While we were researching the D.E. Hive we were running another series of tests on modifying the Langstroth hives. This page will deal with our findings on a modification kit we’ve designed and its impact on honey production, also on the improvements made to the standard hive.
Early in 1990 we were looking carefully at the hives in current production here in North America and noted a number of problems. So we set to and designed a kit to improve the Langstroth as much as possible, mainly to help a fellow beekeeper and friend, this has proved to be so successful we just have to share it.
The kit consists of the following:-
A new hive stand, low on the ground, made of pressure treated 2×4’s with an alighting board, to provide dead air space below the bottom board, to provide a dryer and warmer bottom board.
A new bottom board, made of plywood to be lighter and dryer. We found the position to work the Langstroth very difficult. You either stand at right angles to the hive entrance and risk ankle stings or stand at the back, and risk back damage by stretching awkwardly to remove frames. The new bottom board now allows the hive to be turned at 90 degrees to its present position and the frames then run across the hive entrance and parallel to it. Plus it creates a bigger and better hive entrance at 20″ rather than 16″. The entrance block supplied will reduce this for fall and winter.
The hive boxes and frames are not modified by this kit. The propolis problem, unfortunately, cannot be cured, that’s a basic hive design fault.
We have changed the inner cover. A major problem we noted, too much bee space on top of the frames, the bees will fill up that area with brace comb. When the time comes to add supers that brace is either squashed down, or it has to be cleaned off. Our inner cover has only one bee space under it, so the bees do not make excess burr comb, but has the same ventilation as the D.E. Hive. Also a top entrance for winter use.
Over the inner cover fits a ventilation box, to provide maximum ventilation in the summer, which can be reduced in spring and fall. When the top vent is open i.e. winter time the vent box in turned over reducing the through ventilation.
Finally the roof, it’s much deeper, cleated on the inside to provide approx. 8″ of air space above the inner cover. With three angled holes on its front side it removes a lot of hot wet air from the roof and hive interior.
So why bother to ventilate at all? Bees have been kept in wooden hives for hundreds of years. In our area we need 2 boxes of stores going into the winter, that’s approximately 140 lbs of honey. The bees use most of it, about 120 lbs before spring feeding. If each 10lbs of honey consumed produces 1 gallon of water, then each hive produces in excess of 12 gallons of liquid per winter. That’s enough water to bath in or enough to wash your car, twice. It’s not only in the winter that the bees produce water. Nectar coming in from the field has considerable amounts of water which has to be rendered out to produce honey.
So let’s now consider a couple of physics laws. Warm air rises and warm air takes up moisture, and therein lies the problem. The warm wet air in the hive rises up to the inner cover and stops with nowhere to go. If it’s cold outside it now condenses and forms ice inside the hive inner cover. Come the spring that ice melts and drips down into the centre of the cluster. If it’s summer time the bees have an incredible task, trying to reduce the water content of a hive which is a sealed box. The inside edges of the boxes are sealed by the bees, and the inner cover is sealed down, also the roof fits down tightly, preventing ventilation.
Cold does not kill bees but wet does.
Other points to ponder. With all that water produced some of it has to be taken up by opened stores, because honey takes up water from the atmosphere. So here we have a potential problem, leading to dysentery, as wet and poor stores are the leading cause of dysentery in wintered bees While we are discussing sealed boxes it leads to another observation. If a sealed car, in high summer, in the sun can reach temperatures of 150 degrees F, what would be the effect in a sealed hive, which is already damp inside? Possibly, melting wax, which starts to melt at about 140 degrees F causing sag and oval cells, and these oval cells would be useless as brood comb causing loss of brood and bee replacement. This I believe is the reason for double horizontal wiring of frames as cell sag is caused by lack of ventilation.
I believe the founding fathers of beekeeping were wrong, they saw cell sag and assumed it was caused by too much weight. Can you believe Mother Nature to have designed the strongest structure known to man i.e. the honeycomb cell, if she didn’t believe it would support a few pounds of honey? I’ve never seen double wired combs coming out of a honey tree, and those are considerably bigger than our frames.
When we examined other hives in our area we noticed a high incidence of chalkbrood. Our information states that chalk brood is a fungus caused by damp conditions within the hive. In practice, we have proved this to be true! When we added a Mod Kit to a hive with a high proportion of chalkbrood, it was only a short time before the chalkbrood disappeared and normal healthy brood prevailed. Other areas where we find advantages as we ventilate our hives is honey production, there is a definite increase.
We can only repeat our experience with our hives, to give you the increased poundage of honey production. In ’92 a poor year locally, our provincial average was only 61 lbs per hive, we took from 2 hives 284lbs which were tested at 15.6% water. Also remember those were brand new hives that year and they had a lot of foundation to draw out. In ’93 a good year locally, the provincial average was 115 lbs per hive, we took an incredible 613lbs from 2 hives. No that’s not a misprint, it did read 613lbs tested out at 15.5% water. In ’94 a very strange year, a dearth in July and August we have taken 190lbs per hive, we think the provincial average will be about 60-70lbs.
It doesn’t take a mathematical genius to calculate the following, double honey production, more profit, or reduce the number of hives, and work, produce the same amount of honey.
We recently had contact with two beekeepers who have Mod Kits fitted. One, a commercial keeper, with static hives, noted that the fitted hives produced approx. one extra box of honey. Plus those same hives capped off faster. The second keeper, aged 81, and a beekeeper for 50 years tells me his two fitted hives produced over double, compared to non-fitted hives. So there appears to be a lot of advantages in ventilating hives. Increased honey production. More profit. Bigger hives and more bees. You will recoup your investment in the new technology in the first year.
So what to do about the problem? Well, you could spend as long as we did designing an answer, better still why not order one today and join the revolution of change!