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
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
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
National and Commercial parts will fit.
If no queen
excluder is used the hive will suit all types of bees i.e. prolific or non-prolific.
can be drawn out in the top boxes. This will make much better combs.
Very easy to
Simple method of construction.
available to make the hives yourself.
You can only
currently buy boxes, frames and foundation from one source.
A Rose box
is heavier than a National super, though probably similar to a Commercial.
I like drone
comb in the supers and this option may restrict the principle of moving
boxes/combs around the hive.
able to buy bees on combs.
box has thinner side walls, though I don't think this is a problem.
narrow spacing throughout.
not fit some extractors, but this is a minor problem.
value may be low.
has had brood in is difficult to uncap due to the cocoons being difficult to cut through.
Brood on more than 11 frames.
Other beekeepers rubbishing it,
even though they have never seen one and may not even be able to
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