Original Australian Trigona Hive – OATH
Here are some basic construction plans for the popular OATH design. This includes the Honey Super top section. You could make it without that section if you aren’t interested in collecting the honey that way. Of course there’s different designs, shapes and sizes, and different methods of construction, so feel free to experiment. The below is just the basic idea for the design.
There’s many different kinds of timber and thicknesses used by different box makers, from the 19mm Pine you get from the big hardware stores to 50mm thick timbers. There’s a lot of different opinions about what is best. Most will recommend it be at least 25mm thick. Of course thicker timbers will give better insulation but it’s not always needed, it will depend on your location if you experience long periods of very low or high temperatures.
If you’re using 50mm thick timber then you could always make the overall dimensions larger so the internal volume doesn’t become smaller. If left unrestricted bees may make the brood cone 150mm wide, so even though the image below shows the brood cone support area at 130mm x 120mm you can vary the sizes. Bees can fit their brood cone in to much smaller thinner spaces in tree hollows.
If your timber is 35mm thick then you might use 50mm long screws. Of course you can use nails. Pre-drill all nail or screw holes to prevent the timber splitting. I’d recommend galvanised screws for longer lasting strength and a good quality exterior wood glue.
The entry hole doesn’t have to be 12mm. You can drill different sizes, 10mm – 16mm for example. If you drill a large entry you could line it with some Propolis to reduce the size. (bees wax and resin mix).
Boxes can be finished with a good quality exterior paint or your preferred oil
The design above uses a join called a Butt Join, where the two pieces meet. The photo below shows a Rebated Join, where a section of one piece has been cut out and the second piece fits in to that area. Theory is that it’s creates a stronger join by adding bracing, and also has a slight increase in surface area connection..
Below: Middle frame – pictured up side down to show the Splitting Bars
Because a lot of box designs use the same outside measurements of 200mm x 280mm and then use different thicknesses of wood, it changes the internal volume.
If you’re using thicker than 35mm you should probably increase the outside dimensions to try keep the volume of each frame above 2 – 2.5 litres to give the bees some room to develop the colony. Also remembering that bees can fit their colony in to tiny spaces like little ground cavities and tree hollows that are only 2 litres total volume, so you’d get away with a 1 litre frame, but it’s thought that the bigger volumes like 2 to 3 litres frames could provide space to grow a stronger colony. In total you might be looking to achieve a 5 to 10 litre box. (two frames and a super)
If the box volume is too large, the bees may block off areas and only use a small section of the box. If the height of each frame is too high then the brood might only be contained in one of the frames and when it comes time to split your hive you might not be able to split the brood as it will only be in one frame.
Here’s some examples of internal volumes of a single frame with the common external dimensions of 280mm x 200mm x 90mm height
- 20mm thick timber: each frame might be around 3.4 litres
- 25mm thick timber: each frame might be around 3 litres
- 35mm thick timber: each frame might be around 2.4 litres
- 45mm thick timber: each frame might be around 1.8 litres
- 50mm thick timber: each frame might be around 1.6 litres
Honey Super Frame
Internal volumes of a Honey Super with the common external dimensions of 280mm x 200mm x 70mm height
- 20mm thick timber: 2.6 litres
- 25mm thick timber: 2.4 litres
- 35mm thick timber: 1.9 litres
- 45mm thick timber: 1.4 litres
- 50mm thick timber: 1.2 litres
Total Box Volume
The standard box design of 2 frames and a honey super total box volume
- 20mm timber: 9.4 litres
- 25mm timber 8.4 litres
- 35mm timber 6.7 litres
- 45mm timber 5 litres
- 50mm timber 4.4 litres
If you’re placing your hive box in the weather it should have some kind of roof to protect it from the rain. If water is allowed to run down the sides it can get in to the seems between the layers and possibly cause mould and rot.
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