The Dadant hive
Ch. Dadant (from LApiculteur)
The Dadant hive contains 12 frames. The frames have the following measurements: depth, 266 mm; length, 420 mm; its supers have half-frames.
As soon as it appeared the Dadant hive became a great success.
A very disillusioned person said of the French: Wantonness, inconstancy, desire for novelty and fashion, that they follow blindly in not only the most serious, but also the most frivolous matters. A diplomat put it: The French are big babies who accept without hesitation what someone else says, above all a stranger.
And a historian wrote: The French have a mania for praising what comes from outside, at the expense of what they have at home.
For, although Dadant was French by birth, he was living in America. Moreover, the Dadant hive that we use is not the one that Dadant used. And Dadant was more a manufacturer of foundation than a beekeeper. Nobody is concerned about this.
Furthermore, the Dadant hive offers something for the entrepreneur. Businesses were started and proliferated. They all ordered the Dadant hive that made them a living. With the skep they had hardly any fittings to make for it.
Finally it should be recognised that the Dadant allowed the use of the extractor, an invention whose usefulness is undeniable. It was not foreseen that with a few modifications the extractor could be used to extract honey from hives with fixed comb.
The measurements of the Dadant hive clearly requires more wood than a hive of 300 x 300 mm. Wood is expensive.
In addition, in spring when the colony wants to expand its brood nest, it has to warm the hive over
a (horizontal) surface area of 2,000 cm instead of 900 cm as in our hive. Yet honey is the bees sole combustible material. The bee is overworked by the increased surface to warm and an additional consumption of winter stores results.
Some people regard the frame as essential to monitoring the hive, for treating disease and for extracting honey.
But I regard frames as one of the main causes of disease. In facilitating visits to the inside of the hive it increases such visits which exhausts the bees in re-establishing the hive temperature, weakening the colony and increasing its chance of contracting disease. There is no need for frames to assess the state of the stores. If in autumn one leaves the necessary stores, there is no further need to bother about them.
There is no need for frames to check the state of the colony. If the bees are bringing in pollen, there is a queen and brood. All is well.
The number of arrivals and departures indicate the strength of the colony.
If there is a large drop in the number of sorties, it is best to do away with the colony and replace it with a swarm or with driven bees. If, in this process, you notice a bad smell or decomposition of the brood, it is necessary to disinfect the hive with a flame or bleach. This is more economical than all the advocated treatments, which are suitable only for experts who carry out research.
No more is there need for frames to extract the honey. We have cages which allow extraction of fixed comb by means of an extractor. With these cages, the fixed comb stays put and does not break. In these respects the performance is at least as good as with frames.
And then the frame enthusiasts have to ask themselves: how long does the framed hive keep its mobile frames after they have left the joinery workshop? Two years at most. For most beekeepers do
not do spring-cleaning and the frames are soon stuck to each other and to the inner surfaces of the hive. So why use frames?
In any case, as with all frames, the Dadant frame requires a finely planed finish to facilitate its cleaning at the spring visit. In addition, it demands a high degree of precision in manufacture. It is necessary to leave a space of 7.5 mm between the inside walls of the hive and the frames, and to keep it like this. If the space falls to 5 mm the bees fill it with propolis. If the space is 10 mm the bees construct comb in it, because they abhor empty space. In both cases the frames cease to be mobile. The required precision increases the capital cost of the hive.
Furthermore, the Dadant hive has a long, shallow frame shape. Eighteen kilos of honey distributed between 12 frames hardly provides one kilo for the frames at the middle. There will even be honey only in the corners and none at the centre. The wintering bees cluster on the honey at the corners, at the front or rear of the hive, on the sunny side. When they have consumed all the honey above their cluster, they move to the other extremity of the frame where there is still some honey. But if the temperature is low, they will not be able to make this move because they will not find in the middle of the frames the necessary provisions to make the journey. They will die of hunger where they are, yet with stores nearby. This is a big disadvantage of hives with frames that are shallow and long.
Finally, the frame considerably increases the hive volume. We have already indicated the disadvantage of this.
Wax foundation used in the Dadant hive is expensive. The accessories that it requires are expensive. Inserting this foundation is fiddly and takes time. Foundation is thus a considerable consumer of time and money and increases the capital cost of the hive, and as a result, the honey.
But outside the nectar flow, foundation brings very minimal return, it economises only a very small amount on honey, and still less on time, for the bees do not always leave the cells in the state in which they have been given to them.
During the nectar flow, the only time when the comb can be drawn, foundation is more harmful than useful. The wax is nothing other than the sweat of the bee. And during the nectar flow, bees sweat a lot, because they always put the most effort into their work. Foundation is thus useless at this time, and even harmful as it prevents bees from constructing their comb vertically and evenly.
The frame, fitted with foundation, immediately placed in the hive, brings about a heat differentiation from its bottom to its top.
It follows that the various distortions of the foundation and the steel wire supporting it result in warping in the comb. Without foundation, the bees construct their combs according to their needs, with the best wax (their own) and with the normal thickness of a comb. They thus strengthen it as they extend it.
This is the reason why we do not use foundation. We are satisfied with placing a starter of 5 mm of unadulterated, raw wax.
And we do not consider this starter as a saving in honey, but as a means of encouraging the bees to construct their combs in the same direction in order to make it easier for the beekeeper.
Populating the hive
To populate a Dadant hive a swarm of 2 kg is insufficient, still less one of 1.5 kg. It is necessary to use a swarm of 4 kg. This is not commercially available. A swarm of 2 kg requires two years to
settle in and give a harvest. In our hive a 2 kg swarm settles in in the first year and gives a harvest three months after hiving.
Modern hive: one of the frames, fitted with wax foundation, is removed from the hive.
The brood chamber of the Dadant hive is covered with boards or oilcloth. But in any hive there is humidity caused by the evaporation of nectar and animal respiration. And this humidity, heated by the bee cluster, rises to the top of the hive, stops at the boards, cannot pass through them, spreads to the sides of the hive where it cools, falls as a mist on the outside frames, and damages their combs. Whence a loss. This mist keeps the bees in an atmosphere that is constantly humid. It is not healthy. Our covering over the combs avoids this loss and looks after the health of the bees.
The quilt that covers the brood chamber of a Dadant hive is only between three and four centimetres deep and comprises a cloth above and below. This thickness is insufficient for the quilt to fulfil its role as an insulator. Furthermore, the cloth over it prevents one from seeing if its contents are still insulating, for sooner or later the dampness stops it doing so. We prefer our quilt of 10 cm uncovered. It is more efficient and the replacement of its contents is easier and quicker.