Our in-house beekeeper interviewed Melissa Elliott of Melissa Bees about her frameless beehives.
By Kelley WaltersMore in Outdoors
In spring 2005, Melissa Elliott, founder of Melissa Bees, noticed that her normally bee-filled gardens were missing their usual buzz. She soon heard about Colony Collapse Disorder, the phenomenon that's blamed for a recent decline in honeybees. So Melissa began studying bees and beekeeping, including traveling to England and France to learn ancient techniques for caring for these vital pollinators.
Along the way, she discovered frameless hives — keeping bees without using the rectangular frames that hold sheets of wax foundation for the bees to build on.
When and why did you go frameless?
Out of curiosity, nostalgia and to pioneer innovation. I'm interested in the intersection of human, land and bee, beyond the structures of modern living and industrial agriculture that the Langstroth hive box appears to represent. I've kept bees for eight years now, and when we bought our home three years ago I started the Garden for Hive Medicine intending it to become a living laboratory for this kind of study. It involves, in part, building and utilizing different hive types — with frames and without — to learn about each and perhaps more importantly, to innovate new hives.
I've encountered many interesting hive types in my travels and studies: carved logs, clay pots, hanging baskets, Goldens, Kenyans, Warres, Weisenseifener Hangekorbs, to name a few. There just may be as many hives as there are beekeepers and I learned how humans and bees have worked together for a very long time, far beyond the use of the Langstroth hive we see in most bee yards that keeps comb straight and orderly to benefit the extractive practices of commercial beekeepers.
Comb in its natural state takes on sensuous, sinuous forms and frameless hives provide little hindrance to the bees' natural movement and expression. When I see natural comb and layers of bees working it I'm reminded there's an implicate order and that the bees will continue to create the world in their image, no matter what we do.