Lately there has been plenty of buzz over new types of beehives becoming available in the United States. It is no secret that many beekeepers are looking for better ways to keep bees, better ways to ensure the hive’s long-term survival, and better ways to house hives, with improvements to their ergonomic design.. I was excited to learn that a Massachusetts beekeeper has been working for the past couple of years to import one particular hive to the United States that has been used for centuries in the European country of Slovenia.
Mark Simonitsch’s family is from Southern Austria. Following World War I, that part of Austria, known as Carniola became Slovenia. Mark regularly visits his Slovenia relatives. He tells me that to be Slovenian is to be a beekeeper. The Carniolan bee has been indigenous to the area of Slovenia since the last ice age. Mark also shares that one out of every two-hundred and fifty Slovenians keeps bees. This is how Mark became familiar with the Slovenia beehive. Recently, I took a moment to sit down with Mark and chat about the Slovenian beehive that has many promising features to current and new beekeepers alike.
Please tell us about the design of the hive.
The Slovenian (AZ) hive has evolved over hundreds of years. It contains the same components as the Langstroth except it has no honey supers. It also prevents the need for heavy lifting. Eighty-five percent of beekeepers in Slovenia use this hive design.
What features does it have that makes it better, in your opinion, to some of the current hives available in the US?
This hive design eliminates all lifting by the beekeeper. The hive is worked from the rear. The rear door arrangement permits a much less intrusive inspection of the hive allowing access to all parts of the hive easily and immediately. When working the hive from the back, the beekeeper can stand or sit. In the front of the hive, there are two entrances for the bees- one on each level. Inside the hive, there are two levels for the bees with a queen excluder in the middle. This allows the workers to move throughout the entire hive. The spruce made hive even includes a built-in feeder.
Mark describes the hive--The overall construction of the hive is similar to a kitchen cabinet.
Imagine a kitchen cabinet (beehive) mounted inside your house on a wall that has an exterior surface. Now think of two bee entrances through the wall of the house-one for each level. Now picture 20 frames inside the “cabinet” arranged as books on a shelf. While standing or sitting inside your home you can access the “cabinet” rear door and access the frames in either level at the same time. Each level of the interior has a rear screened window. The bees are very oriented to using the front entrances. Therefore, only a small wisp of steady smoke, similar to a lit cigarette, is required at the rear door to deter the bees.
My shift to the Slovenian hive is a solution to a need for a better plan with my increasing age and corresponding physical weakness. Fishing wore me out – In October I had another attempt to repair my shoulders with surgery. That was my fifth and last one. If I am going to continue beekeeping I will have to cease all forms of lifting. I am going to be able to do that by using the Slovenian hive and quite possibly I will improve my beekeeping methods given the hive is more user-friendly. I can be more attending with less effort – through the rear door inside a protected shelter for the home/hive. No more outside in the hot sun between, 10 am and 5 pm. There will be fewer times when I simply cannot open the hive on windy or damp days – or on marginally cold days. The bees ignore the rear door inspections much more than bees ignore lifting the inner cover – exposed to the outside.
Do you feel that this is better for the bees?
The bees remain calm. A total inspection of the hive can be made quickly if desired. The bottom level can be visited frequently, unlike the Lang’s bottom deep. The beekeeper has absolutely no tasks that require lifting of more than one full frame of honey at a time.
Also, because the hives are protected from weather and high noon sunlight. The insulation factor from being stacked on and next to one another is significant and can result in improved winter mortality rates. The rear screen windows combined with two hinged vents on the rear door also allows for good ventilation and a reduction of humidity in the summer.
How do these hives overwinter in comparison to other hives?
If desired, the whole colony can be organized into one level with a thin cover over the queen excluder. This will reduce the honey consumed in the winter to be converted to energy expended by the bees to keep the interior at proper temperatures. If the colony is healthy, the brood and honey frames can be divided between the two levels. A second queen can be introduced to the top level. Thus, two colonies can overwinter in the same hive unit. When spring arrives, one queen is removed. Now the number of bees in both levels is considerable and the colony population is ramped up and prepared to forage vigorously and immediately in early spring.
How is the honey harvesting process? Easier? Less disruptive?
The process is much simpler. Frames are easily and quickly withdrawn and replaced. Due to the concave edges of the frames that rest on 3 stainless rods in the hive, there is very little propolis with which to contend. Slovenian beekeepers use an electric frame sweeper with very delicate brushes to remove bees and honey quickly and safely. The bees are returned to the hive from the sweeper bucket.
What do you think we can learn from Slovenian beekeepers?
Beekeeping with Carniolan bees has been occurring in Slovenia for probably 1000 years. Keeping bees is a thoroughly absorbed Slovenian tradition. In general, tradition has been described as a genius of a culture. Slovenians know all aspects of bees from generations of experience. They understand bees almost by instinct in addition to the vast experience.
Mark Simonitsch had a long career in commercial fishing and clam aquaculture on Cape Cod. Mark first became interested in bees after reading about Karl Von Frisch’s Nobel Prize-winning bee research. Mark’s son’s interest in butterflies and children’s science also helped to motivate Mark into becoming a beekeeper.
For more information visit: www.slovenianbeekeeping.com
I am interested in obtaining an AZ beehive. The link to the Slovenian beekeeping site doesn’t seem to work.
Could you check the link and if possible send me a contact for Mark Simonitsch.
Brilliant, Great! But the link doesn’t work (I know how that goes). How can one access more information (costs, frame sizes…..) I’ve been hoping someone would bring these to the US for years.
The working link for contacting Mark (the distributor) is:
Thank you 🙂
You also can use AŽ hive plan: http://web.bf.uni-lj.si/jbozic/cic/AZpanj.html
Message*I remember seeing something similar to this at Old Sturbridge Village in MA many year ago.
I really enjoyed your atticle… i would love to try one of this wonderful designs… here in Colombia, South America, we bee keep africanized honey bees, I would li,e to know how they react with these design… the are really grumpy… but maybe they would prefer this method…
Loving our bees,
Thamks for sharing the info.
Hello from Louisiana. Do you sell any building plans for this interesting beehive design?
I am a beekeeper and very interested in the Slovenian beehives. Anywhere in the U.S. to purchase?
Thanks so much for such an informative article. You asked and he answered all my questions. I’m excited to add bees to our farm hopefully this summer, if not next spring. From reading your article, we’re leaning toward the Slovenian hives. It seems they will really be better for the bees.
Where can I get plans to build one of these slovenian hives? Great idea.
Would like detail drawings of Slovenia beehive. Like the way it looks. What are the cons on this type of house. New to wanting to raise bees
Maisterdan has Slovenian beehive, http://www.ebay.com/itm/Beekeeping-Equipment-National-Slovenian-AZ-beehive-10-frames-/271883958008?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item3f4d8bf6f8
Very good price
I also would like to order a hive, but the link doesn’t work for me either…none of the “Contact me” links open up…phone, email or address. Mark, we need to get your information. I need to ask you a few questions before mailing you a deposit.
Here is the link
I did find a source direct from Slovenia on eBay, so I ordered one. It arrived yesterday in perfect condition, which surprised me as it was only wrapped in Saran Wrap covered with one layer of cardboard. Now, I have to paint it and see about getting started.
Is there anyway to get plans for the AZ bee hive? Thanks
Thank you for this wonderful article.
I’d love to get the plans as well. The ones at http://web.bf.uni-lj.si/jbozic/cic/AZpanj.html are not easy to follow.
Great article but I’m a little disappointed in the fact that these plans or designs are “kept secret”. If these designs help beekeepers, protect the bees better….etc. then the information should be shared because we’re trying to protect the honey bee populations. I can create a langstroth design by looking online…why can’t I do that for these types of hives? If people want to buy assembled ones…that is fine but I don’t think it should be some ultrasecret drawings…etc.
I say let’s all go to Slovenia visit and learn from the Masters them selves! so looking forward to working with Mark and Suzanne very personal people, and all about the health of the Bee’s thanks!
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I am from Arizona and there’ s lots of bees by our fish pond. I want to keep them for their honey but I don’t know how or where to buy a ‘beehouse’ for a neophyte like me. Thanks.
interested in bees in my back yard how to buy Slovenian boxes and a better drawing of such.
I am very interested in beginning my 2017 year of beekeeping with this method. I have used the Langstrom hives for 4 years now, 2 of which my bees have died over winter. My questions are as follows, however:
1. In colder climates, since we need 2 deep supers full of honey for our bees to winter, will we need the same with the AZ method, thereby needing 3 supers/hive?
2. Are there any blueprints of building a beehouse available — i.e. mainly the front wall to accommodate these hives?
3. Are there any blueprints of how to convert a langstrom hive to an AZ hive and will they work just as well?
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[…] husband has really been reading up on Slovenian bee houses, so we talked about taking a break this year to build one and then getting some bees again NEXT […]
I’m finished with langstroth hives after losing all my bees last winter. Please send me plans of your fantastic setup if you have them. or direct me as to how I can get them!
Here is a link to some folks selling Slovenian hives. We look forward to posting more information about them and other hive types in the near future. http://www.drebbievillehives.com/our-story.html
Hi, I have been reading about the Slovenian hive also, looks like a very interesting idea. I have my own wood shop and run CNC routers for a living. I was looking for some decent plans for these hives but there is not much out there. I did find a couple of sketches with dimensions in metric, so I converted them to inches and am drawing up a three level hive as of this posting. I am going to use the Slovenian style frame but modified to use regular Langstroth foundation. Anyone interested in what I am doing feel free to contact me. I am hoping to cut parts for one of these hives shortly.
Would you be interested in writing about this for the site?
Sounds like an interesting idea, feel to contact me directly as to want you would like see. My email is – I am located in Pennsylvania USA
I am fairly new at this blog stuff, but would be willing to write something for the site. Feel free to contact me. – I am located in Pennsylvania USA
Contend not content : – )
Love this hive
Long story shortened the best I can, I had wanted to start beekeeping when I was younger and NOT disabled but the municipality that we lived in in Rhode Island, East Providence, was the ONLY place in the entire state where it was actually AGAINST the law to raise honeybees. Once it was lawful, I became disabled so started my search for easier equipment to use. I found the Top Bar Hive from Gold Star Honeybees but hadn’t gone any further due the fact we found that we could be and DID move. Now that we are in Indiana where many of our neighbors are beekeepers, one such beekeeper neighbor introduced me to this Slovenian Beehive concept. Looking over this concept and also the Top Bar form of the hive, I was wondering if there could be even one more added twist to this Slovenian Hive concept using the shape of the Top Bar frames and hives? BOTH appear to “share” some of the same ideas. Since where we moved to has considerable woods that need clearing for better natural gardening purposes, having the best place to put an apiary is not feasible at this time but hopefully would be in the coming 5 years or so. The fact that it could be made “transportable” makes it even a more “exciting” concept without having to actually “load and UN-load” hive boxes for “contracting out” bees. Just trying to get some information and hopefully to be able to make this “industry” more open to the disabled like myself. Thank you!
Where can I find PLANS to build a Slovenian Beehive?
We Build to order numerous AZ Hive designs and ship all over the US.
Thank you for sharing. We would love to look at your AZ Hives, but the link doesn’t appear to be working.
Keeping Backyard Bees there were a couple days back in December when the page was Down, the Service provider moved me to a new server and a couple files had to be edited as a result.
http://steve4bees.us should be a working link.
We are also on Face book and have videos on Youtube about AZ’s
This is our newest. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JCIBhvmPPEg
Are these built in U.S. .Do You ship to Canada?? How muck &&& ??
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