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15. The Hybrid 'BRITISH NATIONAL-DADANT' Beehive.

Contemplation and Assembly

In his book 'Proper Studies' (1927), Aldous Huxley wrote: "For most people, nothing which is contrary to any system of ideas with which they have been brought up since childhood can possibly be reasonable."
And as an example of the truth of this, it was as a schoolboy that I started beekeeping with WBC hives, and on my return to beekeeping several decades later with single-brood Modified British Nationals: the intensive management of which I continued to assume was an essential component of the craft. In due course I built several Long Hives containing around twenty standard 14"x9" brood frames, and found that these too required intensive management if all of their frames were to be employed.

But - at one point I converted a KTBH into a more useful framed Dual-Long Hive, each half of which contained sixteen deeper 14"x12" frames - the colonies within which not only flourished - but did so (with all frames being utilised) without any significant beekeeper management. This was a revelation. The only negative aspect of these hives was that sixteen of these 'brood and a third' frames were insufficient to support the size of the substantial colonies which developed.

And so it began to dawn on me that the use of larger numbers of deeper frames was one method of achieving thriving colonies with less need for beekeeper management - possibly somewhere around twenty 14"x12" or 14"x14" frames (the latter being the size of a 'brood and a half' ... and having the same comb area as that of a Langstroth Jumbo, as used in the Modified Dadant hive).

And so the first step was to make a 14"x14" test frame - this one having a single vertical spile made from pine, and shown next to a standard British National 14"x9" brood frame for size comparison.



Here this test frame has been placed in a brood over a super - this being one of the attractions of this experiment: there being no need to make any custom boxes - at least, not at this stage.



As the project was beginning to look viable, I ordered a pack of 4.5mm bamboo skewers, and installed two vertical skewers per frame from then on.



At this point my thoughts turned towards how best to protect this experimental hive from the weather. A few paragraphs ago I mentioned the WBC hives I worked with as a schoolboy, and several years ago I built a WBC-lookalike cover for a National Beehive using uPVC cladding:



But removing those lifts prior to splitting brood boxes on the frequent inspections which are required when running standard British National hives promised to be very time-consuming - and so the cover was never used, but ended-up collecting dust instead.

However, having recently decided upon trialling 14"x14" frames to achieve the same volume as a Dadant Beehive, it occurred to me that installing this 'WBC' cover over such a less demanding hive might work reasonably well. And so the cover was completed by the making of a base and legs, and this is what resulted:



Shorter, splayed feet would certainly have looked more authentic, but in view of the anticipated weight I opted to fit straight feet instead.

The following pic shows the space available over the main brood box - enough for a hard crown board and two 5-frame nucs or a standard brood box. Which could be useful as a feeder shim, to hold insulation or for queen rearing.


(the metal tube - used to secure the detachable roof - was removed shortly
afterwards, and the roof permanently attached to the topmost lift)


This picture shows the eleven 14"x14" frames in situ, set by screws at 35mm spacing for now.



And a shot showing the two entrance reducers/closures which were made.




And lastly, a look at the Thermal Divider 'curtain', this being a device for reducing the volume of very large hives which, although first described as being essential by Charles Dadant within his 1920 book 'System of Beekeeping', remains a frequently overlooked piece of equipment:



Dadant used oilcloth to create flexible seals at the sides of his divider, whereas in the first version I made, strips of PVC sheet were used (from a supermarket 'special offer' banner) wrapped around some soft foam rubber instead.



This divider has worked reasonably well, but it's top has remained a problem area, for when using hard Crown Boards (unlike Dadant), there is a reliance upon an exact match between the depth of box rebate (rabbet in the US) and the top bar thickness to create a perfect thermal seal. However, it occurred to me recently - why not employ exactly the same method used to create a flexible seal at the sides, to create a flexible seal at the top as well ? And here's the result:


This example was made during mid-winter in something of a hurry, and still requires a lick of paint, as well as some tightening-up of the PVC - but it was installed without any difficulty and appears to be doing the job it was designed for.


(continued on the next page ...)


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