There are many possibilities of hive choices and the writer firmly believes that to be able to use beekeeping as a tool for poverty alleviation it has to be done on a large enough scale. This should be a minimum of 10 hives owned per beekeeper with 20 being a better number as it will allow for low colonisation rates. However, in order to achieve this size of operation the beekeeper has to pursue an appropriate investment programme. The writer believes that this must start with being capable of constructing the hives and being able to do this at a reasonable cost. This is how traditional beekeepers work as they are well able to construct grate numbers of fixed comb hives made out of freely available local materials. There are so many different designs of hives and materials that they are made from worldwide that only a few types can be considered here. However, in general it should be considered that frame hives will not be easy for an ordinary beekeeper to construct and this fact can potentially encourage dependency or debt.
The picture on the left shows a fixed comb bark hive made using the same methods for hundreds of years. These traditional African hives can be made of other materials such as grass and basket work. The picture on the right shows log hives being used for Apis cerana.
Top bar hives offer some management advantages and can be made relatively easily by the beekeeper. If they are made out of wood they are very expensive to construct and unless the beekeeper understands the principle of constructing the top bars at the correct size (3.2 cm) and managing the development of the new colony so that the bees build one comb on one top bar the advantages are lost and the extra expense may not have been worth the investment. Making top- bar hives of local materials is a tried and tested technique. It is up to beekeepers to look at the types of materials that are available locally. They need to be durable enough harvest some honey from to ensure the beekeeper earns enough money to pay for the hive and a replacement and make a profit. Some suggestions are made below.
The hives should be made to a standard size. This means that the top bars can be moved easily from hive to hive. This makes it possible to colonise hives by colony division. To achieve this, a proper plan diagram should be followed. The attached plan is one that uses sizes commonly used throughout Africa.
(PDF of hive plan to be inserted)
Top bars need to be cut. This is the most difficult and expensive part of the process. They need to be cut accurately to an exact size of 3.2 to 3.3 mm. A bottle top measures 3.0 cm but by the time the line has been drawn it will be the correct size. It is a convenient measure to check the size of the top bars.
If soft materials such as raphia palm, bamboo or straight sticks can be found that can be cut or whittled to give a good straight edge then these will be cheaper. They must be strong enough to hold the weight of a whole comb.
Other materials can be used to make the hives
cheaper. The one on the left is made of straight sticks plastered with mud.
The one on thye right is made of raffia palm and uses no nails in its construction.
This nepali hive one is made of basket work.
All hives made of local materials should be 'mudded' to seals the cracks, keep out pests and keep the hive dark inside. pic
Because the joints of top bar hives made of local materials are not as strong as wooden hooves they should be hung in a frame. This also makes management techniques such as dividing hives much easier. This one is made of four lashed sticks.
Roofs can be made of inexpensive materials
and of different designs.
Gregory, P. 2009. Basic African Beekeeping Manual. FERA. UK. available free on application. click here to request copy of book.
Print topic information
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|Better beekeeping in top-bar hives: Hives and hive making||Gregory, P.|
|Choosing materials to make hives||Gregory, P|
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|The Gorongosa hive (top-bar)||Hardison, M.|
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