As many beekeepers know, the uses of having a beehive on your farm are plentiful. Honey has numerous health benefits, in addition to being a delicious natural sweetener. The wax can be used for a countless number of things around the home, including candles and beauty products. My partner and I decided to become beekeepers to harvest the honey in hopes of alleviating our seasonal allergies after moving to rural eastern Oregon, where grasses and hay are vastly abundant.
After extensive research, we modeled our hive after the hives of northern Europe. Maintaining beehives is still a very active practice for farmers in countries in Scandinavia, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, and Germany. Scandinavian “bee hotels” designs make harvesting the wax and honey simpler than the traditional boxes that we see in the United States. In Europe, the design looks similar to a small cottage but is designed that way only for aesthetics. The boxes typically sit on a pillar and are raised from the ground by about three feet.
I built mine into a closed section of my garage in hopes of protecting the hive from low winter temperatures later in the year. The hive’s housing unit is split into three sections on either side on the box. The backside of the hive is stationary. It has small openings for the bees to enter and exit the brood box from. Luckily, the backside of my garage is south facing, which most beekeepers find to be beneficial for their hives. Following traditional European design, the hive entrance openings are painted a variety of bright colors to attract the bees to the hive, much like they are drawn to vibrant flowers.
Benefits and downfalls of the design
The front of the box opens up to a screened-in hive so that it’s easy to see the bees working, check on the overall hive health, and feed them by spraying sugar water on the screen in the winter time. In addition, we added a feeding tray at the base of each door that we installed upside-down water bottles into. The screen serves a great protectant so you do not have to get fully suited up each time you want to tend to your hive.
To harvest honey and wax you will still want to wear a beekeeping suit to protect yourself from getting stung. It is easy to slide out one of the three frames on either side of the hive and replace it with a new one. It is important to move fast if you are wanting to avoid prolonged interactions with the bees. Also to avoid the introduction of pests, since removing the frames creates an opening in the screen. This is one downfall of the design. I have decided to go with foundationless screens to allow for my bees to create their own brood comb.
Wonders of winter
This design has proven to be successful for an alpine environment as it protects the bees from the extreme temperatures of winter. Our ranch is located at 5,000 feet in elevation and sees temperatures as low as 20 degrees Fahrenheit in the month of January. Evaluate your own property to assess the needs of your bee colony. It will aid in your decision of what design will provide the best environment for your queen and her workers.