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A beehive is an enclosed structure in which some honey bee species of the subgenus Apis live and raise their young. Natural beehives are naturally occurring structures occupied by honeybee colonies, while domesticated honeybees live in man-made beehives, often in an apiary. These man-made structures are typically referred to as "beehives". Several species of Apis live in hives, but only the western honey bee (Apis mellifera) and the eastern honey bee (Apis cerana) are domesticated by humans. A natural beehive is comparable to a bird's nest built with a purpose to protect the dweller.
The beehive's internal structure is a densely-packed matrix of hexagonal cells made of beeswax, called a honeycomb. The bees use the cells to store food (honey and pollen) and to house the "brood" (eggs, larvae, and pupae).
Artificial beehives serve two purposes: production of honey and pollination of nearby crops. Artificial hives are commonly transportable so that bees can pollinate crops in other areas. A number of patents have been issued for beehive designs.
Frame hivesIn the UK there are two main types of frame hive
The National (British Standard) Hive
This is made either of cedar (fully assembled) or of ply (self assembly).
We manufacture local welsh western red cedar (Thuja plicata) hives. The trees which are harvested locally to reduce the 'cedar' miles grow in a small valley near Llangedwyn. They are now between 100 and 150 years old and are ready for harvesting. The wood is being replanted as trees are removed.
Cedar hives should last between 10 and 20 years (and sometimes longer) dependant on the conditions they are kept in. They do not need any treatment - however you can paint them externally with a water based paint if you want to.
For more details of our cedar national hives please click here.
For more details of our complete kits with cedar hives please click here
We also manufacture ply hives for self assembly
We have run ply hives since 2006 and they're excellent as a cheap replacement for cedar. The big advantage is that they are almost impervious to green woodpecker damage. They can smash throgh a Cedar hive in a few minutes. This is learned behaviour, so you may be OK for years, then they'll start. You can wire round a cedar hive but this is complicated and difficult to make and prevents you easily inspecting your hive. With ply hives you need to seal the cut edge with a suitable external grade glue and we suggest you paint the outside about every year
For more details of the ply hives we supply please click here
The other type of frame hive is the WBC
This hive was invented by and named after William Broughton Carr, this is a double-walled hive with an external housing that splays out towards the bottom of each frame covering a standard box shape hive inside. The WBC is in many respects the 'classic' hive as represented in pictures and paintings, but despite the extra level of insulation for the bees offered by its double-walled design some beekeepers avoid it due to the inconvenience of having to remove the external layer before the hive can be examined. We manufacture this in cedar. Our WBC cedar hives are painted with Woodland Trust 'Ash' paint before despatch.
For details of the WBC with a complete kit please click here
For details of stand alone WBC hives please click here
The Octagon hive - keeping bees beautifully
An Octagon hive is a vertical top bar hive that uses octagonal boxes (rather than rectangular) which are larger than a traditional British National hive, with foundationless top bars in each box. The bars are grooved to contain a strip of wax which the bees use as a starter to draw their comb. Rather than "supering," or adding empty boxes to the top of the hive, Octagon hives are "nadired," meaning that empty boxes are added to the bottom. This is also meant to mimic the environment of a wild colony, as they will always build downward from the top of the cavity rather than upward. The Octagon hive comes with observation windows so you can see how your colony is developing quickly and easily. The bees create their own comb. This does have an effect on the honey production of the hive. A major benefit is that the comb built is clean fresh comb and the queen always lays in new comb, on the leading edge of the comb as she does in the wild.
How did they start?
Octagon hives are built to utilise some of the ideas of Abbe Emile Warre who developed the Warre hive over 50 years of research, culminating in what he liked to call 'The People's Hive' in the early 1950s. He studied over 300 hive designs, ranging from straw skeps to the modern Langstroth hive, analyzing their ease of use and suitability for honey bees. He focused on simplicity, ease of management and natural qualities including the building of natural comb (rather than pressed foundation) and the retention of nest scent and heat.
Octagon hives are best managed by adding a couple of empty boxes to the bottom of the hive in the spring and removing the top boxes from the hive (full of honey) in the autumn. This allows for something few other hives offer; the continual cycle of new comb into and old comb out of the hive without the destruction of the precious brood chamber, as each year prior to winter the bees move the excess honey stores to the top of the hive. This removes the dirty comb from the hive every couple of years, making for a healthier, happier colony.
Why an Octagon hive?
Octagon hives are ideally suited for the beekeeper looking for a low-cost, low-maintenance hive design. In our mind the Octagon hive is the ultimate design for natural, low-impact, healthy beekeeping. Octagon hives come in several colours; lavender, honeysuckle or cornflower. We paint them externally in bee-friendly low VOC paint. We can paint it another colour at an extra charge. They can be made into a feature in any garden.
Octagon hive advantages
o Ease of management
o Ideal hive environment for bees
o Simple Honey harvesting - No need for supers, extractors, frames or foundation
o Designed to be a visual focus to suit a range of locations from the classic cottage garden to a more contemporary home and garden
o Manufactured in the UK from sustainable timber.
Octagon hives contain an Open Mesh Floor as standard. They also include an Eke for feeding and for clearing the colony.
The Octagon hive - keeping bees beautifully
For details of the Octagon Hive please click here
For more information and to chat about hives you can phone us on 01691 672869