uconstr.gif (248 Byte)From traditional fixed comb to modern frame hive beekeepinguconstr.gif (248 Byte)
  A short guidance to a modern Apis cerana beekeeping


Pechhacker and Hüttinger, Austria

Shrestha and team, Nepal

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Straw hive production
The straw press
The straw quality
The hive construction
Inpute of straw into the straw press
Sewing of the hive parts
Sealing of the hive
The frame
hive stand
Colony transfer
Colony management
Queen rearing, Selection
The fight against disease
Colony dividing
Colony uniting
Pollen trap
Wax melter
Candle production
Log hive transportation
Wall hive improvement
Honey harvesting
Bee flora


The importance of beekeeping
In mountain farming in the Himalayan region is an important part of agricultural production. By beekeeping high quality food (honey as an health food) is produced without a need of land. Each kg honey produced by the honey bee represents several millions of pollinated flowers. This is important for the agricultural production as well as for native plants.

Apis cerana beekeeping can be improved only

Why a straw hive
  • A straw hive is a modern type of beehive - with easy possibilities for inspection and variation of room for the bees (brood chamber, honey super), easy honey harvesting, colony dividing etc.
  •  A straw hive is the most comfortable hive for bees (insulation against coldness and heat) - with fast built up to strong colonies, less decease infestation, less absconding, less food consumption
  • Straw hive is the cheapest available modern type of a beehive and it is a low cost technology
  • Straw and all other materials needed for production are available everywhere
  • Straw hive is produceable by each beekeeper with only local materials and very cheap equipment (only straw press and needles are necessary)


Straw hive production

Checklist for the trainer



press (see fig 1 and 2; one for two trainees)

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2 needles
(fig. 3; a metal needle for plastic strings and
a bamboo needle for bamboo sawing material)
plastic strings (22 balls for one complete hive)
knife to cut bamboo and straw


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The straw press

Fig. 1: Straw press measurements

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Fig. 2: The straw press with filled up
and pressed good quality straw.


Fig. 3: Iron needle (top) and "bamboo needle" (bottom) uconstr.gif (248 Byte)

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The straw quality


Straw must be dry, unbroken and clean
(without grass) for good quality hive making.

Generally wheat straw and thatch grass
are the best. Rice straw is not very good.

The quality of straw is very
important for the quality of the hive

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Fig 4b: same (cross section view)
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Fig. 4a: Dry, clean and pressed straw (horizontal view)


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The hive construction

The size of the straw hive fits to the Newton hive B. The straw hive measurements are comparable to Newton B type and the frames are inter-changeable.

Fig. 5a: Computer drawing with all measurements

Fig. 5b: Trainees with a newly built straw hive

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Inpute of straw into the straw press

The line drawing and the photo (fig. 6a and 6b) show a straw press filled up with straw with the straw alternatively compacted the upper and lower parts.

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Fig. 6a: Straw press filled up with straw.

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Fig 6b: Straw press filled up with straw.

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Mit Holznagel und Keil ist die Presse zu schließen.

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Mit einem Keil wird die Höhe genau eingestellt.

When there is enough straw in the press, press the straw as hard as possible. The quality and stability of the new hive depends also from the well pressed straw.

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Sewing of the hive parts

Sewing material: plastic or natural fibre/strings string


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Fig. 7a: The correct size and shape
of the "bamboo strip" (see arrow)

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Fig. 7b: looping technique

Fig. 7a: The correct size and shape of the "bamboo strip" (see arrow) is important: heating bamboo strip is necessary to form the right shape during the construction process.


Fig. 7c: Cutting off the extra straw parts and strings. The sewed hive parts walls have to be cut with a sharp knife in the right length.

Fig. 7d: Recently constructed straw walls being finally sewed together to make a brood or honey chamber, with half part of the lid (on top). Refer to fig. 5 for a complete straw hive.

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The bamboo strip should not have
sharp edges or else the string may
be cut off while tightening it.

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Sealing of the hive

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Fig. 8: A layer of mud and cowdung all over the straw hive gives further protection against moisture, for example.

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The frame

The frame of the straw hive has the same size like that of a Newton B hive.

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Fig 9b: Bamboo frame with bee space

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Fig 9b: In remote areas, cheap
resources like bamboo

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Ausnehmung an den Ecken, damit auch dickere
Bambusleisten gebogen werden können

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Fig 9d: Klassical Topbar with bee space

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Fig 9e: Klassical Topbar with bee space -

Fig. 9a: A wooden frame is a standard Newton B hive type and is therefore interchangeable. A frame with two middle steel lines are than preferred in areas where available.

Fig 9b: In remote areas, cheap resources like bamboo, if locally available, may be to make a frame to fit in the straw hive. Note the bee space provided by the top bar. The bamboo frame corner is made by heating it while constructed.

Fig. 9c: An alternate to fig. 9b would be to use any other such wooden material that may be locally available. Please note the top bar with the bee space and half side frame only, nailed or driven through.

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Location of the hives (hive stand)

Fig 10: Generally a straw hive should be protected from the rain and fire. It can be put on or hanged in the balcony as the log hive. It can also be kept on a modern hive stand and is indeed a modern movable frame hive system itself.

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Colony transfer

General aspects

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A swarm is the best for transferring
a colony in a modern hive!

The best time of a colonytransfer from a log hive to the straw hive is also the swarming season. The method is shown in fig. 11a ("leave marker method"). The cut brood and honey frames are fixed in the frame like fig. 11c,d,e.

Fig. 11a: Leaf marker method: the hive of the colony ready for transfer is provided with a leaf at the entrance for a few days before transferring. A new straw hive put exactly in the same place for receiving the new colony, also is provided with the same leaf at the entrance at the beginning of the colony transfer. This leaf works as a marker for the bees and they immediately go inside the new hive when transferred.

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Fig. 11a: Leaf marker method

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Fig. 11a: Leaf marker method

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Fig. 11c: To fix a log hive
comb in a frame.
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Fig. 11b: Beekeepers transferring a colony.
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Fig. 11d: To fix a log hive
comb in a frame.
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Fig. 11e: To fix a log hive
comb in a frame.


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Colony management

General aspects



Summer (rainy season)


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Queen rearing, Selection

Fundamental things


Simple method (time table)

use your best queenless with queen with two colony open brood sealed brood

When it is possible put the new mating nuclei colony for one or two days in a cool and dark room and locate them in the late evening w i t h o u t a queen gate around your house. Take care for enough food and avoid robbing.

Make a control if the young queen is mated (eggs and larvae), take again care for enough food!


The modern method of queen rearing (grafting, queen cups, incubator etc.) is only useful for commercial beekeepers


Fig 12a: 1st day = start of queen rearing:


Fig. 12c: When more than one queen cells
on a brood comb from the queenless colony
cut it out and fix it with a thin wooden stick
on a broodcomb without a queencell.



Fig. 12b: 9th day = use for the queen cells:
In the queenless part of the colony you have
up to 15 sealed queen cells ready for use
( the queen cells in the photo are already

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Fig. 12d: A mating nuclei with one
honey comb with bees on it, two sealed
brood combs with bees and one queen
cell on it and one empty comb.

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- 25th day:

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The fight against disease

(Thai Sackbrood/ European Foulbrood)

General aspects:

When you have deceased colonies

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Colony dividing

General aspects:

Method of colony dividing: See queen rearing (fig. 12a and 12d).

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Colony uniting

When you have weak or queenless colonies unite them to stronger and queenright colonies. It gives more honey and a better situation against diseases.

Fig. 13:

queenright one sheet of paper weak or

colony with some small holes queenless colony

at the bottom and a little honey spread at the top or behind

both sides


Therefore take the queen from the colony which you want to requeen, wait around 5 hours and put a small colony (mating nucleus) with a young mated queen behind the "newspaper" and feed the colony a little bit.

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Pollen trap

Pollen is a high valued protein food especially for children!

Fig 14a and b: A pollen trap on a straw hive colony with a bamboo pot for collecting the pollen. c_53805.jpg (19367 Byte)
Fig. 14c:
Local method of pollen collection using bamboo pollen comb and a bamboo basket can be efficiently used. Please note that the holes in the bamboo pollen comb are just big enough for bees only to get in and out without the pollen load which therefore drops into the pollen basket collected every day.
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Wax melter

Bees wax is a high valued natural substance. It can be used for new wax foundations, candles, cosmetics and even medicine (wound healing with bees wax is an old tradition in Nepal).

Wax should be melted using both sun wax smelter (Fig. 15c) or boiling in the water (Fig. 15d).

Fig. 15a and 15b: old combs should be removed from the traditional or frame hives every year during honey harvesting so as to protect wax from wax moth, encourage new comb building and collect wax for processing and small house hold activities.

Fig. 15c: the system of a sun wax smelter and Fig 15d: Wax melting in boiling water

Sonnenwachsschmelzer aus einfachen Materialien wie Steine und Lehm mit Kuhdung. Die Steinplatte muß mit dem Gefälle exakt nach Süden ausgerichtet sein. c_33395.jpg (20406 Byte)
Die Innenseite wird mit Ruß geschwärzt, damit das Sonnenlicht gut absorbiert wird. c_33449.jpg (23621 Byte)
Abgedeckt wird mit einer Glasscheibe, der einzge Teil welcher zugekauft werden muß. Notfalls kann auch eine Folie aus Kunsstoff verwendet werden. c_33197.jpg (19147 Byte)

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Candle production

From bee wax, pure bee wax candles can be made. Leftover of paraffin candles can also be mixed. Simple bamboo pieces of varying sizes and length are cut open in half as shown fig 16a1 to 16a4. A dry wick of required length is fitted in the nudge made at the base of the bamboo piece and held in position on top by using a simple bamboo piece. Now both halves are soaked in water and held together tie them by a rope or bamboo strip, than wax poured in and left to cool off for some time before opening it carefully few hour later.

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Fig 16a1 to 16a4: Candle making supplies

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Eingelegter Docht


Fig. 16b: A bee wax candle

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Log hive transportation with live combs

Sometimes when it is necessary to move loghives with alive bees in it (f.e. to a new pasture area) extra care must be taken before, during and after the transportation of the log hive. Before transporting the log hive, it is necessary to plan well about the date and the timing of the operation. Apart from climate, it should be based also on at least 5 - 10 % flowering in the new area. After all the foragers are the log hive, entrance should be carefully closed(and ventilation opened if necessary in some areas). But before this, all combs should be protected from falling apart during the transportation by supporting them with thin wooden planks or sticks at both sides of the combs tightly fixed between top and the bottom of the log hive from inside. Full honey combs can be taken out. After this preparation, actual transportation work can take place in the evening or nest morning. The log hive can be carried at the back of a person carefully. The combs should be upside down while carrying to make it more stabile during the transportation. It is also good to carry the log hive with light comb facing the direction of the road in parallel so to minimise the comb braking during the transportation. After reaching a new area, the log hive has to bee carefully turned back over again to its right position. Before opening the entrance, it is very necessary to make sure about the positioning, high and place of the hives in the new area.

Fig. 17: A log hive colony useable for transport

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Wall hive improvement

A traditional wall hive can be improved to a modern frame hive movable system thereby providing the possibilities of modern beekeeping. For this, Newton frame hive system is used. Therefore, a wall hive intended for improvement, should have enough space required for a brood and super chamber in it.

Fig. 18: As shown above, the top bars of both brood and super frames rest on a wooden shoulder (see arrow) and therefore, slight in and out (moveable) from inside of the wall hive. The frame sizes and the bee space remain same as that of Newton B type which is suitable to most areas of midhills of Nepal. The number of frames of the brood and super chamber can be decreased or increased as and when necessary. This improved wall hive is opened from the inside of the house as before.

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Honey harvesting

Honey harvested should be clean, pure and of high quality. It should be nicely< bottled, labelled and made available in areas visited also by tourists, especially trekkers to get a good price because it is a rich energy source locally and readily available in the mountains.

Honey should be harvested at warm temperatures with no wind and rain. Dusty wind must be avoided. Honey harvesting season in Nepal is mainly around February to May and little in October. When the hives are opened, care must be taken to minimise disturbances and damage to bees. Sometimes is smoking colony a little may be necessary. Only sealed combs should be harvested. It is always necessary to leave some honey (not less than two to three combs) for the colonies, depending on the colony size and need. A honey harvest from the traditional hives like log or wall hives, may be sold as comb honey. Squeezing honey and heating it should be avoided to maintain the cleanliness and quality of honey harvested. For honey harvesting from a modern frame hive, the number of sealed honey combs can be observed and harvesting time and date determined before hand. The caps of sealed honey combs are cut open, one side eat a time, before extracted out, using a modern honey extractor. It must be cleaned thoroughly before and after every time it is used. The Nepalese contains moisture between 19 to 21 % depending on the seasons and crops. The sucrose percentage is around 7 to 8 % and pure honey has been found crystallised at lower temperatures.

Honey harvested this way is clean, pure and natural. It is rich source of energy supplement to people at the remote mountain areas.

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Bee flora


It is always very important that a good flora is available to bees throughout the year. Bees working dawn to dusk need enough food reserve against winter and rainy season. A good bee flora consists of a strong pollen and nectar source for Apis cerana bees. Pollen and nectar are very necessary for growth and development of brood and for the energy requirements, respectively. In some areas, bees also collect honey dew and therefore it also makes a very important energy supplement and adds to beekeeping. To provide year around bee flora, carrying capacity of an area can be estimated based on the number of colonies already present and or those to be multiplied/provided. A beekeeper can best charge the kind of trees, bushes or shrubs that flower in the area that bees can visit. The effective foraging range of Apis cerana bees is less than 1 km. Once the bee flora available through natural vegetation can bee ascertained in each ecological zones (which will differ from place to place), a beekeeper/farmer may want to grow such other fruit trees, crops or vegetables in the off season so as also not only to provide nectar and pollen to bees but also to increase crop yields through bee pollination.

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A list of such bee plants is give below showing there rich source as pollen and/or nectar.

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