8 January 2015

The Short Answer (TSA)

Located in the mythical land of Asgard, the great Valhalla beehive is ruled by the queen bee goddess “Odinana.” From this great hive, giant valkyrie worker bees fly out to collect and gather those bees who have “died while pollinating.” – if those fallen bees have, of course, died with “their stingers on” . . .

Wait a minute! Hold on! I got carried away. That’s not what a Valhalla beehive is at all.

Designed by Naomi Price and built by Richard Nichols of Prineville, Oregon, the Valhalla hive is a type of long box hive with standard slide-out frames (instead of top bars designed for free-hanging combs). Price’s design was specially developed for (1) the needs of the bees and (2) the needs of the beekeeper.

(1) To accommodate the natural requirements of the bees, Price drew on her own experience together with all the written references she could find about honeybee behavior including foraging, brood rearing, food storage, pests, seasonal requirements, the effects of local weather. Then, she went on to study histories of beehive design.

The Valhalla hive uses 24” deep Langstroth frames. Price has found that the long box hive design is unlikely to allow disturbances from wind or predators. This hive has a single 3/8 in. opening which admits bees without allowing mice to get into the hive. A slanted roof protects against hard rains and provides an internal area for materials to control moisture and insulate the hive.

(2) But the Valhalla hive does more than accommodate a generic beekeeper.
The Valhalla hive is about accessibility. Price, a paraplegic, has spent years working with various agencies surveying sites for accessibility under the Americans With Disabilities Act. With this knowledge and experience, Price designed the Valhalla hive to give her the freedom to keep her bees without the need for assistance from others.

The Valhalla hive’s roof does not have to be removed for inspections. The roof is hinged so that it can just be opened and is equipped with a side latch hold the raised roof open during inspection. For further examination convenience, this hive has a viewing window that can be opened or closed. The height to which the long box rises from the ground can be adjusted to accommodate the needs of the beekeeper as well.

There seems to be a quiet revolution in beehive design with more emphasis on both the natural behaviors of the bees, themselves, together with consideration for the health, safety, and well-being of the beekeeper.

The Dartington beehive, for example, is specifically standardized with components whose individual weights never exceed U.K. health and safety recommendation. Many new hives are specifically adopting modular designs that assure that hives can be broken down into parts – each of which fall within certain weight limits.

But the Valhalla hive has crossed yet another frontier. This hive suggests a new class of hive designs with development aimed at accommodating the needs of more specific classes of beekeepers.

Mark Grossmann of Hazelwood, Missouri & Belleville, Illinois
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HIVE: What is a Beehive?

5 June 2014

The Short Answer (TSA)

            The familiar beehive is a home for honeybees. Actually, the “hive” is a rather complex structure built by bees of the subspecies Apis mellifera — commonly known as honeybees.

The hive is a completely enclosed structure naturally built and maintained by a whole colony of honeybees. The honeybees build honeycombs in their hives. Honeycombs are made of a wax – logically — called “beeswax.”

A honeycomb is series of six sided cells that serve several purposes. The colony’s “brood” (young honeybees) are raised and nurtured in cells, Also, the colony’s food, both pollen and honey, are stored in the cells of a honeycomb.

Honeybees build natural hives in natural enclosures – such as hollowed out trees. But artificial, man-made beehives are used by professional beekeepers. Unlike natural hives, these man-made hives are designed for several special purposes.

Artificial hives may have removable frames in which the bees will build honeycombs. Removal of the combs allow beekeepers to gather honey with little disturbance to the bees or the hive. Also, artificial hives can be mobile. A major part of the beekeeping industry involves transporting bees to different locations, at certain times of the year, to pollinate agricultural crops. Without pollination, this year’s crop would produce no seed. And, without seed, there would be no “next year’s” crop.

If you live in the western world, you are unlikely to meet the other hive-building honeybee. Although of the same species “Apis” as the western (mellifera) honeybee, the eastern (cerana) honeybee also builds hives. The eastern honeybees (Apis cerana) are found in Asia, particularly, China, Pakistan, India, Korea, Japan, and Malaysia.

Other bees, such as bumblebees and carpenter bees, are members of species “xylocopa.” These bees build nests rather than hives. While the honeybee’s hive may last for years, the carpenter and bumble bees’ nests will last only for a single year before being abandoned. The following year, these nesting bees will build a new nest from scratch in a new location. Unlike hives, nests have no combs and support a much smaller bee population.

The most popular man-made hive in use today was patented by Lorenzo Langstroth in 1860. The “Langstroth hive” has a lid so it can be opened from the top. Inside are number of frames for honeycombs that slide easily out of the hive making honey gathering easier, less disruptive, and safer for beekeepers.

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