Most modern hives are very convenient to use in the tropics. Nigeria host the honey bee genus, Apis Mellifera Adansonii (West African Bee). This tough species of bee can survive and thrive inside any cavity, even in a metal tin placed on the ground. In building a hive for this bee species, therefore; one may careless of the thickness of the hive body, thermal insulation, wood species, landing board, the direction of the sun, and even extra holes as – A.M. Adansonii is known to be an excellent maker of Propolis. The rougher the interior, the more Propolis they’d make. And with tiny holes in hive body, they’re bound to make even more Propolis seal up those holes, thereby ensuring even a healthier colony. A.M. Adansonii is fun to be with. No chemical or gas treatments etc, &, etc.
With the above facts; I wonder why local beeks won’t concentrate all efforts towards ‘Honey making’. Why the expensive hives? Why the weekly or monthly inspections? Except for educational purposes or during queen rearing operations, why would one ever want to open the hives too often? Why not let them bee?
Let us look at some tested and trusted modern beehives that we’ve used.
Ø Langstroth hive:- the Lang is the best of all times. For educational purposes it is ideal. In honey production, it is next to none. Easy to handle. Splitting a colony becomes a matter of seconds using the Lang. One person can conveniently harvest as many Langs as long as they can stay alive in their bee suit. Sweet, sweet hive to run, but I don’t use them. I have no intention to use them just yet as the price to pay is so high. Not monetary price but the price of ‘being at the Apiary at the precise time to do the necessary operations’. One Lang should yield up to 70 Litres (98kg) of honey in one year – but guess what – folks usually get not more than 25 Litres (35kg). And that’s for the bad guys. On the average it is usually between 7 and 12 Litres (9.8kg and 16.8kg). What then is the problem? It is problem of timing. I know, just like many beekeepers, how to pull off the maximum gold from the Lang – but that ends in theory. Unless you have them in your backyard or on top of the roof of your home, it is very unlikely you’d be getting more than 25 Litres (35kg) from your Lang in one year. So why not quickly convert them into Warre hives and be sure of your 18 – 30 Litres (25.2kg – 42kg) of honey in one year. And that, without weekly or monthly inspections.
Ø Warre hive:- smart beeks in the tropics run Warre system. It is a French system that banks upon the fact that bees build downwards rather than upwards. From the outside it looks like a Lang but the inside is much simpler and the bee love it more that way. Recently, in one of our community apiaries in Nnewi, I got two of my Warres colonize first among forty three Langs that had been baited the same day using the newly improved pheromone reagent. There were ten Kenya Top Bar hives as well but the only swarms we had within two weeks of baiting moved right into the Warre hives. Thejy love it. And to convert any Lang into Warre need no extra equipments. Just do the following:
a.) Remove all frames from the Lang
b.) Place the second brood chamber
c.) Break off the bottom bars of frames and replace the frame in the box, ‘only on the second brood chamber’, leaving the first brood chamber below, empty
d.) Replace the roof and go home with the remaining frames unused.
e.) Simple and short. Faster colonization and full honey harvest assured.
Ø Kenya Top Bar hive (KTB):- the ‘African hive’ as Bees Abroad call it. The coffin-looking bee box is scary to the ordinary eyes. The conical shape is ideal, not just to prevent attached combs, but to ward off the main honey bee pest in Africa. The human vandals. Honey thieves are mostly retched, superstitious villagers who would rather not near some wooden coffins full of bees – more effective is when the hives are marked with red paint. If you ever receive a KTB hive from charity, take your tape and measure the length. It should be up to one metre long (39½ Inches). Once lodged inside this KTB hive, it is amazing how A.M. Adansonii would almost never think of swarming. It is not an uncommon sight to find a colony that had filled up the inside with honey and then continue to build honey combs on the outside. They love this hive design. With 13½ Inch top bars, one of this KTB hives can yield 10 – 14 Litres (14kg – 19.6kg) of honey, assured. Splitting is usually for hive multiplication rather than for swarm control.
Ø Tanzania Top Bar hive (TTB):- in the course of constructing a KTB hive explained above, one may decide to leave the longer sides straight, rather than the 45° conical angles. When these sides are straight it is then called ‘Tanzania Top Bar hive’. Little more honey may be pulled from TTB hive as compared to KTB hive, but the risk of attached combs is higher. A combination of two TTBs in one, therefore, is advised.