We have remarkable news towards the end of this post but, first, some background is required. A few years ago the late Roger Sutherland decided to become less active in SEMBA. For his years of service the organization decided that a horizontal top-bar hive would be a suitable gift, allowing beekeeping without heavy lifting. Winn Harliss, another well known and generous local beekeeper, volunteered to construct it. Researching the unfamiliar style of hive, he dutifully provided what seemed the necessary features but could never quite embrace the novelty and forget long-entrenched, Langstroth habits. The design began as a Kenyan hive with sides sloping at sixty degrees, entrance slot at one end, strongly peaked bars, and an observation window1. But then, questions arose. How would one populate such a hive with a nucleus2? Why, make the top of the sides vertical to accommodate medium Langstroth frames. And how would one super such a hive3? Clearly make the top bars thinner in the middle to allow the bees passage upwards, not forgetting an inner cover and telescoping outer cover. Yes, and choose the length of the hive to fit two Langstroth ten-frames placed atop it. The resulting platypus was very well built but chimerical. We naughtily but affectionately dubbed it Frankenhive.

Some time in last September, Roger let us know that he was downsizing. Having received the Frankenhive as a gift, he would feel bad selling it but would we, as top bar beekeepers, be interested in minding it for him? It is a queer thing, both fish and fowl, incompatible with anything else we possess or have seen or might want to work. Still it deserves a good home so we accepted and stored it in the barn until this spring we put it next to Dorcas with only vague ideas of how we would eventually populate it.

Last Friday our daily observations showed that a swarm had spontaneously occupied it!

We saw bees fanning above the entrance slot and steady traffic. In disbelief we risked a quick unsuited peek as we lifted her covers. There were a lot of bees within. The hive was decidedly occupied. We have heard of such incidents but never expected to have such rare luck ourselves. Except for working out a way to feed her we ought now to leave her in peace for a while as she settles in.


1We can still hear an unconvinced Winn reporting in mild puzzlement, “They said you need a window so I put one in”. Someone asked to install a skylight in a submarine might sound the same.
2A good question. We solved it by going full Tanzanian, with straight sides.
3Generally such hives are not supered.