Before the advent of varroa and other diseases, when bees did not need as much management, bees in this area were often kept in old butter boxes, sometimes with dowels through them to stabilise the wild comb. It’s interesting to note that similar principle is used in traditional hives in Japan.
Today, with the increased intervention required to maintain the health of the bees, the most commonly used hive is a movable frame type, where individual panels of comb can be taken out for inspection. This makes management of the colony easier. See below for the common parts.
The Congested Districts Board Hive (CDB)
You can still see the CDB hive in areas around the country. This hive was produced by Abbots of 23 Merchant’s Quay, Dublin in 1884 for the Congested Districts Board to provide an income for the small farmers in the west and south of Ireland.
It has a heavy gabled roof and overlapping top lift to cope with the wet and windy climate in the west, and was designed to produce section honey. The Irish black bee tends to produce attractive white cappings on the honey, and Irish section honey was in high demand at the time. Liptons in the UK bought the entire production in the early years from the Congested Districts Board.
The William Broughton Carr Hive (WBC)
This hive is the one that you often see in cottage garden pictures. It has an outer shell of ‘lifts’ and an inner hive body. The outer wall sheds the rain and helps protect the colony from the elements.
While attractive, and providing shelter to the bees in the winter, the WBC is not easy to move or manipulate, as the lifts have to be removed before you can get at the hive body.
The National Hive
This is the hive that we generally recommend to beginners in our area, as it is relatively light and easy to use. The parts are commonly available, and the nucleus hives we supply are the National type. This means that the brood frames will fit directly into your new hive.
The National hive was originally introduced to make it easier for beekeepers to move hives to pollinate agricultural crops, in particular orchards and heather. It has a small square footprint and can be stacked efficiently on pallets or backs of trucks. It is probably the most commonly used hive in Ireland by hobbyists.
The Federation gives the following advantages:
- The frames are easier to handle as they have longer lugs (38mm) than the Commercial (16mm).
- The National brood box and Super are also easier to handle as the design has a built in handle at both sides.
- The capacity of the National brood box and super is smaller than that of the Commercial which means it is lighter to lift when examining the hive and taking off the crop of honey.
- The most important advantage is the higher honey yield from the National compared to the Commercial as the National brood box is too small to accommodate brood and much stores, therefore most of the honey is stored in the supers where it can be easily taken off for extraction. This is especially true in a bad year with poor weather conditions during the Summer. The Commercial is best suited to localities where the honey crop is above average.