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Author Topic: Is horizontal beekeeping more natural?  (Read 1007 times)

Offline Bob Wilson

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Is horizontal beekeeping more natural?
« on: April 05, 2023, 09:29:05 am »
Are horizontal hives a more natural way of beekeeping than using regular Langstroth hives? Over the past years, as I researched beekeeping practices, I keep finding that idea put forward. There are several reasons why people say this. Here are a few which I have found.
   1. It mimics natural tree cavities. I often come across the claim that using horizontal hives is natural beekeeping, because they better mimic natural tree trunks in the wild. I find this claim very unconvincing. I would think that most tree cavities in the wild are rotten tree boles which are vertically rotting downward in old, standing trees, not in fallen logs laying on the ground. Therefore, it seems to me that it is stacked Langstroth hive beekeeping which more accurately simulates tree cavities. Regardless, wild bee swarms which are natural by definition, occupy all kinds of cavities of all kinds of shapes in all kinds of places, both in the wild and in civilization. If the bees find a hive box appealing, then isn't it naturally a good choice?
   2. Foundationless. I do believe that allowing colonies to build their own comb is more natural. The colony is not managed into raising larger sized bees because of a pre-stamped cell size, or limited in where they can lay drones, etc.  Foundationless is more natural than using foundation, but it's not exclusive to horizontal hives. Even stacked Langstroth beekeepers can remove the foundation from their frames, and I am sure many do at various times.
   3. Treatment free. I have never treated for varroa mites, from my very first hive five years ago. I have lost one hive and two nucs along the way, due to dividing colonies too small and letting them become overrun with hive beetles, but none to varroa so far. My present 10 colonies are treatment free not because they are horizontal, but simply because I don't treat for varroa. I made up my mind beforehand that if I had to treat in order to keep bees, that I would not be a beekeeper. So, I didn't. Anyone can do that, regardless of what kind of hive they use, vertical or horizontal.
   4. Minimal (or no) inspections. Some beeks inspect all the time. They believe it morally wrong not to properly tend to their bees' needs, sort of like neglecting to take a child to the doctor or a pet to the veterinarian. I am not in that camp. Bees are not pets in my understanding. They are not dependent on the beekeeper, nor sleep at the foot of the bed. They are wild. I personally think that housing a swarm in a box and never inspecting is fine. The colony no doubt finds the hive better accommodations, else they would not stay. It is drier and more spacious than other options. For certain they will swarm if unattended, but all that means is that they will propagate themselves in a healthy manner, which means more bees in the world, which is a good thing. On the other hand, some beeks think that keeping bees in horizontal hives is more natural, because you can just leave them alone except to pull honey in the fall. As far as inspections go, if a beek wants to make honey and not swarms, he will have to inspect and manage the hive, regardless of horizontal or vertical. In fact, because of the limited size of my horizontal hives (4 feet long, 30 deep frames), I actually have to do more, not less management to keep them from swarming and to get a honey crop. My personal verdict is still out on the Layens hive, which claims to discourage swarming with only two inspections a year. I have newly received a 14 frame version, not the 20 or 32 frame Layens, so I imagine I will have to manage them more often.
   5. Abuse of the bees. It seems there is this idea of the exploitation of bee colonies in various conversations on the internet. They seem to imply that Langstroth (read that as American or capitalistic) beekeeping is unnatural. Besides the fact that any colony can simply fly away and leave any time it wishes, this argument is not about what style of hive a beek uses, but about his management. Most beeks want honey. I do, and I manipulate (read that manage) the frames and the colony to both propagate the species and produce a large honey crop, which benefits us both.
   6. Only removing a little honey. I find this idea intimated on websites of beeks with just one or two hives. I believe they like the idea of helping our environment, which is good, and not unduly messing with nature. I do. Therefore, they treat their hives as an environmental pet project, in which they can pull a couple of jars of honey a year, as opposed to stacking supers. However, taking any honey at all is disrupting a colony. It is "stealing" honey, regardless of horizontal or Langstroth.
   I personally keep horizontal hives for several reasons. It's just a hobby for me, I have back problems and don't want to lift boxes, and horizontal hives afford me all the honey I can use. Keeping bees naturally is not one of the reasons. Besides which, is there even such a thing as natural beekeeping? I suppose that the only truly natural way of beekeeping is not to keep bees at all.

Offline The15thMember

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Re: Is horizontal beekeeping more natural?
« Reply #1 on: April 05, 2023, 11:43:06 am »
Good post, Bob.  One of the interesting things about beekeeping is the many different hive styles that can be used, and I think you are right, none of them are natural.  We can certainly learn how to better manage our bees from how they manage themselves in the wild, but an animal being managed domestically will never be wholly natural, and that's perfectly fine, as long as the beekeepers are being good stewards of their bees.   
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Offline Michael Bush

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Re: Is horizontal beekeeping more natural?
« Reply #2 on: April 05, 2023, 01:23:20 pm »
Bees are opportunists when it comes to their homes.  They live in horizontal and vertical arrangements with equal ease.  I don't see that either is more natural.  I've found bees in limbs and trunks. I've found them in walls and floor joists.  You could argue that adding boxes to the top is less natural than adding them to the bottom, but adding them to the bottom is a lot of work and I don't think it matters that much.
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Offline Robo

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Re: Is horizontal beekeeping more natural?
« Reply #3 on: April 05, 2023, 04:01:59 pm »
I'm also convinced that some folks confuse primitive with "more natural".    This is another case where beekeeping is regional.  Here in the Northeast (or any cold climate) horizontal hives are "less natural" because the honeybees instinct to work vertical is a better solution in colder weather.   In a tree they start at the top and drive the queen down through the season as they backfill with honey above.  Come fall the brood nest is at the bottom and all the stores are above.   As they progress through winter they work their way up consuming honey that is pre-warmed by the heat of the cluster.   The next meal is always above them and they don't have to rely on the temperature being warm enough to move to new stores like they would in a horizontal configuration.   In warmer climates this is not an issue and they will do equally well in either configuration.
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Offline Ben Framed

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Re: Is horizontal beekeeping more natural?
« Reply #4 on: April 05, 2023, 05:33:14 pm »
[Quote Robo]
"I'm also convinced that some folks confuse primitive with "more natural".    This is another case where beekeeping is regional.  Here in the Northeast (or any cold climate) horizontal hives are "less natural" because the honeybees instinct to work vertical is a better solution in colder weather.   In a tree they start at the top and drive the queen down through the season as they backfill with honey above.  Come fall the brood nest is at the bottom and all the stores are above.   As they progress through winter they work their way up consuming honey that is pre-warmed by the heat of the cluster.   The next meal is always above them and they don't have to rely on the temperature being warm enough to move to new stores like they would in a horizontal configuration.   In warmer climates this is not an issue and they will do equally well in either configuration."



Your logic makes perfect sense.
Jeremiah 5:21 King James Version 
Hear now this, O foolish people, and without understanding; which have eyes, and see not; which have ears, and hear not:
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14 If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

Offline Acebird

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Re: Is horizontal beekeeping more natural?
« Reply #5 on: April 06, 2023, 08:34:15 am »
Flat out no.
Quote
1. It mimics natural tree cavities.
It does not.
Quote
2. Foundationless.
Is not limited to horizontal hives.
Quote
3. Treatment free.
Is not limited to horizontal hives.
Quote
4. Minimal (or no) inspections.
Is not limited to horizontal hives.
Quote
5. Abuse of the bees.
Not a requirement for other hives.  This is beekeeper practices.
Quote
6. Only removing a little honey.
Is not limited to horizontal hives.  The amount of honey you take is dependent on bee production and beekeeper's desire.
I find that horizontal hives to be one royal PITA.
I have two you can have.
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Offline Michael Bush

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Re: Is horizontal beekeeping more natural?
« Reply #6 on: April 06, 2023, 08:49:35 am »
>Here in the Northeast (or any cold climate) horizontal hives are "less natural" because the honeybees instinct to work vertical is a better solution in colder weather.

And yet most of the coldest regions of the world traditionally use horizontal hives.  Russia, Scandinavia etc.  And bees often build horizontal colonies if that's what they find. as an available space, regardless of the climate.

Brian covered the issues.  You can do all of those things with other types of hives.  The only thing a horizontal hive has that a vertical hive does not is being able to run it without lifting boxes.  Any hive can be run with foundationless.  With any hive you can leave more honey.  Any hive you can run with no treatments. 
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Offline Acebird

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Re: Is horizontal beekeeping more natural?
« Reply #7 on: April 07, 2023, 09:09:05 am »
The only thing a horizontal hive has that a vertical hive does not is being able to run it without lifting boxes.
And yet if you are willing to take the time you can pick each frame out of the boxes so you don't have to lift them either.
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Offline Michael Bush

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Re: Is horizontal beekeeping more natural?
« Reply #8 on: April 07, 2023, 10:58:37 am »
>And yet if you are willing to take the time you can pick each frame out of the boxes so you don't have to lift them either.

You would have to lift a lot of frames.  With horizontal you can just pull the frames you want to look at.  With vertical you have to move all of the ones that are in the way, out of the way first.
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Offline Acebird

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Re: Is horizontal beekeeping more natural?
« Reply #9 on: April 07, 2023, 11:40:01 am »
>And yet if you are willing to take the time you can pick each frame out of the boxes so you don't have to lift them either.

You would have to lift a lot of frames.  With horizontal you can just pull the frames you want to look at.  With vertical you have to move all of the ones that are in the way, out of the way first.
This is true.  However if you are picking an interior frame you have to disturb all the frames on one side to get room to pull out the frame you want.  With the hive sectioned off with multiple boxes you can lift off boxes not disturbing any frames in each box to get to the frame/frames that you actually want.  In my view this upsets the hive much less then exposing the whole hive and disturbing half the frames to get to the ones you want.

The boxes I have limit the rotation of the top to about 100 degrees with a strap.  In my view this is horrible because it only takes a slight gust of wind to slam the top shut crushing bees and upsetting the whole hive.  If the strap was take off it could only rotate 180 which is no good either.  If I were to keep this type of hive I would remount the hinge so you could get 270 degrees of rotation and not have the problem of the cover slamming shut while you are trying to work the bees.
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Offline Bob Wilson

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Re: Is horizontal beekeeping more natural?
« Reply #10 on: April 08, 2023, 01:15:31 am »
With migratory top panels, I just remove one as necessary, leaving the rest of the hive covered.
I did inherit one box with a hinged, gabled roof. I use a stick to prop it open so the roof doesn't crash down. The stick stores under the roof.

Offline Acebird

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Re: Is horizontal beekeeping more natural?
« Reply #11 on: April 08, 2023, 08:45:02 am »
With migratory top panels, I just remove one as necessary, leaving the rest of the hive covered.
You can use a cloth or rubber mat to cover the hive partially but then how do you get heavily propolised frames out without moving all the rest from one side.
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Offline Acebird

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Re: Is horizontal beekeeping more natural?
« Reply #12 on: April 08, 2023, 08:50:48 am »
I did inherit one box with a hinged, gabled roof. I use a stick to prop it open so the roof doesn't crash down. The stick stores under the roof.
How did you handle warpage of the four foot sides to either prevent the frames from falling off the ledge or getting the frames in?
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Offline cao

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Re: Is horizontal beekeeping more natural?
« Reply #13 on: April 08, 2023, 01:11:48 pm »

How did you handle warpage of the four foot sides to either prevent the frames from falling off the ledge or getting the frames in?

I've got 5 long hives, and if they are built with decent 2x boards, there isn't any noticeable warping.

Offline Bob Wilson

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Re: Is horizontal beekeeping more natural?
« Reply #14 on: April 08, 2023, 08:22:16 pm »
Ace.
Yes, it is necessary to shift frames at the front or the back to get to the middle section. But it's easy to either leverage a group of frames as a whole unit and slide it backwards, or to slide three frames together at a time. That minimizes disruptions, especially if you immediately slide one of the migratory tops over the frames while you work the front.

Offline Bob Wilson

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Re: Is horizontal beekeeping more natural?
« Reply #15 on: April 08, 2023, 08:30:19 pm »
I also build my long hives from 2x lumber. At least I do now. They do not warp that I can see.
I did use 3/4 inch plywood and also 1inch boards, but those long hives warped, and frames would fall off the frame rests into the hive. I cut them into sections and turned them into nuc boxes.

Offline Acebird

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Re: Is horizontal beekeeping more natural?
« Reply #16 on: April 09, 2023, 08:20:31 am »
if they are built with decent 2x boards, there isn't any noticeable warping.
Yeah, finding decent 2x lumber is a gift now days.  Southern FL is bone dry drought conditions in the winter and monsoons in the summer.
Another issue with southern fl is eventually you will have to move a hive due to the bees getting aggressive.  When that day comes you better have some equipment that you can use because a heavy lopsided hive full of testy bees will not be fun to lift and carry.  Nobody wants to come get them either let alone try to sell them.
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Offline Acebird

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Re: Is horizontal beekeeping more natural?
« Reply #17 on: April 09, 2023, 08:30:51 am »

I did use 3/4 inch plywood and also 1inch boards, but those long hives warped, and frames would fall off the frame rests into the hive.
Precisely,  Now imagine trying to slide multiple frames in a hive box where the walls waver.  The hives I have are 1/2 ply.  I did mention in my thread the lack of workmanship.  Anyone that wants these hives should rework the top edge with 2x4's and remount the hinges so you can get 270 degrees of rotation.
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Offline Bob Wilson

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Re: Is horizontal beekeeping more natural?
« Reply #18 on: April 09, 2023, 09:26:09 pm »
Acebird.
Don't sell or give away the warped hive. Do this instead. My old hive, cut into 5 or 6 nucs is scattered through my yard holding spring splits.
https://beemaster.com/forum/index.php?topic=55580.0#new

Offline Acebird

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Re: Is horizontal beekeeping more natural?
« Reply #19 on: April 10, 2023, 08:15:03 am »
I run mediums so I have no interest in nuc boxes.
For someone that wants to run long hives they should cut down these boxes and replace the top of the box with 2x4's and remount the top, or as you suggest cut it up into smaller migratory tops.  The box is too tall.  There is a 2 inch gap under the deep frames.
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