HIVE: What is a “Beehaus Hive”?

30 October 2014

The Short Answer (TSA)

The Beehaus is both a brand of beehive and a type of beehive.   The Beehaus is so closely patterned after the Dartington beehive that few consider it a new design. But, developed by the British company, Omlet, the Beehaus is probably one of the first “full service” mass produced beehive tailored to the amateur urban beekeeper.

See: What is a “Dartington Beehive”?

The Beehaus incorporates all of the features and advantages of the Dartington beehive, but adds some especially convenient features to make, at least, the beehive part of beekeeping much easier for the urban amateur.

Made of plastic, instead of the traditional wood, the Beehaus is even lighter than the Dartington hive. This is quite an achievement when you understand that the Dartington’s modular design was intended to assure lightweight components to make the lifting involved in its assembly and movement as easy on the owner’s back as possible. Even with the lighter weight, the Beehaus adds a double-wall insulation system to help keep the hive temperature above freezing in the winter.

The U.K.-based Omlet gained fame when it marketed the first chicken-rearing coup for urban dwellers. The “Eglu” coop, like the Beehaus, is plastic and was designed to make keeping chickens more manageable – even convenient – for urban dwellers.

One of the most noticeable innovations of the Beehaus is its appearance. Although modern commercial and popular amateur hives aren’t exactly unattractive, they’ve always been designed with functional efficiency in mind.   An attractive appearance was a . . . secondary consideration.

Not only is the Beehaus designed and marketed to be an attractive addition to the urban dweller’s yard, balcony, or rooftop, but it comes is a variety of colors.

Omlet’s Beehaus


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HIVE: What is a “Dartington Hive”?

23 October 2014

The Short Answer (TSA)

            The relatively new, Dartington Hive was designed in 1975 by engineer Robin Dartington as an ideal hive for beekeeping on the roof of his London home. The Dartington is not a commercial hive, but was created to combine the most ideal design features for honey production with the most ideal design features for the convenience, health and comfort of the non-commercial beekeeper.

The Dartington has a large brood box (or area in which the queen bee lays her eggs and the young bees are nurtured). This allows the bee population to grow with little restriction. The idea of more bees seems like a good one. After all, the more bees, the more honey – right?   But sudden population increases cause “swarming” – a queen bee will leave the hive with a large number of worker bees to create a new, separate colony – in a new, wild hive.

One of the Dartington’s most remarkable design features turns even the bees’ urge to swarm to the keeper’s advantage. The hive is built to allow the use of a division board that can be inserted into the body of the hive – dividing it into two separate areas. With the careful use of an extra honey box, a new queen can be introduced to the “new” and “separate” colony created by the division board. The bees are, more or less, fooled into believing that they’re in a new hive with a new queen. In other words, the bees believe they’ve already swarmed!

The Dartington hive is also unique for its attention to the comfort and health of, not just the bees, but the beekeeper. The Dartington has a stand that raises the hive to waist height – the ideal level to allow the beekeeper to comfortably inspect their hive. The hive is divided into modules of sizes that are easy to handle. Most remarkably, each module was carefully designed to weigh no more than 16 pounds – the weight designated by the UK Health & Safety Executive as most safe for the lower back of the beekeeper.

As I read Robin Dartington’s own description of his hive, I was struck by another feature that deserves a bit more attention. Many an amateur beekeeper is delighted when, as their first, they find a beautiful, custom-designed hive.   But, after a few years of easy success – time, wear, and tear – take their toll. A vital part breaks suddenly, unexpectedly, and at the worst possible moment. Then, finding the maker (or another equally skilled craftsman) to hand-tool a replacement is difficult. Even more, the part will, often, prove especially expensive because the replacement is an emergency, which puts the buyer in a poor position to shop for, and negotiate, the best price.

The Dartington hive is designed (and patented) to specifications that allow the use of BS frames. “B. S.” refers to “British Standard” – a set of standard size specifications for hives and hive components adopted in the U.K.  The use of “standard” hives and components by commercial beekeepers allows the manufacture of highly affordable standard hive components. Also, the Dartington’s emphasis on convenient, modular sizes and strict weight limitations on hive components further assure that suitable replacement parts can be found easily and at affordable prices.

The Dartington Hive – Robin Dartington’s PDF

Bee Source: Dartington Long Deep Hive

Bee Source: Q & A about Dartington


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HIVE: What is a “Smith Beehive”?

15 October 2014

The Short Answer (TSA)

            The Smith beehive is extremely popular among Scottish beekeepers.  The B.S. Smith hive was invented by a Scottish beekeeper named Willie Smith.  (The “B. S.” aren’t the inventor’s initials, but stand for “British Standard.”)  I found very little information about Mr. Smith except that he lived in Innerleithen, Peebles.  But if the respect and admiration of one’s fellow beekeepers is any measure of ability, Willie Smith was an amazing man.

williesmith c

But first, a word about beehives.  When you give hives names, you can give the impression that different types of hives are clearly established with clear distinctions.  In fact, hive designs are constantly changing.  Although, from time to time, someone may suddenly produce something completely new, this is the exception and not the rule.  Beehive design has evolved and continues to do so.  But there are different and distinct designs, which have proved particularly valuable to different groups of beekeepers.

Almost all commercial beekeepers use hives with drawers that are precisely measured and fitted to assure that the bees will build one honeycomb within each drawer.  Hives with this drawer design are often called Langstroth hives (after their inventor).  But the drawers are only one feature of a hive.  So, the “British Modified National,” the “Dadant” and “Smith” hives all have Langstroth-style drawers, but each hive is designed differently to suit the needs of different beekeepers.

The single-walled Smith hive is used throughout Scottland.  To me, it looks like a shorter version of the British National.  And its size is its most important feature.

Maybe one of the largest popular hives was designed by Charles Dadant for his bee yards in the Midwestern U. S.  What’s so great about a larger hive?  Well, a larger hive holds more bees.  And more bees mean more honey.  So, why not make beehives even bigger?


Beehives are cooled in the summer and heated in the winter by the bees themselves.  These insects can spend a lot of energy keeping their hive at an even temperature.

Large hives work well in areas of U. S. with relatively moderate winters.  In the UK, winters can be more severe.  So, the British hives are a bit smaller.  This gives the bees less space to heat in the winter.

In Scotland, the winters can be severe.  Not only can bees freeze in excessively low temperatures, but the insects can exhaust themselves expending enough energy to keep an even moderate-sized hive warm.  The Smith hive’s compact size makes the bees’ task of warming the hive in the winter much easier.  This means healthier and better-rested bees in the spring.

The small size, also, has another advantage to Scottish beekeepers.  In Scotland, the bees are kept close to sources of nectar by moving the hives directly to the heather.  This movement keeps the bees’ travel distance low and the available supply of nearby nectar high.  A smaller hive is easy to move.

So, the Smith hive design minimizes the strain on the bees from low temperatures and, also, minimizes the strain on Scottish beekeeper’s backs by making the hives relatively easy to move.


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HIVE: What is the “Dadant Beehive”?

9 October 2014

The Short Answer (TSA)

            I titled this “What is the ‘Dadant Beehive’?”  Or did I mean the “Dadant-Blatt Beehive”?  Or did I mean the “Modified Dadant Beehive”?  Or did I mean the “Langstroth Jumbo Beehive”?  Read on for the answer . . . .

Charles Dadant was born in France, but moved the United States in 1863 to start a vineyard.  When the vineyard failed, he turned, for a living, to a hobby he’d learned in France, beekeeping.

Immensely resourceful, Dadant taught himself English by reading the newspaper and became a salesman selling wares from his new country, the United States, while traveling in his old country, France. Dadant’s bee yard (apiary) grew steadily and continues in operation to this day.

Dadant would go on to found one the first factories manufacturing beekeeping tools.  And, after making extensive contributions to beekeeping journals, he acquired the American Bee Journal, which his family continues to publish today.  He was one of the first to import Italian Bees (our modern honeybee) into the United States.

Dissatisfied with traditional methods of beekeeping, Dadant translated the relatively new work of Lorenzo Langstroth’s The Hive and the Honey-Bee into French and introduced Europe to the innovations the Langstroth hive design.

Lorenzo Langstroth discovered that, by maintaining certain precise measurements among multiple frames and beehive walls, bees could be induced to build individual honeycombs in individual frame drawers.  This allowed beekeepers, for the first time, to remove honeycombs and harvest honey will little or no disruption of, or destruction to, the remaining hive.  The honeybees, freed from the labor of repairing damage from honey harvesting, devoted their efforts to gathering and storing yet more honey more quickly.

Today, most all commercial hives are technically called “Langstroth” hives, in the sense that they use Langstroth’s precise frame/wall measurements to assure removable individual honeycombs.  But these same hives can, and do, differ greatly in other ways providing numerous special advantages to particular beekeepers.

So, next, Dadant turned his attention to developing an ideal beehive for his own bee yard.  Incorporating the Langstroth drawer design and proportions, he used slightly larger frames than those that were, and are, used the common Langstroth design.

These slightly larger frames had been developed by hive-designing pioneer Moses Quinby.  It only seemed practical for Dadant to keep the slightly larger Quinby-sized frames because of the cost of replacing all of his existing frames.  Also, Dadant had recently developed honey-harvesting tools, which were designed to work most effectively with the slightly larger frames.  The larger frames produced a slightly larger (and in some ways) more productive hive for some regions and climates.

So, the Dadant hive was standardized into a slightly larger hive to fit slightly larger Quinby-sized frames and included the precise Langstroth measurements to assure easy honey harvesting.  The final result is called the Dadant-Blatt hive.  Or is it called the Modified Dadant hive?  Or is it called the Langstroth Jumbo hive?  If you guessed all three names describe the same hive, you’re right.

Again, whether it’s called “Dadant-Blatt,” “Modified Dadant,” or “Langstroth Jumbo” it’s the same hive.

Dadant Beekeeping Supplies & American Bee Journal 


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HIVE: What is the “British Modified National Hive”?

(Above) British Modified National Hive from National Bee Supplies

2 October 2014

The Short Answer (TSA) 

            The “British Modified National Hive” is a beehive of standard dimensions used throughout the United Kingdom (UK), today, by commercial and amateur beekeepers alike.  Most nations, in which beekeeping is a significant industry, have standardized the size (dimensions) of commercial hives.

Unfortunately, many excellent, though non-standard, beehive designs, such as the WBC and Top Bar hive, remain most popular with amateurs.  Custom-built hives are unpopular with commercial beekeepers because replacement parts must be hand-made, which can be time consuming and costly.

Most commercial hives are often described as Langstroth beehives patented in 1852 by Lorenzo Langstroth.  But modern hive designs and dimensions vary widely and incorporate many innovations valued by different groups of beekeepers.

The term Langstroth, more properly, refers to a hive that incorporates precisely measured drawers and frames to regulate bee movements within the hive and to assure ease of honeycomb removal.

At the turn of the 19th to the 20th century, the WBC hive was the most popular hive in the UK.  The WBC was named for its inventor, William Broughton Carr.  Although using the Langstroth hive’s precise measurements for drawers and frames, the WBC incorporated other features that made it popular with UK beekeepers.

Ironically, what Carr intended to be its greatest innovation, proved to be its greatest weakness in terms of commercial popularity.  The WBC had an outer shell that was fitted over the basic walled beehive.  This was.intended to insulate the hive from heat in the summer and cold in the winter and produced a dual walled construction,

The insulating effect of the extra wall was only slight, but the extra time and effort required to remove the outer shell made this hive extremely unpopular with commercial beekeepers who like to examine their hives frequently.  Although the WBC disappeared from commercial beekeeping, it is still quite popular with amateur beekeepers both for its performance and, also, for its appearance.

But the WBC lives on, if only indirectly, in UK commercial beekeeping.  By the 1920’s commercial beekeepers were still buying WBC hives – sort of.  That is, they were buying the WBC hive stripped of its outer shell.

The British Ministry of Agriculture selected a single walled version of what had been the WBC hive as the “British National.”  In 1946, the British Standards Institute (BSA) assigned formal dimensions (uniform size specifications) for the British National Beehive.  The BSA, also, described the standard hive as having only a single wall.  Since the new “standard’ beehive eliminated the old option of using a second wall in the form of an outer shell, the BSA renamed the hive the “British Modified National” hive.

In spite of the name changes, Carr’s original WBC design, introduced many of the innovations that distinguish the British Modified Nation Hive from its competitors.  Many of the advantages of the British National are useful for both commercial and amateur beekeepers.  Prominently, this hive can be moved with ease because of its modular design.


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