As we have shown in the preceding chapter, we ascertained
positively that small hives produce less bees than large ones,
because they do not allow full scope to the queen for her breeding.
But this is not all. Small hives cause much swarming. Small
hives contain a scant amount of honey for winter. Small hives,
being less populous, their cluster is in greater danger in winter.
Small hives do not enable the apiarist to recognize the best
or most prolific queens, when he wishes to select breeders,
since they are in a reduced space. Small hives cast more but
lighter swarms than large ones. Small hives require queenexcluders
over the brood chamber to keep the queen out of the
supers. Small hives have a smaller base of support than larger
ones, have to be tiered higher for honey capacity, cause a higher
climb to the honey-laden bees and are probably more difficult to ventilate than larger ones.
It is true that small hives are cheaper than large ones.
But as they often have to be tiered higher and are more prone
to cast swarms, it takes a greater number of them to supply
an apiary. So the economy is much less than would appear.
Small hives, however, have the advantage of being easier
to carry to the cellar and back, easier to transport from one
apiary to another, easier for women to handle in making
An advantage in the manufacturing of the shallow hive
which has had great weight with manufacturers of hives is that
it may be made of narrow widths of lumber, since the standard
Langstroth brood chamber may be cut out of 10 inch stοck
boards, while the Quinby-Dadant brood chamber has to be made
of lumber over 12 inches wide, which is now very scarce, or be
pieced together with a tongue and groove joint. This has been
made less objectionable by placing the tongue and groove near
the top of the brood chamber, where it is covered by the strip
that supports the telescope cover.
Of late years, in a view of economy, even shallow brood
chambers have been made in two pieces. As this use of narrow
lumber is likely to continue, there is probably little manufacturing
advantage in the shallower hive. We mention it only because
of the criticism expressed by some manufacturers.
Many people, bee owners, rather than bee keepers, do not
think that their bees are doing well if they do not cast swarms.
For such people the small hive is a boon, for the swarms are
numerous. Commercial beekeepers view the matter in a different light.
The greatest excellence of the small hive, in the minds of
many people, is its low price. But what would we say of a
farmer who built a barn insufficient to accommodate more than
one half of his live stock, hay and implements? As Mr. Langstroth
put it: "Hiving a large swarm of bees in a small hive may
be compared to harnessing a powerful team of horses to a baby
wagon or wasting a noble water-fall in turning a petty waterwheel."
These are the qualities as well as the limitations of the
small brood chamber.
From the experience mentioned above, the writer came to
the following conclusions:
A large brood-chamber should be compact, sufficient for
all the requirements of the best queens and for supplying all
the honey that a populous colony needs for winter and spring,
as well as pollen for breeding.
There are several ways to increase the capacity of the
Langstroth hive. A 10-frame hive may be increased to very
nearly the proper capacity, equal to that of the Dadant, by
adding a shallow story super such as we use for extracting.
The hive may also be doubled by adding a full story on top.
In our experiments with bees, we ascertained a fact wellknown
to the practical beekeeper: the cluster is, as much as
possible, in the shape of a ball; the laying of eggs follows a
similar plan; the queen begins in the center of the cluster, where
the most bees are congregated, and lays her eggs in a circle
around that center. This is very clearly evidenced when one
examines a comb of brood, the older brood always being at the
If we stop to think a few moments of the work which is
required of the queen, in order that she may lay more than
3,000 eggs per day during weeks in succession, we will readily
comprehend that she must not lose much time. Should she lay
her eggs without method, here and there, she would be unable to
fill the cells with regularity and celerity. When she is about to
lay, she thrusts her head into a cell that she believes empty.
If that cell is clean and ready for an egg, she inserts her abdomen
in it, lays the egg and proceeds to another cell. Without
a regularity continued for hours and days together, it would be
impossible for her to supply the numerous cells with eggs, so
as to leave few empty. She is therefore regular in her actions
and goes around the circle with but little loss of time. A very old queen fails in this regularity and should be superseded.In a shallow frame, when she reaches the edge of the comb,
the queen finds wood instead of cells. This disturbs her and
often causes her to retrace her steps and go the opposite way.
Even only a cross bar, in a frame, will throw a queen out of
direction so thoroughly that she may put brood only on one
side of this bar. When she has to go from one story to another
she again loses a serious amount of time. When the season is
on for her active laying, she is fed so plentifully by the workers
that her eggs are produced and protrude from her abodmen,
whether she is able to lay them in cells or not. A good queen,
in a swarm, will often drop eggs in such number that they may
be noticed if the swarm is shaken upon a black cloth. A queen,
imprisoned in the hand, during the period of active laying,
will often leave eggs between our fingers. So if we would get
the best service out of a queen, we must put her in a hive which
will give her the greatest facility for finding cells without too
much search. This is to be found in a brood-chamber with
large combs, where the queen may lay for hours without being ,turned away from her routine by obstructions of any kind.When we wonder why a queen lays a greater number of eggs,in a brood-chamber with few combs of large size, than in two
or more shallow brood-chambers, superposed over one another,
with a bee-space between each of them, the explanation is found
in the above statement. The same thing explains why, when a
queen has once gone into an upper story to lay, she hesitates to
return. She is more likely to go up into a third than to come
back into the first. But when she has ample room, on a limited
number of combs, to satisfy her propensity to lay, she is much
more likely to be contented and there is more egg-laying, a larger
increase of population, with less swarming.
This, then, is the explanation of the advantage which
we found in results, in those large brood-chambers, as compared
with shallow ones.
Safety in Wintering
The advantage of the large brood-chambers is not only
in securing larger families at the right time—a large force for
the harvest—it is found also in better wintering conditions.
The winter cluster of bees occupies a sphere-shaped space,
in from four to eight frames, in the center of the brood-chamber.
This cluster of bees is perhaps on an average 7 inches in diameter.
This means that, in a frame measuring eight inches in depth,
the cluster will probably be within an inch of the top. In a
frame measuring lO,5 inches in depth, the cluster will be 3,5
inches from the top. In the deeper frame, there may be 4 or 5
inches of honey, placed by the bees at the top of the combs.
In the shallower frame, under similar conditions, there will
not be much more than three inches of honey in the same position.
The deeper hive is therefore safer for wintering, if our bees are
compelled to remain clustered in the same spot for a number
of weeks, in very cold weather. As heat ascends, they will be
able to eat the honey above them when they would not be able
to eat honey at the end of the combs, away from the cluster.
This theory, again, is an explanation of the better wintering of
bees in the larger and deeper hive, which we found invariable
whenever a hard winter made a test of comparative conditions.