A log hive in the garden

I’m gratified to know that apiculture is generally good. Here’s what I mean.

Small-scale beekeeping improves gardening and farming all over the world. As a reminder there is a “Kenyan top bar hive” in the garden. These hives were developed to help Peace Corps workers teach low cost apiculture. There is also a traditional Kenyan log hive hanging on our garden fence. It’s a gift from our brother-in-law who has worked many years in Kenya on projects for community development and poverty remediation. We populated the hive with a 3 pound package of Italian bees from Georgia.

Watch a video tour of our log hive.

In the rest of this post I explain three types of hives and their considerations. 

The Kenyan Trapezoidal Box Hive

A Kenyan top bar hive in a Sky Barn Apiary.
A Kenyan top bar hive in a Sky Barn Apiary.

Interestingly the traditional log hive complements another top bar hive in our bee yard that is also known as Kenyan. The trapezoidal shaped box hive was developed to enable Peace Corp workers to teach beekeeping with horizontal combs that can be removed and replaced for brood inspection and harvesting honey. Compared to the expensive, and more efficient Langstroth hives, top bar hives and bee gums can be built with various dimensions and with salvaged materials. With such hives people can have an apiary with small investments.

Top Bar Hives

An Hexagonal Warre top bar hive in a Sky Barn Apiary.
An Hexagonal Warre top bar hive in a Sky Barn Apiary.

Top bar hives are popular among people who value hives with free-built combs. I’m among them. I use some empty frames where the bees can build free-built combs in our Langstroth hives. I’ve had mixed success with the horizontally arranged top bar hives. I think they’re most suitable for tropical locations. In our 4-season northern location it seems important to house bees in a vertical cavity where the bees can follow their heat upwards as they consume honey through the winter. Because of this I believe the Warre style hive is a better top bar method in most of North America.

Log Hives

See it in Action!

A Kenyan log hive in a honey flow at Sky Barn Apiaries.

Log hives, aka “bee gums”, have also been part of historical American beekeeping. Keeping bees is not indigenous in North America and apiculture was developed with grassroots methods. Honeybees were introduced in 1622 from Europe.

If a hollow log has the colony requirements for size, location and entrance factors, a swarm of bees placed in it will build combs, raise young and produce honey.

Our log hive has removable entrance plates on both ends. It is currently about 2/3 full and has honeycombs that can be removed for the kitchen at any time. On the south end the honey is stored. When we remove a comb of honey for the kitchen it is cut from the log and removed through this end. On the north end the bees have established their primary entrance and the brood is located there. When we examine the brood, we remove combs from this end. When brood combs are removed for inspection they are handled carefully. After examining the brood pattern and conditions, or sampling for varroa infestation, the combs are carefully replaced in the hive so the bees can repair and reattach them.

Fresh dripping honeycomb on a plate is always a treat. Eaten with it’s wax and pollen it is truly a whole food, nourishing, satisfying and very popular. Sadly, I provide comb honey for only a fraction of my customer’s requests.

As always, contact me if you have any questions or want to talk honeybees.