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Long Hive
and variants

The first long hive that I came across was the one designed by Captain Tredwell (known to Hampshire beekeepers as "Treddy"), who was the County Beekeeping Instructor (CBI) for Hampshire. They were affectionately known in Hampshire as "Tredwell's coffin". To the best of my knowledge they were never sold commercially. One of the first lectures I heard was at the Wisborough Green BKA AGM in the mid 1960s, where Capt Tredwell spoke about it. One of our members made one and used it for some years until I inherited it when he gave up beekeeping.

The hive took BS brood frames, from memory around 20 of them. I kept bees in it reasonably successfully for several years, but without supers it was not easy to use in the semi-commercial situation I had at the time. I think they would easily suit an amateur beekeeper with a few colonies, who has a problem lifting supers off and kept their bees at home.

Probably the best known long hive in recent years is the Dartington that appeared in the 1970s. Despite much publicity it is not popular. Unfortunately, it has had some ridicule, for the same reason that other things are that are different from what people have or are used to. They were available commercially, but with the option for home build, which isn't difficult, as all the materials are freely available and the hive can be made using basic tools. There are two versions, one using BS brood frames and one using BS deep frames (14x12) - known as the "Long Deep Hive". The basic concept is good and the hive is ideal for gardens and flat roofs. Small supers can be used, with much less weight than a standard super. I have handled bees in Dartington hives on several occasions and I find them more difficult to use, but probably because I am less used to them. A beekeeper local to me bought one for his wife who had an artificial leg. It was publicised as being good for disabled beekeepers, but after using it for several years she gave it up because she found it difficult to use, I believe probably because of the 14 x 12 frames, rather than the hive.

The Omlet Beehaus is virtually a plastic copy of the Dartington. I have inspected bees in these and have the same comments as other long hives. I thought the early ones were poorly made with lots of gaps. The marketing is very strong and seems to be aimed at beginners who have a bit more money than most. This I think is a pity, as I feel beginners would do well to learn on conventional hives as well, so they can make comparisons before breaking with convention.

In essence, most long hives are similar to 'top bar' hives, but utilising normal frames instead of just top bars, so probably making them easier to use, as the combs are more rigid. In a natural situation, bees nest in trees where the cavity is taller than it is wide, yet all long hives force the bees to move sideways. I don't think it causes them too much of a problem, as bees are very adaptable. It is little different than them nesting between a ceiling and the floor above in a building. If possible, I would like to see them arranging their home closer to the way nature intended. I do see the attraction of using long hives in urban areas or where the beekeeper is unable to lift heavy items.

There are many different styles and designs of long hive in the world and they are used successfully. At the end of the day a hive is a tool of the beekeeper and it's a matter of personal preference what that tool is. Bees will live in them quite happily, so if it suits you then use it. I have been the auctioneer at West Sussex BKA annual auction for well over 30 years, averaging 300 lots a year. For many years I only sold one long hive - the one I had, but more recently, I have sold several, although the prices have been quite low, I think because they may have been home made.

Roger Patterson.

Page created 22/09/2015

Page updated 15/11/2022