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Japanese Style Hives

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Location: 52.3016° N, 0.4368° E
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Hi all,

I'm going to be(e) starting a beekeeping course in the new year, and have been looking into building my own hive - potentially to then start crafting more hives to sell and manage.

However, my carpentry abilities are very limited and I don't think that they stretch to the precision engineering a hive the likes of a Langstroth or Warre might need.

I stumbled upon the plans for a Japanese style hive a little while - not sure if they have a proper name - where it is essentially a typical Western style hive, just without frames or top bars.

So the bees fill the space in the boxes with comb from top to bottom, then when you want to  harvest the honey you use wire to slice through the comb and separate the boxes.

I was just wondering if anyone on here had used, or is using, this method - or if you had any other resources on the management of this type of hive.


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Location: woodland, washington
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I haven't used one, but they're really similar to Warré hives. really the only part missing is the top bars, which aren't difficult to make. the importance of the top bars really depends on how you plan to manage your hives, though. the way I do it, top bars aren't really necessary and might contribute to what's sometimes called "false floor syndrome." basically, a colony with plenty of room to expand swarms when they encounter top bars as they're building downward. having one long uninterrupted cavity (as in the Japanese design) might, therefore, make early swarming less likely.

skipping top bars would make harvesting slightly trickier, and pretty much rule out taking individual combs out separately: you'll have to take whole boxes instead. that's the way I do it anyway, but I do sort of like the top bars there for support. decreases the chance that the comb will all just fall apart when you take a box off. the Japanese hives do use a mid-box support that may be enough to prevent collapse, but also complicates harvest a little bit.

one other thing to keep in mind is that many (maybe all?) traditional beekeepers in Japan are still using Apies cerana instead of A. mellifera. I won't claim to know what that means for the hive that's most suitable for each species in any particular climate, but it's something to consider. those two species do have fairly different proclivities, strengths, and vulnerabilities.

my advice would be to try both Warré and the Japanese design and see which works best for the bees and you. they're effectively identical apart from the top bars. if you can do the Japanese one, you can do a Warré. if you've got some of both and you decide you like one style better than the other sometime down the road, it will be really easy to switch them all to the style you prefer.
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