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That means the bees can be visually checked through a screened back without disturbing them, and the beekeeper never has to lift heavy honey boxes. “It’s a whole different experience,” says Suzanne Brouillette, of Slovenian Beekeeping in Harrisville, New Hampshire, since both bees and beekeepers remain protected from the elements.
Roxanne and Lee Dunn of White Deer Ranch in Fishtail, Montana, found the Slovenian bee houses while searching for a better way to raise their colony in Montana, which can be harsh on hives. Temperatures in the winter can easily fluctuate between sub-zero and 40 or 50 degrees, sometimes in a single day, and the wind wreaks havoc on everything.
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The Dunns made theirs from a small preexisting structure on the property. “It might have been a residence at some time,” says Roxanne Dunn. “We built a shelf all the way around the inside of the house. And we used standard hives and pushed them against the (outside) wall.” They also installed observation windows so visitors can see what the bees are doing.
Part of the appeal of the Slovenian bee houses is their colorful designs, says Brouillette, who believes the artful touch help bees locate their hive.
“I think the [original images] were religious,” Brouillett says, “but after the Communist regime took power, people switched to more humorous or folk artsy paintings.” Since Brouillette claims to have no artistic talent of her own, she imports classically painted panels from beekeepers in Slovenia for the hives she sells on her site.
No matter what season it is, the houses help moderate the ambient temperature and weather conditions. “It’s been pretty great because we get some strong winds,” says Dunn. “They’re cozy in there.”