Many beekeepers are looking for ways to make the work around the hive easier and faster. Trying to accomplish that new beehives are built with improved ergonomic designs, ensuring long term survival, as well as better housing for the bees. Slovenian AZ beehive is a great hive, and it is used by many beekeepers. It originates from the European country of Slovenia where it has been used for centuries. The beekeeper who designed it is a famous Slovenian beekeeper Anton Žnideršič.
What makes this hive unique and interesting to the beekeepers is that the hive box opens from the back. Usually, hive inspection requires lifting of supers or broods which can be very tiring, especially for older beekeepers. Being able to just pull out frames individually even from lower levels makes colony inspection much easier for the beekeeper and bees.
The AZ hives are designed to fit into “bee houses” which expose the hive to the outside only on one side. This hive contains the same components as Langstroth, but it doesn’t have supers. For easier transportation, some beekeepers build these houses onto trucks.
Two openings for bees at the front of the hive which can be easily closed when the hive has to be moved
Since only front side of the hive is exposed to the outside, that side is the only one that has to be painted
Rear door allowing easier access to the frames on all levels
Frames rest on metal bars which utilize space, so bees don’t build burr comb along the bottoms, tops, and in between frames
Frames are narrower and taller than Langstroth Deep frames, and wired vertically
Standard foundation needs to be cut down to fit into these frames
The exterior door has ventilation flaps on the top and bottom for additional airflow
Two screened wire doors on the inside keep the bees in place and allow ventilation
Screened doors have feeding boxes so feeding the bees is easier
Removable queen excluders on the top of the interior and screened boards on the bottom.
On the inside of screened doors and front of the hive, there are metal spacers that keep the frames at the same distance
As we already mentioned, the biggest advantage is that supers and brood don’t have to be lifted because of the rear door. Frames can be simply pulled out individually, even from lower levels. Since hives are fitted into the “bee house” their inspection is easier and is not dependant on the weather. Stacking the hives in the house protects the bees from harsh weather and wind.
Feeding is performed inside the “bee house” which prevents any robbing stimulation from other colonies.
The hives only have two or three levels, but by putting a solid board between levels, you can have two colonies per level. When the season starts, you can remove the second queen and merge two colonies. That way you can have a strong colony ready to forage early in spring.
The Slovenian AZ beehive is a way of beekeeping that will work for some and not for others. Because of its design bees might get the swarming urge more often so the monitoring should be done more often. Also, be aware that this hive is not compatible with Langstroth frame sizes and standard foundation needs some adjustments to fit these hives. However, having hives inside a “bee house” and being able to work independently of outside weather is surely a significant advantage. With AZ hive there is no more waiting for sunny days without rain and strong wind just to be able to inspect the hive. Even bees like it, they seem to be less disturbed during inspections through rear doors. Since they are mostly oriented to using front entrances, only small amount of smoke is needed at the rear door during the inspection. Beekeeping requires a lot of hard work, so this type of hive might be a great option to increase the efficiency of both bees and beekeeper.
You can get one National Slovenian AZ beehive with 20-frames ordered by Amazon. It's a small hive and as such is being advertised as suitable for those who find using a full-sized beehive difficult. Basically, the hive is worked from the rear so that there is no lifting of heavy boxes. In Slovenia the hive is kept in a bee house, a building holding a number of the hives, generally with decorated fronts