There is a conversation on the BBKA Facebook group about TBHs and somebody suggested having a TBH with frames! This is, of course, a contradiction in terms but I have been giving a little thought to it and have dreamed up (nothing on paper) a design that might give the best of both worlds. Robin Dartington is way ahead on this as my design is similar in some ways to his long deep hive; however, his design has some disadvantages which the TBH doesn’t so I’m trying to combine ideas.
It should be cheap and easy to build, from pallet or ply wood, a long hive to take standard National frames. I think the deep ones are too deep for convenience. One of the advantages of the TBH is abutting top bars which don’t let all the light in and bees and warm air out when the hive is opened. It would be difficult to design and make frames with wide top bars but the same effect could be achieved by having a couple of opaque cover cloths on rollers: one would stay permanently in place while the other would be unrolled from the working end to cover gaps as the permanent one is rolled back a frame at a time for inspection. There could well be a harvestable crop of propolis to be gleaned from the permanent one.
One of the disadvantages of the National is the unnecessary convention of using foundation. This causes unnecessary stress to the bees and may well introduce chemicals best left out. In America, Jennifer Berry searched in vain for contaminant-free foundation. I haven’t bought any in years but I still have a small stock of thin foundation which I cut for starter strips when necessary. When renewing old comb, I just cut out all the comb that has been bred in, leaving a footprint around the perimeter of the frame to guide the bees in rebuilding. The brood pattern when they do so has to be seen to be believed!
One problem with foundation is that all the cell imprints are in a standard size. Bees don’t work in standard sizes! Generally, if left to do their own thing, they have larger cells towards the perimeter of each comb and smaller towards the centre. Also, with the entrance at one end, they build larger cells at the front and rear of the hive and smaller in the centre.
My imagined design would have a mesh floor set 2″ above a solid floor with a tray that can be withdrawn for varroa and floor debris examination to do the check for hygienic behaviour that Ron Hoskins promotes. Why 2″? Jeff Pettis in the USA experimented with various depths twixt mesh and floor. With a half inch gap, all the living mites that dropped through found their way back upstairs again. With a 2″ gap none did, with a range of success between those extremes.
I would also have a moveable division board and a closable rear entrance to enable nucleus production/ swarm reduction in the same hive.
That’s the idea so far: I don’t expect to build it this year as I have too many other things to do. Life’s so busy when you’re retired!
What do YOU think of the idea? Anything to add or alter?