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Sun Hives & The Conservation of the Honey Bee

 
Burra Maluca
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"The Natural Beeping Trust has observed that hives such as the Warré, Golden Hive and Sun Hive all promote colony health whilst allowing beekeepers reasonable access. Furthermore, they have found that colonies living in the round ‘exude a rare sense of vitality and well-being’"



Full article here - Hives & The Conservation of the Honey Bee, including a visual guide on how to make one.
 
Amedean Messan
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Good thing I did a search. I was about to produce a thread regarding sun hives and an overview of sun hive design. Figure I can expand on this snippet of information originally provided by Burra. I thought it would be beneficial to articulate a little more with some imagery and a comparative summary.

Sun Hive Design Overview



From my initial observations its hard to not make an association to the original skep hives with origins borrowing from thousands of years. This is basically an improved evolution of a traditional skep hive IMO. Debris will naturally be expelled from the hive through gravity instead of accumulating on a floor. The frame is breathable. Materials are cheap, natural and durable, however it is time consuming to construct the hive averaging half a day.

Comparisons to Perone Hive
Similarly to the Perone hive, the sun hive facilitates a clear separation of space for a sustainable share or partitioning of honey. Lifting the cap (item A from picture above) allows a space for surplus honey to be added once the colony begins to fill the main cavity. Because of the sun hive's design, this space provided is usually smaller than ones provided in the Perone hive and will require more trips for processing which is less ideal. Unlike the Perone hive, the sun hive is elevated with the entrance facing downward and the curving walls act as a funnel for debris to filter outside the hive potentially reducing contact to waste with worker bees. However, due to the creases in the natural fibers it does not produce a smooth surface towards the bottom which can facilitate piling when not cleaned by worker bees so it is not completely efficient. The curving walls more closely mimic the natural curves of honeycomb seen in the wild, unlike the Perone hive's rectangular construction. This may, or may not be an advantage.

Comparisons to Log Hive
The log hive mimics a less refined natural appeal with regard to aesthetics, however the log hive suffers where it is substantially heavier. This is mostly an issue where both designs are raised which depending on weight and elevation can be potentially dangerous if not secured properly. The log hive has the advantage in that it is more easily constructed by its simple design. Potential for pooling of waste is greater in typical log hive construction designs. Log hives can be constructed to have a downward funnel entrance similar to sun hives, although due to the direction of the wood fiber it would require more labor and tooling. Both designs can incorporate surplus honey extensions (if logs are stacked vertically), but due to the design stability the size of the sun hive extension is limited.

Videos



 
Abe Connally
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Location: Chihuahua Desert
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A few things for comparison of this to the Perone hive:
Perone is significantly larger, being 280 L ~ 72 gal (sun hive appears to be in the 20 gal range)
Perone allows easy honey access
Perone is easier to construct
Perone can have a window in brood space for inspection
Perone is easier to locate (It's going to be easier to set a hive on a stand vs hanging a hive)
Perone is more stable in winds

I, for one, have never seen a bottom entrance like the Sun Hive to any natural hive. I think the pooling of waste is an overstated problem. Most natural hive in hollow trees/logs have considerable waste buildup without issue. Bees evolved in hives with closed bottoms and managing waste themselves, so I don't see that as an issue at all.

The sun hive proponents claim that bees will never choose a hive in/on the ground, but I have seen that happen numerous times. In fact, I had a swarm move into an old Lang box a few weeks ago. The Lang box was setting on the ground in my spare boxes area. I know of a wild hive that is actually in the ground in a small cave near a septic tank. When they made the septic tank, there was a small hollow to one side of the concrete, and that's where the bees choose to live. Perone hives have 2 entrances, one at the bottom, another 2ft up. It would be easy to allow for a top entrance in any box hive, and many people do in grassy locations.

The point of this being is that bees are amazingly adaptable, and any rule you state about them choosing hive locations will automatically be false when you see enough wild bees doing their thing. I have doubts that one hive design is better than others. I do think more space, like the Perone, is better, but beyond that, it's mostly the care and methods of the keeper that make a hive or location better or worse for the bees. I've seen wild bees successfully live in all sorts of containers, from tires to junk vehicles, and everything in between. They do just fine on their own, selecting whatever kind of crazy hive space they want that day.

That being said, the sun hive is certainly neat to look at, and I'm sure bees would live just fine there.
 
Abe Connally
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Location: Chihuahua Desert
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By the way, the link in the OP doesn't work. Here is the proper link to the Sun Hive article: http://www.permaculture.co.uk/articles/sun-hives-conservation-honey-bee
 
Ernie Schmidt
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Location: Olympia, Washington
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Burra Maluca wrote:"The Natural Beeping Trust has observed that hives such as the Warré, Golden Hive and Sun Hive all promote colony health whilst allowing beekeepers reasonable access. Furthermore, they have found that colonies living in the round ‘exude a rare sense of vitality and well-being’"

I have to agree on a practical and scientific basis that hives such as the Warre, etc. promote colony health. However the exuding a rare sense of vitality and well-being because of a particular style of hive is perhaps the keeper's emotions getting the best of them. Don't get me wrong the astatically value of the Sun Hive is unequalled and I would love to have one in my apiary because of their beauty but that aspect of the Sun Hive is somewhat of more value to the keeper. As stated earlier in this thread, bees are quite vital and well-being in nearly any cavity that provides them with their basic needs as shelter.
 
Rob Browne
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Location: Blue Mountains, NSW, Australia
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Ernie is dead right. To the bees its just a box/cavity. To us its what we think it does. Natural beekeeping is a method not a container.
 
Troy Rhodes
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If you ask 4 beekeepers how to do something, you'll get at least 5 opinions.

One of the raging debates is the Top Bar Hive vs the Langstroth hive. After reading an interminable amount of information, I decided that both had their merits and I got one of each.

That first season, the TBH grew like gangbusters. They grew so fast, they decided it was too crowded in the TBH and they swarmed. They don't generally do that the first year.

The remaining half of the bees froze and starved last winter, while the Langstroth hive made it fine.

So, which box was better


I have since captured a feral swarm and installed it in the TBH. They are also growing aggressively, which is usually a good thing. We'll see who makes it through the winter.


But both hives are "managed" using no treatment/no fungicides/no miticides and they make their own comb, in "natural" cell size or "small cell" size.


The management style and bee genetics are both more important than the shape of the box.

So far, I have decided that Langstroth hives enhance honey production somewhat, and TBH favors bee production somewhat.


The solar hives strike me as pretty small. The geometric consequence of that is more surface area (per volume of bees) than a larger hive. Stated differently, 10 pounds of bees have less surface area per pound than 5 pounds of bees. I would expect that to be a factor in colder climates.

There is rarely one solution that is the best for everywhere.



 
Abe Connally
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Location: Chihuahua Desert
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Sounds like your TBH might be too small, Troy. What design is it?

I agree that the Sun Hive looks small. I like big hives, at least 25 gallons (~100 l), which is like 2.5 Lang brood boxes. Perone is much higher at 280 L, 70 gallons, or 7 Lang brood boxes.
 
Rob Browne
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Location: Blue Mountains, NSW, Australia
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That seems to be one of the problems with THB Troy. Often they are too small and, as a result, the bees keep throwing off swarms. To get around this they have to be bigger/longer with their associated engineering problems or you have to continually disturb the bees with manipulations. I recon the sun hive would be a swarm factory, but a very beautiful one though.
 
Troy Rhodes
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I made my TBH a little longer than normal. 4+ feet, standard width as described in the Phil Chandler, Barefoot Beekeeper book/pdf.

I think the standard TBH (if there is such a thing) runs around 7,000 cubic inches, or 30 gallons or 114 liters


Mine is significantly longer and contains 10,200 cubic inches, or 44 gallons, or 167 liters


 
Abe Connally
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Location: Chihuahua Desert
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According to Chandler's plans, the 44" version is 11 x (15+5)/2 x 44 = 110 x 44 = 4840 cu ins = 80 l, ~21 gallons
A 4ft version of his hive would be 110 x 48 = 5280 cu inches, or about 23 gallons

You can super horizontal hives if you think they need more space. Michael Bush uses horizontal hives based on Lang dimensions and supers them: http://www.bushfarms.com/beeshorizontalhives.htm


I use a 1/2 barrel for mine, so it's right at 100L. http://velacreations.com/food/animals/bees/38.html



 
Amedean Messan
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Location: Melbourne FL, USA - Pine and Palmetto Flatland, Sandy and Acidic
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Wow, great input here!
 
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