We cannot improve beekeeping by going further and farther away from the bee’s natural tendencies. Instead pick a hive model that is best matched to your locale, populate it with local bees, the results will speak for themselves. George de Layens
The Layens Hive is estimated to be 1million units in use in the world predominately Spain; Potugal; America by hobbyist and bee farmers alike. The writer knows only of 3 in Wales of which he keeps two. Anyone else please contact writer to compare experiences Writer knows of a bee farmer who is contemplating using them commercially.
I decided on their use lazily perhaps after keeping bees in WBC ,Nationals and Commercials and skeps for close on 63 years I was becoming challenged in handling multi pounded weights of supers at height and heavier still brood boxes kept on stools and frequency of visits were reducing.
A stool floor double brood and three supers is far of the ground and not conducive to good manhandling procedure for the aging Beekeeper.
My bookshelf offered up horizontal hives for consideration but these are frameless (top bar) or adaption of well-known hive used horizontally instead of vertically I bow to use of frames as an integral part of a hive an its management but not the queen exclude I have never seen one in the wild. I subscribe to the fact the queen will not cross honey.
Turning from the Edwardian “Institution” dictates of industrial keeping of bees and how it should be done, having never treated at any time, not exactly “leave alone” but limiting times I opened up, intending to maintain “sustainable beekeeping” ,”natural beekeeping” “bee centric” or whatever you may call it and allowing working at waist level, Layens was the answer!
My education on the hoof
*no heavy lifting
*all the frames same size
* strong spring build up and good overwintering
and learning that the claims of Big frames/Big hives/allow enough room for queen to lay without interruption, locally adapted bees .good and sufficient forage. Have I cracked it?
Now put it into practice!
The first Layens was made locally for me out of English cedar now 3 years old and in good order from plans taken from the web and has been left to weather naturally. The inmates soon plug up any imperfection/cracks in the casing
A swarm collected locally–and turned out to be strong and healthy
Put them on 5 frames with a stop board and left them alone. 3frames with full foundation and others with 25mm of starter.
Layens hive has 14 frames and have been recorded with 20plusChecked end of July and had to add more frames the colony had progressed faster than my estimate Bee inspector’s visit showed up a few deformed wing virus bees by the end of season they were covering 12 frames.
Bees left to set themselves for winter with estimated 40 plus pounds of honey and a cover board cut out of 32mm insulation.
Spring saw colony start to build quickly——–I have never seen so many bees in one place. Scary after compared smaller body of bees in a National
Spring inspection found to be queenless but bees still packing in pollen etc and no sign of Varroa in any form
It is noted that although no Varroa floor or mesh the base area of the hive had been kept clean by the mortuary and house bees
I admit to obtaining a new queen from localised stock who immediately settled down
The problem now what to do with all these bees they had covered the full 14 frames by now. Brood. stores and honey No neuc for Layens as yet. Suppose I had better make one. Though Layens Hive designed to be able to accommodate a split that is why there are two entrance holes detailed in the hive. (plus a division board)
Note the brood is located at open entrance end and as additional space required it is provided by inserting two frames at end of hive against brood so that brood can expand both directions (horizontally) Manipulation varies spring and post honey take off.
Joy. Messrs Thornes were now supplying. The colony was split into new no2 Layens hive and they do well This in its self was problematic as Layens 1 manufactured from book was not the same in frame depth as Layens No 2 The colony was split “2for you 2for me” basis and replaced in Layens 1 with new frames and extra frames in Layens 2 to make up size for winter The 2colonies still sit end to end productively and I have made no attempt to move one away to whatever distance is popular
Make or purchase more frames to allow surgery to account for both editions Interestingly bees have made no attempt to fill in difference at base Perhaps a space at bottom of hive represents space at bottom of wild colony in a tree Watch this space .Sorry!!!
Problem hot period allowing frames content to become distorted and making it difficult to harvest Must look at alternative reinforcement.
I estimate honey yield from two colonies over two years 70lbs There is no extractor available at this time so must use honey press. Americans have one along with other appropriate items-need to order a container load. A commercial thought for somebody one day?
Not a problem as this assures yearly replacement of comb and bees make their own decisions on hat cells to produce what size and where. Fix 25mm of starter foundation on the frames Frames progress away from broad area and and fill with honey so on harvesting combs are then replaced
The Layens is good—again whatever is good for the Beekeeper but this time what is good for the Bees
According to tradition I informed the colonies of the passing of my wife who would assist in the Apiary and I will swear the “hum” receded for a respectful time and them resumed in volume
This not offered up as the definitive but in response to the call for some words on an alternate hive I do not dictate use of any type of hive only that the developed management of the colony is with the bee in mind and make no comment on viability of any other hive
John Pilgrim – Chair Carmarthen BKA
WBKA Safety Officer
Last Update 18/3/2020