Better Beekeeping: Sally's Simple AZ Hive
What is a simple AZ hive? The AZ hive is a brand-new to America yet centuries-old in Slovenia hive management system. While our simple AZ hive is just the basics, it still promises to make life easier for a beekeeper. A real AZ hive however, looks like the dream hive system, details and pictures below!
At the moment, DH and I are hobby beekeepers, looking to expand into a few more hives. Like our chickens, we <3 our bees! They are fascinating creatures to watch. Plus, like our chickens, they feed us. Nothing like pets that give back!
Now, the only real downside to hive management (besides getting stung), is the load-bearing work involved in hive inspection. We currently have a Langstroth hive: 2 deeps and a honey super on top.
Notice the boxes are stacked on top of each other. The only way to get into a box is to remove the one(s) above it.
To harvest the honey in the top box, we remove the tilted cover (tilted so that rainwater runs off of it, plus there's a workout weight on it to keep it from blowing off). Under that is an inner cover to remove, then we lift out the honey frames one by one.
In order to inspect the middle deep, we remove the honey frames, then the box. That leaves the middle box exposed.
If you are strong enough, you can remove an entire box at once, just lift and set aside. DH and I don't because a box can weigh 50-100 pounds easy. Nah. Plus, we inspect the hive frame-by-frame anyway.
Once the middle box is exposed, we remove those frames one by one. Btw, the removed frames are kept in an extra deep on the side so those frames are disturbed as little as possible. Once all the frames are out, we remove that middle box and the bottom box is exposed. Repeat the process to inspect.
To put the hive back together, you reverse the process. T-R-U-S-T me, this gets tedious. And hot. And you are sick of bees by the end of the inspection. It's also very wearing: you are bending over and lifting a total of 60 heavy frames (well, hopefully heavy with bees, brood, eggs and honey). Even if they are not heavy, the bending and straightening is tiresome.
There has to be a better way than all that lifting and moving everything twice.
What is an AZ Hive?
We found that better way in the AZ hive. Here's a good quick video describing the basic components:
At the moment, the only plans we could find online are in Slovenian. We did find two places to buy an AZ hive: Drebbieville Hives and Slovenian BeeKeeping -- they both look awesome! We decided to build our own for a test run, but if our simple AZ hive works out, I'm saving my honey money for two brand new AZ hives next year! Those have it all going on.
Sally's Simple AZ Hive
Ok, want to see our creation? We took the basic concept of back-door-opens-slide-frames-out and gave it the old college try. Here's what we have:
Even my simple AZ hive has immediate advantages for a beekeeper:
No bending over!!!
No lifting the frames, sliding them out is much easier.
You can inspect a box without having to remove the box on top of it.
Much less stress for the bees: their entire home isn't torn apart all at once.
Fairly simple to modify an existing Langstroth box: add hinges, a latch, the 4 rods on the bottom and a bit of wood to keep the rods in place and help the box hold its square shape (when the door is open, the 3-sided-box wants to wobble).
We'll put bees into the hive this weekend and see what happens. In the meantime, I'm counting on my more experienced beekeeping buddies to tell me why this won't work and/or how to improve it. Please share in the comments, thank you!
We're also working on a plan to build a honey extraction room with the AZ hives in one wall. Won't that be super? Stay tuned.
Other resources for the AZ hive.
Here's a discussion of the AZ hive with Mr. Drebber and Janko Bozic, Professor at the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia and world-renowned expert on the AZ hive:
Next step is to make all the boxes/frames the same size, ala Rose Beehives.
A combo of the AZ and Langstroth systems. This has no talking so I sped up to 2x: click the gear icon in the lower right corner of the YouTube video to adjust speed.
This next video also has no talking. This hive is made up of "drawers" -- lots of Slovenian beekeepers use this method as well (at least according to YouTube). You are still lifting the frames out of the box, but you pull the entire box out from the back so no removing the boxes above.
And this shows the "drawer" hive in a bee house. I don't speak Slovenian so I sped this up, too.