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  • Henrik, from Sweden, writes with the following questions:
    Hello!

    First of all, thank you for a very informative website about the bienenkiste!

    I live in the "middle" of Sweden and I'm planning on building two bienenkiste this spring.
    Right now I have a few Top-Bar hives, and I'm also building two Sun Hives.

    Before I start building the bienenkiste I have few questions which I hope you can answer.

    1. From your point of view, are there any modifications I should do to the original design (and measurements)
    because of the colder climate in Sweden? I'm specifically thinking about increasing the 210 mm height
    measurement so that the bees may be able to put more honey "above their heads" as an insulator.
    Is this something you think is necessary? This is something we have seen is beneficial in the Top-bar hives.

    2. I was thinking of building the bienenkiste with a removable top/lid and managing the hive a bit like a regular Top-bar hive. What is the big benefit with opening the box from underneath? Have you tried building it with a removable top/lid?

    Thank you for your time and effort in this project! I haven't seen any bienenkiste in Sweden but maybe soon smiley

    Best regards
    , [Hinweis: KMP hat den Beitrag zuletzt am vor 2 Jahren, 11 Monaten geändert.]
      Kevin M. Pfeiffer - Berlin (Mitglied, Imkerverein Kreuzberg e.V.) - Imkerbuch - Stockwaage - Visitenkarte
    • Dear Henrik,

      Thank you for your inquiry. I hope you do not mind my anonymous reposting of your questions here in the Forum so that others may benefit and/or contribute additional answers.

      1. From your point of view, are there any modifications I should do to the original design (and measurements)
      because of the colder climate in Sweden? I'm specifically thinking about increasing the 210 mm height
      measurement so that the bees may be able to put more honey "above their heads" as an insulator.
      Is this something you think is necessary? This is something we have seen is beneficial in the Top-bar hives.

      Increasing the height is not advisable, because it increases the risk of comb breaking. In the Bienenkiste, as in other horizontal hives, honey reserves are largely stored at the rear, behind the broodnest. It is recommended that in the coldest part of the winter (from mid-January until early spring, when the new brood nest is getting started) that an insulating blanket or pillow be placed across the top of the hive; this precautionary measure is in part due to the large horizontal surface area (greater heat loss). In your case I would definitely do this, something with a good insulating factor, between "roof" and hive; I would probably also extend the blanket to hang over both long sides of the hive to increase the overall insulating ("R") factor of the hive in winter. As far as other measures, you will have to consider how beekeepers in your region handle other hives to get them through the winter.

      In your situation, I would also want to have accurate weight measurements so that you can check for sufficient reserves in late winter or early spring (now).

      2. I was thinking of building the bienenkiste with a removable top/lid and managing the hive a bit like a regular Top-bar hive. What is the big benefit with opening the box from underneath? Have you tried building it with a removable top/lid?

      "Managing" is the key word here. The Bienenkiste is not intended to be used as a manageable hive in the modern sense of removable frames. Quite the contrary, in the Bienenkiste the colony's brood nest remains intact and undisturbed; the beekeeper does not add, remove or re-arrange frames (with rare exceptions -- it is possible to remove frames, but generally not necessary).

      Of course, a certain degree of supervision on the part of the beekeeper is still possible and necessary (not the least attention to the Varroa problem). This is why we work the Bienenkiste "from the bottom". It allows us the best possible inspection access to the colony (presence of brood, swarm cells, etc.) without pulling frames.

      We do, however, harvest the honey frames from the honey room -- essentially an attached super at the rear of the hive; this same compartment also serves for varroa treatments and for feeding.

      So, to more specifically address your last question, a removable top would not only make for a very unstable box (the bottom is already removable). It would also serve no purpose within the Bienenkiste concept -- you would be better off staying with a fully managed frame hive such as the top bar.

      I hope that answers your questions, at least in part.

      Best wishes,

      Kevin Pfeiffer [Hinweis: KMP hat den Beitrag zuletzt am vor 3 Jahren geändert.]
        Kevin M. Pfeiffer - Berlin (Mitglied, Imkerverein Kreuzberg e.V.) - Imkerbuch - Stockwaage - Visitenkarte


      • "Managing" is the key word here. The Bienenkiste is not intended to be used as a manageable hive in the modern sense of removable frames. Quite the contrary, in the Bienenkiste the colony's brood nest remains intact and undisturbed; the beekeeper does not add, remove or re-arrange frames (with rare exceptions -- it is possible to remove frames, but generally not necessary).

        Of course, a certain degree of supervision on the part of the beekeeper is still possible and necessary (not the least attention to the Varroa problem). This is why we work the Bienenkiste "from the bottom". It allows us the best possible inspection access to the colony (presence of brood, swarm cells, etc.) without pulling frames."


        Ok, managing was maybe not the best choice of word. I'll try to explain why I was interested in opening the box from above:

        From experience with swarms in top-bar hives (at least in my area) they usually build out about an equivalent of 1/3 of the total volume of the Bienenkiste in the first season. So, from the same perspective as my other question, namely heat loss and the colder climate in Sweden, there's going to be at least 1/3 of the hive empty (if you're using the divider in the back of the hive). That's dead volume for the bees to heat up. My plan then was to add a divider (kind of the dividers you would find in top bars) which would "cut off" the empty space against the divider in the back of the hive and the colony. If one wanted, one could add insulation at the "outside" of the divider as well. The divider (at least in my head) is more easily moved from above - that was the reason for my question. There is no need to disturb the brood nest when moving the divider (at least in theory...).

        The whole reason for thinking in these terms was this article which I found quite interesting:
        https://oxnatbees.wordpress.com/2015/01/25/warm-hives/

        Well, just some thoughts... smiley

        I have read a large part of the material on the Binenkiste website through Google translate but there are a few things I'm still a little unsure about:

        Do you somehow manage potential cross-combing in any way or do you leave that 2/3 of the hive completely as the bees wants it?
        Are there any wax renewal, as for example when the colony swarms?

        Best regards and thank you!

        /Henrik

        • HenrikZ schrieb am 24.03.2016, 21:21
          My plan then was to add a divider (kind of the dividers you would find in top bars) which would "cut off" the empty space against the divider in the back of the hive and the colony.

          I don't know how you would do this without making major modifications. In any event I doubt that this air space is much of a problem. Beekeepers here have a saying that in winter the bees don't warm the space, they warm the colony. True some convection could occur and thus draw away warmth, but otherwise the (preferably dead) air should simply provide add'l. insulation. (In my apartment, the closer I am to the outside walls in winter, the cooler I feel.)

          The whole reason for thinking in these terms was this article which I found quite interesting:
          https://oxnatbees.wordpress.com/2015/01/25/warm-hives/

          Food for thought, especially in cold climates, regarding hive wall thickness and winter insulation. But in the wintertime, the amount of brood in the hive is minimal (at least initially), so temp. and humidity effects on varroa breeding in the brood cells would also likely be minimal (no bee brood = no varroa brood).

          Do you somehow manage potential cross-combing in any way or do you leave that 2/3 of the hive completely as the bees wants it?

          Are there any wax renewal, as for example when the colony swarms?

          Yes, cross-combing can be corrected/removed if caught early enough. But its presence is generally not a real hindrance, I suspect. Yes, comb renewal can be done when a colony swarms. But the opinion among many of those who have worked with the Bienenkiste for sometime is that in the sense of "the bees know what they are doing" dark comb is not the concern that many beekeepers seem to think.

          Regarding your temperatures, I would not build with walls less than 25 mm, and as already mentioned, would think about how I might best blanket the top and two long sides of the hive. I would also probably narrow down the hive entrance in winter to something under half the width. Just my own thoughts. Let us know what works for you, if you get that far with the Bienenkiste.

          Best wishes,

          Kevin
            Kevin M. Pfeiffer - Berlin (Mitglied, Imkerverein Kreuzberg e.V.) - Imkerbuch - Stockwaage - Visitenkarte
          • Hi!

            In case someone is interested, here is a few photos
            of the modified hive:

            http://www.lo-fi.se/2016/05/11/bienenkiste/

            I will build a few in the original design as well.

            The wall thickness is 27 mm, it is possible to insulate the
            sides a bit. I would probably extend the lid/roof down an extra
            100 mm over the sides if I was to do it again.

            And of course, it is just an experiment, it is not to build
            yet another TBH.
            • On your Web site you quote something called the Natural Beekeeping Trust:"...chemically supported beekeeping largely relies on exploiting the bee superorganism’s tremendous plasticity – the very quality that has made possible the specie’s survival over millennia. Yet all plasticity has its limits and those of the bee have been reached and surpassed, as reflected in the bees’ dismal situation today."

              I see no basis in fact here. First, what is "chemically supported beekeeping"? Everything you, I and the bees come into contact with is "chemical".

              And who says that the organism has reached the limits of its plasticity? The problems of the honey bee in Europe* (and it's only really the honey bee that anyone ever seems to want to talk about) are: rural availability of uninterrupted sources of nectar and pollen (keyword: the problem of monoculture) and the Varroa mite (a relatively recently imported parasite that transmits various diseases to its new host). That and the advancing average age of the beekeeper. Not to mention the unknowing willingness of the public to buy honey from... God knows where.

              -Kevin

              * Addendum --- Sorry, I just realized this morning that I did indeed overlook one other substantial problem: pesticide toxicity, in particular the sublethal toxicity and cumulative/chronic effects of pesticides such as the neonicotinoids. Here the evidence seems to be mounting that this particular "chemistry" (chemically supported agriculture, if you will), though developed to replace much more toxic substances (that needed to be applied much more frequently), is causing harm in subtle ways. [Hinweis: KMP hat den Beitrag zuletzt am vor 2 Jahren, 11 Monaten geändert.]
                Kevin M. Pfeiffer - Berlin (Mitglied, Imkerverein Kreuzberg e.V.) - Imkerbuch - Stockwaage - Visitenkarte
              • HenrikZ schrieb am 12.05.2016, 15:48
                In case someone is interested, here is a few photos
                of the modified hive

                The bottom board is now fixed? So the only access to the combs is by pulling the top bars? I would call that a (heavy) top-bar hive that looks like a Bienenkiste. Have you tried it out, yet?

                -Kevin
                  Kevin M. Pfeiffer - Berlin (Mitglied, Imkerverein Kreuzberg e.V.) - Imkerbuch - Stockwaage - Visitenkarte