4 minute read

Mono block for Apis cerana

Gunnar Barnes, Dickson, USA

This article shares some designs in low-cost hive making, tested in Bangladesh. The clay block hives are easy to make once the set of moulds are made. The hives are durable, especially when reinforced with 2 kg of Portland cement. The trials suggested that the hives were acceptable to the bees. The hives are heavy and unsuitable for migratory beekeeping. However families with few hives usually do not practise this type of beekeeping.

Note: The original journal article shows a diagram of a clay block hive which is not available on this mobile friendly version.


Components A, B, C and D are the main mould parts:

- Component A is the Insert for making the brood and honey chamber. It is made from either an iron sheet or wood or a combination of these. Dimensions: 260 mm (10¼”) long by 216 mm (8½”) wide by 267 mm (10½”) deep.

- Component B these are inserts used to make inspection channel ‘’, which can also be used when cleaning the hive floor.

- Component C forms the Insert to make the bee entrance ‘u’.

- Component D is the Outer Form Dimensions: 356 mm (14”) long by 356 mm (14”) wide by 305 mm (12”) deep. This Form can be made in 1, 2 or 4 parts from wood or an iron sheet. Extraction is done by dismantling the component or sliding it off.

‘e’ to ‘n’ give details for the mould

- ‘e’ 152 mm (6”) nails for alignment of Insert C through holes ‘h’, ‘7 and ‘n’.

- ‘f alignment holes for rods'j'

- ‘g’ opening for passage of rods 'j'

‘- h-i-n’ alignment for holes for nails ‘e’. Make all holes oversize for easy passage of rods.

- 'j' rods 13 mm (½") by 406 mm (16"), 2 pieces, for alignment of Inserts B (through 'i'-f-"g:),

- ‘k’ holes at two corners, for mould assembly with 10 mm (¾”) by 20 mm (¾”) bolts.

- 'f alignment holes, 14 mm (9/16”) in diameter.

- ‘m’ these are two holes used to hold the bamboo pegs ‘w’. Make the holes approximately 14 mm (9/16”) in diameter and place them 254 mm (10”) apart (centre to centre).

‘n’ alignment holes for Component C.

O, P Q X, and Y are the five major components of the clay block hive

- O roof slab (mud, bamboo mat, cement, card board, newspaper, etc).

- P frame of wood or bamboo; making upper part of honey chamber with internal dimensions: Length 257 mm (10½”) to accept 260 mm (10%”) honey frame top-bars. Depth 38 mm (1½”) to give room for air vents and grooves for top-bars. Frame P can be handled as a unit containing honey frames Y, and during work in the brood chamber can be rested on the two bamboo pegs ‘w’.

- Q The mono block clay hive giving room for brood and honeycombs, queen gate ‘v’ and 2 plugs ‘s’. Y honey frame (7 pieces) with top-bar 254 mm (10¼”) by 29 mm (1½”) by 6mm (¼) made of wood or bamboo; and a bamboo loop made by hot-bending a prepared bamboo strip 457 mm (18”) long. The depth of the frame is 102 mm (4”).

- X brood frame (8 pieces) with top-bar as for honey frame, but only 22 mm (⅘") wide to allow the bees to enter the honey chamber. Each frame will occupy a space 27 mm (1/10") wide. The frame depth is approximately 150mm (6”).

- Z bamboo strip 457 mm (18”) long to make loops for the frames. The upper ends of the loops should be 26 mm (1”) wide to determine the proper spacing of the brood frames. Keep 8 mm (3/10") bee space around the frame.

‘r’ to ‘w’: Details of the hive

- ‘r screened air vents.

- ‘s’ plug for channel ‘t’ made from bamboo, wood or mud.

- ‘f cleaning and inspection channel which also serve as handgrips.

- 'u' bee entrance tapering from 38 mm(½”) to 108 mm (¼”) at the front.

- 'v’ queen gate made from bamboo or wood, with 3.8 mm (1/10") slot for the worker bees to pass through. Overall size is approximately 12.5 mm by 25.4 mm by 102 mm (½" x 1” x 4”).

- ‘w’ bamboo pegs in holes made through orifices ‘m’.


- Find or make a mixture of sand and clay that will dry and harden without cracking. A stabilizer may be mixed in to give extra strength and moisture resistance: 1-2 kg cement per hive (including the roof slab) works well.

- Reinforcement is easy with thin slivers of 10 g wires, with bamboo, or by working some fibres into the mix. Use water sparingly to ensure hard, solid packing of the mix, and to prevent sagging when the moulds are retrieved immediately following the packing. Add moisture where it is needed to obtain solid corners and smooth surfaces. The mould can be charged from either end.

- Using a curved trowel make a straight and smooth cleaning channel. The trowel can be made by curving a strip of 14-gauge sheet iron or bamboo.

- Make the comb frames from bamboo or wood or a combination of these.

- Prepare bamboo strips for loops, and mark out 20 mm (8/10”) on each side of the intended corners. Thin this area to 1-2 mm (1/16”), heat over a flame and bend, then cool off in water.

- The brood chamber will hold 8 frames (26 mm (1/20”) wide top-bar) and the honey chamber 7 frames (29-30 mm (1/10”) wide top-bar), which approximates the natural nest size for Apis cerana.

- The hive can be sited on a verandah wall, on bamboo poles or on a rammed mud foundation built using Component D.