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The specialist international beekeeping organisation

Fixed combs

The best choice of hives is the one that works productively for a person's circumstances. Bees do not really mind where they live as long as it is safe and dry. The hive is for the beekeeper's convenience and profit.

Fixed comb hives are a proven technology that has stood the test of time. Currently, almost all the honey exported from Africa into the UK is produced using fixed comb hives. This demonstrates that it is perfectly possible to produce honey of high quality for export markets using traditional, fixed comb hives.

The biggest single advantage of fixed comb hives is that they are relatively easy and inexpensive to make and are understood by local beekeepers. They use local materials and local knowledge for making them and these types of hives are often preferred by the bees that frequently colonise them in preference to moveable comb hive types. Until 1851, when the description of the importance of the bee space became widespread and the Langstroth hive derivatives became prevalent, people used a wide range of containers made out of freely available local materials, from logs, pottery and basketwork.

The disadvantage is that fixed comb hives can be difficult to harvest and it is not possible to do any bee management. For instance, it would not be possible to divide hives so the beekeeper is entirely dependent on natural colonisation to fill up the hives. The biggest problem of these hives, especially the log or bark hives is that the trees of the needed to make them are no longer readily available and in some countries governments are already actively discouraging the use of log and bark hives in the interest of forest protection.

Most significantly, if bees are to be used as a vehicle for poverty alleviation people have to be able to produce and sell honey on sufficient scale for it to make an appreciable difference to their income.  This means people have to have enough beehives. When the level of hive colonistaion is taken into account (rarely much more than 50%) and the normal level of colonies absconding (15-30%) it can be seen that a good many of abeekeper's hives will be empty and therefore unproductive at any point in time. This means that this investment is not productive investment and consequently, the costs of each hive unit must be kept as low as possible. Fixed comb hives are frequently the least expensive and most cost effective hives available. People are able to make new ones easily at little cost. This means they have to be able to scale up their beekeeping activity to a number of hives or honey production that has an appropriate impact for the household. The fixed comb beehive is accessible to almost everyone: most people know and understand the technology. It means people are able to make new hives and place them without interference from outside bodies. This makes this type of hive the most sustainable in terms of the household business. The more hives a beekeeper has the greater the potential for profitable honey production. The potential outcome is a mode of production that is capable of responding to the supply and demand requirements of the market place. Fixed comb hives do this very effectively.


Resources

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