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Comparative evaluation of the honey bee colonies’ performance based on two different sizes of hive boxes

Zymber Bajraktari1, Lumturi Sena and Sabah Sena

Department of Animal Science, Agricultural University of Tirana, Albania
1 Kosova’s Beekeeepers’ Association (Mitrovica)


The effect of Farrar hives use versus the deep hive bodies, aiming the improvement of bee colonies’ performace parameters was studied. For this purpose in an apiary in Mitrovica, 20 bee colonies, devided in two groups, respectively the Control and the Experiment. For the control group the standard Lanstroth hives (two deeps - one for brood and one for honey chamber) were used, while for the experiment group the medium supers (two for brood and one for honey chamber) were used. All the bee colonies, involved in this study were analogues, i. e. with 1-year-old queens and kept under the same feeding and medicinal treatment conditions. 45 days from the start of the experiment, all the 20 hives (both groups) were inspected, while the number of brooded frames and the size of the capped brood area in each frame was measured. Differences between the two groups were insignificant, for p<0.05 for the number of brooded frames per family, although in the Control Group, there were 7.7% more such frames. The brooded frames, without bees from each hive were photographed on both sides, through a digital camera and the capped brood areas were measured through Adobe Photoshop CS3 (Version 10.0). It was concluded that the use of Farrar hives had influenced the increase of the capped brood area by 18.92% in the Experiment Groups’ colonies compared to the Control Group ones. So, the use of Farrar hives has a strong influence both on the bee colonies’ development and on the honey production, yielding 15. 1% more honey, thus leading to an improved bee colonies’ performance.

Key words: brood area, deep hive bodies, Farrar hives, honey super


Kosova is known for its great potential in beekeeping, with a rich flora and good ecological conditions as well as a large number of bee colonies.

Among the important factors that affect the profitability of a beekeeping are the queen’s quality, ecological conditions, composition of the flora, applied technology and the resource management (Tucak et al 2004, Thomas et al 2002). But, on the other side, not least important factors are the strength of the colony, the types of used hives, the age of the queen, colony’s swarming and the applied beekeeping management practices (Al-Ghamdi et al 2017).

One of the management practices in beekeeping is choosing the right beehives. Nowadays, there are about 500 different types of modern hives around the world. Different countries use different kinds of beehives, from the construction point of view (Olagunju 2000). Around 75% of the beekeepers worldwide use standard Langstroth beehives (Hossam et al 2013, Ahmad et al 2012). Standard Langstroth hives tend to provide a larger space of cells, where the queen can lay the eggs. However, nowadays LR hives are no longer common and conventional (Conrad  2014).

Modifications to the project of beehives and other equipment are done to facilitate work operations with bees and make their transport easier and more convenient.

The Farrar system is being implemented more and more in the beekeeping business. The American beekeeper Clayton Leon Farrar, was the first who used the half of DB hive bodies, both as brood box and as honey super. Farrar didn’t construct a hive with certain dimensions. Preliminary experiments, started in 1940 with a shallow type of hive, have demonstrated the opportunity for improving hive equipment.

Later on, implementing Farras’s system, some beekeepers tried and experimented different hives’ dimensions and frames’ number within them. The main intervention relates with the hive’s deepness, which actually fluctuate from 15.5 - 20.0 cm. In order to meet the required standards, each hive should fulfill the following conditions: abundant brooding area, honey deposit space and quality ventilation (Farrar 1947). According to Bolton 2017, just because we add supers on top for honey stores does not mean that the bees won’t use one or two of them to raise brood. The advantage of using all mediums is all the frames are interchangeable making management significantly more convenient.

In the last 15 years, achievements have been made in the use of medium-sized beehives, as a brooding area. These hives, otherwise are called honey super, they weigh about 2/3 of the standard hives (Conrad 2014). Small depth boxes (144.5mm) are another alternative to be used as a brood box or honey super.

In Kosova, improvement of beekeeping technology in line with availability of quality fodder is one of the most important issues. In the apiary, where the experiment was carried out, Langstroth standard hives, with dimensions of 510mm x 423mm x 242mm (for the hive bodies) and 510mm x 423mm x 155mm (for the honey super) were used. As they have been widely used recently, for the brood rearing, medium size super, we thought to try their impact in our apiary as well. The effect of using the Farrar hives instead of the standard ones in order to improve the performance of bee colonies was observed and tested.

Material and Methods

The experiment took place in an apiary in Mitrovica area, for the period of April-July 2016 (4 months) until honey was harvested.

With this purpose, at the beginning of April, two groups of 10 bee colonies of the Apis Mellifera Carnica breed were created in the same apiary in Mitrovica. In order to be more practical, for each hive’s type (experiment groups) the same size of frames, brood chambers and supers were used. The bee colonies of the control group (C) were kept in standard Langstroth hives with dimensions of 510mm x 423mm x 242 mm (one for the brood chamber and other for honey super) with 10 frames each (measuring 448 x 232 mm). The bee colonies of the experimental group (E) were kept in the hives with the same dimensions of the medium supers (two for brood chamber and one for honey super), 510mm x 423mm x 155mm with 10 frames/hive as well.

Before the start of the experiment, the bee colonies were equalized. All colonies had one-year-old queens, the colonies of both groups, wich belonged to the same apiary, were kept in the same conditions and the same feed and medical services and treatments were applied to them.

After 45 days all hives of both groups were inspected regarding the number of brooded frames and the size of sealed area in each frame.

To measure the seasonal course of brood production, bee-free frames from each hive were photographed on both sides with digital camera. These photos were downloaded in the computer and the sealed cell areas were measured with Photoshop 10 CS3 using the Knopp et al (2006) and Berna (2006) method. During this operation, two digits were marked: the number of pixels representing the area with the sealed generation (A) and the number of pixels included inside of the image (B). Based on these data, the area with sealed generation was calculated as a percentage (C) towards the total area of ​​the frame. So: C = (A/B) x100%. While the area with sealed generation in cm 2 was calculated according to the following formula:

D = Cx (w x h)

Where: w x h is the area in cm2

In total, 200 photos were prepared and in Photoshop processed.

Next, we statistically processed (through the descriptive analysis) the values ​​in percentage of the brooded areas to find the average per colony (in %), and finally the average for each group through the statistical processing was calculated. We also calculated the area with the brooded area in cm2, according to the above presented formula. So, even here, calculations were made for the average value in cm2, for each side of each frame, then for each colony and finally for each group. For comparisons, tTest was used.

The recorded indicators:

• Number of frames with brood.

• Capped brood area/frame. The measurement was done with photography and Photoshop processing.

• The amount of honey produced on average for each colony in each group at harvest.

Results and Discussion

Development of bee colonies (number of frames with brood):

The control was applied over each colony of each group. The number of brooded frames per each colony was evidenced.

Although the number of frames with brood is 0.4 frames, or 7.7% more in the standard hives or in the Control Group compared to Experiment one, the differences are not statistically proofed for p<0.05 (tCrit = 1.73 and tStat = 1.66).

However, to give the final assessment regarding this factor we must rely on the measurement of the average size of the capped brood areas for each frame in each group.

The size of the capped brood area per frame

The following table shows the size of the capped brood area per each colony (in % and in pixel cm2).

Table 1.  Summary of the size of the capped brood area per frame (in % and in pixel cm2) measured and evaluated in Adobe Photoshop CS3 10.0

No. of
the hive




(pixel cm2)

( %)

(pixel cm2)


55.2 ± 13.8





69.5 ± 8.23





57.5 ± 13.5





72.7 ± 10.4





67.7 ± 9.13





71.2 ± 6.77





68.7 ± 3.53





58.7 ± 14.7





57.2 ± 8.16





75.0 ± 5.46





64.0 ± 5.46




In the table above, a clear advantage of the experimental group (15.09%) for capped brood areas in percentage is observed. Differences between groups are statistically confirmed for p<0.05.

The superiority of the group with Farrar hives was evidenced even after calculating the area (pixel cm2) with capped brood (18.92% more).

So, the superiority of the group, in which the Farrar hives used, comes to clear evidence. In the beehives with Farrar hives (bees will either completely fill the frame with eggs and larvae, or with honey), because in the frame there is no space for the honey crown in the upper part of the frame, as happens in the frames of deep hive bodies. In the deep hive bodies, the queen works horisontally from one frame to the other one, while in the Farrar hives the queen can work vertically, extending the brooding area. So, most colony manipulations can be made by interchanging the position of hive bodies instead of manipulating frames (Farrar 1947).

Based on the obtained results, we can conclude that in the group with Farrar hives, the queen has significantly expanded the laying area for each side of the frame, making better use of its surface.

The following table also shows the size of the capped brood area per each colony. This area is calculated by multiplying No. of capped brood frames (both sides of the frame) for each group with the capped brood area size on each side of the frame.

Table 2. Summary of the average capped brood area size per colony measured and evaluated in Adobe Photoshop CS3 10.0, (in pixel cm2)

No. of the hive


































644 ± 66.870

736 ± 106

Regarding the size of the capped brood area per colony, the superiority of the experimental group is observed, respectively 12.2% larger. The differences are verified between the two groups for p<0.05 (tStat = -2.31 and tCrit = 1.73), in terms of the size of the capped brood area per colony.

Adam (1950) proved that the results in bee colonies’ performance were also influenced by the type of used hives. The same is confirmed in this study, where the use of Farrar hives increased the size of the capped brood areas. It is better to have fewer frames of brood, but larger surfaces, than small surfaces of brood on many frames. It is easier to work with frames with large surfaces of brood. Comb foundation added next to such frames are faster occupied by bees and laid by queens (Cvetkovic 2012).

Honey production by groups

At the beginning of July, the honey was harvested in the same day for both groups.

The expectation for a high honey production per colony and group was high. But weather conditions influence was “forgotten”. In the second half of May and during June there were frequent rains, which prevented the fodder from being used normally.

It is well-known that honey production in the beekeeping business is an important factor that affects the profitability of beekeeping (Jones 2004). If refer to figure 1, we can conclude that a higher honey production has been obtained from Farrar hives.

A total of 16 kg of honey was produced by the Experimental Group, or 17.4% more compared to the Control one. It should be noted that the best results of honey production in the experimental group have been influenced by the dimensions of the frames or supers. Even according to Belet and Berhanu (2014), the adoption of bee hives in general, makes the beekeeping a more profitable business. Even according to Farrar (1947), the full supers are easier to be handled as they weigh less than the standard-depth supers. These are usually finished 7 to 10 days sooner than the standard-depth supers, so that honey can be extracted and the combs returned for refilling. The disadvantage of the shallow type of hive is its slightly greater cost because more frames are used. The added cost is offset by better colony control that favors increased production (Farrar 1947). Carter (2018-2020), the disadvantage of the two deep boxes is that there will be so much space below the queen excluder that in poor years you will have no honey to extract.

So, the use of Farrar hives as a brood box affected the increase of honey production, as a result of maximum utilization of the frames’ surface. Since the bee colonies of the Experiment Group developed faster and were stronger compared to the ones of the Control, the honey production performed by them was higher. Bees could more easily deposit honey through the cells, increasing the number of sealed frames with honey ready for harvest.

Figure 1. Honey production by each group (kg)


Based on the obtained results from this study, we were able to draw the following conclusions:


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