Westlake Apiaries has hives in Loveland, Fort Collins and surrounding areas in Larimer County. Some in our backyard at home, some in friends and neighbors yards and some in outlying farms and fields.
We use a combination of standard and non standard techniques. One of the things that I really believe in is the use of all medium boxes instead of the standard method of using “deeps”, a larger box, for the brood space of the hive. This has several advantages. The main one is that the boxes are smaller and therefore lighter and easier to pick up and move around. Another advantage is that everything is interchangeable, so if a need to I can move frames from anywhere to anywhere in the hive. This standardization of equipment is great, one size box and one size frame for every use.
Another nonstandard method that I use is the Top entrance. The standard Langstroth hive uses a bottom entrance. I have found that the top entrance is great for several reasons. One is that it allows for better ventilation and air flow through the hive. This is important in both summer and winter months. It also reduces the cost and complexity of both the lid and baseboards used. Instead of the usual inner and outer lid/cover system I use a simple board with some shims to make a top with entrance. Similar to a migratory cover but with shims to create the entrance.
Using the Top entrances means that I can simply set my hives on a board if I wanted to but I like using a screen board. Screen boards are great for extra ventilation in the summer. In the winter a screen board will allow moisture that has condensed to flow down out of the hive. I make my own screen boards using a simple design that allows me to easily slip a tray, for mite counts, or my vaporizer for mite treatments. In the winter I leave the hives on the screen board and simply close up the opening in the back for better insulation. I am also able to slide a heat source under the hive in the winter if I want to.
I also like using foundationless frames. One reason is that not knowing the source of the wax, I prefer not to introduce any wax foundation into my hives. I also find that the bees like to make different sizes of cells for different purposes and the use of foundation forces them to use the same size for everything. The main reason is that it is just easier and of course less expensive.
These are a few of the nonstandard techniques that I have found to be useful. Most of the modifications are not of my own invention. I give credit for most of the techniques I use to the Beemaster Beekeeping forum and to Michael Bush’s beekeeping website. Both are excellent resources for both beginning and advanced beekeepers.