Special or Unusual Frames
Mating Hives
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Triplefold Bee Hive Frame

A bee hive frame that is folded in 3 panels for use in a small mating hive and can be unfolded for use in a full sized National bee hive.

Part for hinge acceptance

When I first ventured into breeding bees I decided that small mating colonies containing about 1,000 bees or so was the best course to adopt. The standard brood frame did not lend itself to this ideal as a single frame nuc box would be a bad shape for such a small colony and would be vulnerable to temperature changes, as the surface area was huge compared to the volume of bees.

My solution was to develop a frame that was hinged in two places so that when it was unfolded it was the same size as a National brood frame, but when it was folded it formed a mini colony of three frames each being one third of the width of a "normal" frame.

This folded frame would then sit in a purpose designed mating nuc that was similar in size and shape to a bird "nesting Box". The idea was good enough that others have copied it, but the mating nucs that I first made were not quite large enough.

The wooden parts that bear the hinges are shaped as in the drawing at left. The original type that I used were left over from another project and were only 206 mm long with Hoffman "wings" at both ends (shown right).

The frame is held in the straight position by small sheet metal latches that are available from hardware stores. These same latches are used when the frame is folded, but they are swivelled onto different screws. This is an elegant solution and works well in practice as the latches and screws are coated with petroleum jelly, which lubricates them and renders propolis unlikely to stick.

Double ended frame side

The construction is complicated, but it was thought to be worth the effort. The initial batch that I made, had lugs 38 mm long, but this was awkward when the frame was in the folded mode so I reduced the lugs to 16 mm and achieved the end float spacing by using 6 mm thick pads under the lugs that locate on the inner walls of the box.

When set straight it looks like this...

Trifold Frame set straight

I used these frames in mating nucs, for about twelve years, with reasonable success. I found that they worked OK, but there was no provision for feeding and placing queencells between the leaves of the frame sometimes damaged the cell.

I like to learn from my mistakes and have reappraised the whole matter... As I have many of these triplefold frames I decided to make some new mating hives that would take A feeder and an extra frame of one third width. But I also have several sorts of half width frame  and bifold Frames in use as well so it made sense to design the box so that it would take either five one third width frames across the box or three half width frames set long ways. I call this latest style box a  5 x 3 mating nuc [Dave Cushman intended this as a future link, but I can't find it R.P.].

Some of the half width and one third width frames have a Cell Space incorporated in their construction, so that has taken care of the introduction of queencells.

The original idea was a good one, but I would not follow the same path if I were doing the job all over again. I would use only bifold frames as my mating frames... They are easier to make, stronger and less costly, they are also easier to fit with wax foundation. I would make all my mating nucs to take two of these folded bifold frames at least and three may well be even better.

Dave Cushman.

Page created May 2001

Page updated 06/12/2022

Printed from Dave Cushman's website Live CD version

Triplefold Frame folded

 Originated... May 2001, Revised... 09 June 2003, New Domain... 02 November 2003, Upgraded... 20 August 2004, Upgraded... 16 December 2007,
Source Code last updated...
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