Bee Houses from Eastern Europe to Oak Harbor, Washington

Church Hives in bee house in Gradišče Pijavo Gorizia, Slovenia

Chruch Hives in Slovenia

I am fascinated by eastern European Bee Houses.  I do not know much about them, so if you do, please share your wisdom.  The mobile ones seem like such a wonderful, elegant solution to moving small numbers of bees around: everyone goes together.  Plus, stationary or moving, they are really lovely.

The bee houses come in all shapes and sizes. The image at the top of this blog is, apparently, the hives of a church in Gradišče Pijavo Gorizia, Slovenia  (Should any of the words or locations be wrong, please correct them.  I’m working off of a translation program.)

A friend, Lisa, at  RoundTuIt Farms shares my enthusiasm.  She has a stationarybee house into which she moves her hives each winter.  Visit her bee page for more photos.   It’s wonderful, but she and I are facinated by the bee houses in which the bee hives remain year round.

Slovenian Hives at the Information Center Park Caves, near Divaca Hrpelje Kozina

Learning Trail Hives

I think I love the European ones for  their colors and paintings.  You can tell they don’t shift.  After all that would mess up the painting of the beekeeper on the right.  The idea that the hives stay put is nice.  These are  from the “Location Slovenia” website.  There is a “Learning Trail” at the Information Center Park Caves, near Divaca Hrpelje Kozina.

The trail covers both cultural and natural history themes – which makes beekeeping a perfect match.  More images of hives and houses from multiple sources can be found  HERE.

They’re lovely to look at, but Lisa and I have always wondered: how do they work.  I recently discovered some websites that gave a look inside the hive.

Inside AtlanticMaster's Bee House & Hives

AtlanticMaster’s Hives

This image is from a fellow who goes by atlanticmaster (that’s all I could find on him).  From what I can see, each of the hives opens from the back and the frames slide out.  None of the hives are more than 2 boxes.   He has a nice slide show of his hive at this link.

I particularly like the way he included a “well that one didn’t work so well” photo.  Too often we tend to show only what works.  The “oops” are often far more instructional and inspirational.
These are from a Carniolan beekeeper’s site and show how the hives could be created.

Carniolan Painted Bee Hives

Langstroth hives in Carniolia

Eastern European Bee Hives with rear door open

The Hive Interior

Eastern European Bee House, Hives, and Beekeeper

The Beekeeper

The beekeeper’s apiary  is in Upper Carniola (near Jelovica).  At the time of his postings, the beekeeper was running 12 hives.  I tried to contact the beekeeper, but sadly the message was returned: the old “this address has a fatal flaw” message.  What a shame. It is a great website, even reading it though a translation program.  Of course, website that starts off with a brandy recipe has my heart.  He does go on to deal with varroa, oxalic acid, what beekeepers in his are do at different times of year…but it all dates from 2006.

Eastern European Bee Hive - Open for demonstration - B & S Producers

B & S produced hive

Another view of the interior of a bee house is from B & S Budija Production of beehives and beekeeping equipment and laboratory dentistry (B & S Budija sp-Izdelava panjev in čebelarska oprema ter zobotehnični laboratorij).   I think the slated board between the two supers are interesting.  Perhaps it is to add more ventilation to the hive?    I like the name of his company as well, especially the density at the end.  After all if you go to our farm website (Walking-Wild.com), you find beekeeping, honey, handcrafted furniture, DVDs, and photography.  Got to diversify in this world.

His hives would seem to be for sale, although it is a bit far to pop round and get one, but they are well made : “The hives are made from high quality spruce, which is technically in an industrial kiln dried at elevated temperatures and properly conditioned at 12% humidity.”  Hop onto the site for more photos including nucs made in this form.

It’s probably too far to go to buy the hives, but you can build them. Dr. Janko Božič offered a nice diagram of his hives.

Diagram of Eastern European hive provided by Dr. Janko Božič

What’s What In the Hive

He apparently ran a beekeeping training center (in Ljubljana?) but stopped the center in 2000 with a heart breaking message:”The  Beekeeping training is left to the fate of time to April 2000th I hope someone will continue the raised work and beekeepers offering modern methods of holistic education. Personally, I forwarded the initiative on Beekeeping.”  Makes me want to weep.
My translation program gives these definitions of the keys:

  • B = back
    BS: brood
    BW plodiscno box (you figure)
    D doors
    F: front
    HS medisce (treatment area?)
    HW medicno box (same?)
    IF inner front
    QE the parent grid (queen excluder?)

OK, it’s not much of help, but it’s a start

The one downside of these hives would seem to be the necessity of constantly pulling honey, Taylors Garden Buildings the U.K.  has a solution to that:

Interior of a bee house built by Taylors Garden Buildings (UK)

Inside the Bee House

Bee House, exterior, built by Tylors Garden Buildings UK

The Exterior

It’s not quite the same.  Their focus is to make beekeeping practical for the elderly and the young.    They’re based in based in Finsbury Park, London.  The company’s main business is building sheds, from the incredibly practical to the outstandingly elegant.  These seem to use the hives based on Langstroth hives, but the sheds could easily be merged with the Eastern European style of boxes.

That’s the tour inspired by a very wet day at Brookfield Farm Bees And Honey, Maple Falls, Washington.

If you use or know more about these wonderful hives, especially how to build them, how they are “supered”, and how honey is harvested from them, please share information and links.  I think there’s a place for these in many of our apiaries.

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About brookfieldfarmhoney

Brookfield Farm, a small off-grid apiary in Maple Falls, WA focuses on the beauty and bounties of Washington’s wilderness. I sell honey from our bees, whose naturally-treated, antibiotic-free hives are home to bees who fly Washington’s mountains and farmlands. Herbal salves and lip balms from Brookfield beeswax. Delicately infused honeys and vinegars. Varietal honeys from independent Washington beekeepers. Karen Edmundson Bean: beekeeper, photographer. Her love of the wilderness inspires her to discover new ways of bringing the wonders of nature to others. Brookfield Farm : the tastes, textures, sounds, and images of nature.
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55 Responses to Bee Houses from Eastern Europe to Oak Harbor, Washington

  1. Emily Heath says:

    I love this post and have added the pic of the church hives to a recent post I did on ways to prevent bees drifting, as it’s a great example of using different colour entrances. Those Learning Trail hives are so imaginative.

  2. Vid glinšek says:

    Hello! I’m a beekeeper from Slovenia, and i found it very interesting that you have done such great research about our bee-houses. We call them “čebelnjak” and it comes from word “čebela” (bee). If you have any questions please contact me on my email glinsek.vid@gmail.com. Sorry for my bad spelling and i hope that i didn’t reply too late.

    • Hello Vid – How wonderful to hear from you. I am completely fascinated by your bee-houses – beautiful and functional. I am even more interested in how the bee hives work – how they open from the back. I’ll email you (it’s never too late to write – and I’m always late in responding, because I have to drive to a library to get high-speed internet – no internet, no mobil service where I live!)

      • Casey says:

        Did you ever find some plans for these Bee-houses? I have been looking and looking for some plans and have yet to find anything substantial.

        I suppose modified Warre hives could work if you used a bee escape between the boxes before harvesting. The amount of honey would not be as high yielding as something that used frames but your wax production would be high. Thoughts? I would love to see an updated blog post on this topic.

        • Sadly, I’ve not found any plans. One fellow was going to send some, but it didn’t happen — So I’m still looking. If I find one that I can copy, or the plans for one, I’ll certainly post it. They would be so useful in so many ways.

        • Michelle says:

          Suzanne Brouillette , is a distributor for Slovenian Bee Hives in the USA. There is also another distributor willing to ship to the USA, Nadja Bertoncelj, http://www.logar-trade.si Suzanne has a book for sale that also includes the schematics for the A-Z Bee hives.

          Happy Bee keeping,
          Michelle

        • What’s the name of the book? I went to Suzanne’s site and didn’t find it. Mind you, the internet is still a mystery to me….. Thank you for the link and info.

  3. scott says:

    If more information comes out on this topic I would love to hear about it.. We had a hard winter here in Indiana and I have an old shed I could convert if I can see more… This would solve some of my problems…
    I’m continuing to research this topic..

    • My friend Lisa swears by putting her bees in her shed each winter. And Clyde, another friend, just kept his in a disused horse/show barn – it was huge with this really big open window, so the bees would fly from the hive to the window and beyond. CC Miller, in his book “30 years among the bees”, talks about overwintering all of his hives in his basement…. I just wish I could find a diagram of how to make the E. European hives. If you come across one, could you share it? A lot of us are searching for one. I like the idea of bee houses, not moving the bees, just letting them be in the houses (kind of like Clyde did) – less picking up the better, I say.

    • molly Armstrong says:

      Hi.Just wondering if you ever did put your bees in a shed, and if so, how? And how did it go? I’m trying the same! Want to try something new ( for around here–Western Canada) for protection from bears!

      I’m so curious!
      Thanks!
      Molly
      mollyarmstrongv@gmail.com

  4. David R Smith says:

    BRILLIANT BLOG , this is Aussie Dave from Down Under -Veroa Free Australia , I am enchanted by the bee houses,particularly with an extraction unit enclosed . I will have a crack at making a house with internal removable frames on the boxes .perhaps even relocatable so you can chase the Honey Flows and rent the polination capabilities to cherry growers etc. Say 12 x double box set up , with shade awning and insulated roof ? Please foward photo,s ond plans if they exist . i will endevor to make by sept 2014 – cheers for now David
    ps: davisandsmithjewellers@gmail.com

    • I wish I had a plan to make one. I thought I had a connection in Europe who was going to send photos, but that did not pan out. Another internet connection sent the following link and info — does it help? http://translate.google.com/translate?langpair=auto|en&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.czs.si%2Fcebelar_panji_az.php
      and this information: The frames don’t “hang”, they are supported in two ways: First, there are 3 metal rods ~ 1/2″ from the bottom in each chamber (6 bars total in a 2-chamber Standard AŽ) which are perpendicular to the frames. The rods are attached to slats/grooves in the inner wall and are removable. The bottom of the frames rest on these rods. Secondly, there are two rows of metal frame spacers on the inner wall at the front of the hive. One continuous metal spacer at the top and one at the bottom, in each chamber. (You can refer back to the pics link to see them). Each frame fits in a segment of the metal spacer, there are 10 areas in the spacers, one for each frame to fit into. It’s very important that the frames are put back EXACTLY in each space, otherwise the insert at the back cannot be inserted. It’s difficult to do and takes practice. Next, there are two more rows of metal frame spacers at the top and bottom of the screened inserts at the back of the hive. When putting the screened inserts back the spacers have to line up perfectly with the frames or they can’t go back in. That’s even more difficult to do, and takes a lot of practice! The frames are pulled (slowly!!) out, toward the beekeeper, at the back of the hive (where the full door is). The frames can be pulled out by hand, or using a frame grip. Great care must be taken to not roll bees when taking frames in an out. That’s one reason the frames are curved at the top and bottom—–so as not to roll bees and possibly kill the queen.

  5. Dino says:

    Hi

    Plans for beehouse are on Slovenian beekeepers association’s site http://www.czs.si/cebelar_cebelnjaki.php
    Beehouses are intended for stationery beehives. These are usually slovenian AZ beehive.

    regards

  6. Dino says:

    Hi
    I’m not aware of any beehive plans on the site. Links to the plan
    http://web.bf.uni-lj.si/jbozic/cic/AZpanj.html you already have.
    This beehive has two levels (boxes, etages), but there are also 3 level versions.
    Beehives are built in different widths because they are built for 9,10 or 11 frames in a box (18, 20 or 22 frames in 2 levels.
    Beekeeping with it is different comparing to LR. You manipulate frames from lower box to upper box to prevent/delay swarming. But it has some advantages. You work inside a beehouse, no sun, no rain, chair to rest and relax (after work !).

  7. Barbara Yoder says:

    I’ve been interested in these for some time as well! Thank you for posting the information. If you find out more, I would love to hear about it, especially the management technique.

    • I keep looking – I really hope to find a plan in 2015 — I will post if I find one

      • Borna says:

        Hi, I’ve seen your’ve been searching for dimensions and plan, I’ve found it on one croatian site, it’s quite popular here in croatia, I have 40 of those.

        First, site is in croatian, that is a problem
        Second it’s metric system

        http://www.pcelinjak.hr/OLD/index.php/Kosnice/10-okvirna-a-konica.html

        Enjoy, try to translate the page.

        • Fabulous! Well, translation will be a challenge (google sometimes creates odd sentences) – but the images are perfect. Thank you so very much. I envy you your 40 hives…

        • Borna says:

          Well, every hive has bad and good sides. AŽ hive can last for decades if it is maintained properly. I’m thinking of getting 10 to 20 more hives, because there is a rule for stationary beekeeping that says stationary apiary should consist of cca 50 hives, some say 60. I’ll go through some old books

        • I think they’re brilliant. I’m really hoping that Kelley Beekeeping comes up with some in this country. I find the 50 or 60 hives interesting. Perhaps it’s in hopes of getting enough genetic diversity in those hives that they’d be ok on open mating if there were no other bee yards withing 2 miles….what do you think?

        • Borna says:

          Exuse me for not responding earlier, I have my aprirary in the hills, and it is stationary. I don’t understand what do you mean by genetic, if it is for bee type we are only allowed to have carniolan honey bee because it’s our native bee. Since it’s from mountainous region it fits perfectly for our climate (hint: croatia has a 3 different climates), and it’s strong and little agressive bee
          I believe because of climate and harvets with stationary,60 its perfect, in lowlands perhaps even more is needed because of canola, acacia, amorpha, meadow, chestnut ect, they’re blessed 🙂 I’m becoming 4th generation of beekeepers in my family and they didn’t have extensive beekeeping because of climate, we really only have acacia and chestnut plus some meadow. We call it silent bee grazing, and AŽ it’s perfect for that because hive should be amped, if you understand me, always strong, so it’s not problem to make artifical swarm and create a new colony with this hive, and since it’s cold there is more denstiy within the hives. I do not have bussines it’s just a hobby but maybe one day if I decide go for it, who knows.
          But people from lowlands and those from mountains who make living with beekeeping use LR, and some of them AŽ. But I think it’s bad for bees because bees can be really tired/exausted, and who knows whose bees are they meeting in the field and forrest, plus varroa problem. I’d rather have stronger colonies, healthier, since there is no beekeepers near mine apriary in a range of few kilometers, and this gave me really good amount of honey, and I love honey, Sorry for my english and best regards.

        • Hi Borna – my “genetics” comment was because it never occured to me that there are some wonderful places where everyone keeps local bees. It’s not like that here in the US. So, in my beeyards (stationary hives) where there are few or no other bee hives within 3-4 miles, I like to have a selection of queens from as different genetic lines that I can find. These might be: feral, Primorsky (“Russian” here), New World Carniolan, or a cross of these and others that have a good resistance to varrora mites and diseases, and are suited to our area (usually quite wet). My goal to have a mix of bee “lines” is so that when the queen goes on her mating flight, she might encounter drones from a different genetic heritage. We have a huge issue with lack of genetic diversity in bees in the US – so whatever I can do to vary the lines of the queens and drones helps.
          That’s really interesting about keeping the AZ hives amped up. A company has just started importing them into the US, and I think there will a bit of learning to be done by beekeepers who are used to Langstroph hives. But it’s exciting that they are coming to the US. Your English is great….I wish I was bilingual.

        • Borna says:

          Bee 🙂 cautious because carniolan bee in a hive like AŽ likes to swarm. Croatia is a small country, size of Iowa, but climate and landscapes are very different but we use our bees. AŽ hive is great long term investment and with great aprirary your weak colonies can survive winter, you just put weak colonies in the middle since hives are on the top of ther others (and next to each others), but then again it’s not the hive that is good it’s the beekeeper, only difference is modus operandi. LR it’s great, if it’s on truck, it’s even better. and you move your bees from acacia to chestnutt, sunflower, canola, amorpha. But I like stationary more, colonies seem to be more powerful and not exausted and since it’s in mine backyard I’m not scared someone would do something bad. I’m sceptic about breeding and mixing bees, I like carniolan, it’s cute. Brings honey, it’s though, has that hardliness inside her. But maintainng a hive it’s number one priority if colony dies. I found some old hives, will buy them, renew them, they’re going to be like new ones., protected form the wind, snow and rain, I’m hoping to get 12 more colonies, 60 is the number I’m aiming. Best regards, we south slavic keepeers say Medno!
          Med=Honey

        • Thank you Borna – that’s really good advice about the AZ hives. I think they’re brilliant. I am so envious of you having them.

  8. Richard Creager says:

    I first fell in love with these while on a guided tour in Slovenia from Aviano Air Base in Italy. We visited a monastery with the second-oldest pharmacy in Europe, and outside was this little ‘house’ that struck my curiosity. Nobody knew what it was – not even the Italian guide. Some thought it the little slots were for putting offerings or prayers. Then it hit me that it must be for bees, and everyone insisted I had to be wrong. (It was quite cold, so there were no bees to be seen.) I ran back inside and asked a monk who was quite surprised that I had figured it out. On the bus ride back to Italy, we saw other bee houses out in the countryside, but it was that first discovery that made the mead I bought in Slovenia all the sweeter.
    While I have neither the time nor space to start keeping bees, I still surf the net occasionally in the hopes of finding blueprints for a bee house…and that’s how I found this web page today. While it’s not for a bee house, here is a link to the hive design you have above, but in English. Also, almost all of the parts of the hive have links with plans for that part of the hive.
    http://web.bf.uni-lj.si/jbozic/cic/AZhive.html
    From Italy,
    Richard Creager

    • They are brilliant, aren’t they. I’m so jealous that you’ve gotten to see them in person. And thank you for the link – it has inspired me to contact Kelley Beekeeping to see if I can inspire them to come up with a design that could be used in the US — so many people want them. I’ll forward the link to Kelley’s “production guy” along with everything else I’ve got. Thanks gain. If something happens – and we can get them in the US – I’ll post it all the place

      • Hello, I have started a company http://www.slovenianbeekeeping.com and we import these hives directly from Slovenia. I lived there for 8 yrs and love it so when I moved back to the US and then became a beekeeper, I decided to start Beekeeping Tours to Slovenia, I have two coming up, 27Sept – 10 Oct, 2015 and 1-14 May, 2016 plus selling the hives. We have a shipment arriving the end of July. Our first shipment in April was sold out before it arrived in Boston! Suzanne Brouillette, Slovenia Beekeeping LLC

        • I’ve been referring you to everyone I meet – and I tried to put it in an update to my blog post (I probably did that wrong). So thank you for writing it in. I’m so pleased that you all are doing this. I’ve lots of questions about the hives, but I’ll save them up for after bee/market/festival season, when I have breathing time. Thanks again for bringing these wonderful hives to the US. .. Oh, and do you do some sort of “how to manage slovenian hives” PDF? It would be great. Thanks again…

        • Greg Sanderson says:

          I’m building a honey hut in New Hampshire .
          We should be compelted in October 2016.
          We have a black bear problem here, so the hut is fully inclosed. The bees exit through a 4 inch slot . This will be covered with a painted panel. This panel will let the bees know which portal is theirs.
          I’m using langstroth hives on the south side , nucs, a Slovenian hive, and a top bar hive on the north side. The west side has a portal for a scale hive. The east side has a 5 foot wide double door, ramp, and opening window obove the door .Through the roof is a working coupla to vent smoke, heat, CO2 .
          Hi Susann I’m using one of your AZ hives in the honey hut. Thankx.

        • I am soooo jealous of your set up. It sounds wonderful

  9. rmcreager says:

    Is there a way to post three photos I took of the bee house at the monastery?

  10. 'dicea says:

    Have you seen this article yet?

    http://keepingbackyardbees.com/the-slovenian-beehive-arrives-in-the-us/

    Thank you for your piece here, it has got me interested in this design and I thought of you immediately when I saw this link show up today.

    • No I hadn’t seen that – went over right away and it’s a great overview, but the link to more info is broken (I know this pain)…So I wrote the the blogger: Melissa Caughey and hopefully she’ll write back with a way to get more info (like costs and frame sizes….). Thank you so much for letting us know about this.

  11. wayne spence says:

    Hey Bean,
    Glad to see you are still active on this topic. I stumbled across this concept recently, and it is exactly what I’ve had in mind for my apiary. I’m also here in Washington, down in Issaquah, and currently have 4 Langstroth hives, but am looking at land up your way so I can expand. The AZ hive method is perfect for growing to the numbers I have in mind. I’ll keep in touch if I find more info. Thanks for all you do.

    • What timing. ‘dicea sent this link to me: http://keepingbackyardbees.com/the-slovenian-beehive-arrives-in-the-us/ it looks like this fellow Mark Simonitsch is importing them (or setting up to import them). The write up is good, but the link to more info is broken (easy to have happen). I’m hoping to get more info. Also, Kelley Beekeeping is contemplating making some of these that would us US standard frames, they’re looking into it this fall (after their crunch seasons). But it definitely looks like the US might be seeing these soon – I hope so.

  12. wayne spence says:

    Don’t know if you found these plans yet, but they also require translation. They are in a PDF file and I don’t see a way to attach one. Maybe you can search for the name:
    Normbeute-52-TGL-11407.pdf

  13. jon says:

    I to am very interested in this type of Hive. If you have anything new to share i would be interested. I did however find this video that might be of assistance just today https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8MitGad0qU4
    I have been looking at your plans and tyring to see what i can build as I dabble in wood work.

  14. windwalkr says:

    Thanks for the Wonderful Information, I ran across a site which sells them for ~$285 here http://www.slovenianbeekeeping.com/index.html I too have been thinking of this method, and building the hives into my shop. I like the way of working them

  15. OlgaLes says:

    Thank you so much, I have a friend who will be able to make them! I will keep you posted on our progress. I kept my few hives in the shed and been moving them out in spring, which is a pain. Borna! I would love to get in touch on e-mail and ask you few more questions about your girls.

  16. In the drawing, HS = Honey section, HW = Honey [section] window, BS = Brood section, BW = Brood [section] window

  17. Merlyn Perry says:

    I have been researching these hives as well and I have found a guy that has started to build them in Georgia and he has adapted them to use foundation from the US specs for a brood box. http://www.drebbievillehives.com/our-story.html
    this is a link to his page and hopefully this might help you some. I am hoping to make a version myself and start converting my hives. I am hoping to try to get a prototype build this winter and be able to build some and a bee house next year.

  18. Mike says:

    Any idea where can I buy a three story Slovenian bee hive?

  19. Hytop says:

    I looked at the Link above that is a PDF that Borna gave us and on Page 2 it gives the measurements in mm, I converted them into inches. Before I post them I want to say: Remember Borna cautioned us that Carnolians were apt to swarm in this type hive.

    In my opinion any bees with the below measurements will quickly swarm.

    OK, Frame measurements: Brood Chamber – 10 per box (Cabinet): each one is 12.6″ inches X 4.724″ inches. No wonder they swarm easily.
    Honey Super – (also 10 per box) 12.6″ inches X 7.28″ inches. again the honey will have to be taken off often, be sure you check them weekly.
    So now what, you can’t simply add another box on top. Well here it is make it bigger, sure make it so there is a bigger brood chamber and two honey supers. Now what, oh yeah, some hives put up 4 to 6 medium supers of honey per year, now what? oh yes, connect two of them together. Oh crud, now I have a ton of money in them.
    So here is the deal, these hives work great for some, but for most it will not be sufficient to hive one good hive of bees 40,000 bees in 1 Langstroth hive body.
    Yes I know the Slovenian hive is already being Americanized and even at that you will still have some of the problems mentioned above, however I like being the architect and simply add or subtract for the size my hive needs at the time.
    Putting them in a building year round. I already do that with Langstroth hives, keeping them that way is the only way to go. So it’s simply a matter of preferences. Hey everyone have a great day!

    Hytop

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