The Keeper's Hive Product Testing Testimonial Review Field Test Beehive Colony Size Winter Honey Demaree Method Swarm Control

The Evolution of The Keeper's Hive

It all began with Nat's innovative idea: hang the frames outside the box rather than inside it! While the core idea remains the same, we've made numerous refinements over the past six years through extensive field testing. Transforming an idea into a successful reality takes hard work. Many hive designs may sound good but don't perform well in the real world.

Our initial prototype was a two queen hive with double six-frame brood chambers. You're probably wondering: why two queens? The need for two brood chambers arose from the desire for a wide platform to prevent the honey tower from tilting and pinching the other pieces. This design allowed for the central honey tower to remain balanced when positioned on the platform below it. 

We opted for six-frame brood chambers in order to keep most of the frames below the queen excluder, maintaining the vertical orientation of the Langstroth hive design. While we could have adopted a more L-shaped configuration, bees tend to store honey above their heads (just like they do in tree cavities) so a vertical setup made the most sense.

Initially, our brood chamber "lids" were roofs and frame guards built as one piece that slid into place. To prevent warping or rotting, we crafted these pieces from a material called Azek. It was also important to us that our design accommodate standard Langstroth equipment like bottom boards, slatted racks, queen excluders, and 5-frame and 10-frame supers.

Through trial and error with this initial prototype, we learned several key lessons:

  1. The hive produced an impressive amount of honey.
  2. Managing six-frame brood chambers required vigilance to prevent swarming and backfilling with food.
  3. The width of frames, both plastic and wooden, could vary significantly between manufacturers, affecting hive performance.
  4. Azek could crack when dropped on hard surfaces.
  5. Bees constructed burr comb in the roof area when the space between the top bars and the roof exceeded 3/8 inch.

Based on these takeaways, we started to make changes:

  • Brood chambers were redesigned to accommodate 8 frames without compromising the stability of the honey tower.
  • Minor design tweaks ensured that all frame types fit within the brood chamber and slid out without issue.
  • To reduce the space between the frame guards and the roof to less than 3/8" we added the plexiglass observation panel
  • We replaced the single piece of Azek with a hinged pine roof and made the frame guards separate pieces.

We considered creating a one-queen version of the hive for those who preferred smaller colonies and honey yields. The platform supporting honey supers was redesigned to be less centered below the supers, and adjustable toggle clamps were employed to secure the supers without pinching the frame guards. The platform was also angled upward by 1.5 degrees to ensure a secure fit.

More field testing and valuable feedback from beta testers prompted additional design changes. It's essential to remain receptive to feedback, even if it's hard to hear at times. The focus should always be on improving the product rather than personal attachment to the design.

Prototype #1 remains in the barn, a reminder of both success and challenges.

Now, six years later, the core idea stands strong: frames outside the box! With hard work, we've made this concept a reality, confident that the current hive design serves both beekeepers and bees effectively. As more Keeper's Hives are put into use, we look forward to learning more from the diverse perspectives and ideas that will arise to further optimize The Keeper's Hive. 🐝✨

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