Several years ago, after being blessed with grandchildren in my later years and wanting to share some of my childhood experiences and memories with all the environmental issues brought to light in the last few decades, I did a little research and decided to take up beekeeping. Buying the most common and up-to-date equipment available and joining a local bee club, I made a leap into my first and adventurous year of beekeeping. Trying to keep up with the grandkids and staying as active as possible and with no major issues, I’d say the first year was a successful one.
I entered the second season of beekeeping with a strong and healthy colony and a little more knowledge. With mother nature cooperating and a little bit of luck, the colony began to expand and produce surplus honey (as they are genetically programmed to do).
But beekeeping requires routine inspections and management techniques to maintain hive health, and part of that process includes removing honey supers that can weigh thirty pounds or more just to gain access to the brood. With flare-ups from back surgery a few years earlier, I found it very difficult to carry out these tasks.
After a bit of research, I found out that current beekeeping hives were designed more than 150 years ago (and with the commercial beekeeper in mind). There have been few recent improvements for the backyard beekeeper and hobbyist. Wanting to make the brood area more accessible without the heavy lifting and a dismantled hive, I designed and built my first rotatable beehive using standard frames that are readily available on the market.
The colony survived through the first winter, and indeed, I even observed colony growth. I implemented some new management techniques and began to improve on the original design. With success and encouragement from fellow beekeepers, I was determined to patent and to continue improvements on my rotatable beehives.
Now, with nearly four years of thought and operation (and feedback) from fellow beekeepers, I have a marketable design. This design eliminates issues faced by many older or physically challenged beekeepers with a more natural design for a colony.
The design consists of a sturdy metal stand that supports the hive. It allows ventilation around the entire hive, thus increasing the life of the hive itself. It holds standard, deep, and medium frames in vertical position while bees are carrying out daily activities.
With the simple pull of a pin, the hive can be manually rotated 90 degrees in one direction for brood accessibility or rotated 90 degrees in other direction to access honey chambers with minimum effort. The hive is rotated at a workable height that requires only minimum bending.
Much of my design was inspired by a book published by Dadant about the history of methods and frame designs used in nearly two centuries of beekeeping.
The rotatable hive has proven trial-runs yielding more honey production and overall colony health, in part because it uses a larger brood frame. This frame allows the queen to lay more eggs without having to stop laying and relocate to the next available frame. The design of Dadant’s jumbo frame was better than original frames, but a brood box weighing more than 100 pounds was just not marketable.
With that thought in mind as well as thinking through the way a natural comb develops in a tree cavity, I altered the design of the standard four brood frames to nearly 38 inches in length for the center brood area of the hive. When the rotatable hive is standing in vertical position, it mimics the natural cavity of a tree, and gives the queen more area to lay without relocating.
Then, all you have to do is rotate the hive 90 degrees to access the brood frames, each which weigh only about twelve pounds each, and can easily be removed for inspections with minimum disturbance to the bee colony. This is my Appalachian Rotatable Beehive!