Rose Hive
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Rose Hive



There is a saying in beekeeping that goes something like this - "Every new beekeeper tries to design their own hive - or modify an existing one". In my early years, I thought about a BS frame that was about halfway between the depth of a brood and a super. Of course I never did anything about it, probably because I was discouraged by others, but memories came back when I first heard about the Rose hive.

At Gormanston in 2009 I sat next to Dave Cushman in a lecture given by Tim Rowe about the Rose hive he had designed and had been using for some time. He is a commercial beekeeper
with around 100 colonies living in West Cork, Ireland. I could find little to fault in what I thought was a good lecture, that was not delivered in the arrogant style so many "inventors" use. After the lecture, Dave and myself had a long thoughtful chat (I had many with him!) and he said he had done exactly the same himself, but like me, it had never got off the ground. As a former manufacturer he was interested in the method of construction. I have spoken to others and over the years one size of box has been proposed or used by many and of course is common in the U.S. and elsewhere, but using Langstroths. The difference is that Tim Rowe has actually done something about it. Yes, there will be those who throw their hands up and shout "Oh no - not another hive!", but this is not really another hive, it's simply a different depth box of an existing hive - the National.  There are a few small changes in construction but the overall dimensions are the same.

The depth of the National brood box is 225mm, supers 150mm. The Rose is 190mm deep. Providing they are bottom beespace, all National or Commercial parts will fit. The side walls of the boxes are thinner than standard, allowing 12 frames instead of the normal eleven.

Tim Rowe has developed a way of using these boxes that I think has merits.  Because all boxes are the same they can be used for brood, honey or both, by simply changing position or inserting a box of empty combs where you wish. He doesn't often use queen excluders and the queens lay where they like, but I suspect once an arch of sealed honey is formed this will be a natural barrier the queen won't go past. Unless you are very careful it might be difficult using drone comb.

Tim never feeds syrup, but leaves adequate stores of honey for the winter. This is sound thinking as the bees will look after it and won't waste it. In sensible hands I guess that starvation is a rarity. As honey will be extracted from frames that have had brood in there will be some who will be horrified. I see no problem with that - bees are moving nectar/honey about all the time and it is my observation that much of the nectar that comes into a hive is put in the brood nest first anyway.

As a teacher of beekeeping, I often get beginners tell me they have done a lot of research and, based usually on the results of punching some figures into a calculator, have decided what hive is "the best". I can usually blast great holes in their thinking, simply because they don't have the experience to consider the practical aspects. As I keep saying, a hive is a tool of the beekeeper and it is a matter of personal choice. If a potential beekeeper told me they were keen on the Rose hive, I wouldn't discourage them, but discuss the following points as I see them:-

Advantages.
Disadvantages.
I know the list of disadvantages is longer than the advantages, but many of them can be overcome. At the time of writing I have not inspected bees in Rose hives, but I'm sure I will at some stage. I'm definitely not dreading it, because in my view the thinking is sound. There is a book available
"The Rose Hive Method" that sets out the methods of using the Rose hive. I have read it and it is packed with good sound information. It challenges some conventional thinking and teaching, but I see nothing wrong in that. It is well worth a read, even if you don't use Rose hives.

Would I change to them? No, not now. I like to work on single brood boxes with drone comb
on wide spacing in the supers. If the Rose hive was the most common hive when I started beekeeping I would probably have developed my own methods and would have a different view now.

The Rose hive used to be called the "Rose One Sized Box (OSB)" and in some places it still is. There is a website with much more information, including some management techniques. Click the button at the top left.

Roger Patterson.