I have been working on the engineering issues of creating a horizontal flow hive for some time and have the hive almost complete 90%+, only painting and cosmetics left to do.
The design issues shouldn’t be underestimated, especially as my criteria required the ability to move the flow frames as the brood frames were expanded and contracted in the traditional manner.
The criteria included:
- Flow frames at each side of the brood frames.
- Flow frames must be movable.
- Viewing of all frames from front and rear.
- Follower boards with viewing ports.
- Use standard Australian timber sizes and profiles.
- Minimum machining of timber.
- Glue and screw construction.
- Tasmanian Oak and AA Grade Marine Ply were the main timbers used.
Anyone who has assembled a vertical flow frame hive will have identified that the flow frames and Langstroth frames are different lengths, widths and depths.
The differences between frames created an interesting engineering problem which I have overcome by designing a horizontal hive that takes both types of frames side by side.
The front of the hive was built with a single full-length piece of perspex viewing port which allows observation of the bees across the entire front, including the flow frames. The 6mm bee space at the front of the hive is maintained irrespective of the frame being Langstroth or Flow.
At the rear of the hive, I have resolved the problem of different frame lengths by creating modular perspex plates in widths of 50mm, 100mm and 150mm. These plates align with the flow frames to make the rear wall. I could have chosen widths that better correspond with the width of the Langstroth frames, however, being lazy I decided to stick with flow frame width. This also occurred because I had already had the plastic plates professionally cut prior to determining all the dimensional problems. The Langstroth frames maintain a 6mm bee space between the frame and the back wall plates.
I was faced with the problem of alignment across the top of the flow frames and the top of the Langstroth frames. I have designed spacers to lift the Langstroth Frames close to level with the flow frames. As part of this solution, I have provided bee space at the top and the bottom of the frames at approximately 10mm.
The follower boards either side are constructed with perspex windows to allow for checking of the end frames without disturbing the bees. A 6mm space is maintained between both the Langstroth and flow frames and the follower board.
The front, rear and side viewing windows have white Coreflute covers to provide insulation. The inside of the Coreflute panels are painted black to block light and can be reversed in winter to increase the ambient hive temperature through heat absorption from sunlight.
I have provided a unique combination entry with a landing board and circular horizontal entry ports through to a wire mesh intermediate zone that leads into a long bottom entry into the hive. This unique combination of horizontal to vertical entry has been designed to provide maximum protection for the bees from the strong winds (greater than 110Kph) that occur in this region in summer and winter. The vertical entry also provides the bees with the ability to regulate the hive temperature without being compromised by the entry panels and tunnels.
The entry point is offset from the hive in an attempt to reduce stress on the guard bees when removing and replacing the front cover. Removing the front cover allows light through the hive while doing external inspections of the brood frames. The entry slot is opened and closed by using covering strips as the frames are inserted and removed over the yearly cycle. The open entry slot does not extend past the queen excluder and as such all entry and exit to the flow frames is through the queen excluder internally.
The original design provided for a pitched roof, however, this increased windage was on reflection considered too risky to the stability of the hive in strong winds and I have since resolved that a flat roof will do as there is sufficient space between the top cover boards and the hinged lid for the cover boards in all configurations.
The whole hive is / will be painted in a white external paint.
I will add more pics and comments to the thread when the final touches are complete and when bees are introduced.
Frames and Follower Boards in the central location, view from rear of hive
A closer view of the rear of the hive. These modular panels align with the flow frames when fitted.
Top cover boards in place. There is a minimum of 10mm between the top of the frames and the bottom of the cover boards to allow efficient movement of the bees.
The follower boards have a large viewing plate and are designed to mate with the rear end plates of the brood frames to create a mechanically strong joint.
View from the front. I have deliberately chosen the circular plates for ease of reducing and expanding the entry of the hive to reduce robbing etc. I have guestimated the number of entries and will, in time, make observation related to issues of the number of ports required to reduce congestion and maximise throughput.
Note that the landing board and entry is offset from the front side of the hive. I have considered extending this further from the hive however I want to test the bee reaction at this distance before doing so. The bottom entry slot appears as a black line on the right behind the perspex, which still has its protective cover on. The bees enter from the left, travel through a short timber tunnel into an open area protected by a mesh screen which they can climb to enter the hive vertically.
The cost of this hive is excessive in comparison to standard Langstroth and Flow Hives, it is, after all, a prototype. The number of individual components would be reduced in a commercial timber workshop.
My scientific and research background lead me to these unique design solutions and I look forward to discussion and debate on the merits of each and am excited that I will soon have bees field testing.
My solutions are not public domain and I reserve all rights to my designs and intellectual property as far as they can be protected by law.
If someone builds a similar hive using my design solutions for non-commercial personal use, all I ask is that you reference me as the solution provider and send me some pics.
If someone, including Flow, wishes to commercialise my design solutions, I am happy to chat and discuss some form of recompense for use of my intellectual property
I have identified and implemented unique design solutions to the previously unresolved issue of the co-existence of Langstroth frames and flow frames. My unique solutions allow a horizontal hive to be managed as per traditional methods without compromise. The front viewing window has debatable benefit, however, the side and rear viewing windows allow for limited management of the hive without disturbing the bees.
I look forward to comments and future reports, once the bees have been introduced.