I've made plenty of mistakes in those 9 years! Yes, some did result in the loss of hives, so I have learned to make splits and increase the number of hives, because you just know that you are going to lose some. I've learned that even the best beekeepers lose hives. It is just one of the facts in this day and age of beekeeping.
Along the years, I have gotten pretty familiar with the Langstroth hives and can manipulate them and make splits fairly easy. Most times, I let them make their own queens, but do occasionally get a queen from another apiary just to keep the genetics in my apiary diverse.
When working my hives, I have come to one conclusion.....the boxes are HEAVY!! Especially the supers that are packed with honey, only half the size of a regular hive box, but can still weigh in excess of 30-40 pounds, and when you are trying to take them off of a hive the is over 3 feet high, it can cause some back issues.
I never really feel like I hurt anything at the time that I am doing it, but later in the day when I go to sit down and relax....WOW, I can feel that I did a little too much lifting.
TOP BAR HIVES
So in my reading and learning from other beekeepers, I have heard that Top Bar hives are much more forgiving on the back than a Langstroth hive because you are lifting a frame at a time rather than a whole hive box. The hive is stationary and the only thing that you move, maneuver or manipulate is the frames.
Maybe I was not ready to change things up in my apiary because of my learning curve, or the fact that I had all my money invested in the Langstroth equipment, but the opportunity presented itself to acquire some new equipment.
I was the lucky recipient of a NC State Bee Grant.
Yup...so this grant was a first come, first serve type of grant and I got on my computer early one October morning and as soon as the application process was opened, I applied. Low and behold, I won $600 to be spent on bee hives.
I had to first purchase the bee hives and then could be reimbursed by the state. I really wanted to get a Top Bar hive, but was still hesitant because not only was all my frames and equipment Langstroth, but so was my extractor (and those things are not cheap!!)
I had heard of a Horizontal hive and upon nosing around on Facebook, I discovered what was called a "Horizontal Double Deep" hive. This was a combination of the horizontal Langstroth hive that held frames similar to a Top Bar, but the frames were made with 2 Langstroth frames with the 2 frames hooked together.
Crazy maybe, but this appealed to me because I could continue to use most of my Langstroth equipment, including my extractor and have enough room for excess honey during a nectar flow. There were people sharing their ideas on this page and several who had made one and shared pictures.
WHO WILL MAKE THIS HORIZONTAL DOUBLE DEEP HIVE FOR ME???
I am not a wood worker and these hives were not sold on the market anywhere. So who would make this type of hive for me? Again, Facebook to the rescue. I started chatting about this hive and found a gentleman that lived about an hour from me. He was a carpenter (and beekeeper) and was very interested in the project. I sent him pictures and plans of this Horizontal Double Deep hive.
I forgot to mention that I also wanted a hive that was insulated. All Langstroth hives are made from very thin pine and there is no insulation factor at all to these hives. Living in North Carolina it does not get too cold, but this last year it got down in the single digits. I usually put some sort of insulation on my hives, but the insulation board that I had cut to fit the hives was getting rather ragged and a skunk or coon came and chewed a few of them to the point that they were not reusable. So whatever hive that I invested in, I wanted insulation built into the walls. Marty, the gentleman that agreed to make this hive, also like the idea of insulating it.
When Marty started working on the hive and was near completion, he christened it "Big Mama" The name stuck!
My budget was $200 per hive, but Big Mama was a little more expensive.
They still needed a little work, like entrances and paint!