Hive building for natural species-appropriate beekeeping

Properties of the natural housing of honeybees

Species-appropriate hives should show the essential characteristics of natural tree hollows, which serve the state-forming honey bee for 40 million years as housing. In the process of evolution, the behaviour of bees has adapted perfectly to the characteristics of such cavities.

We know the physical properties of tree cavities: They have excellent thermal insulation, which in my opinion plays a major role. Furthermore, there is no significant natural ventilation and water vapour diffusion plays no role due to the large wall thicknesses (at least not for the removal of moisture to the outside). Thanks to Tom Seeley and Roger Morse (The Nest Of The Honey Bee), we know the geometry of the tree cavities used for bee nests.

Realization of the properties of the tree hollow in hive construction

Of course we do not have to implement all properties 1:1 in hive construction. In order to still be able to handle the hives we have to make compromises. For example, we can do without hanging them in the trees at a height of 10m. The preference of the honey bee for such altitudes might be owed primarily to the protection from robbers. The beekeeper can also achieve this protection in a more practical way. Also we do not have to hold the bees compellingly in massive log hives. We can achieve the effectiveness of such massive wooden walls also more handy.

Criteria for a species-appropriate bee hive

The most important criterion for me for a species-appropriate bee hive is a good thermal insulation. Especially because the problem of high humidity in modern hive systems is the result of inadequate thermal insulation. There is a high air humidity and condensation water in the lower areas of the cavities, but not in the sensitive areas of the honeycomb construction (brood and honeycomb). If there is little or no external insulation, condensation will already occur in the honeycomb structure. And exactly this I consider problematic for the bees.

In my opinion, a species-appropriate bee hive should have the following criteria:

  • side walls and lid with insulation (ideal because of their sorption ability: hemp insulation wool or sheep wool)
  • no using of frames
  • closed bottom
  • use of natural materials
  • one entrance tunnel in the lower area
  • only one brood chamber
  • slim geometry

Current constructions

Diffusion lid

Tree-hive

Tom´s Tree

Gruibert hive