Bee Report — Horizontal Langstroth Update

Detail of combs being built.

This spring I built a few horizontal Langstroth hives. These are more user friendly than the stacked boxes of Langstroth-style hives (these are the typical ones you see around the countryside), and I have new ones for sale. In June I installed three colonies in two hive bodies. These hives have space for winter insulation and I want to see if the bees have better winter survival as a lone colony or sharing a hive body with another colony — separated by a barrier.

Open horizontal Langstroth hive.

Last week I took some photos while I did an inspection. The best part of these hives is how calm the bees are when I open up the slats covering their frames. I don’t have to pull off big boxes and disassemble their home. Instead, I lift up a slat and look at 2–3 frames at a time. These bees did not provide extra honey this year as it is their first year as a colony. They have a big enough job to build up the frames of wax cells.

A nearly full bee colony.

Another difference with these hives is that I am not providing the bees with a foundation for building comb in their frames. Most beekeepers insert a sheet of rolled and patterned wax in the frames. The bees then use this as a guide and base for building their hives. Without this structure, bees are free to build their combs in the size and shape that they want, although I have added metal guy wires to give them a little support. The cells seem a little bigger than when I have put in foundation, but otherwise the bees are building straight combs within the frames and right down the guy wires.

All of these hives are on track to go into the winter with 16 or more full frames, mostly of honey. This is the minimum needed for this colder area. Usually, though, bees are kept in hives with 3/4-in-thick walls and no insulation. These bees have hives with walls that are twice as thick and straw packed on top of the slats in the open space below the roof. I hope that this improved insulation will reduce the amount of honey they need to overwinter. Additionally, the colonies that are sharing a hive are also sharing warmth. Of course the results will be reported here in the spring.

4 thoughts on “Bee Report — Horizontal Langstroth Update

  1. Hi,
    How did this hive do over the winter? I really want to get a horizontal Langstroth but I’m concerned about overwintering in a cold, long winter climate.

    1. I had two long Langs. over the Wisconsin winter. One had a single colony, one had two separated by the follow board. The single colony survived and the double failed, but they were weaker colonies. I packed the tops with straw. I will say I like working the bees in this configuration much more than typical Langs. Much easier.

      1. Thank you for replying! I am considering either putting a split from a traditional Langstroth in a new horizontal Langstroth or putting a new package of buckfast bees in one. Do you have an opinion on which my do better? I’m wondering if the split may have a harder time adapting to being horizontal when they have been vertical for the past year?

      2. In my opinion, I don’t think the configuration will cause problems for either one. When you split, you’re simulating a swarm. Bees are adaptable to whatever space they find themselves in, so those coming from a Langstroth will reorient themselves to the long shape. Are you splitting right into the long Lang or would you split into a nuc and then install later into the long Lang? Either way might work, but it depends on how comfortable you are with an in-the-yard split. The buckfast will adapt to whatever you put them in. If you have some empty frame and honey to spare, put them in for the buckfast to help reduce the likelihood of absconding.

Leave a Reply