In Part 4 of our 5-part series on hive types other than the standard Langstroth, we talk with Paul Longwell about the AZ Hive. Paul has been keeping bees for quite a few years. He’s a Master Beekeeper and has bees in Langstroth hives, top bar hives...
In Part 4 of our 5-part series on hive types other than the standard Langstroth, we talk with Paul Longwell about the AZ Hive. Paul has been keeping bees for quite a few years. He’s a Master Beekeeper and has bees in Langstroth hives, top bar hives and has a shed with his AZ Hives. AZ hives, if you’re not familiar with them were developed in Slovenia, which has a long history with bees and beekeeping.
Basically, AZ hives are in a small shed that the beekeeper goes into to work the bees. To work these hives, they are opened from the back, not the top, and the back is inside the shed. Bees exit from the opening on the outside, and there’s a double door that opens in the trailer, a screen closest to the bees, and a solid door to seal the hive.
Frames are parallel to the long side of the hive, like a book case, and can be removed by sliding them out of the door in the back. Like Langstroth hives, they can be 2 or more boxes high, with the brood on the bottom and honey above. The boxes, and thus the frames are larger than Lang frames, and they don’t hang on a rabbet, but rather sit on a very narrow metal support and beekeepers simply slide them out of the box to examine.
Because the entire hive isn’t opened, very little smoke is needed and beesuits are rare. Bees that fly when a frame is examined will leave the inside of the shed through a bee escape in the ceiling that offers the only light. The shed can be standalone (like Paul’s) or it can be on a trailer so it can be moved around. It is completely enclosed so it can be warmed by a small heater and a beekeeper can examine the bees at night, using a red light, or even in the winter, with the heater on.
Links and websites mentioned in this podcast:
We welcome Betterbee as sponsor of today's episode. BetterBee’s mission is to support every beekeeper with excellent customer service, continued education and quality equipment. From their colorful and informative catalog to their support of beekeeper educational activities, including this podcast series, BetterBee truly is Beekeepers Serving Beekeepers. See for yourself at www.betterbee.com
Thanks to Strong Microbials for their support of Beekeeping Today Podcast. Find out more about heir line of probiotics in our Season 3, Episode 12 episode and from their website: https://www.strongmicrobials.com
This episode is brought to you by Global Patties! Global Patties is a family business that manufactures protein supplement patties for honey bees. Feeding your hives protein supplement patties will help ensure that they produce strong and health colonies by increasing brood production and overall honey flow. Global offers a variety of standard patties, as well as custom patties to meet your specific needs. Visit them today at http://globalpatties.com and let them know you appreciate them sponsoring this episode!
We want to also thank 2 Million Blossoms as a sponsor of the podcast. 2 Million Blossoms is a quarterly magazine destined for your coffee table. Each page of the magazine is dedicated to the stories and photos of all pollinators and written by leading researchers, photographers and our very own, Kim Flottum.
We hope you enjoy this podcast and welcome your questions and comments: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks to Bee Culture, the Magazine of American Beekeeping, for their support of The Beekeeping Today Podcast. Available in print and digital at www.beeculture.com
Thank you for listening!
Podcast music: Young Presidents, "Be Strong"; Musicalman, "Epilogue". Original guitar background instrumental by Jeff Ott
Beekeeping Today Podcast is an audio production of Growing Planet Media, LLC
Jeff Ott: Welcome to Beekeeping Today Podcast presented by Bee Culture. Beekeeping Today Podcast is your source for beekeeping news, information, and entertainment. I'm Jeff Ott.
Kim Flottum: I'm Kim Flottum.
Sponsor: Hey Jeff and Kim, today's sponsor is Global Patties. They're a family-operated business that manufactures protein supplement patties for honeybees. It's a good time to think about honeybee nutrition. Feeding your hives protein supplement patties will ensure that they produce strong and healthy colonies by increasing brood production and overall honey flow. Now is a great time to consider what type of Patty is right for your area, and your honeybees.
Global offers a variety of standard patties as well as custom patties to meet your needs. No matter where you are, Global is ready to serve you out of their manufacturing plants in Airdrie, Alberta, and in Butte, Montana, or from distribution depots across the continent. Visit them today at www.globalpatties.com.
Jeff: Thanks, Sherry. Hey everybody, thank you for joining us. Each week, we get to talk about how much we appreciate our sponsor's support. They help make all of this happen and provide us the ability to bring you each episode. With that, thanks to Bee Culture Magazine for continuing their presenting sponsorship of this podcast. Bee Culture has been the magazine for American beekeeping since 1873, subscribe to Bee Culture today.
We also want to thank 2 Million Blossoms as a sponsor of this podcast. 2 Million Blossoms is a quarterly magazine dedicated to protecting all pollinators. Learn more on our Season 2 Episode 9 podcasts with editor Kirsten Traynor and from visiting www.2millionblossoms.com. That is with the number two. Also, check out our brand new 2 Million Blossoms, the podcast also available on our website and on wherever you download and stream your podcast.
All right, Kim, we're ready to get down to business and learn more about all these different hive types that aren't a standard Langstroth.
Today, we talk with Paul Longwell, on the AZ Hive, and Kim, you know I mentioned, I know Paul from the Olympia Beekeepers Association. He and I took the University of Montana master's beekeeping program together. I know he's a real smart guy, Jerry Bromenshenk liked Paul. You know I'm looking forward to talking to him about AZ Hives.
Kim: Yes, I know a little bit about AZ Hives, but not enough to say, I know anything at all, really.
Jeff: I can spell it.
Kim: That's about it, but there's got to be something going for them because a lot of people are beginning to use them.
Jeff: You're right. There's a lot of, I see a lot of pluses for them and that's one of the great things about this series we've been doing is all the literature, and I say all, and I'll say 95% of all the literature out there is about the standard Langstroth, all the management books, all of the publications are about Langstroth. Although now there's a little bit more with the top-bar hive.
Kim: A bit on top-bar and long hive. There's a couple of books out there on those, especially at the top-bar hive, we had Christy and Tina for the long hive, it was going to be one coming out and there's already one that's been out for a while on long hives and on top-bar hives.
There's a few out there, but I'll tell you what's a little scary is how much stuff there is on the web on these things that, is it right? I don't know. You look at one and they say one thing and you look at another and they say something else. I'm going to be interested in talking to Paul who's been successful with them, doing it the way that it's supposed to be done.
Jeff: Yes. He's a tinker. I mean, he builds things. He knows how the things work and how to improve them and he's been a beekeeper for a long time. It will be fun. Your comment about the things you see on the internet, and the different hive types. It's been fun since we started this series, the emails we received from other beekeepers who say, oh, have you seen this type of hive, it's being used in this location, especially for like, say queen production or something.
We'll respond to those at a future date, but it's been fun. It's kind of if a beekeeper you're tired of just doing a Langstroth or if you want to expand your beekeeping skills and exposure to new things, start looking at different hive types, you'll be really happy.
Kim: I think all of this boils down to if it's good for the bees, it's probably not for the beekeeper. If it's good for the beekeepers, it's probably not for the bees, and the more you experiment and find out what's good for the bees, the better you will do, and I think the happier your bees will, if bees are ever happy.
Jeff: Well, I agree. I think there's room, I think every beekeeper, I won't say every, but many beekeepers enjoy that. They have their colonies set for honey production or pollination, that's the business bees. Then off to the side, they have their one-offs, they have their top-bars, they have their long hives. They might have the AZ Hive, the hives and the bees they tinker with and learn more about the bees and biology and behavior. Meanwhile, the other girls are out there working hard and bringing in the money.
Kim: There you go.
Jeff: Talking about working hard, you and Jim have been working hard on Honey Bee Obscura. How's that going?
Kim: Well, we just finished one on dealing with an old comb that just came out in the middle of last week. I'll tell you, I've got a thing about old comb. It's almost a religion on getting rid of old comb because looking at beeswax for as long as I have been working with the Route company in beeswax candles, I know what's in that stuff and I don't want it in my hive. I date my frames when I put them in. In three years and often two, they're gone, I replaced that whack, but we explore that a little bit. I hope we can convince people to keep frames shorter times and get that wax recycled.
Jeff: Are you just punching out the old comb and inserting a new sheet of foundation, maybe rewiring it, or are you talking about just trashing the entire frame and putting in something new?
Kim: Well, depending on how much time I've got. I will scrape it off. I use plastic frames, plastic foundations, one-piece, or wooden frames with plastic foundations. One-piece, I get them unwaxed, so I know what they're coming in. I waxed them myself because I use my own wax, that's capping wax. I know that it's as clean as I can get it. Then when I'm done, power wash it off, gather up the wax, and have a bonfire.
Jeff: Very good. I had, at one time when I lived there in Ohio, I had a Better Way Wax Melter. From Altoona, Iowa. I don't know why I remember any of that, but the Better Way Wax Melter was the ideal thing to have where you could take your old frames, your old comb, put it in there, turn that sucker on overnight or for a couple of hours. It melts everything off. You get a nice pan of melted wax and your frames come out sterilized. It was really great. I wish I had that today. It was quite the time-saver. I wish it had survived Ohio, I guess.
Kim: Yes. They were nice when you collected that wax and you could use it again for something. I've got a friend that still has one and he uses it to get rid of his old wax, but he gets rid of his old wax.
Jeff: I wonder if he has mine... Did he find it out on the street curb one day.
I think that's what happened to mine. It went out there with a bunch of other stuff. Speaking of podcasts, we have, also we've been working with Kirsten Traynor on her 2 Million Blossoms, the podcast. This week she released a new podcast, it's out on her website and also on Apple and Google. This is her discussion, talk with Jeff Ollerton on his book on pollination and pollinators and talks about the interrelationship between bees and flowers and other pollinators besides bees and the complex dance that they do to live symbiotically. It's a fascinating discussion.
Kim: We did a review of his book here a while ago. It's a great book. Kirsten is able to loosen him up a little bit and get some more information out of him on the topics that he's good at. She's a good interviewer. I'm going to be interested in listening to what she's got to say.
Jeff: That's really good. I encourage everyone to go out and take a listen to that. 2 Million Blossoms, the podcast, speaking to listening to the very end of things. Did you happen to listen to the very end of our podcast last week when we interviewed Tina and the Long Hive did you hear that little surprise?
Kim: If I said no. Would you believe me?
Kim: No, I wasn't there. This was all yours.
Jeff: Yes. For our listeners, who listened to the very end past the end of the music they were rewarded, or most many or nine of you [laughs] were rewarded with an opportunity to email us and receive a free Beekeeping Today Podcast mug. Kudos to Phil and Tyler and Rose and Peter.
Kim: I got some of those emails too. One from David and Gary, Jacob and Nick. They're true believers, to the very end. We appreciate that guys.
Jeff: We do, we do, and hold tight. They will be on their way if they're not on their way at the morning of this podcast release. Hey, Kim, do you have any books to talk about today?
Kim: Yes, Jeff, I still got five books open on my desk, but the reason I still got five books open on my desk is that Stephanie Bruneau and I, she's a coauthor, have finished our book on Common Sense Natural Beekeeping. We both have a strong, oh, what's the word I want? A strong passion for not wanting to put poison in a beehive, and for making bees live in a place that they're, I'm going to go say it again. That they're happy in, a place that they would choose. Let me put it that way, given all the other choices. Common Sense Natural Beekeeping Stephanie Bruneau and myself. It'll be out the summer, and I guess I can say, look for it.
Jeff: Excellent. I will. I hope I get a signed copy. Do you know anybody I could contact for that?
Kim: I'd probably find somebody. One thing about Stephanie. I want to mention she did a book about five years ago called the Benevolent Bee, and it's all about using wax and propolis and all of the things that bees make that they share with their keepers. She did a good job. It's a good book, and if you can find one, pick it up, you'll be glad you did.
Jeff: Well, that said, let's get into the fun part of this show with our discussion with Paul Longwell on the AZ Hive, but first, a word from our friends at Strong Microbials.
Announcer: Hello, beekeepers, your honeybees face a lot of challenges out there. Unbalanced food sources for monoculture crops, holding yards, drought, food shortages, antibiotics, pesticides, and pathogens like chop fruit. To overcome these challenges, your bees need the multiple bacteria that are in all nectars, pollens, and the environment. These bacteria aid honeybees' digestion, and improve your honey bees' response and resilience to pesticides.
Now you can help improve your honey colony health with a quick, easy, and safe to use product. Strong Microbial's Super DFM honeybee uses naturally occurring bacteria to restore the healthy gut biome of your honeybees. Check them out today at www.strongmicrobials.com.
Jeff: Hey everybody, welcome back, and while you're at Strong Microbials, make sure you check out their newsletter, the Hives subscribe to it today and learn everything about the honeybee. Hey, sitting across the Zoom table right now is Paul Longwell. Paul is a master beekeeper with the Washington State Beekeepers Association and with the University of Montana, and also one of our regional beekeepers. You can hear he was on our show with Kim back in December. Welcome, Paul. Welcome.
Kim: Hey Paul, it's good to see you again.
Paul Longwell: Yes, it's nice to see you guys again.
Jeff: Well, Paul, today, we want to talk to you about in our discussions, we talked about the different hives you run, and you mentioned that you built and run an AZ Hive, and it fits it right in with our hive types podcast series that we're going through right now. We're trying to just talk about what is an AZ Hive and what's different from a Langstroth hive, and if you can give us any history on it, that would be great.
Paul: We came from Slovenia we're a very Bee-oriented country. They've started with the log hives and then they turned around and eventually moved into a like the Langstroth type hives, but because of their cold weather in the mountain region, they needed more protection. They were looking at wall thicknesses and that, and they decided to go to a bee house to protect the hives from the extreme weather of the mountains and they develop from that, and they said we can't be lifting our boxes, everything like a Langstroth box here, you have boxes in you lift.
Each one of those boxes are 90 to 60 pounds a piece. Well, what they did is they went to a kitchen cabinet type style where only the front of the hive faces the atmosphere. Then they built an insulation on the front hive by a dead airspace. Then you go through the hives through the back, by opening up like a kitchen door. There'll be screens there that you could look at your bees and see what they're doing without opening the hive up there, you don't have the temperature fluctuations or anything else.
Like when you're going into a Langstroth hive, if you take the top off, it immediately as the same temperature as the outside. Can inspect your hive whether it's raining or that, so your bees have a better temperament.
Jeff: The back of the hive is inside a shed or a house or a little bee house.
Paul: A bee house or a lean-to, or something like that, they mount them on trailers. They mount them on trucks and they take them all over. You'll see trucks going down the highway over there with a hundred hives on them, all stacked up two or three layers high on both sides, and they parked the trailer right there in the field that they're at, and then just bring them back to their location.
Kim: Paul, tell me, how do I get to look inside the hive at the frames to see how the Queen's doing, to check for diseases, that sort of thing?
Paul: Well, what you do is you go into the back of the hives and there'll be almost like a kitchen cabinet door. You just open it up and inside that, there will be removable doors. Usually, there are two different layers of the door. They'll have an inner door and a main door, the main doors like their screen, so you can just do a quick look or you can take the door off, and then you remove the frames just by pulling them out, one by one. AZ Hive has metal frames spacers in there, that hold the frames of the bee space, and you just slide them right out.
Kim: All right. I'm going to open the door in the back, and then I can see the frames in there, so I reach in and I lift that frame just a little bit so it's out of that guide and then I can--
Paul: Yes, you don't even have to lift it up. What they've got is they've got, the frames have a concave on the top and bottom of them. They're sitting on a metal rod, a three-eights-inch metal rod. There's very little area for propolis to nail the frame down. All you do is just lift it up a little bit and slide it right out. On your Langstroth hives, you know how you have the wings.
Well, on an AZ frame, it's straight one inch, straight up and down, so you don't have those wings to deal with. When you're pulling the frame out, you're not rolling any bees or anything. That's one of the major problems with us Americans adapting, the AZ hive style over is some people are attempting to build frames with the regular Langstroth frames with the wings. Then they end up rolling the bees, and it's not a good adapt to their design.
Kim: There's no lifting.
Paul: Right. That one of the reasons I look at, I'm not lifting 90 pounds of honey, I'm lifting 6 to 7 pounds of honey.
Jeff: Well, I'm not sure if I understand exactly, how does the frame wings or ears or wings sit in the AZ box?
Paul: It sits in the box. There's three rods that the frame sits on.
Jeff: On the bottom?
Paul: On each level. Then there's a metal spacer that sits there and has 10 spaces in it for each frame. It goes perfectly where it goes and like in Langstroth hive, you turn around and you're moving the whole box. You're moving boxes up and down, and in an AZ hive, you move frames around. If I need to turn around, if I need more, I'd to take a frame out and move it somewhere else in the hive or move another empty frame down to give them more space, so they're not getting ready to swarm on me or that, or if I need to take a frame out and say, okay, this is Blackberry honey, this specifically what I'm at, I just take that frame out right then and there and replace it with another one.
Jeff: Let me back up even further because I'm a visual learner. I have to visualize this. When you open the door and look at the hive, are you looking at the end of the frames or are you looking at the front of the frame?
Paul: I'm looking at the end of the frame.
Jeff: Like a lineup of CDs or records on a shelf?
Jeff: Or books even.
Paul: Just liked books.
Jeff: All right, cool.
Kim: Oh, well, then you just mentioned levels or layers, or it sounds like there's an additional box or maybe two above that bottom box?
Paul: Typically in an AZ Hive, you'll have your one brood chamber down below, and then you'll have a queen excluder in there and then up above, you'll have your one box for your honey there. That's a typical thing. Some Americans put three or four levels in their hives so the queen excluder can be in a different position. In a three-frame hive, if I want to by putting in a solid board where a queen excluder would be, I could shut the bees off and treat it as a nuc or put another hive up on the third layer and by putting another queen excluder, share another a common honey area.
You have all kinds of different combinations you can do.
Kim: That's a good question, Jeff. When you look at the front of the hive, the frames are not the way they are in our Langstroth hive facing the front of the front door but the sides are facing the front door. Is that correct?
Kim: Okay. Well, then that makes a lot of sense. One of the reasons that people used to use that, what's the name of that piece of that equipment that kept cold air from coming in so that the bees were able to use all of the frames right down to the front door? Do you have that issue? What does the front entrance look like?
Paul: The front entrance, I should have sent you some pictures. The front frame is two layers. You have your outside layer that has your pane on it and then about three-eights of an inch back you have another layer of lumber in there, another false front in there with a hole. When the bees come in, they turn around and they're actually going through a gap so the air does not get directly on the pipes.
Kim: All right, that makes sense. I'm guessing you don't have that long front door like the Langstroth hive, you have a smaller entrance?
Paul: No, it's typically the recommended half-inch hive by six inches.
Kim: Something that bees like as opposed to that big front door that we have.
Paul: Correct. They're like a total of one and a quarter inches for their amount of space. Then each level has its door that you could open and close as you want.
Jeff: That's good. It's nice for the honey flows.
Kim: You could have more than one layer there. You could have two, three, four?
Paul: Yes. Like I mentioned before, you could turn around and do what the old combination of two queens in a hive by having a third layer up on top, put a queen excluder on, have an active hive up there, and an active hive on the first level, and then share a honey store in the middle to fill it up better or to turn around for winter survival.
Kim: That's like the two queen system that Tom was talking about a while ago.
Jeff: I'm visualizing, walking into the shed and you can have multiple beehives in that shed with the doors facing on one side or either side, I assume. You can have a big shed, multiple hives?
Paul: Correct. If you look at my shed, it has three hives in a row just like a regular kitchen cabinet. You go in and you open this door, that's one hive. You open up the next door, that's the next hive, you open the next door, that's the next one.
Jeff: How high are they?
Paul: They're about 26 inches high.
Jeff: Off the ground?
Paul: Oh, mine are 18 inches. I adjusted mine. I went down to Harbor Freight and bought one of those mechanics stools I sit on so I just sit down there and sit on the stool, open the door and I'm right at eye level for what I need to do. No bending, no reaching, my back stays just as good as the one I went in there.
Jeff: Wait. You mean working your bees isn't laborious and backbreaking?
Paul: No, it's nice. What I like about it is because you have vents that you can open and close on the doors in the back, you get the beautiful smell of the bees, the aroma from the hive, something you don't get on a Langstroth hive. You have a sealed unit, you really don't smell anything. You don't hear the bees or anything. Well, because of those screen doors and that, you hear the hives and you could go on the hive. It's nice to go in your beehive and hear the queen piping and that which makes it kind of nice.
Jeff: Cool. Do you have any lighting in your shed?
Paul: Well, what I have is I have the choice so I could darken the inside or I can have a red light on so depending on what I want to do or I could turn off my big, bright fluorescent lights and do what I want. What I've got mine set up for is I moved all my bee equipment in there so on one end I have storage and then I have my hunting extractor and everything right there in one contained unit instead of the wife getting after me for you've got too much stuff out here, honey.
Kim: Not only that, but you take a frame out, you extract it, you put it back in.
Paul: You've got it.
Kim: That's almost too easy. How warm does it stay in the winter?
Paul: I was saying it in there in the 40, 42 to 40, 45 on an average with no heat into the building. That is one advantage that I do have. In the winter with just a little heater, I can heat the hive open a little bit and I can maneuver and look at my bees a little bit. If they're stuck or something like that, I can actually warm it up a little bit to turn around and work my bees, something you can't do in the snow, Joe.
Jeff: You'd have to be careful it didn't get too warm in there, right?
Jeff: You have to monitor. We're talking to John Miller and they have just monitor the hive temperature in the storage shed, you really have many of the same situations in a beehive.
Paul: Yes, it's the same thing. I'll keep a window open if I want to crack this a little bit to turn around and keep them cool so that you're not overabundant. I have the ability to see my bees and where they're at and if they're in trouble, I could heat it up really quick, put something in and close it back down really quick without affecting them very much which makes it nice.
One thing I was in talking with Slovenians in that, you know what their winter loss rate is? 12 to 15%.
Paul: It's 43% here in the United States for a Langstroth.
Kim: Yes, for the ones that sit outside, we just talked to John Miller who winters indoors and he's seeing the same percentage loss, 10 to 15%, so it makes a lot of sense. Let me ask you a question then. I come into your building and I sit down on that perfectly height stool, and I opened the door and I reach in and I pull out a frame and I'm looking at it and three bees decide to leave and fly up to where and how do I get them back in the hive?
Paul: Well, typically what happens in an AZ hive is usually on top of your roof, since you're in more than a darkened environment, you have a bee escape, a hole for them. With no windows opened and darkened, they head for the light and they just go right on out the roof vent and they're right back or out front and they're right back in their hive. When I'm working in a big frame, what I'll do is I'll put in what we call a bee table and when I open up the hive, I put my bee table there which is like an open trough with open on one side of the AZ hive and I will turn around and just brush the bees and back into the hive and you just watch them go to that table right back into the hive.
Jeff: The trough just sits down in front of the hive.
Jeff: This sounds really like too good to be true, Paul.
Kim: I'm thinking of the same thing, Jeff.
Jeff: It's like, I need to go build one now. What's the downside?
Paul: The downside is when you look at the difference, if you have a Slovenia hive, their frames are bigger. They're deeper and shorter and I have AZ frames that are Langstroth style. One of the downsides are extraction equipment. You have to have an extractor that does tangentially because you're dealing with deep-size frames.
A lot of people typically have something like a ranger or something that only takes regular Western frames so they would need to get a different extractor.
Jeff: An extractor that can extract deeps, right?
Paul: Right or something is that when I'm at my maximum does do them tangentially so I have no problem with that. It just takes me longer to extract because I have to flip the frame over halfway through. That's one of the differences. One of the other disadvantages is there's not many English books out there right now on AZ hive management. You're dealing with a lot of people, you're asking advice from them and they don't know anything about them so it's the best guess, and the best guess they usually say is no way you want one of those. Typically like a top-bar or a long way for that. They all are training us about the Langstroth hive.
Announcer: Betterbee is pleased to sponsor today's episode of Beekeeping Today
podcast. For over 40 years, Betterbee has supplied beekeepers across the country with the tools, equipment, and knowledge needed to succeed, because many Betterbee employees are beekeepers themselves, they understand your needs and challenges and are better prepared to answer your beekeeping questions.
From their colorful catalog to their supportive beekeeper educational activities including this podcast, Betterbee truly lives up to their tagline of, "Beekeepers serving beekeepers." See for yourself at betterbee.com.
Jeff: Well, I know you, Paul. You're a handy-crafty guy, how much of the equipment have you built? How much have you purchased through a vendor somewhere?
Paul: Well, I bought my first hives because I wanted to get them up fast so they cost me about $300 and $400 apiece. Would I go that route again? No. Now especially what I know, I'll build all my own place and I have the plans and everything to do it correctly. That's what I'm in the process of doing, is taking the Garberville hives out and replacing them with what I like in the craftsman that I like.
Jeff: You've mentioned plans, leads right to my next question; what is your source for plans on the hives that you're building?
Paul: Well, there's several Facebook groups like AZ Hives Northwest, we have the plans available in our membership file directory, and there's some AZ advocate sites on Facebook that also have the plans available. Once you join the communities, there's usually somebody that has access to the plans.
They're really simple to build. One of my best friends over on Peninsula, she just looked at the plans and started building them. She builds them almost like a Langstroth, where she took the frames but she changed the design by cutting off one end and adding the door, and adding the inner screen part.
Kim: Paul, let me go back and ask something just fundamental here, when you've got these hives side by side, snugged up right next to each other, do you see much problem with drifting?
Paul: No, I don't because they have so many patterns on the front of the hives. I have our favorite Seahawks on one so of course, the Seahawks aren't going to go over to the butterfly ones. I don't notice too much drifting.
Jeff: The Seahawks aren't going to go down to the 49ers hive, is that what you're saying? [laughs]
Paul: You got it.
Kim: I know that people do this, you could build one of these on the back of a truck so you could actually do commercial pollination with them, driving them to the field and let them sit?
Jeff: On a trailer, right?
Paul: Yes, that was one of my dreams to do, is to build another unit and I've got a car bed trailer. I was going to make something that I can mount on the car bed trailer just hold the whole building on and take it to the county fair and let people go inside and observe the hives and everything else without getting stung.
Kim: The thing that interests me the most, I think, about all of this is the no-lifting part of it. You've commented on it, I am going back to it again just because that, to me, is becoming more important every day is just [chuckles] having to lift a deep super full of honey ain't going to happen anymore. I can see the advantage of that, the advantage of being able to work. You can work on a rainy day.
Paul: You got it. I was out there in the snow looking at my hives and looking at my bees and making sure they had everything they needed and everything else. I crushed through a foot and a half of snow to get to it but once I went inside, it was comfortable.
Kim: You could also say, I get home from work at eight o'clock at night. It's dark. I could go into your shed and work bees at nine o'clock at night?
Paul: You can and one of the differences is you know how you have your big smokers in your Langstroth hives. Here, we just use a smoke stick that looks just like a little wafer that you just turn around and light one end and the smoke goes out and you're not overpowered but it calms the bees down and you're not really messing with their house much by tearing the roof off and everything. They pretty well stay in their hive and just leave me alone.
Jeff: That's an interesting question. On Langstroth, every once a while, regardless of the season, you come across a pretty testy hive. Have you run across that in the AZ hive on in your hut?
Paul: No, I haven't. I run all carnies in my hives. I haven't had any issue with being stung or anything all last season at all. Like I said, you're not ripping the top of the hive off to change the temperature and everything on them, you're only moving one frame at a time out.
You will move one frame out at the end so you can have a little bit more room and then sensing those spaces, they'll just move sideways like opening a book. You have the room to pull it out, look at the bees and put it right back in, and then close it back up and put that last frame back in.
Jeff: You run AZ hive, and you run a long hive or the top-bar hive. Is that correct? You've run Langstroth?
Paul: I run top-bar and Langstroth. I've had a lot more winter loss and a lot more issues with the Langstroth than I've ever had with the top-bar or the AZ hive.
Kim: It's back to that old saying, Jeff, if it's good for the bees, it's probably not good for the beekeeper but I'm thinking this one tends to be good for both?
Jeff: Yes, definitely. Unless you have a shed already set, the initial investment is a little bit higher to get into this?
Paul: That's the issue, you need some type of stories now. Some people, all they've done is taking a couple of four-by-fours and put them on the post and then build a little platform almost like the rural mailbox carriers. Then a little slanted roof on it and then turn around and protection for the hive and then just put them in there. What they do is they open up the back door almost like an electrical panel box and then their hive will sit in there. You can get in there fairly cheap, the main cost is your hives.
Kim: However, with 10% loss every year, you're catching that up real fast?
Paul: Yes, you are.
Jeff: Well, it still sounds too good to be true, Paul, but I do like the idea of being inside and working the bees and disturbing the bees a little bit less than I would be in a Langstroth hive.
Paul: Yes, it's nice because before I retired, I couldn't get out there and go out early in the morning and just check them. If I needed to turn around and change the feeders, or their sugar water, or something like that, I can do it, boom, boom, boom and I'm not popping any lids off or anything else. I'm not dealing with rain or anything and I can then come back at seven o'clock or eight o'clock at night when I got off from my IT job, go out there, and double-check on them. Which is nice, you can't do that at night on the Langstroth or even on top-bar.
Jeff: That's a good point. You said all your feeders are on the inside of the shed just like the Boardman feeder?
Paul: Well, it's like a Boardman feeder. What it does it is like a Boardman feeder it fits right on the back door. You take the back door open, the inner door has an area where you put the feeder out and it stays there and mine have a screen on the bottom of them. They can't come up any further than that screen and I can just change in the dark right then and there.
Jeff: That's really nice.
Kim: Do you wear a bee-suit and a veil?
Paul: I haven't had a bee suit on in a while. I do wear a veil because getting stung in the nose or the eye is never any good.
Kim: That makes perfect sense. It sounds like almost you wouldn't need one but better safe than sorry, but certainly not a bee suit? I can see that.
Paul: No, if I have something on, it's an inspector jacket.
Kim: You save some more money there Jeff?
Jeff: Yes, fun. Now you tell me. I just spent all that money in that new BJ Sheriff Honey Rustler.
Jeff: I really like that jacket. I'm just kidding. Looking back on a downside, upfront cost, there's no books really available on AZ hive management readily available, at least written in English, and it doesn't use Langstroth frames, correct?
Paul: That's correct. That's the one big warning I want to give a lot of people, there's a lot of manufacturers that are selling them on the internet here with the Langstroth-style frames, standard ones with the wings on there. Those are a bad combination in the AZ hives because of the way you take the hives in and out. I do not recommend those at all.
Jeff: All right. Well, that sounds like great advice. Duly noted.
Kim: What have we missed, Paul?
Paul: Well, we're pretty well covered it. They're just a good style hive. I love my hives. If I had a bigger shed, I would go to it and immediately, but you have to do the consideration, how many hives does your surrounding support? The one thing is a Langstroth hive is easy to put on a trailer or a truck and take it some down the road someplace, but for an AZ hive, if you have a building on your own property, you got to figure out what's in the surroundings and how much that surroundings will support the hive.
Kim: Yes, I can see that, but I got to tell you, you got a building and you don't have to fill it up with hives, you can like you do, fill it up with extraction equipment and store stuff there and solve a whole bunch of problems at once.
Paul: You got it.
Jeff: I'm just sitting here thinking about installing packages may not be a problematic, but you can't install a regular nuc because of the frame differences.
Paul: When I installed nucs in a new AZ hive, what I do is since I build my own frames is I leave the top frame off. My bottom frame and the sides are already air stapled together. Then what I'll do is I'll take a nuc and I'll put it in the chamber that I'm going to put it into and let the bees just rest there. Then we'll take one frame at a time, and then what I use as my saw and what I'll do is I'll go around with an X-acto knife around the frame, the plastic frame to loosen it up on both sides.
I'd take a saw on both sides and cut off the side, just on the top. Then I pull the top-bar off and then I just turn around and take the foundation off. Lay it in the AZ hive frame, and then I put the AZ hive frame on, and then just tack it with a stapler really quick, and put it in the hives, keeping the same way. For a package, all I do is move the queen over. I put my table down for the bees, and then I just shake them in and they go straight to the queen.
Kim: That's a good question, Jeff. I wonder when it comes to packages, one way to install a package in Langstroth hive is to put your package in the bottom box and have it open, and have all of your frames in the box above it, and put the queen up there. All you have to do is put your package in the bottom, open it up, take your queen out first, put your package in the bottom, put your queen above, and shut the door.
Paul: Yes, that's it. It's the same thing. Then once they're all moved over, just move the frame, take the frames one by one, and move them down to lower, and set your hive the way you want.
Kim: Do you know if people have nuc colonies with AZ equipment in them already so you could just take those frames out and transfer them?
Paul: There's not very many of that. I think there's some on the East Coast that I've been hearing about, but I don't have any names for it. One thing I do by having the AZ-style hives is I have these plastic adapters or I could turn around and put a dowel on the top of it. I can put the frames over into a Langstroth hive and then turn around and have them build it out, and then move those frames back to an AZ hive if I want to make a nuc.
Kim: If it doesn't work, you can make it work without a whole lot of grief, it looks like.
Paul: Correct. If you're using the original AZ hive, which is like I said was longer, deeper, what I'll have to do is I'll have to put something like a sham underneath my deep Langstroth hive box for the additional space and then put it in the box.
Kim: It sounds doable, Jeff. What do you think?
Jeff: I'm going to go ask my wife up if I can go build a shed this summer.
Kim: Good luck with that.
Paul: Just hours for the lawnmower and then turn around and kick the lawnmower out.
Jeff: That's true. Good. Paul, it's been a great pleasure having you on the show, talking to us about AZ hives.
Paul: I enjoyed it.
Jeff: We'll have to follow up with you this fall when we have the Regional Beekeepers back and find out how your AZ hives did over the summer.
Paul: Okay, we'll do.
Kim: All right. Paul, it's been good, I've learned a lot. Thank you.
Paul: You're welcome, Kim.
Jeff: Thanks a lot, Paul. We'll talk to you soon.
Jeff: Hey, Kim, I'm all ready to go out and buy an AZ hive setup if it weren't for the shed that I have to build too.
Kim: Hey, I've looked at these things a lot and getting ready to talk to Paul. I went online, I looked at him and I'm just thinking, this is just not going to work. Talking to somebody who makes it work and makes it work easily, I can see some definite advantages. Of course, I mentioned lifting, that's a big one, but there's some other advantages here too that I like. I don't if I'm going to get a shed or I'll ever get there. I'll think a lot more about them now than I did before I studied them here.
Jeff: Yes. I think that you could move a couple of chickens off their perches and you'd have plenty of room.
Kim: Yes, I could. There we go, go collect eggs and check bees.
Jeff: That sounds like a perfect life for you.
Jeff: No, I think it's really cool. I really liked the idea of having the colony inside that controlled environment, and having multiple bees in there. I'm not seeing a whole lot of downside. I'll have to go out and visit Paul and see his operation and see how it actually works during inspection and even pulling frames for honey.
Kim: One of the things that he explained that solves a lot of issues that I had in my head was when I pull that frame off, bees leave, they fly somewhere. Why didn't I think of putting an escape in the ceiling that you can open and close. You open up when you come in and you close it when you go out, then say you got no weather problems. The minute they leave the frame, they're not going to buzz around you, they're going to go up and away from you.
Jeff: They're going to get the light.
Kim: I was impressed with that idea. It's one of those common-sense things like just, why didn't I think of that?
Jeff: I know it's a basic question, but even if it was in a dark shed with a red light so you can see, would they leave the frame? Would they fly off?
Kim: Good question.
Jeff: I really don't know. I've not pulled frames at night. I've moved bees and everything, but I've not worked frames at night to know whether they actually leave. I'm sure you do.
Kim: If you recall talking to John Miller about his overwintering hives, when a bee dies in a hive there, one of the undertaker bees flies out to get rid of the body and can't find her way back because of the dark. I can see where that might be an issue at night, if one came out, went out through the escape and what, "Holy cow, it's dark. What the heck?" I don't see that being a big problem and it solves a lot of other problems.
Jeff: Yes. It's something else to look into.
Jeff: That wraps it up for the show today. Before we go, I want to encourage our listeners to rate us five stars on Apple Podcasts or wherever you download and stream the show. Your vote helps other beekeepers find us quicker. Even better, write a review and let other beekeepers looking for our podcast know what you like. You can get there directly on our website by clicking on reviews along the top of any webpage.
As always, we thank Bee Culture, the magazine for American beekeeping for the continued support of Beekeeping Today Podcast. We want to thank our regular episodes sponsor Global Patties. Check them out at www.globalpatties.com. We want to thank Vera and Slava at Strong Microbials for their support of the podcast. Check out their probiotic line at www.strongmicrobials.com. We want to thank our latest supporter of the podcast, Betterbee for joining us. Check out their full line of beekeeping supplies at www.betterbee.com.
When you check with any of our sponsors, let them know, you heard from them at Beekeeping Today Podcast, they like to hear from that. Finally, and most importantly, we want to thank you, the Beekeeping Today Podcast listener for joining us on this show. Feel free to send us questions and comments at questions at beekeepingtodaypodcast.com. We'd love to hear from you. Anything else, Kim?
Kim: Just that thing on questions. We're beginning to get quite a few. Thank you, send some more.
Jeff: We get right back to you and we'll be reading more on future episodes. Thanks a lot, everybody. Thank you, Kim. Take care.
Kim: You too, Jeff.
Paul first developed his interest in bees at a young age while watching the commercial beekeepers’ hives on his aunt’s farm in Yamhill Oregon. After a long career serving in the Army and as a public employee, his love and interest in keeping and working with bees raised back to the forefront in 2008.
An avid beekeeper and member of the Olympia Beekeepers Association, Paul enjoys teaching and sharing his love of bees. As a Montana and Washington state master beekeeper, Paul has gained experience in both Langstroth, Top-Bar and Slovenian AZ hives. He noticed how the local maritime winter weather influenced his honeybees and beehive losses. Paul’s research for solutions lead him to better understand the Slovenian bee houses and AZ hives. Discovering better honeybee health and longevity, Paul converted a storage building into a bee house and installed several AZ-type hives.
Paul actively shares his knowledge by giving beekeeping presentations in-person, during podcasts and Zoom classes. He has taught several beekeeping classes for the Washington State Beekeeping Association, including the apprenticeship course to inmates at Cedar Creek Prison. Paul also serves as one of the clubs’ mentors to new beekeepers. He serves on the Thurston County Fairgrounds and Event Center board.
Along with his wife Penny Longwell who is a master gardener, they co-developed the Pollinator demonstration garden at the Thurston County Fairgrounds and Event Center. They also offer pollinator classes for the local Master Gardener Interns.