Many of you may remember the Valhalla hive from several years ago. The Valhalla was a long hive designed by Naomi and Larry Price for beekeepers who were unable to lift heavy equipment or reach stacked hive boxes. The Valhalla hive was unique in many ways, including the fact it used standard Langstroth frames. This meant that frames could be transferred between the Valhalla and a Langstroth, and standard nucleus colonies would fit seamlessly into the Valhalla.
Naomi and Larry continued to use the Valhalla long hive, but over the years, they discovered improvements that would make the hive even better—both for the bees and the beekeeper. When it became necessary for them to switch builders, they decided to incorporate the many changes they envisioned. The remodeled hive has been rechristened the Valkyrie.
The evolution of the Valkyrie Long Hive
Vivien and Bruce, of The Right Hand LLP, have been working hard to perfect the changes and ramp up production of the new hive. I had the pleasure of meeting them both and viewing the new hives in production. What a show! Bruce, “The Beekeeper’s Carpenter” is a woodworking craftsman, attentive to every detail. Meanwhile, Vivien is putting together the business end, learning about shipping practices, packaging, bookkeeping, web management, and even beekeeping.
I have to say, the Valkyrie hives are so lovely I’d like to buy one for my dining room. You know, just for show! Plus, when I got to see the hives in action, I was impressed with the ease with which the hives—and the bees—could be handled.
Some of the improvements in the new hive include:
The hinged lid with hardware that makes it a breeze to open and close. No heavy lifting is involved.
The lid mechanism has been tested against stiff breezes, so it will not accidentally close in a strong puff.
The new lid includes a built in frame rest. While inspecting, you can remove a frame, place it in the frame rest, and slide the rest of the frames one-by-one.
The built-in slatted rack was tightened up so debris no longer collects along the edges.
The hive comes with optional viewing windows, either one or two. Your choice.
The hive comes with two side-by-side varroa drawers that are easy to inspect and clean.
Bruce builds every hive by hand and assembles it to assure that each piece fits perfectly. Then he takes the hive apart for shipping. When I visited the shop, they were still finalizing the packaging method, but what I saw was impressive. Every piece was protected from every other with a variety of corners and braces. The entire hive (not including frames) will be shipped in two boxes. Since the hive was assembled before packaging, you are assured the pieces will fit together with ease.
Bee canvas and bee blankets
The standard Valkyrie comes with a canvas cover that fits over the top bars. The canvas is multipurpose, keeping the bees calm during inspection and conserving heat in the winter. An optional wool blanket fits in the space above the canvas cover. Naomi has found that the wool blanket not only keeps the bees warmer in winter, but temperature readings confirms it keeps the bees cooler in summer as well. Like a well-insulated home, the hive interior is protected from temperature extremes.
The optional hive stand
A really cool option to this hive is the insulated hive stand. Last winter, Naomi decided to use an infrared camera to monitor her hives in winter. What she discovered was a surprise. Her hives were insulated on top with the canvas covers and folded army blankets, so no heat was escaping through the lid. But much to her surprise (and mine!) heat was escaping from the bottom of the hive. She decided she needed a system to insulate the underside.
In reviewing this problem, Bruce decided to design a hive stand with built-in insulation. The stand is made of wood and is designed to hold a large rectangle of 3-inch rigid foam which stops the heat loss in its tracks. As an added bonus, you can specify how high you want the top of your hive to be, and he will cut the legs of the hive stand to assure the proper height just for you. It is an ingenious answer to two problems at once.
Straight from the source
I asked Vivien to give me a run-down of the Valkyrie features in her own words, and here is what she has to say:
From the Halls of Valhalla
“In the glorious halls of Valhalla, slain Norse warriors were transported by the Valkyries to enjoy the thrill of never-ending battle. While Odin ever-awaited new arrivals, it was the Valkyries who remained vigilant and watchful, presiding over earth’s battlefields to choose who would be taken aloft. Sprung from a ‘faithful constant’ (the Valhalla) to embrace an evolving field of bee biology, the Valkyrie Long Hive has emerged.
A gable-style lid
“The Valkyrie has an hinged gable-style lid that comes in two standard finishes: deluxe powder-coated and textured aluminum. The powder-coated color is ‘Moss Grey’ and the textured aluminum (with a ‘ridge cap’ design) is ‘Juniper Ridge.’ Both lids can be custom ordered in a rainbow of colors for an extra charge. The aluminum is custom fit by hand to eliminate weather intrusion. Feel free to use a dry-erase marker for taking your ‘inspection notes’ on the covers as they wipe clean easily.
“The standard hinges are durable and long-lasting steel, rust resistant and strong enough to stay open in inclement weather. The Valkyrie has one additional type of hinge called ‘Easy Glide’ which is currently in testing and should be available next spring. The ‘Easy Glide’ will allow for self-opening and closing with just a light initial touch. The craftsman quality and lightness of the lid (40% lighter than before!) give the beekeeper an ease of operation which help those with arm, shoulder, or wrist problems.
An interior frame rest
“Under the lid is storage that can be used as a frame rest or to hold hive tools. It can also hold the ‘Interior Canvas Cover’ which is included in each hive purchase. The cover helps to increase the sense of security and privacy within the hive body. It is reinforced at the corners where the hive tool will be used, decreasing the chance of rips or tears.
“As an additional (not standard) benefit, the hand-crafted ‘Interior Pure-Shetland Wool Pad’ can be ordered which helps the colony maintain temperature and humidity levels year round. This pad is 100% Shetland sheep’s wool (locally grown, harvested and felted) and is placed on top of the Interior Canvas Cover. In two gorgeous colors, grey and charcoal, these pads are beautiful and functional as well!
A 24-frame capacity
“The hive body holds 24 standard deep frames. Beneath the frames is a built-in slatted rack with new, tighter spacing on the ends. The space above the rack allows a great view through the observation window. Best of all, there is a space between the bottom of the frames and the top of the slats that allows the bees a free space in which to ‘hang out.’
“A single observation window is standard and placed on the left where viewing is best. An extra observation window can be ordered for the right side, if desired. Feeding supplies and containers can be placed directly inside the hive body when using less than 24 frames, so the need of an exterior boardman feeder was eliminated completely. Take that, you predators!
Interchangeable varroa drawers
“Beneath the body sits two drawers, screened and solid, which are interchangeable left-to-right (for those of us prone to forgetting). In hot weather, the solid drawer may be removed and the predators such as wasps are foiled again by the secured screened drawer: no access to the colony here!
Optional insulated hive stand
“Finally, an optional custom-fit stand can be ordered with each Valkyrie: it allows the top of the hive body (not the lid itself) to sit at 30″ from grade-level which is perfect for any beekeeper needing to be seated during inspection time, and suited to the height of most adults. The stand can be custom ordered in other heights as needed, or even lowered. Included is a fitted sheet of rigid insulation which protects the colony from icy-cold or super-heated ground temperatures year-round: less work for ‘the ladies!’
“With shipping across the U.S. and globally, we’ve incorporated our bee-friendly philosophy to also include shipping containers and materials that are 100% recyclable, with easy set-up at your location. Just call for pricing!
“The over-all size and weight of this Valkyrie Long Hive means less work for the beekeeper and the colony. It is lighter, taller, and built to last. We offer a two-year warranty on the lid and hinges and we won’t sacrifice ‘bee biology’ at any point.”
A hive to be proud of
I am truly impressed by the craftsmanship poured into the Valkyrie hive. Not only that, but the commitment of Vivien and Bruce is palpable, not only to beekeepers but to the bees themselves. If you have difficulties with the Langstroth configuration or are just looking for a better way to keep your bees, I urge you to have a look at the Valkyrie Long Hive.