Advantages of the Darwinian Hive Kit

At the Propolis Hive Company, we’ve done the figuring for you when it comes to accurately replicating natural nesting cavity sizes while maintaining compatibility with the United States' most readily available equipment, the Langstroth configuration.  Our Darwinian hives are intended for brood chambers only; they are not necessarily called Darwinian to follow the Darwinian beekeeping management practices put forward by Dr. Tom Seeley (the pioneer of Darwinian beekeeping). We do, however, think Darwinian beekeeping management practices have merit over traditional hobby beekeeping.

If you already have Langstroth type gear (frames and either 10 or 8 frame boxes) there is no need to toss those to the wayside in order to keep bees in our Darwinian hive kits.  Regular single walled hive bodies/supers are intended to be added to the Darwinian boxes for honey collection when the time comes.  All of our Darwinian hive bodies will fit standard deep (9 1/8”) Langstroth type frames.  All of our Darwinian kits will accept 10 or 8 frame boxes for honey collection supers.  If you have 10 frame boxes currently and would like to try our Darwinian kit, you will need to order the 6 frame version.  If you have 8 frame boxes currently and would like to try our Darwinian kit, you will need to order the 4 frame version.    

The small hive beekeeping movement is here but comes with many challenges.  In the cold north bees may have difficulty utilizing certain single boxed 10 frame wide hives from one side to the other.  In a 4 or 6 frame hive configuration that is much taller than it is wide the bees have an excellent chance to use the food stores above them, as in nature.  The colony can start near the bottom most area of the hive moving up to the stores as one cohesive unit.  In general a hive that is much taller than wide will suit honey bees well.

Most natural honey bee nests were and are tree cavities in much of the European honeybee’s common range in North America.  These tree cavities are NEVER as smooth as the lumber most beekeeping supply houses provide to you as hive interiors.  With smooth interiors the bees are robbed of one of their biggest defense mechanisms…Propolis. We have developed and tested for several years the best and most practical way to replicate the texture of the interior of a tree cavity.  We think this texture gives your bees the best chance at applying propolis throughout their colony walls.

Small and long propolis rich entrances mean the bees guarding the entrance have the upper hand on any shenanigans that may come their way.  Whether a newly established colony cannot guard a large entrance from other honey bee invaders looking for a free meal, or bees from a colony that may be on the verge of collapsing are looking for a new place to call home, or bees just altogether getting mixed up and “drifting” to the wrong colony, a smaller entrance aids in preventing these scenarios.  The canvas we line our 1.5 inch diameter by 3.5 inch deep entrance with will be covered with propolis in no time.  This acts as yet another defense to the colony. 

Propolis is packed with chemicals beneficial to honey bee health and detrimental to certain microbial, bacterial and fungal pests making the long propolized entrance a "walk in" bee wash all bees must take before they enter the hive. The small entrance usually located at least 18 inches off the ground helps with hive pests attempting to visit the inside of your hive as well.  Nearly impossible for skunks to wreak havoc, as well as making it difficult for mice to reason with themselves to call the inside of your hive home for the winter.  Since beginning to test these entrances we have noticed much decreased small rodent issues.

With this hive’s design it makes it easy for the bees to regulate their microclimate’s atmospheric conditions through its breathability and insulative properties.  Humidity and moisture have their place within a hive; we do not believe it should be up to us to take that away from the bees.  If they need air exchange they will provide that for themselves.  Gasses within the hive sound scary, but may actually benefit the inhabitants to a certain degree.  Think of a colony of bees being most comfortable in a state of being that stays at or near a certain optimum atmospheric utopia (temperature, oxygen, carbon dioxide and humidity levels etc.) most of the time.  If the structure in which the bees reside could help them stay closest to this atmospheric utopia with little input by the bees themselves, it would be considered less stressful.  Less stress likely correlates with healthier bees.

In insulated hives the heat of the day and the cool of the night have far less drastic effects on hive temperature swings. In insulated hives the bees more or less get to keep the temperature where they want it without any severe acts of thermoregulation, this may be correlated with less stress on the colony.   In thin walled boxes the hive may get exceedingly hot during the hot summer days and vice versa on a -40F Minnesota winter night.  

We understand looking to natural nesting cavities as a Holy Grail for what we should mimic as beekeepers is not necessarily the best idea due to the variables most of us cannot control like height of colonies.  But we are very conscious that there can be improvements to our current practices by giving natural nesting cavities more credit and attention in regards to future hive design.