I personally use all polyhives and have absolutely no damp problems in them, which was not the case with the wooden equipment I used to use. The much better insulation factor plays a big part in this.

As for the material itself; I am not directly familiar with aircrete but bees are strong and persistent. Many beekeepers have tried DIY foam hives and have inevitably given up, because the bees destroy the material. They will chew and chew around the entrances. I would expect your structure to last little more than a year. In commercial polyhives they use a special form of very dense and very hard poly. Nothing like the poly you may have experienced elsewhere. Even then you find that bees chew and smooth out entrances and the like.
 
C. Letellier
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Yes I have a tiny bit as a child the year my parents had a hive.(winter killed)  The joints will still have the same tool access as a wood hive and the inside of the box will be the same.  And bees don't coat the outside of a tree so why would the do the outside of the hives?

As for A is the middle of the wall of the box and B is tapered down to at the corners.  The siding lap joint shape should provide hand holds for the boxes while kicking most of the water away from the joint.  The sharp edge is to serve as a drip edge.   B would be the corners to better jump the water past the joint.  Molded so no corner joint.  The green and the tan is alternate thinking for top and bottom box shape.  Rather than being square top and bottoms on boxes if the joint slopped up to the inside water would naturally stay out and and anti-wicking groove in the bottom of the top box should keep water from wicking up.  The tool would still insert but instead of pushing straight in it would go in at an upward angle.  Will angles line up properly is my question there?

Build the boxes with roughly a 2 inch wall thickness for insulation and the lip of the lap going up to 1/2" above the joint and 1/2" out from the joint to act as a handle and also to jump water past the joint.  Radius the inside corners of the box to roughly 3/16 to eliminate hive beetle hiding locations and outside to slightly smaller than the wall thickness for the elimination of easily damaged corners.  The sharp edge of the lap will help serve as a drip edge.  The B shape would be better to keep moisture out but I know that it is almost certain the laps will be used as hand holds so raising the middle 6" to 8" by a 1/2" to the A shape will hopefully keep fingers from being pinched while handling the hives.  Will a 1/2" out be enough either as handles or 1/2" up to keep fingers from getting pinched.  

For the skim coat use white sand, concrete, a waterproofing water reducer and white pigment.  By mixing pigment directly with the skim coat the boxes should never need painting.  Press a basalt rebar fabric mesh into the back side of the skim coat.   The final color should be a slightly grayish white and because it is built in rather than painted on it should be permanent.  Water proofer that increases skim coat strength and reduces water for greater strength plus smoother finish.

For the aircrete: foaming agent, water reducer, concrete and possibly added fiber.  Leave it gray concrete.

Water proofer that increases skim coat strength.  Water proofer

For pigment this.  Concrete pigment

For the mesh.  It is chosen over fiberglass because fiberglass can wick water in if the fiber ends are expose and this stuff isn't supposed to.  Basalt mesh

The rest would be white sand there again for color and concrete.  Locally white sand out of the Tensleep sandstone formation would be ideal. The final color should be a slightly grayish white and because it is built in rather than painted on it should be permanent no repainting.

For the aircrete

The foaming agent mostly they are choosing the Drexel foam that they use in field sprayers for marking passes.  Alternates are dawn dishwasing liquid or Oily hair shampoo.  All are basically sodium laurel sulphate.  

For best final strength high end water reducers are wanted.  So means looking at the super plasticizers.  Since they do small quanities looking at this outfit.  Looking at 5, 6 or 7 here.  Super Plasticizers

The reason for looking at something different than standard equipment is to try and allow for benign neglect as possible.  To get all the equipment set up to minimize risk and minimize checking hives.

So my current thinking goes like this.  Build a basic langstroth hive but simply use different materials.  To keep weight down and maximum interchangeability of parts go with all mid size boxes.  No deeps and probably no shallows.  Might want some 8 frame's for supers for weigh control But that means more height which might not be old man compatible either.

For varroa  control go foundationless and allow bee size to move back down.  The list of food sources they can't reach smaller was fairly small and very little that was in this area.  The red clover that they were bred up for is nearly non existent here.  I have read the information on number of sides the frame should have 1, 3, or 4 for foundationless and have decided I would build for 4 simply for best durability in an extractor situation.  I realize to start out that at least every other frame would have to have foundation and working up to foundationless would take some time.

Hive beetle control is minimize hiding places and possible either screened bottom board or do the biological layer bottom board.

Ant control is moat legs with skim of a non polymerizing oil floating over water so one the bug is down in the water it can decay away so the moat doesn't need to be cleaned as often and the oil slows water evaporation.  Then in my thinking ideally water should self replenish without carrying the oil away when if over flows and I am still working on that one.  Basic moats seems to be all that is in the online info.  Would like to do better but still don't know how yet.  Still under study.

Then for skunk control either raised hives or going top entry hives.  Top entry seems to make a lot of sense and keeps snow from being a problem for winter cleansing flights from the various info but raised hives provides a good way to maybe do moats too.  So at any rate might choose to do both here.  

Mouse control especially during off season is good screens, gap elimination and properly restricted entrances.  The lap siding style design I want to try should help to make reaching upper entrances more difficult to reach. I had originally been thinking raised hives as part of the cure here till I got to the mouse trap information that shows to keep mice from jumping out of a well type trap the well needs to be 28 inches deep.  So much for that idea.  If the bottom of the hives was 30 inches reaching top boxes would be difficult in the extreme.

That leaves wax moths as the other big one and mostly that looks like the ideal is higher maintenance and freezing everything not in the hive. Don't see any design fixes here.   Still wondering if adding a bat box close would help reduce the possibility of moth problems but no literature on that. Maybe losses in bees would outweigh the gain but they should mostly not overlap much as bees are day time and bats night time.

That leaves disease control.  So far I have only found 3 thing design wise that make sense.  Good ventilation, rough surface inside the box so bees propilise the inner surface making it more hygienic for them and the possible use of a biologic bottom in the hive.  Beyond that it is a matter of trying to breed for disease resistance and breed for less harmful disease.  On my small scale that one will likely have minimal effect so the 3 listed above look like the best bets design wise.

As for weather proofing the same basics as apply to a stand langstroth.  Sloping roof telescoping covers.(for summer ventilation possibly with louvered and screened ends.  The peaks of the roofs running in line with the row of hives so any shed water is kicked front and back rather than sideways into the next hive.  Under that I want to borrow from Warre' hives and bring the quilt or blanket over and scale it to langstroth for ventilation and condensation control.  That givens ventilated insulation for the top of the hive.  That much seems to make sense for year round use.

The base I am still trying to figure out a shape on.  It makes a difference whether I support the bases on some sort of framework or whether I want to stand them on the ground.  Dream system would be a raised steel framework but expense and labor make it unreasonable.  So currently thinking some sort of skirt and legs that stick down from the base to be stood in air brake diaphrams as the moat container.  The rubber protected from the sun would run decades and it wouldn't be hurt by freezing.  The ideal base would allow doing solid base, insulated base, screened bottom board and biologic board all in one form.  So far that one meeting proper screened bottom board design while meeting the other criteria is escaping me.  But it would be absolutely stupid to have the rest of the hive fire proof and not have the base fire proof too.  So it about has to be cast out of concrete.  And if it never moves its weight really doesn't matter.  There again a combination of aircrete for insulation and concrete for strength.  Going top entry means the shape could change more if needed from a standard design.

The hives would sort of look like these composters in my thinking.  Turn the roofs 90 degrees so any water shed moves away from the hive instead of running down at the wall of the next hive.  The edges wouldn't be straight on the laps because of curving from B at the corners to A in the middle for handholds.  Instead they would curve down a half inch near the corners.  And the verticalcorners would be radiused to about a 2" radius to both cut weight slightly and  to reduce sharp corner damage while handling.  Approximate hive body shape except would have a 2" radius on the vertial corners.

As for concrete beehives there was some work out of africa done on them.  They were using polystyrene beads mixed with concrete there instead of aircrete but the effect should be the same.  There is a contest every year for engineering students building a concrete canoe with the polystyrene beads so strength there isn't an issue and I think aircrete done properly could be as good and cheaper and more fire and insect proof.  Plus it is a little closer to the permies ideal.(yes I realize wood is closer still but longer life and lower maintenance may add up to being closer in the end with aircrete)  And here is one of many links for aircrete.  











 
Michael Cox
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The reason for looking at something different than standard equipment is to try and allow for benign neglect as possible.  To get all the equipment set up to minimize risk and minimize checking hives.  



If that is your objective, then I suggest that you are massively overcomplicating things. Get a log with wide diameter. Hollow it out and pour a swarm in there. Or invest in standard poly hives for the insulation factor and use those. You seem to be inventing your way out of problems that you don't actually have - are are unlikely to have in practice.  

As for the principle of "benign neglect" - I'm a huge support of it. That is pretty much how I run my hives. But effective benign neglect requires a LOT of practical knowledge, and skills. You need to know bees inside out to be able to diagnose and troubleshoot so that you know when neglect is appropriate and when it is not. My typical advice for novices is to get at least 2 hives, and preferably 4. Manage them conventionally for at least a full year to learn the ropes, then decide what you want to vary based on your experience. You need to be getting lots of hands on experience, and making lots of mistakes early on. Multiple hives lets you compare one with another, so you get a feel for what is normal and what is not. And you can use resources from one to support another (queen cells, transfer brood etc...).

Anyway, back to your plan and materials.

You say that you propose a gap to insert the hive tool in, which resolves one part of the problem. How does the aircrete material respond to being levered hard with a hive tool? My experience of working with similar material is it was very crumbly and under that kind of pressure inclined to crumble away. How will it hold up to a decade or so of regular work with a hive tool?
 
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If you are looking for benign neglect (or as I prefer and as Michael Bush says "lazy beekeeping"), you sort of have two options in my mind.

1. Keep your bees in a smaller cavity and let them swarm, harvesting a bit of honey when possible. This maximizes their defensive capabilities and if you have a well-insulated box, their overwintering. Maybe have some swarm traps, but nothing too intense cause that's. . . well, intense.

2. Give the bees a larger cavity than they need, which means they shouldn't swarm, but also will have more space to manage and defend.

If you are going to go with 1, I would just recommend doing what Dr. Tom Seeley recommends in Darwinian Beekeeping. A Lang deep and amaybe a shallow. I've experimented with this (just the deep), and bees actually seem to do well in these small spaces. You could even build some small, custom hives with better insulation than standard langs, but langs will work too. https://www.naturalbeekeepingtrust.org/darwinian-beekeeping Or just follow Michael Bush's model (he did write the book on Lazy Beekeeping).

If 2, I recommend looking into the plans made available by Dr. Leo Sharashkin, and the accompanying beekeeping methods, which require only two visits per year if you mimic his strategy. Of course, these methods are different than standard beekeeping, and you have to expect an adjustment period initially, especially if you don't get treatment-free stock.

When it comes to beekeeping, it's not that there isn't new stuff to discover and learn, but when it comes to hive design, we have a pretty good understanding of what bees need. Really, they just need a cavity, and are highly adaptive. There are already designs, tried and tested over hundreds and thousands of years, that will accomplish just about whatever goals you have. Top bars, box-style hives, skeps, logs, long-langstroths, sun hives, there is so much out there.

If I had to recommend one aspect of beekeeping that one should really dive into and consume, it's the biological aspect - genetics, breeding, pathologies of bees, etc. In the end, your knowledge of bee biology, particularly pathology, is going to be much more valuable than hive design knowledge. And being skilled at breeding queens, etc. will pay off in spades.

That said, go for it and see how it works! I would be lying if I said I didn't try to design a few hives in my day.
 
Mike Barkley
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Have you investigated those building materials to see what will outgas from being in the sun with prolonged exposure to UV's & the atmosphere?
 
C. Letellier
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Thanks,  I had seriously looked at the log hive as away to play it.  I have the logs and the chain saw Government regulations is why I wouldn't.  They require all hives be "inspectable".  And the fines if caught with one that isn't inspectable, can be fairly steep plus destruction of the hive and loss of the bees.  Otherwise I would be seriously looking at starting there.

So that means doing some sort of formal hive with frames.  I have looked at hive designs from all over the world and Perone and Albanian seem to me to make the most sense I think for my climate.  But there again Perone is not inspectable.  And Albanian would be too expensive to do in a really durable form that didn't add to property taxes.(It has a few other shortcoming but I think I could solve those)  Since we can do 6+ weeks at a time at 40 below it sounds like any of the horizontal hives are out.  So that leaves the vertical ones.  Doesn't seem to make much difference which one other than having enough insulation for the bee ball to be roughly spherical with room to move vertically for food but since most of the US and specially this area is using 10 frame langstroth I narrowed to it.  There are a few design features like the quilt box layer from warre hives that I want to borrow from other hive designs.  

That lead me to looking at what was commercially available.  Strongly considered poly hives.  The fact of looking at $300 to $500 per hive to get set up in them was of concern especially since I didn't find anyone in this area that used them that was happy with them.  This cost could be moderated a bit by doing poly for the wintering part of the hive and putting cheap wood boxes on top for now.  And no matter what I do have the cost of the bee package in that number too so that much of the cost I have no matter what even if I build the boxes from pallet salvage.

I realize I have a bunch of learning to do.  And I realize it will cost.  I am just trying to figure out how to get off as cheaply as possible to get up the learning curve.  I also don't want to spend a bunch on hives that I find I am going to end up throwing away shortly.  I had been figuring 2 hives to start on the learning curve because then hopefully I can at least play them against each other to .  My max because of state law is 5 hives.  Anything over that and I become commercial and would have to purchase the territory from the current commercial hives near me.  5 and under I can stay with landowner exemption.

As for hive tools damaging them the aircrete hives has been on my concerns list.  My thinking is that the fact that I have the concrete skim coat which should hopefully be enough to protect it.  If it doesn't work I had given thought to how to fix it.  Likely the skim coat will break out in pieces and the aircrete under it crush leaving pockets.  If I screwed some long stainless screws into the damage area and most of the height of the box and then epoxied around their heads with a fiber reinforced epoxy I think I can hold it and have the repair be long term.  If that still isn't good enough surely I can glue and screw some stainless steel angle in and give me enough to pry against by simple pressure distribution.
 
Mike Barkley
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I had seriously looked at the log hive as away to play it.  I have the logs and the chain saw Government regulations is why I wouldn't.  They require all hives be "inspectable".  And the fines if caught with one that isn't inspectable, can be fairly steep plus destruction of the hive and loss of the bees.  Otherwise I would be seriously looking at starting there.




I have too. On hold at least another year for various reasons. I believe it has potential though.

Like the others, I strongly suggest using basic common methods & equipment until getting over the bee learning curve. Or find an exceptionally good mentor. Book learning & hands on learning are two very different things. Bee mistakes can be expensive & painful.

The aircrete project & ideas are interesting from several perspectives. People thought Da Vinci & William Shockley's ideas were different. Look how that worked out.

Back to the logs. The law requires "inspectable". Not sure but I don't think the inspectors in my area would have a problem with logs IF they were built such that frames could be individually removed & inspected. (check first) They are reasonable people. You mentioned having a chainsaw & logs. One could slice the top off & hollow out a big log with ledges to support the frames. Theoretically that would be legal & enough like a traditional hive to learn from. A horizontal hive with bark.  Seems like a top bar design could also work in logs.

If foulbrood (usually what inspectors are looking for) is found the bees & hive will probably be destroyed no matter what it is made of. Around here it's ... No ifs, ands, or buts. Gasoline. Match. Done.
 
C. Letellier
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George Bastion wrote:If you are looking for benign neglect (or as I prefer and as Michael Bush says "lazy beekeeping"), you sort of have two options in my mind.

1. Keep your bees in a smaller cavity and let them swarm, harvesting a bit of honey when possible. This maximizes their defensive capabilities and if you have a well-insulated box, their overwintering. Maybe have some swarm traps, but nothing too intense cause that's. . . well, intense.

2. Give the bees a larger cavity than they need, which means they shouldn't swarm, but also will have more space to manage and defend.

If you are going to go with 1, I would just recommend doing what Dr. Tom Seeley recommends in Darwinian Beekeeping. A Lang deep and amaybe a shallow. I've experimented with this (just the deep), and bees actually seem to do well in these small spaces. You could even build some small, custom hives with better insulation than standard langs, but langs will work too. https://www.naturalbeekeepingtrust.org/darwinian-beekeeping Or just follow Michael Bush's model (he did write the book on Lazy Beekeeping).

If 2, I recommend looking into the plans made available by Dr. Leo Sharashkin, and the accompanying beekeeping methods, which require only two visits per year if you mimic his strategy. Of course, these methods are different than standard beekeeping, and you have to expect an adjustment period initially, especially if you don't get treatment-free stock.

When it comes to beekeeping, it's not that there isn't new stuff to discover and learn, but when it comes to hive design, we have a pretty good understanding of what bees need. Really, they just need a cavity, and are highly adaptive. There are already designs, tried and tested over hundreds and thousands of years, that will accomplish just about whatever goals you have. Top bars, box-style hives, skeps, logs, long-langstroths, sun hives, there is so much out there.

If I had to recommend one aspect of beekeeping that one should really dive into and consume, it's the biological aspect - genetics, breeding, pathologies of bees, etc. In the end, your knowledge of bee biology, particularly pathology, is going to be much more valuable than hive design knowledge. And being skilled at breeding queens, etc. will pay off in spades.

That said, go for it and see how it works! I would be lying if I said I didn't try to design a few hives in my day.



Michael Bush is who I would list as my guru in my thinking.  I have watched or listened to everything he has on Youtube multiple times.  He is who most resonates with my thinking.  Mike Palmer is the other one who really resonates.  After watching and agreeing with both of them it is impossible to not be thinking of the hive as a biological super organism.  Genetics, pathologies and all.  So I have a bunch of time trying to understand it.  I find that no one really understands all the interactions yet to be able to plan it well.  So stage one of all of this seems to be make the strongest colony you can so they can weather problems.  And stage one of that is building the best environment possible for them to live in.  I fully understand that the hive is a cavity and the bees can live anywhere.  

Sharashkin I pulled up some videos there and in one of them he was talking about having visited with bee keepers from Bozeman and how rough their weather is.  Compared to here other than snow fall Bozeman is paradise.  So if I don't want to put in huge work long term I need winter survival as one of the goals.  I had crossed the horizontal hives off the list because they didn't sound like they did good winter survival in harsh in spite of fitting better with lazy small scale bee keeping.

 
C. Letellier
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Mike Barkley wrote:Have you investigated those building materials to see what will outgas from being in the sun with prolonged exposure to UV's & the atmosphere?



I have tried.  The aircrete the foaming agent is the same thing we use for shampoo etc and is mostly safe according to almost all sources although the secondary threats list for it is of concern.  The cement once cured should be safe and is approved for incidental food contact is the best I can do there.  Now cure time may require about 6 months or a bit more before being safe.  The superplasticizer there is no information on but there are no warnings on the MSD sheet of concern once the concrete is cured.  Best I can do there.  Now for the skim coat the water proofer is approved for incidental food contact and has nothing of concern in the MSD for a cured product.  The colorant is titanium dioxide that is used in food, makeup and a host of other places.   It should mostly block UV of any kind because that is one of its function as sun screen.  Likely the safest thing on the list.

My thinking is since I have to wait for full cure that the thing to do is put them in the junker dark car and let them heat bake for months in summer sun.  It should out gas most of it is the hope if there is a dangerous problem.  Every product has a limit to how much it can out gas.
 
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