Bees use a variety of strategies to survive the winter. I understand some types of honeybees form a ball of bees, vibrating and rotating, constantly moving bees through a warm central cluster. They pack so tightly that it traps the air, insulating the bees inside the ball. Keep in mind this ball is also perforated by vertically hanging honeycomb, and that there are thousands of bees in there.

I’ve observed that bees also pool at the top fo the hive, under the lid. The “Layens” hive I’m making works to the advantage of this tendency (I hope). It’s my third hive and first of this style.

Here’s a frame I made from scrap wood:

A Layens-style hive uses moveable frames, like standard commerical “Langstroth” hives, however, these frames are wider and taller: about 1.5 times the size of a standard frame. Another interesting difference is the way the frames are designed to sit snuggly inside the hive.

Commercial frames barely touch at all, and then only at the points near to the walls of the hive, at either end of the frame. The Layens frame has side walls that touch, flush, for about 4" or more, from the top down, to form a kind of interior curtain or inset box inside the hive that runs parallel to the long dimension on both sides. This cap creates an air gap between the cool exterior wall and the bees pooled at the top of the hive. The tops of Layens frames also touch; commercial frames are open at the top.

A true-to-spec Layens hive asks for wire, which I don’t have, and a jig to put the wire into the frames. I put a bit of wood in sideways instead and nailed it together. There are 14 frames in this hive.