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Supported frame in a horizontal hive

The Jackson horizontal Hive gets its name from the father and son team that designed it (Tim and Crispin Jackson) and the fact that it is horizontal in alignment (as opposed too vertical.) It’s not a Top Bar Hive like so many people believe and horizontal hives are also sometimes called ‘long hives.’

The Langstroth design of hive has a number of interesting advantages over other hives, the supported movable frame, concept of a ‘bee space’ and a variable volume as required, for simple example. But it also has limitations such as its vertical alignment, dramatic invasive management of a colony and the aggressiveness of bees house within it. This when applied to more defensive bees such as Apis mellifera scutellata or Apis mellifera litorea (and other races) make the use of a Langstroth unpleasant.

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A Top Bar Hive, similarly has advantages and limitations. The non­supported frame makes colony manipulation and honey harvesting time consuming, delicate and at times detrimental to both bees and beekeepers with comb breakages common if care is not taken. The horizontal alignment, containment of warm air around a brood chamber, quiet and relatively unobtrusive management of a colony and the docility with the same ‘aggressive bees’ as mentioned above are however distinct advantages.

Traditional hives and wild colonies also taught us a great deal. The structure of a colony with brood near the entrance, and honey towards the back, the way bees propolise and why, and the ability to suspend traditional log and bark hives were of great interest in the design of the JHH. We also studied internal micro climates of wild colonies in detail and how they are maintained and manipulated by bees.

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We looked at the three hive deigns and combined the advantages of one hive to overcome the limitations of another hive. For example, a movable supported frame is a distinct advantage of the Langstroth Hive, yet the unsupported top bar of a top bar hive is a disadvantage to modern sustainable beekeeping. We are not saying that bees cannot be kept on a sustainable basis in a top bar hive, we are saying that the unsupported frame makes the management of the colony slower and more care required, but that a supported Langstroth frame does not fit a Top Bar Hive design.

We took the best of these three hives and combined them into a hybrid, and took that basis and developed additional advantages into the JHH.

In short we have a simple horizontally aligned hive with close butting frames covering the top, which can be supported with wire. The hives even distribution of weight allows for easy suspension (which has advantages to bees and beekeepers) and the material used in its construction help control the micro climate within a hive in a passive manner as opposed to an active manner. This is extremely important to having calm bees and increased honey production.

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The frame consists of a top bar that is 32mm in width which is specific to working with African races of bee. European races, being slightly bigger, require a top bar width of 35mm. The top bar is grooved along the center for foundation and a notch is removed on each end so that the frame sits and locates well inside the hive body. A 16mm hole is drilled through each end through which the side dowels insert. Each side dowel is drilled with an 8 mm hole at one end and 4 evenly spaces 2mm holes for wire supports. The 8mm bottom dowel inserts into the side dowels to complete the frame.

The frame is discussed in more detail here.

The advantages of a supported frame over a top bar (that lacks supports) are numerous and its arguably the use of a supported frame hive that is the foundation upon which modern beekeeping is based and has allowed Apiculture (and agriculture) to develop and expand to the degree that it has today. The primary two advantages however, are simply the ease with which a swarm of bees can be handled and the ease with which honey can be extracted in a centrifuge. In order to produce honey of a decent quality on a large scale, a supported movable frame is a necessity.