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The frameless conservation "chimney" hive, or "pseudo-skep". The lack of frames makes this hive very simple and inexpensive to build with simple hand tools and, like a traditional woven skep, provides a very stable environment to raise bees, and yet can be disassembled and reassembled for harvesting honey and emergency intervention by the experienced beekeeper as with conventional equipment. Very Warré-like, eh? Let's take a look under the hood, shall we?


The basement: simple 2x4 construction. ¼" aluminum channel is screwed to the inner sides to allow for a simple catchment drawer for monitoring mite levels and closing off the brood nest from cold winds in the winter, made from corrugated plastic or luann panel. The screws above that support the screened floor.


The screened floor is a simple frame made from 1x2" furring strips with a plastic needle point backing or 1/8" galvanized mesh cut to size and stapled in place. This can be quickly and easily cleaned and replaced in the field.


The atrium stabilizes the screened floor and provides a place to put entrances, simple 7/8" holes drilled on 2" centers and stopped with wine corks fitted with brass screws as grips - very simple and makeshift!

Construction note: the ½" offset between the basement and the atrium as well as the rest of the supers is designed to "lock" the screened floor in place and add stability to the entire structure.


A super, fashioned from common 2x6" reclaimed redwood boards cut to 13" (33cm) length. Common 2x8's would work just as well. Nominal 1" thick boards (what conventional woodenware's made from) would work, especially in warmer climates and would reduce weight. I use 2-by for the added R-value, instead of wraps, etc.


Another super. Same deal as before. Look, Ma. . . No frames!


Super #3. Supers are stacked "wabi sabi" for stability and strength.


Super #4. When establishing a colony such as a feral or packaged swarm the top box is generally occupied first as it is where the warm air settles, at the top of the hive. New bees store honey and nectar and raise brood in the initial combs and backfill the vacated brood cells with stores after the brood hatch. Hence the oldest honey is at the top of the hive and should be harvested from the top. Supering, or adding boxes to the "pseudo-skep" is done from the atrium up or added from the bottom as with managing a Warré. Cleats on either side are cut from 1x2" pressure treated furring strips. The arsenic in the wood makes for lovely splinters.


Spales are made from 3/8" oak dowels and are suspended between two small divots carved into alternating corners of each super to support fragile comb. The advantage of this design allows the bees complete license over the configuration of their nest and stores and provides very little room for pests to hide and gain purchase in the hive. With and footprint of just over a square ft, the conservation hive keeps the winter cluster compact and precious heat and nest scent from dissipating from around open-ended frames. The drawbacks are that combs can become very long and quite heavy in the uninterrupted space so they are not suitable for locations that get direct afternoon sunlight where temperatures regularly climb above 100°F (38°C). The design also precludes regular inspections although they are possible (on a box level rather than frame by frame) but discouraged and modest honey harvests can be accomplished, as well, but it's not the primary intention of the hive's design.


In the Warré hive frames are replaced with top bars. The traditional Japanese hive takes this a step further and replaces top bars in each super with a single grid at the top of the entire stack for the bees to attach comb to initially. Further attachments are made to the spales and all sides of the supers as the bees work their way downward through the hive (called nadiring) and natural pockets or cul de sacs are formed by the bees that promote nestduftwärmebindung, the retention of the natural anti-microbial "sauna" of propolis by which feral bees reduce mites and other pathogens within the nest.


The crown board of conventional woodenware has been modified in such a way as to stabilize the top bar grid and provide a seal and sturdy foundation for the quilt, or chaff box. The ¼" hardware cloth allows bees access to the burlap floor of the quilt so that the cluster is able to regulate ventilation through the addition or removal of propolis.


The quilt, or chaff box, just as with the Warré hive goes above the supers and is closed off from the elements by the roof of the hive. It is a simple four-sided enclosure with a floor made by cutting common burlap fabric a few inches longer than each side and soaking it in a pasty solution of rye flour and water (3 large spoonfuls to a pint of water or about the consistency of ketchup). Once thoroughly saturated the burlap is stretched across the bottom of the box, folded for reinforcement and stapled a couple inches up from the bottom edge of each side and allowed to dry in the sun.


When filled with a dry material such as saw dust or straw the quilt helps with ventilation within the hive by absorbing moisture from respiration and curing honey and prevents condensation from dripping down and chilling winter brood. The folds along each outside edge of the quilt wick moisture out of the chaff.


* * * AVOID COLLAPSE! IN HOT CLIMATES DO NOT LOCATE PSEUDO-SKEPS IN DIRECT AFTERNOON SUNLIGHT * * *

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