Hive volume

Hive volume, spacing, design and management.
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Hive volume

Post by A.K. » 06 Jun 2019, 22:07

The hive volume has to fit the bees.

The Warré hive turned out to be too large.
The author's experience on 21 natural swarms - collected from 2013 to 2017 and kept without Varroa treatment in frameless Warré hives - let him to the conclusion that the Warré hive is too large to fit his bees. Even relatively big swarms captured early in the spring were not ready to invest two Warré elements entirely in the first year. The lower of two elements was most often started but not finished. Bee colonies - overwintered in this setup - often swarmed next spring and did not extend readily into additional elements for honey harvest.

Based on these observations, the author considered that his bees would fit best to a volume somewhat bigger than one Warre element.

Figure: Honeycomb extending up to 1,5 Warré elements at the end of the season.

N.B.: The interior volume of a standard Warré element is 18,9 L (length 30cm x 30cm width x height 21cm). Bees may be guided by starter strips to build 8 combs spaced by 36mm from center to center.

Smaller hives favor bee health.
Have a look at Dr Seeley's research results, and his thereof deduced concept of "Small Hive Beekeeping". The concept is presented in the project description and in this Mellifera e.V. video.

In short, he found that colonies in small hives (42 L) comparted to large hives (168 L):
  • swarmed more often
  • had lower Varroa infestation rates
  • had less disease
  • had higher survival
According to Dr Seeley, keeping bees in a small nest cavity (42 L hive body), frequent swarming and a modest honest harvest for the beekeeper may represent an alternative approach to (hobbyist) beekeeping.
These more "natural" conditions would hopefully favor colony survival, even in the absence of Varroa treatments. Based on Dr Seeley's work, the author of this website has graphically summarized his expectations on Small Hive Beekeeping :


N.B.:The hive volume envisaged by the author of this website is even considerably smaller than 42 L.
Results may thus differ from that of Dr Seeley but will in no way raise to question his conclusions.

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