As I have no personal experience of this type of hive...
The following text is transcribed mainly from Len Heath's book
"A Case of Hives".
It was designed by Bill Bielby, in 1968, when he was County
Beekeeping Lecturer for West Yorkshire. It made for several years by
a Yorkshire firm. It is quite unusual in shape and derives its name
from the mathematical curve taken by a freely hanging rope or chain
suspended from two points. The entrance is through a
plastic disc mounted
high up on one flat side, so that the eleven short-lugged frames are
aligned the 'warm way' across the line of entry.
Originally the frames were accurately made to fit the curve
of the box (with normal bee-space around) but later top bars alone
were used, as it was realised that bees do not fasten combs to sloping
This unusual brood box had the same top rim size as a
standard National box and a normal queen excluder and National (or
British Commercial) super, would sit on top of it,but of course the
unique shape of the brood combs makes such operations as Demaree(ing)
or Snelgroving impossible.
The rationale behind the Catenary is that:- in nature bees
will make comb of this shape in any cavity that is large enough, and
it was observed that the bees built up well in spring. It was claimed
that swarming was less, but Len Heath's experience, with two such
hives over several years failed to support this.
Over several years other snags became evident. For example a
large surface area of comb on the outer face of the first frame
becomes propolised over and goes out of use if bees can fly straight
in and on to it. A small modification involving a plywood baffle plate
fixed internally opposite the entrance, a bee-space proud of the
inner wall, effectively prevents this (and direct draught as well).
More serious was the accumulation of debris and condensed water in
the narrow base of the Catenary itself; this was corrected by cutting
a half-inch (12 mm) drainage hole (loosely plugged with coarse
wire wool) at the lowest point. Unfortunately both of Len's hives
rotted at the base after about ten years and had to be scrapped.
He claims to have enjoyed using them, as an interesting variant, and
would happily buy another if they were still available. He reports
that they were easy to move to the heather and attracted much comment
from other beekeepers, but that he could not recommend them for
The aluminium frame shown below is not of the same profile
as the wooden frames that I have seen. As the original wooden frames
Smith type top bars,
(almost) it is unlikely to have been intended for use in this type of
box. The scale of the drawing is 1.5 pixels per mm.
This Whole colony version was made by
who has made a number of types of observation hive. Follow the link
and see the entry/exit details on Frank's site.
Originated... 16 Aug 2002