The Bee Condo:
Last winter after finishing 4 Langstroth flow hives, I was looking for another excuse to put off house renovations so I came up with this bee condo design. It was an evolution from the various excellent long hives and top bar hives I’ve seen on this forum so far. I was really intrigued by them, but wanted a couple of tweaks of my own, as do most of the DIY beeks I come across.
Bee Condo Design:
The major difference I wanted was deeper frames; my mind simply struggled to envision a long shallow hive being very efficient in my rather extreme winters. I’m located in eastern Ontario, Canada where we routinely see cold snaps dipping below -30C at night for up to a week at a time. In more recent years we’ve only had the occasional days like this with a lot more thaws throughout the winter so I see moisture management becoming very critical as well.
Vented Inner Covers:
With that in mind I designed a double deep hive with the ability to seed with standard Langstroth deep frames 2 deep, but ultimately use uninterrupted single double deep frames. I used full 2” thick rough sawn White Pine lumber for the hive, and a well ventilated, insulated gabled roof. I also added an easily removable slatted rack at the bottom to facilitate cleaning and the ability to add 1 honey super.
I used adjustable entrances that allow me to keep the ventilation open even in the sides with no current colonies. There are 6 entrances total, spaced so that when starting out a colony they only have one to defend, and as they get larger a second one becomes available. It is a blast to watch them come and go from the entrances.
The hive is designed with semi-permanent dividers that allow it to be run as 3 separate colonies of up to 15 double deep frames but with the intention of only running 10 to 12 and a follower board that leaves space for spreading them out during hive manipulations. 10 of these double deep frames is slightly larger comb area than 2 deep 10 frame Langstroth boxes.
I initially considered integrating a flow hive into it as well, but instead settled on a single shallow super for comb honey sections as I’ve already got 2 flow hives setup, and room for 2 more. In the winter the space for the shallow supers is to be replaced with moisture quilts.
Comb Honey Super:
This spring (early June) I seeded the condo with a four frame NUC. I must say of the 3 NUCs I started this spring (2 in Langs) it is by far the most successful. To be fair one of the Langs was destroyed by a bear, and the other refused to draw out the second brood box, and swarmed instead so not a great comparison. However since early June installation they have completely drawn out 9 double deep frames, and are finishing the 10th now, and I removed the initial 4 Langstroth deeps frames a while back. The new colony is just starting to use the section super now, as I’ve focused on getting them out to 10 double deep frames first, but they look promising for next year.
Inside 4 Weeks:
Inside 9 Weeks:
The double deep frames are made very much the same as a normal Langstroth frame, but with 1/8” thicker end bars that are self-spacing top and bottom. I do add 4 wires, and have embedded a sheet of wax foundation on every other one, with foundationless in between. With this setup I’ve had very little issue (almost none) with cross comb. I find the combs quite sturdy, although I wouldn’t recommend flipping them horizontally.
Frame With Foundation:
I found the manipulation of the initial stacked Langstroth frames frustrating as it is a long reach to get the bottom frames out, and you need a lot of room to turn it slightly to clear the sides. Once they had drawn out enough of the double deep frames I repurposed them to my standard Lanstroth hives, and have no problems removing the double deep frames for inspections. The bees certainly seem happy with their new home so far as they draw out and fill the combs beautifully.
Hopefully next year I’ll be able to split this colony, and/or catch swarms to fill out the other 2 sides. For now I’m enjoying watching them thrive, and hoping for more comb honey sections like this before fall.
I’m amazed that my plan to start 2 hives this year has evolved so quickly to 5 full size colonies! I’ve already utilized all the equipment I built this past winter so I guess I’ll easily find new ways to avoid renovations again this coming winter.
Maybe one of these would integrate very well with the flow hives and keep me busy for a while.