Long Langstroth Hive
This hive is desgined to have all the positive qualities of a top bar hive and none of the drawbacks and also to have the advantages of standard equipment which makes the frames transferable from a traditional Langstroth deep or nucleus hive. We began experimenting with this hive style in spring of 2013 and have successfully overwintered bees in both the single and double-walled versions in southwest Michigan.
The hive we are using is the size of three Langstroth deep boxes turned sideways and placed in a row, only without the sides in between. It is 4 feet 3/4" long. The depth is standard Langstroth deep. We used three standard ten frame inner covers and made a custom top cover. We have two, one with a flat roof, the other with a peaked roof. Both have a hinged cover, with a latch-down and a chain to keep the cover from opening too far. It holds 32 deep frames.
We are using foundationless frames purchased from Walter T. Kelley. This allows for natural comb, but in a frame. This gives us the advantage of natural comb, but the stability of the frame. It also allows us to transfer frames into and from another deep box to allow for a frame of brood if necessary, or for the installation of a standard nuc. We can also make a nuc or a split off this hive to place in another without worrying about incompatible equipment.
We have the hive raised on three cement blocks, making it approximately waist high (for a short person!). This of course can be adjusted to the beekeeper. We reduced the entrance with a standard reducer set on the summer setting. Since it is really the side of the box, this cut down the entrance to a manageable size for the bees. We put some 1/2" hardware cloth over the section with no entrance reducer in winter.
We used notched inner covers (the notches end up on the side in this design) for ventilation. In the winter we flipped the inner cover so bees could use the notch as a winter entrance. Our first hive had an unattached bottom board. Our next one had an attached bottom board. We think the attached is easier to manage and works just fine.
The bees build the brood nest at the front and the honey frames in the back. The three inner covers allow for only uncovering 1/3 of the hive at a time. The standard frames allow for inspections that do not disrupt the hive, moving only one frame at a time, and also allowing the beekeeper to look down into the hive through the self-spacing frames without disturbing the bees at all.
We successfully extracted deep foundationless frames and were able to put the empty comb back in the hive. We also made some cut comb from the natural comb, and even sold several full frames of honey.
We insulated the one hive for winter, the other was built as a double-walled hive. Both have survived the winter. The top picture is of the hive protected with insulation for the winter, the second picture shows the hive in summer, the third shows the hive after we put in the ventilator in the summer and left the entrance completely open, the bottom is preparing for winter by adding blankets in the top for insulation and also moisture absorption.
This hive only requires the lifting power of one full deep frame at a time, making it more accessible to beekeepers with limited strength or mobility. The hinged lid makes it possible to lift the cover by one person without much effort, and the latch eliminates heavy weight on the roof of the hive.
In the spring of 2017 we had to move two of these hives for the first time and discovered that because of the latches it was actually easier than moving a vertical hive. We simply covered the entrance with a screen (the night before), put solid inner covers on (the day before) and lifted it into a pick-up truck. We leveled and prepared our new site in advance and placed new cement blocks so all we had to do was lift the hive from the truck and place it in its new location. This was easily accomplished by two people and was less awkward than strapping a stack of vertical boxes and trying to lift and move them - which we actually did at the same time!
We have completed a printable plan for the hive pictured on this page. You can access that here:
Please feel free to give us feedback on the clarity of the plans, and to ask any questions you may have. Use the contact page to communicate with us. Here is the process in pictures on the gallery page.
Important Management information for the Long Hive:
When building the hive, please keep these things in mind:
1. The bees will build their brood nest in the front and put the honey behind that. The entrance MUST be on the end, not in the middle. If it is in the middle, the bees will divide the brood nest and the honey and will not be able to access it all during the winter.
2.The mid rib inside the hive lid must have ventilation holes drilled to allow proper airflow. This has to be done during assembly.
3. When putting the hive together, we used notched inner covers. These are designed so that when they are turned one direction the bees can access the hive directly, but when turned the other direction (flipped over), the bees have to use the inner cover hole to enter the hive. We turn these "right side up" meaning so the bees must enter through the inner cover holes in the summer so they can more easily defend entrances. For winter, we flip the inner covers so we can put insulating blankets in the top and the bees can still use the notches for alternate entrances and also for winter ventilation. The hive is designed so the inner covers sit between the hive body and the roof.
4.The hive must be placed on a level pad for straight comb. We used playground sand on a piece of ground we cleared and made fairly level, then leveled the sand, then put patio blocks on the sand for a base.
5. Plan which side you want to open the hive from and place the hinges and latches accordingly. Think about your space and any obstacles nearby and the direction the entrance of the hive will be facing.
I have detailed complete management information in a printable article:
Here is the long hive insulated for winter
Here is the hive open for inspection
This is the front view in summer
Here I am adding blankets in the top for winter insulation and moisture absorption
This side view shows the hinges
Here is the hive just after being moved to a new location with the front still screened shut. We made a level pad in advance of the move for the hive to be placed on.