When we want to offer the bees a comfortable home, the first question we may ask is: What is the best hive shape suiting to a bee colony? There are rare cases where bee colonies set up in open air. This situation allows us to observe the natural egg-shape of the bee nest, like on the picture on the right (Bulgaria, picture from Antony Croft). In nature in Alentejo, honeybees dwell primarily in hollow trees.
Logically, bees prefer to live in round spaces. Indeed, sharp corners are difficult to heat. The air does not circulate as well in a cubic space as in a spherical space. Humidity gets stuck in the corners, inviting mold and undesirable occupants into the living space. Therefore, the ideal cosy home that a bee-tender can offer to her “tenants” is a round-shaped hive.
The TopBar hive is one of our favourite hives, as it offers many advantages both for bees and humans. Easy to build, its design allows the hive to expand horizontally. The combs have a trapezoidal shape. One can add frames and optionally extract honey combs from the sides without unsealing the preciously-balanced inner atmosphere of the nest area, thereby reducing disturbance when the hive is opened.
The TopBar hives that we use are featured with observation window and listening holes, which invites intimacy and safe contact. If you would like to get support to set a companion-hive on your land, check here.
In order to support the bees in their healing process, it seems important to us that some colonies are “left alone”. The Log Hive design mimics the natural nest of honeybees in hollow trees. Compared to thin-walled beehives, the better insulation reduces stress and energy consumption, maintaining warmth during winter and helping to prevent overheating in summer. The log-hive is mounted on legs, corresponding to the general inclination for bees to chose high cavities and allowing opening from underneath.
We currently sell log hives in Portugal, and we are soon going to offer log-hive workshops, where you can make your own!…
The SunHive is a 5-star hotel for bees. Made out of straw and wood, it is one of the most bee-centric hives that exist, meaning that it focuses on answering the needs of the bees before the needs of the beekeeper.
It requires lots of skills, time and specific material to build. The Natural Beekeeping Trust (East Sussex, Uk) offers workshops to build your own SunHive. A recommended journey, see here.
An octagon offers a compromise between circle and square. Beautiful option, but it requires quite some work to build.
The traditional Alentejano hives are called ‘Cortiços’. Made out of cork oak bark, they imitate the natural bee dwelling space.
A Warré Hive is a vertical top bar hive that uses bars instead of frames from which the bees build their own comb. The french Abbé Emile Warré designed this hive in the 1950’s after 50 years of research. He liked to call it “The People’s Hive” as it was easy to build and maintain, compared to the conventional hives.
Conventional square hives
Conventional hives, mostly used nowadays all around the world, are square and designed for honey harvest. In Portugal we have two types of square hives of different depth, called Reversivel and Lusitana. We aim to use them less and less. They are cheap, easy to get and practical for transition times. We customise them in order to makes them more bee friendly: using wax starters instead of full foundations, cutting the lower part of the frame, removing the metallic components, reducing the entrance size depending on the weather and colony size.