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.
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.
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.