The hives shown elsewhere on this page are the same Styrofoam hives I have discussed many times here in the diary. 

They are now three winters old, and I have never painted them, or even glued them together.  I just fitted and tapped them together and added bees.  The first winter I had bad luck, which I now blame on disturbing the bees late in the season, but have subsequently found that the bees winter as well, or better, in them than in wrapped hives.

I feel now, after three winters, that I can safely recommend these boxes as a reasonable, cost-effective and convenient alternative to wooden brood chambers.  We have not used them as supers, and have some reservations about that idea, since they are bulkier and probably a little less durable where rough handling and throwing around is likely.  Brood chambers normally get less handling and more careful treatment.  Wooden supers, of which we still have quite a few, stack up just fine on these broods, and, at the time of year that supers are added insulation is less important. (I think -- I should try some of these as supers.  Maybe they would work better than wood in cool spells during springs and summers, and encourage the bees not to withdraw to the brood chamber as readily).

Assembled and ready to go, these expanded styrene boxes cost about the same as wood, but they are far easier to put together.  Each box takes only seconds to assemble, and no special tools.  Once set up, they eliminate the additional expense and inconvenience of wraps and wrapping, and stand up well in service.  We haven't babied them, and find that both the U.S. and Swedish versions have performed just fine, although I suspect the Swedish ones would last longer and take more abuse, since they are made of a slightly denser plastic and are molded in one piece, but the difference would be slight.

I have not observed any chewing by the bees or mice or damage from handling, although the sun has chalked the surface slightly.  I suppose I should paint a few black or brown, as is popular in Europe, to see how that affects their performance.  I also suppose I should glue them together.  If I don't get around to gluing the ones I have now, I will at least use a little white glue on any I order in the future, since I notice that at least one of the boxes has pulled apart a tiny bit at a joint.  (That is no problem.  The bees don't seem to mind, and neither do I.  I probably can tap the gap closed if I think of it).

As for the plastic floors and lids that came with them, they seem to work just fine, although the mesh square in the floors came out the first season, and a piece of wire hardware cloth would probably be a better choice than the plastic mesh provided.  In one hive, a mouse had entered where the mesh became detached, but I observed no damage.  We also use our plastic pillows under the lids for a little extra insulation and a better seal against wind.