Does a Multi-hive Style Apiary Make for a Tired Beekeeper?

Does incorporating Alternative style Top Bar and Warre hives into a Langstroth hive apiary make one a better beekeeper? It does make for a lot more work! 3 different hardware styles, none of the parts are interchangeable. The reason and purpose why the 3 hives were developed are different with 3 different management styles. But- keeping a multi-style hive apiary can’t help but hone a keeper’s skills. Working with the bees under different conditions, using different methods of management in different hives does make one a more aware, skilled, and tired keeper. Keeping bees in 3 different style hives at the same time can be used as a measurement of skill but may also be used as a measurement of sanity :-). One important fact I learned is that each hive style was developed with different reasons, purposes and expectations in mind. Each requires a different management style. Learning the technical side of managing 3 different styles will expand a keeper’s knowledge and patience. The bees in Alternative hives are given more “free rein” to do what they want. Managing bees under those conditions does require a bit of patience. My often used description of this “free rein” management style is- “Bees don’t read the instructions” Briefly, here are descriptions of the 3 hives of a multi-hive style apiary.

Rev. Lorenzo Lorraine Langstroth developed the Langstroth hive in 1852. He saw honey as a resource and the honey bee colonies as little natural industrialized societies that, with the proper habitat or “factory”, could produce a large amount of products for humans. He saw the bee colony as an industrial factory and the apiary as an industrial complex. His hive and management focused on a maximum production concept. This hive has different size boxes and frames and can be managed by the frame and box.

Abbe’ Emile Warre developed his hive and management in the early 1900's attempting to incorporate a happy medium of the bee’s natural world and mankind’s desire for products from the hive. Emile called his hive The People’s Hive and it is managed vertically and although it can be managed by a bar at a time it is easier to work the hive by the box. Of these 3 hives it requires the least management and hive products are less then the Langstroth.

The Top Bar hive has the “deepest” past with versions of it being mentioned as far back as ancient Egypt. During an era of skeps, clay tubes, and hollow logs, versions of top bar styles began to appear as methods of managing hives without struggling with fixed combs. Credit for the present day Kenyan Top Bar hive seems to go to Dr. Maurice Smith of Canada who developed today’s sloped sided version of the hive in the early 1970's. This hive is managed horizontally, in a single box, and by a single bar at a time. As with the Warre, produces less hive products then the Langstroth.
The most important thing I learned that is the most valuable for me to realize and the greatest benefit to the bees. “One can not assume that the health of a colony can be guaranteed based solely on the style of hive they are kept in.” Choosing any particular style of hive didn’t grant me a freedom from management as in “hands free”. Each hive style presents a different style of management. Alternative hives may require less management but it is less management in relation to maximizing hive production. For many reasons in today’s beekeeping, all hive styles require a vigilant management for colony health.

It’s all about the bees


Hives of Cedar

Does it make a difference what you build your hives out of? Depends on who you ask and the answer will depend on why and how they keep bees. It is generally accepted that commercial hives serve a different purpose then Alternative hives.

The wood and other materials used to construct commercial hives are excellent for the purpose they serve. Many times a keeper wants to make the hive itself- a symbol of statement. Neat rows of bright white Lang hives have a beauty showing a pride of ownership. Some keepers of Lang hives make their hives yard art by decoratively painting them with bright colors and designs. The bee hive can be a piece of art that just happens to house honey bees.
Western Red Cedar hives are very attractive in the Alternative beekeeping circles. They do make an attractive piece of yard art that houses bees. A hive of any style made of Western Red Cedar has a natural level of unique aesthetic beauty. The wood has the quality of not being uniform in appearance. Every piece of cedar will have a different design of color, grain, and knot pattern. When I build with it, I organize the pieces of wood out on the work bench. I will move them around, turn them over, study the wood, looking to maximize that uniqueness. I make a deliberate effort to accent the beauty of the wood. Then build it into the bee homes I am making. When I build hives for other keepers I guarantee them their hive will be “one of a kind”.
Western Red Cedar is more then just a beautiful wood to look at. It has several physical qualities making it an excellent material to make bee homes with. Cedar is a wood with a very low density. Low density means a high proportion of air spaces, which makes Cedar the best thermal insulator of all our common building wood. It has a 1 ½ to 2 times better insulating value then other woods. A hive with a higher insulated value assists the bees in managing the warming and cooling duties preformed by the bees in the hive. A low density also makes Cedar more dimensionally stable, shrinking and swelling less in a wet climate. That’s not to say that it doesn’t shrink or swell at all, it just doesn’t do it as much as other woods. Another property of Cedar that makes it a good hive building material is that it is hygroscopic. Meaning that the wood will absorb and expel moisture trying to balance with its surrounding environment. When I talk about this I say, “Cedar can breath”.
The natural preservative properties in Cedar wood means it can also absorb high levels of moisture without developing mold and fungus growth. Being hygroscopic and resistant to mold and fungus is a good quality to have inside a bee hive because of the high levels of humidity and condensation the bees can produce.

One thing I did find out, well I should say, I could not find- Evidence that building a hive out of Cedar will deter Wax moths. The Cedar wood appears to not have any properties that has any effect on any of the pest and diseases that affect honey bees. In my mind it would stand to reason that if there were substances in Cedar wood irritating or harmful to other insects it would have an adverse affect on the bees. Through it does make for lively debate in the social media beekeeping sites, I can not find any scientific study or verifiable evidence showing any adverse effects on bees kept in cedar hives.

My experience building and using Cedar hives is that they do take bee housing to different level for both the keeper and the bees. Personally I refer to Cedar hives as “Bee Homes”.

It’s all about the bees,


Hive of the Year – 2015

It’s harvest season, and it’s time to update your records, spiff up your hives, and prepare for the First Annual Hive of the Year Contest!

Win Big! Prizes for Oldest Hive - Most Productive Hive - Prettiest Hive

Entries must be submitted by October Bee Club meeting.

Winners announced and prizes given at November meeting.

Press Release : Thurston County Now More Bee-friendly with Community Involvement

PDF Pollinator Event Press Release

Thurston County Now More Bee-friendly with Community Involvement

Pollinator Garden dedication and multi-jurisdictional pesticide ban celebration, June 24

OLYMPIA - There’s some good news for bees in Thurston County – our community is coming
together in a big way to make sure our lands are pollinator approved! On Wednesday, June 24,
join the Thurston County Bee Team, the Olympia Bee Keepers Association, and our partners at
the Panorama retirement community for a celebration of all of the work being done to help save
these fragile creatures.

The celebration will be held at Panorama’s new Pollinator Garden, a chemical-free bee and
butterfly safe haven. Planting pollinator friendly plants is the first step that all of us can take
towards helping bees make a comeback. If you want to start a garden of your own the Thurston
County Bee Team will be unveiling their new sign, designed by local artist Nikki McClure, to
designate pollinator-friendly gardens and lawns. The sign represents the community awareness
and action campaign to encourage healthy garden and lawn practices to increase forage for bees
and other pollinators.

In addition to the garden dedication, recognition will be given to Olympia, Tumwater, the LOTT
Clean Water Alliance, and the Nisqually Land Trust, who all signed a Thurston County
Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) banning the use of neonicotinoid pesticides on their
properties. Neonicotinoids are a group of systemic chemicals that make pollen and nectar
poisonous to bees and are a key factor in the decline of bees. The MOU protects almost 13,000
acres of land throughout our community from these harmful substances.

What: Garden Dedication & Community Celebration for Pollinator Health

When: Wednesday, June 24, 5:30pm

Where: Panorama Pollinator Garden, parking at 1600 Sleater Kinney Rd SE, Lacey, WA 98503.
A shuttle will be available to take guests to the site.

Olympia Airport Honey Bee Project

This is a collaboration of the Port of Olympia and the Olympia Beekeepers Association.

OBA members Jim Martin and Roy Manicke raised the possibility of installing bees at the Olympia Airport. After some investigation, a meeting was set up with Rudy Rudolph, Airport Director. Rudy took the proposal to the Port Commissioners and the Airport Bee Team was off and running. Rudy met with Laurie to show her around potential airport sites to set up the airport apiary. The very last site was the clear winner, with a fence, treeline, stand of blackberries and easy access for tending the hive. The Airport Bee Team met to strategize preparations, set up, installation and follow up and to report back to Rudy the working plan including an ongoing communications structure so the airport knows when a beekeeper will be on site.

On the morning of May 6th, 2 nucleus hives were secured and installed into 10 frame boxes set up at the airport. The team also set up a water station for the bees. Installation went smoothly and the Olympia Airport's Lorie Watson joined Roy, Jim and Laurie for the installation.

Subsequent visits have been made to ensure their feeder was filled and to assess the status of both hives. Currently, the "north" hive has an edge over the "south", actively filling the frames in the second deep box that was added on May 17th along with replacing the migratory covers with new telescoping covers.

On May 26th, Laurie attended the Port of Olympia Commissioner's meeting along with Rudy to talk about the project and thank the Commissioners for their support. A sign will be installed at the airport at the apiary site designating the project and collaboration.

While honey bees at airports is not a new phenomenon, the Olympia Airport apiary represents an environmentally sound and beneficial use of the large, open green spaces at airports. The first airport bees were installed in Hamberg, Germany in 1999. Since then, Munich, Dusseldorf and other German city airports have followed suit as has, Sweden, Copenhagen, Chicago O'Hare, Sea-Tac, Lambert St. Louis and Montreal-Mirabel. Not only does it bring a fabulous use to tracts of airport land that cannot be used for other endeavors, it brings a greater awareness of bees to a wider audience.

We'll be posting updates from the Airport apiary on this page so please check back often!

The OBA is thrilled to be working with the airport on this project.


Airport Bee Team includes: Roy Manicke, Jim Martin, Frank Scolaro and Bruce Longmire

Laurie Pyne, OBA President, attended the Port of Olympia Commissioner's meeting on May 26th to thank the Commissioners for their support of the program. Rudy Rudolph, airport director presented several pictures from the installation. They are excited, interested and looking forward to reading updates on our website.

The Port posted a story on their blog about the project. Here is the link to the press release/post: