I have several tbh's built to 4 feet lengths. Most sources will suggest that to be the best size. It certainly works best for common lumber dimensions. But as I near the close of a second season with these hives, I wonder if 5 feet might be the best.
The key with tbh's is to keep space in order to avoid swarming and (if honey is an interest) to maximize honey production. As the season progresses, you have to remove honey if the hive gets full in order to give them room. But often the honey isn't capped yet, or not cured. They've got nectar coming in, but you're pressed to remove comb to make more room, and they might actually be able to put quite a bit more in - but it's hard to tell. Then there's the fact that bees will move nectar around within the hive. Removing comb restricts that ability.
Then you have the problem of what to do with what you remove. Do you crush and strain, keep it in the freezer and feed it back? And often it's already getting late enough so they are slower to build comb. Then they're trying to deepen comb, and you've got to re-space them.
This year, the season has been slow. Cold, wet spring. Cool summer. Still chilly a lot. So the four foot hives seems to be more than enough. I haven't taken any honey out of my overwintered hive, and my new colony has another foot to go before it's out of room. However, last year was a great year, and I had a first year colony fill a hive right up and need more room. Others I have read about in the forums have had to take honey out already this year in other parts of the continent.
My Question: Would a 5 foot hive might actually be the most versatile for all regions and the fluctuations in production? At 5 feet, with sides made of standard 1x12 lumber, a tbh would have the volume equivalent of about three full deeps. It seems to me that a hive that size would be much easier to keep from swarming - and to keep space late for honey storage.
I'm wondering if 5 feet and that 10 or so more bars (which might offer 40-60 lbs more storage) might be just the key. It wouldn't eliminate the need to manipulate things - but it might make things simpler. And it would allow the bees to use the comb more effectively if it's left there longer; filling them up more, ripening more and capping later. Wouldn't that reduce some of the issues for a tbh keeper?
What are your thoughts?