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Poly Hive 

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Managing your Poly Hive.

There are a number of varieties of poly on the UK market, and like all hives some are better than others. The density of the Poly is the main concern, and if it is soft it is lighter and has less insulation value.

I use Swienty as my provider, which is not an endorsement as such just a statement of fact.

Previously I used German Polys but that maker has retired sadly.

Bees behave differently in Poly to a degree, and from an equivalent sized hive you will in all probability have more bees in Poly than timber.

Why should this be? There seems less need to store pollen as insulation on the two outside combs and a strong desire to use those outside faces of the combs for brood. In effect there is a net gain of some four comb sides for mainly brood reading which is a substantial increase in the over all brood area. In a national that would equate to 18% and in Langstroth : 20%

People say that Poly is flimsy. They however are thinking of the stuff used for packaging, and not the injection moulded material that comprises a well made Poly Hive. It is very tough stuff and stands up well to migratory work, and can be painted, in fact should be painted so it can look bonny in the Garden if that is your style.

It should be painted as the outer layer can degrade in sunlight so a coat of gloss or emulsion is all it needs to protect it. Please note that the load bearing surfaces should not be painted as they will stick together. Just the outer faces, and there is no need to paint the insides at all.

Assembling. Poly comes flat pack with a dove tail joint. Push gently together and in under a minute your box is made up ready to paint. It really does not get simpler than this.

If you want you can use a PVA glue to glue up the joints but I just push then together and that is all I do.

Cleaning. Poly can be gently scraped free of brace comb and propolis, then scrubbed with Virkon disinfectant.

In the event of Foul Brood no one yet knows how the authorities are going to react. I have to be honest here and say it is an unknown. If they are realistic then Virkon should be acceptable as it is in Foot and Mouth but authority and sense are not always bed mates.

Back to behaviour. Pop a swarm into a poly and the first face of the foundation that is drawn out is usually the face next to the inner face of the brood box. Why? Because it is warmer there.

As already said these outer combs of the brood nest will become proper brood combs with a marked reduction in pollen storage that is the norm in timber units.

In summer I expect 11 combs of brood in a National and 10 in Langstroth.

When I had a mix of timber and Poly units I also had a considerable number of timber supers. I made a point of putting on a Poly super first to encourage the bees up, and they rose more readily into Poly than to timber as of course it is warmer. Poly supers are also ideal for comb honey production as again they are that bit warmer and the outer combs are fully finished.

Bees winter very well in Poly as you might expect. Several reasons really, the main one being that there is no dampness, a real bee killer. Also there is better access to stores as the bees are not forced to cluster so tightly so often and isolation starvation is unlikely. Further and rather oddly given I am saying there is more movement and less clustering, but stores consumption seems less than in comparable timber units.

In Spring colonies in Poly take longer to start brooding. My instructor Bernard Mobus theorised that as they winter drier there was no need to prematurely start brooding to use up water in the hive.

Whether that is true or not they do start to brood up to three weeks later than timber but, they rapidly over take them when thy do get going and on average, as of course bees do nothing invariably, they end up stronger than the comparable timber unit.

I like using Poly for the above reasons and the two Bee Farmers I know who use them have both said if they could but afford it they would change over to 100% poly in a blink, but as they both have thousands of timber units in use it is not just that easy.

I like poly as over the years that I have been using it, the bees just do better in it, and that is, to be honest good enough for me. After all we have a duty of care for our charges, and that is one way in which I discharge mine.

PH
 

johna 

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Agreed Poly Hive.I have been convinced by the arguments for poly-hives and having seen the results obtained by our local bee farmer,I am in the process of negociating a complete change-over to plastic.I attended the Nat Honey show this last week end just to see rooftops new National hive.This is coming on to the market just in time for me as the thought of a complete changeover to Langstroth doesn't bear thinking about-I would have to "scrap" so much equipment accumulated over 40 years worth of beekeeping.I am realy looking forward to next year and a fresh look at my practices based on wooden hives.
 

Heather 

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Well said.

Iif everybody recognised that bee are also livestock and mustn't be neglected then problems within bee keeping would be less.
Would cattle be allowed to be packed, thrown around and abused as they do in America when they take bees to the foraging/pollination sites. I think not. Bees are little- so doesn't seem to demand the same standard of care.

Starvation of large animals and the RSPCA take action....bees..What a shame how sad- buy some more........:cuss:

Off soapbox

PH= I got my poly nucs from Park supplies- how do you rate those- they were on stand behind you last year at Stoneleigh- Oops- should I admit I bought from them :redface:
 

Poly Hive 

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I can't comment Heather as I wasn't involved with Poly at the last Stoneleigh and spent most of the two hours I spent there talking to Hamish Robertson from Conon Bridge, my old mentor, and probably the best beekeeper there. ;)

PH
 

Hebeegeebee 

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Do you have records of how much extra honey you get from a poly compared to a wooden hive?
 

oliver90owner 

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Right, a few comments (and disagreements as usual), but agree in principal with the rest of the post content. I am only just starting with polyhives but I have read/enquired extensively before trialling them myself.

if it is soft it is lighter and has less insulation value

Simply not true. The insulant is entrained/occluded gases(air usually) and as the density rises, the air content reduces. Compare the insulation properties of plain polstyrene cups and the expanded polystyrene versions if you need an analogy.


Pollen

Mentioned several times.

I am being led to believe, and thus disagree with you and your mentor, after reading the comments in several places, and verbally, that the brooding is regulated by the availability of the pollen stored, rather than any other 'thoughts by the bees'.

My impression from all other sources is that brooding actually starts earlier in the polyhives. Some, but not all, report that 'wood' catches up 'poly' after just a short time (at least one says 'overtakes' rather than using the term 'catching up'. My hypothesis, that it is pollen regulated, fits these reports much more sensibly than 'bees waiting because they know......' once I accept PH's report that little pollen is stored in poly.

I use Swienty as my provider

I intend trialling Paradise Farm derived polyhives, which is not an endorsement as such, just a statement of fact.

Thes hives are not dove-tailed, but, shall we say, non rectagular mortice construction.

Assembly.

More than a minute is required to assemble the Paradise farm components. I am unable to comment on the Swienty ones, but that does seem to be a very short time for assembly. Not so much more, admittedly, but just difficult to select the parts and assemble in less than a minute!

Cleaning.

I would prefer to use an alkaline cleaning agent initially, which actually saponifies wax and quite easily removes propolis. I would then use Virkon to simply sterilise the cleaned surfaces. At this time I am led to believe Virkon is a sterilising medium, not specifically a cleaning agent. Perhaps someone can put me right if my premise is flawed.

two Bee Farmers I know who use them have both said if they could but afford it they would change over to 100% poly in a blink

As a hobbyist beekeeper, I would certainly not change all my kit 'in a blink'. I might slowly reduce my use of wood, but I have insufficient experience as yet to be so definitive, at his point. Warmth, dryness and weight are serious driving forces for me at the present time.

However, Denmark, Germany, Finland, (for 3 examples) appear to be areas where poly is obviously much more popular than wood, as they seem to have taken over as the main type supplied, over the last several years. The UK is simply far, far behind, I feel, because we use predominantly British Standard format hives, not Langstroth (the most popular framed-hive format in the world).

Furthermore, at this point in time, I would not wish to forsake my Dartington hives - yes, quite happy to replace the plastic beehaus, but not my proper Dartingtons. They are superb, IMO, for certain aspects of my beekeeping set-up.

Hope this is not too contoversial. My personal view only, even if it has been compiled from a large amount of information perused.
=================

Heather,

I got my poly nucs from Park supplies- how do you rate those

I researched them as a supplier, at the end of last year and into the beginning of this year, but was disappointed to find the density of their product was seriously too low to attract my business. I understand it was increased by some 30% after my original enquiries to them, but unless further increase has recently been implemented, they seem to still need a further 25% increase (from the figure last quoted to me) to be on a par with the suppliers of, shall we say, hives already having reportedly good durabily records. Whether, or how much, further increase in density for good durability was needed was not clear to me, but, as a very selective purchaser, I decided to choose one of the alternatve manufacturers, and therefore suppliers, for my poly kit.

Regards to both, RAB
 

Poly Hive 

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My assembly time is accurate Rab.

I will believe you on insulation value but still say a harder poly is better, certainly from the wear aspect.

Virkon is a bit more than you seen to think: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virkon

I should have said both the Bee farmers I mentioned have been involved in selling poly hives and so have a fair bit of knowledge. One since 1980.

As for more honey from a like for like hive, yes more from poly. This is said from an impression rather than from stats as I never bothered to weigh and compare but over time it becomes obvious, three supers rather than two and so on.

I should mention that I have been using Poly Hives since 1988.

PH
 

Hivemaker. 

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I should have said both the Bee farmers I mentioned have been involved in selling poly hives and so have a fair bit of knowledge. One since 1980.


And you say they would change over to poly hives in the blink of an eye,if not so expensive to do so,yet the extra honey they could gather in one season would more than pay for a new poly hive,so why have they not done so,given they have had over 30 years to do so.

Lot of honey lost over 30 years.
 

mbc 

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and the aussies, kiwi's and yanks havent converted wholesale yet and their commercial beeks dont miss a trick when it comes to increasing profitability
 

johna 

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The professional beek that I know has changed all his 300 over to poly and has not looked back since.The National hive that I looked at on Saturday last was most certainly very dense poly and also had the merit that I could use my wooden components on top of any of the poly components if I so chose.The b.box only holds 10 frames but as the Queen will lay right out from side to side I will actually gain more brood than I lose from the reduction of brood area.The professional beek is using double brood because he finds the queen starts laying earlier and so builds up much bigger colonies.The early build up is useful here in Scotland as we get rather a lot of sycamore and other early flowering plants.
 

Finman 

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My hives start a good brood rearing when they get pollen or pollen patty.
When i have heated hives in spring with terrarium heaters, the biggest advantage comes to the biggest hives because they are able to make a vast brood ball. When a big hive may have 15 frames brood, 5-frame colony is able to make only 3 frames. So, 5-fold.

A colony get the heat advantage in the second stage when new bees have emerged so much that feeder bees are not a minimum factor.


In autumn brooding ceases pollen ceases on flower fields.


I have tried to give a favour bees which are eager to forage pollen. I have not seen that it depends on hive type
 

oliver90owner 

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Virkon is a bit more than you seen to think

To be honest, it is likely less than I thought if the comment on the link given is correct, viz:

However, it is less effective against spores and fungi than some alternative disinfectants.[3]

The '3' at the end relates a reference where further comments are made as to the efficacy of this agent where spores are concerned.

There is no mention of the ability of Virkon as a cleaner and as it is simply made up by dissolving tablets in water, I doubt there is any. I would not want to use a simple sterilising agent, unless all wax and propolis was removed, prior to application. Otherwise the latent spores beneath the surface are not even likely to be attacked, let alone eradicated.

Bee farmers I mentioned

I am inclined to agree with HM rearding the possible 30 year change-over possibility. Yes, changing format is a pain. Presumably they were on wooden Nationals in 1980? Are they still? If so, not sooo much of an incentive, is there?


My assembly time is accurate

OK, on assembly time, I will belive you.

I would take about two minutes to assemble a Paradise Farm nucleus hive, probably more but possibly less, with practise. Simple checks for orientation may not be as necessary - I have only assembled two so far, and they were nucs.

I, personally don't consider a single brood as a hive, although they are sold described as a that.

Perhaps the ones with supers are called 'complete hives'. A small difference of 'wordology', so I would be referring only to a single box for my timings and after the separate parts had been sorted out. The instructions will make things a deal longer for mine as they do recommend a dry run, if glueing. But like you, I dont glue either.

Things like varroa floors also will take up extra valuable time in a race to assemble, but perhaps yours are not supplied this way?

Lets not forget the painting, either. Far longer until a usable commodity is available, from the delivered parts, if one were to include this as part of 'assembly'.

Again, I was not with my timings, but it seems to me to be fairly irrelevant if assembly takes 5 minutes and painting needs another 24 hours before completely dry and there is a fully serviceable hive!

Regards, RAB
 

Poly Hive 

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oliver90owner 

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I must be lucky. Mine have fed themselves, so more time to think through posts and read up/work out ideas. Foot and mouth (viral infection) is not quite the same as AFB Bacterial infection with resistant spores) in/under wax and propolis.

Regards, RAB
 

nonstandard 

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Hi PH

I'm considering poly at the moment and am especially interested in Rooftops promised Poly National. I am grateful for your post because at the moment I am trying to rationalise the poly/wood argument which isn't easy as most of my local beekeepers seem to be dyed in the wool wooden hive users who probably wouldn't want anything to do with new fangled poly hives.

I just wanted to clear up a couple of things in my mind

I can't comment Heather as I wasn't involved with Poly at the last Stoneleigh ......

PH
Does this mean you have a vested interest? I know Rooftops has a commercial interest are you involved in retail or are you just a poly beekeeper?

Cost for me is a major obstacle, I am looking at building my own ply nationals for next years expansion and wondered how poly costs compare with bought wooden hives and home-made wooden hives.

Regards
Jim
 

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They haven't changed over as they just have too many timber boxes in good condition to warrant doing it. That is the be all and end all of that matter.

Fair enough,i can understand that,they may never change then as cedar box's have a long life. Suppose if they had realised all the extra honey they could of produced over 30 years, and just sold the good conditioned wooden hives for good money....and with just one seasons extra honey produced in the poly hives....they could of gone to poly hives completely,and made a lot of money doing so....obviously not really that interested in the extra production then.

But as you say.....That is the be all and end all of that matter.
 
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oliver90owner 

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nonstandard,

The obvious difference is you cannot simply/cheaply make injection moulded items (the machines and the moulds), but you can do all sorts of things with wood at home.

If you are able to source ply in decent off-cut sizes between now and making them, that is a good way to go. Not sure of the economies by the full sheet at retail prices. Skip-dipping and recycling comes to mind here!

These poly-nationals from Paradise Farm have yet to be priced and it may be advantageous for those with wooden components, if just the floor and brood were to be offered for purchase - using wooden supers (and roof if possible, which I am expecting it will be) would leave the heaviest component so much lighter and one has the important part for winter (especially so, for me, with the jumbo format).

Just have wait and see, but I reckon it will be a more a slightly more expensive route for me to buy a complete hive.

That said, the reported advantages in over-wintering and the reduced weight, along with fairly minimal need for surface treatment (after the initial painting), full brooding capacity, indicated/suggested increase in harvest, etc makes it a 'must try' as soon as they come to the market.

I have found the physical 'larger than necessary' size of my two 14 x 12 jumbo polynucs (converted Langstroth format) to be initially disconcerting visually - but when lifted, the benefit of polystyrene becomes immediately apparent! I would not have ordered two more, if I was even mildly dissatisfied or unsure of their performance yet.

Regards, RAB
 
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If we are talking about the same beefarmer then 1500 wooden hives is quite a lot to sell, especially as a fair number of them, perhaps the majority, are Smiths and not popular south of the border so would all have to sold in Scotland. The frames for their existing hives would also have to be junked and the colonies transferred to LS unless they decided to go for Nationals. Also, painting 1500 poly hives is a massive undertaking and the up front cash required to purchase them significant - so it is no wonder they are sticking with what they've got. "If it ain't broke don't try and fix it" applies in this case but for those starting from scratch the factors are different.
 

Juststarting 

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Again, I was not with my timings, but it seems to me to be fairly irrelevant if assembly takes 5 minutes and painting needs another 24 hours before completely dry and there is a fully serviceable hive!

Regards, RAB
As a newbie thought I'd give my perspective (limited obviously) on poly vs wood
Having bought two hives this year - one poly and one cedar (both flat pack) I can confirm that the poly one took less than 5 mins to completely assemble. The sweinty floor is a single molded piece so just needs mesh placing on it.

I agree it did take longer to paint and dry and this year I will probably paint the 2 new ones I'm planning to order, before I assemble them and leave "flat" until needed - less space in garage and easier to paint without getting it on me!

But compared with cedar hive which needed to follow plans and accurate hammering and measuring to ensure runners correctly placed (tbs). The floor was already supplied made up. Although I would have managed to do this it would have been more difficult so my husband put it together for me. This had a much greater inter-process time!
And couldnt be done "on demand" as the poly one was.

The poly hive is also much lighter to handle - a distinct advantage for me.
 

*ZhG*StGeorge 

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As a new interested party I was wondering when the poly nationals were mentioned about buying this instead of a wood hive. I then thought why not use the poly hive BB and the wood parts and have the best of both worlds.

But would the hives, if built that way not be top heavy and prone to tipping when loaded with suppers?
 

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