Based on a superficial amount of research (5 minutes on the internet) and in response to two situations I found myself in I have decided to change how I keep my bees – I am moving over to using Rose or OSB (one size box) hives.
I needed to get some more supers for my existing hives as at peak time I probably need at least three supers per hive now, and while looking on Thornes’ website I came across the one-size box concept or Rose hive – see here.
Instead of having a large brood box then smaller supers placed on top, you just use the same size boxes for brood and honey. More importantly you don’t have a queen excluder – a queen excluder is a mesh that you place on top of the brood box that worker bees can pass through but the queen can’t – it creates a separation between the brood nest and honey stores. It also means the size of the brood nest is limited which in turn might encourage swarming.
I started this year with three hives who had already spread from the brood box into the first super as I hadn’t put the queen excluders back on quickly enough. I also don’t really go through my hives every week monitoring for potential swarms and doing something about it – I am too busy and to be honest my meddling upsets the bees.
Letting the brood nest grow as big as it wants, stretch across multiple boxes saves on these two problems – no more worrying about putting the queen excluder on early enough in the spring and hopefully because the bees have more space, they will swarm less.
My brood boxes are also full of old foundation which is not nice for the bees. I know you can go in every week and gradually remove one frame of old foundation at a time, but I refer you to my last comment about the bees not liking my visits very much. With the osb boxes and rose method you simply keep on inserting new boxes in the middle of the brood nest until June as they need them. You can therefore insert the boxes under boxes with old frame in and thus gradually the old boxes work their way to the top and you can easily remove them at the end of the season and provide new frame. I am now planning on trying to refresh the foundation in my boxes every two (or maximum) 3 years.
In the first photo here you can see supers with brood in on the bottom, then red osb boxes on top and then the original brood box on top of that – right at the top is another super with leftover heather honey in as extra stores for the bees.
I am sure there are other advantages with this method and also possible downsides and I think I will get the book on the Rose method by the inventor Time Rowe, but for now I am just muddling along and seeing how things go – I have to say the idea of giving the bees lots of space, less meddling, no excluders just feels right for me.
This is my apiary. I am planning on painting the fence (black like the other sheds or yellow to be bright and sunny?) and maybe planting some bee friendly plants around the outside (I will use hurdles as suitable alpaca protection) – any ideas of perennial, non-toxic to alpacas, bee-friendly bushes that I can plant in a windy spot, on sandy soil in the UK?
N.B. I won’t be getting rid of my supers and brood boxes – I can’t afford to – beekeeping kit costs a fortune – what I will be doing is kind of mixing and matching for the foreseeable future but as the number of my hives grows I will just be buying new osb boxes.