Friday, August 9, 2013

Honey Bees in the City

As you may or may know from reading previous posts, I live in St. Paul, MN. And while beekeeping in the city is becoming more popular, the regulations make it pretty hard to do. I mean, seriously, who can put a beehive at the very center of their property surrounded by a 5ft high fence that's 20ft in diameter (because we can't have kids get closer than 10ft to the hive)?

Those factors, along with wanting to do this project with my dad so my kids get to see their grandpa more and work with him on a fun project, prompted me to keep my bees at my dad's house outside the city where the regulations are fewer and farther between.

Despite the regulations in the city, however, there are still bees! Saw this beautiful girl (the one and only I've seen this summer) in my yard last week while I was mowing the lawn. Maybe someday the beekeeping restrictions will lesson, and I can raise bees in the city.

  


Thursday, August 1, 2013

Switching some boxes around and moving our swarm to a permanent home

07-28-13

I'm not gonna say a whole lot right now. I'm too tired. I just wanted to get these videos up. I'll let them speak for themselves

I'm hoping now that both hives will stay strong and use the next month or two to build up and fill out at least a second box. We'll just have to wait and see!



 
 
 

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

More native bees

More Native Bees in Minnesota (07-28-13)

On Sunday, we had the joy of sharing a wonderful meal with our good friends in their garden. During the course of our conversation, our friend mentioned she hadn't seen many bees (bumble bees and honey bees) and was worried whether or not her garden was being pollinated properly. Well, it was! With a little bit of observation we noted at least five different species of native bees buzzing around her garden. The first was the common bumble bee we see flying around MN. I'm not sure what the species is exactly, but those of you who live here will know which one I'm talking about. It's fat (nearly round!), and has vivid yellow and black stripes. Unfortunately, I only saw one and wasn't quick enough to snap a picture.

Bee #1
Another bee was saw, I'm fairly certain was another bumble bee species. It was smaller and not so fat. Probably in between the size of a honey bee and the "regular" bumble bee we're used to. It also wasn't striped, but had a distinct yellow section and black section. Here's a couple pictures.


 Bee #2
Another bee we saw was pure black and about the size of a honey bee. It was pretty fun to watch them get covered in bright yellow pollen from the squash plants!



Bee #3
This next one I thought, at first was the same as the andrenid bees I saw in my garden. It was very small, only about 1/2" long and had humungous pollen baskets on its legs. After inspecting it a little more carefully, however, it's obvious it's not the same bee. This one has very distinct stripes with little to no hair on its back half, while the andrenid bees had no stripes and more hair.



Bee #4
Finally, we saw this beautiful bee. A little larger than the andrenid bees and the bees pictured above. Probably about 1/2" long or just over. It was bright metallic green on the front half and striped on the back half.




I haven't had time to look up exactly what these all are yet, so if any of you have any ideas, let me know!


Addendum:
- Here's a diagram of a variety of Minnesota Bumble Bees. What do you think about bee #1? I'm thinking maybe the Common Eastern Bumble Bee or Bombus impatiens. On a similar note, the big, fat, striped bumble bee that we are all familiar with in Minnesota (that I didn't get a picture of unfortunately), I'm thinking that one is the Black and Gold Bumble Bee or Bombus auricomus.
- Bee #4 looks like some sort of Metallic Green Bee, such as identified as Agapostemon virescens over at Oak Hill Apiary.

What does everyone think? Any help on bees #2 and #3?

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Removing a swarm from our bait hive.

07-26-13

Here's the videos we took when we moved the swarm from our bait hive into a standard Warre box. We'll join up that Warre box with the new hive we built at some point in this next week.

Please be aware that we're totally new to beekeeping. These videos are not intended to instruct you on the correct way to do things. We're totally learning as we go. We expect that you'll learn just as much from our mistakes as we do from our successes. Also know that not all the information given in the videos may be technically accurate. Please verify anything you hear on this blog with reputable sources before taking it for gospel truth. Finally, we are doing this as a project with my two boys (ages 8 and 6 when we started this spring), so I apologize for the shaky videos, etc, but it is what it is.

All that said, enjoy the videos!






Friday, July 26, 2013

How to move a beehive.

If you've been paying attention, you know our original hive swarmed, that we caught said swarm in one of our bait traps, and that we now need to move that hive out of the bait trap and into a real bee hive.

Well, today (Friday, July 26th), we built our new hive. Unfortunately, it's not sealed (waterproofed) yet so we can't move our bees directly into their new hive. Instead, we took down our other bait hive which happened to be a standard Warre box with a floor board, lid, and some holes drilled in the side for an entrance. We then used bungees to attach it to the top of an 8 foot ladder right next to the tree where the old bait hive was. The idea is that the hive has moved less than 3 feet (more on that in a minute) so all the returning bees should be able to find their new home. Now that it's in a standard Warre box, however, when we decide on the new location, we can simply take the floor and roof off this box, plug up the side holes, and put it directly into our new Warre hive, complete will floor board, multiple boxes, quilt, and roof.

So what's with the three feet? Conventional wisdom says that when you move a beehive, it needs to be LESS THAN three feet or MORE THAN three miles. This is because when bees leave their hive, their pretty much on auto-pilot, they don't really pay attention. Why would they need to? They know where they live. They just go, do their thing, collect nectar and what not, and then head for home. The problem is when the head home they're on auto-pilot too. Just like you when you drive you, you don't really pay attention to what streets you're turning on. You know where you live. You know how to get home. You do it every day. Imagine, however, if you drive home (or where you thought home was) and your home wasn't there! This is what happens if you move a beehive, say a 100 yards. They come back to where the hive originally was and basically get lost and need to start looking/smelling for their new home. Which they may or may not find.

So what to do? You need to disorient the bees so they go, "Hey! Wait a minute. This is different. Where am I?" and really take a good look around before flying off for the day. One way to do this is to move them more than 3 miles. Another way to do this is to keep them cooped up inside the hive for at least 3 days (don't you love all the 3's?). Another way, described in the following link and video, is to cause disorientation by creating an obstacle (grass, leaves, et cetera) that the bees must navigate around as they leave their hive. When they get around the obstacle, they'll go "Wow. That wasn't normal," and take that good look around that we talked about before flying off.

Here's the link: How to move a hive.

And here's the video: How to move a hive any distance.


I think this third method will likely be what I do. I'm not going to move our bees 3 miles. I'm also not sure they really have enough stores built up (actually I'm pretty sure they don't) to last them 3 days. I think what I'll do is give them 2 days in their current Warre box. During that time I'll water proof the hive we built and have my dad pick out a location in the yard for our new hive. I'll come back after two days, and we'll set up the hive at it's new location, except we'll have the entrance blocked off so the bees can't get in and out. In the evening, when the bees are all home for the night. We'll staple a piece of 1/8" hardware cloth over the holes I drilled for a makeshift entrance. That way all the bees will be trapped inside the box. We'll move them over to the new hive we set up and leave them there over night. In the morning I'll have my dad unblock the main entrance to the new hive, put some branches in front of it, and we'll all pray the bees take their reorientation flights and make it home safely at the end of the day. Think it's a good plan? I sure hope so!

We took a few videos of this whole process. They're rather long (about 30 minutes total) so they're taking a while to render and upload. I'll try to get them up on the blog tomorrow.

The bad, the good, and the ugly. Aka- the bees have swarmed.

07-26-13

Well, if you've been paying attention to the blog, you know that a little over two weeks ago our bees were bearding and seemed to be getting ready to swarm. It appeared as though they had moved into the second box, and we decided to add a third box to give them more space. The ultimate goal being to have at least two full boxes of honey comb on which the bees could over winter. Well, on Tuesday of this week, I headed out to my parents' house to check on our bees. Hoping and pretty much expecting to see our bees filling out the second box and settling in with the third box we added. This, unfortunately, was NOT the case as you can see in the video below.


So, quick recap of the news:
- Bad news, the bees have swarmed.
- Good news, our bait hive worked and we caught the bees.
- Ugly news, the bait hive, which started out level, no longer is and we will probably have to deal with cross combing or at the very least crooked combs as we move them to their new home.

What's the plan now?

In the video I mentioned recombining the hive back into one. I had thought this would be the best idea, as we're shooting for two full Warre boxes to overwinter our bees. I find it unlikely at this point that the bees, if kept separate, will make it to two full boxes. However, I wanted another opinion. I decided to contact Sam from Bee Crazy and ask his advice. If you've read my posts or watched my videos, you've probably heard me mention this excellent resource. Sam was gracious enough to answer my questions and offer some advice. You can see our conversation at his site here.

Bottom line. I'm going to head out to my parents' later today. I've got two extra Warre boxes, I'll build a couple more along with another base, roof, and quilt, and then we'll move the bees from the bait hive to their new home. I'll the two hives (our original and our new swarm hive) grow and develop separately and see how their doing come this fall. If it appears they might be strong enough to winter on their own, we'll leave them apart. If, on the other hand, they seem weak, we'll attempt at that point to combine them.

Thanks also to Sam for answering my question about the white stuff on the plexiglass. It is, apparently, just wax. That's what my hunch was, it just wasn't there initially, and I was worried it might be some sort of mold or something. Sam's explanation of WHY they were starting to put was on the hive walls was helpful, however. He mentioned that it often starts appearing as the hive gets ready to swarm. Basically, the colony thinks they're out of room (even though they weren't) and the wax producing bees start putting wax on the walls of the hive instead of being productive and building usable comb in the empty space they do have available. I'll try to keep an eye out for this in the future as the white specks started appearing a few weeks before the bees were bearding, before (I thought) they had moved down into the second box.

I'll let you know how it goes and hopefully post some video later tonight or tomorrow!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Warre hive inspection post ant problem / third box addition

07-15-13

It's been about two weeks since we removed the ants from our hive (quilt) for the second time and about five days since we added the third box. We stopped out at my parents' to check on the bees and the two bait hives. I'm pleased to report no ants in any of our hives and the bees have also actually started building comb in the third box too!! Crazy bees. Doing things on their time and not mine!

When we took one of the two boxes from our bait hive to place on our main hive, we took all the top bars from the bait hive as well (I only had 9 top bars in it to begin with). So that bait hive has been "top bar-less" for about two weeks. We brought some new top bars out to put in it, but they didn't have beeswax strips on them yet. Here are the boys and their friend putting some melted beeswax on the top bars.




After painting our top bars with beeswax and installing them in our bait hive, we checked on the main hive as well. You can see that video at the end of the post. I do have a question for all of you out there in the internet world, does anyone know what all those little white dots on the plexi-glass in box are (see video)?? I have NO idea. I'm going to try to look it up online, but if anyone out there knows and wants to share their valuable knowledge, I'm all ears! Enjoy the video:

Adding a third box to our Warre Hive

07-10-13

Bees are interesting creatures. It has been said that bees are not domesticated, just that they allow us to live with and interact with them. I have found this summer that is very much the case. When we first installed our (small!) package of bees, they took off like wild fire. They filled the first box in  what seemed to me like record time. So, at that point we moved a small bit of comb down to the second box to try to entice them to continue building comb downward. But when we did that, it seemed like they just stopped. No following the will of their beekeeper. No nothing. For weeks. The top box was completely full, but every time we looked into the second box, just nothing. Then, after about a month of nothing, which was a little less than two weeks go now, they finally started building in the second box. And when they finally started building it was like wild fire again. They've got the second box probably half full right now, and my dad called me to let me know the bees were covering the outside of the hive and flying around the entrance "like a cloud."  I knew from my reading that many times on hot days, bees in Warre hives will beard around the entrance (come outside the hive and just sit on the outside of the hive). Unfortunately, they also do this when they're preparing to swarm. Because the last few days have actually been COOLER and LESS humid that last week, I was terrified they had swarmed. Thankfully, when we got out there the following day, it appeared there were just as many bees coming and going and there was still some bearding going on. So I don't think they've swarmed. Anyway, with the second box half full and the bees bearding, we decided it was definitely time to add a third box.

I went out to grab one of the extra boxes we had used as a bait hive (one of the two boxes stacked together, you can see that in this post). When we got out the bait hive, we found more ants. I guess we need cinnamon out here too!
 
 
Long story short, we cleared out the ants from the bait hive, took one of the two boxes to use as the third box on our hive, and left the other out as a bait hive (thoroughly doused in cinnamon). Here's the video:
 

Ants and wasps and and broken screws, oh my!

06-29-13

It's been a while! I'm sorry I've been so busy; there's a lot we need to catch up on! As you can see in the video at the end of this post, we've got good news and bad news. The good news is that the bees have finally moved down into the second box. I was getting worried there for a little bit.



The bad news is that ants have invaded the quilt. As far as I could tell by peeling back a bit of the top cloth, they're not in the hive itself, just the quilt. This is still annoying, however, as they're nasty little buggers that bite when they get on you (you can see in the video, I thought I had my first bee sting, but it was just an ant that crawled up my back). They're also pulling out all the quilt material (sawdust) and dumping it all over the ground. This is not good cause we need that there to insulate the hive and help pull the moisture out.



After some research online, I found out that ants HATE cinnamon, but the bees don't mind it. We've decided to use cinnamon around the base of the hive, mix a bit with petroleum jelly to create another barrier around the bottom box, and finally added some cinnamon directly to the quilt material as well.




Another bit of bad news is the fact that there are paper wasps that decided the roof made a convenient home. You can't see it in the video, but our assistant beekeeper (my dad) used a yard stick to smash the wasps nest. She hasn't been back since!

The final bit of bad news was the fact that two of the screws holding the roof and mouse board together actually broke. So we need to take that apart and put new screws on. Thankfully my dad had a box of these screws lying around, which we used to fix it all up. These short deck screws are actually what I was looking for in the first place when we built the hive. I just never found them. If you decide to take it upon yourself to build a hive at some point DEFINITELY use these short deck screws and not the generic zinc plated wood screws.



Thanks for reading! After much beating around the bush, here's the video...




06-30-13

So, I was back out at my parents' house the day after we cleaned all the ants out. Guess what? More ants!! Figured out we didn't put the petroleum jelly/cinnamon mixture on the straps holding our hive together and that's where the ants were crawling in and out. Here's another short video explaining everything.


Friday, June 14, 2013

Two new videos. Hive activity and bait hive/frame construction.

06-08-11

Here's a short video of the activity at the front of our hive and the inside (seen through the observation window) after about one month after installation. They seem to be doing pretty well. They're fairly active today, thankfully, it's been one of the only nice days we've had all spring. It's been pretty rainy and wet here. As you can see they're brining in pollen, which is a very good sign that the queen is laying. You can also see the top box is pretty much 100% full. You can see in the bottom box that they have not yet started building comb in that box. The only thing there is the small bit of comb that I moved down to try and encourage them to start building there. Not sure what else to do to try to get them to move down. If you've got any ideas, leave a comment.
 


06-11-13

This second video is a little bit longer. In it, I explain how I built two more bait hives. This time the with the correct internal volume! One is made out of two empty Warre boxes that I put a base and lid on and attached together. I forgot to mention in the video that I drilled some holes in the bottom box for the bees to use as an entrance. If I ever need to use that particular box in a hive, I'll just plug the holes with some quark. The second bait hive is made out of scrap wood I got for free from craigslist. I made it with just a skill saw, jig saw, and hand drill to show how easy it can be to build a bee hive. I did use the lath we ripped to size on my dad's table saw, however. So there's still that part that's a bit harder to do. Need to figure out an easy way to make those top bars without any special tools. In this video, I also show how I made some frames and half-frames to fit in a standard, unmodified Warre hive. I made these to use with my widow-less boxes so we can do inspections in them. I also made them to see how they worked in case anyone ever need to have removable frames for a beehive permit or what not. I still like the idea of Warre's system, using minimal intrusion and to simply let the bees be bees and do their thing, but it's nice to experiment and come up with way to let the bees do their thing and still be able to check on them once in a while. If one were to truly do minimally invasing beeking, it might be more like the Japanese system, which is pretty much the same as a Warre hive, but with no top bars at all, just some cross braces to give the honey comb some support and then let the bees make the comb any which way they please. I'm rambling now, though, here's the video.


Monday, June 3, 2013

Inspection 16 days after installation. Probably the last big manipulation for a while.

5-27-13
Well, here's the most intensive hive inspection/maintenance we've performed yet and, quite possibly, the most intensive we'll get all summer. Warre advocated for minimal hive inspection/maintenance, and that's probably what shoot for here on out. Honestly, that's one thing I appreciate about Warre's design. I don't have to constantly be running out to make sure everything is going okay. In fact, as you'll see in this video, we have a bit of cross combing starting in the top box (more on that after the video), but with this design, you really manipulate boxes, not individual combs, so I'm really not going to worry about it that much. Plus, with the observation window built into each box we've made so far, we can at least observe them a little bit that way. It's unlikely we'll move or inspect any more comb until we harvest an entire box at the end of the summer (hopefully!) or next year (more likely).




So, as you can see in the video, there was a bit of cross combing. Here's a picture that shows it in a little more detail. The dashed line is likely the first comb they built and is dead center. Everything to the right and left, as you can see, is shifted toward that bar. There's an empty space on the right that I'm not sure what the bees will do with now and a little bit of cross-combing on the left as you can see in the circle.



Here's some close ups of the cross-combing and the emptey space.


5-29-13
So after the video was taken (on a Monday) I went home and respaced the bars in the box that used to house the jar feeder. I ended up putting nine bars in (which I have seen on some webpages/discussion boards before, see Warre Top Bar Spacing and Bar Spacing on a Warre Hive) because that's what it appears the bees were trying to do. I'll just oblige them, right? Give the bees what they want! I came back on Wednesday, switched out the empty bottom box for the new box with the nine bars, and we'll see what they do now.

In doing this, I also changed how I had the bars spaced and secured. In the pictures above you can see I used a 1 inch wire nail that, more or less, acts as a pin to keep the bar in place (I drilled the hole it rests in larger than the nail so it just slips in and out). This was rather difficult to measure and drill all the holes, plus you can't change it once it's done, and I've already lost a bunch of nails. While researching the whole Warre bar spacing question, I discovered this amazing blog Bee Crazy which had an ingenious approach to bar spacing. As you can see in the following picture, Sam just screwed a small spacer screw to the side of each top bar. By screwing them futher in or out, you can adjust the distance between the bars. Brilliant! Oh, and FYI, Sam is in Canada and has used Kenyan Top Bar Hives and now Warre Hives. Yay for more information on keeping top bar bees in cold climates!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Solitary bees in my flower garden

As you may know from reading my very first blog post, or from the "About Us" page on the blog, I don't keep my honey bees at my home, but at my father's. One of the reasons we decided to do this was because of the restrictive regulations on keeping beehives in the city. I may cross that bridge eventually, but not right now.

Well, bees will be bees, and they'll go wherever there are flowers to collect nectar and pollen from, regardless of whether or not city officials and neighbors want them. Yesterday while I was weeding our front flower garden and putting down wood chips, I ran into 4-5 of these little buggers flying around...

 

Some quick online research revealed that these are Andrenid Bees. They are small, native, solitary bees that build nests in a small, pencil sized hole they dig in the ground. Here's some info:
UMN - Solitary Bees with a Twist
UMN - Andrenid Bees

I've known about solitary bees before. In fact, I remember some bees digging tunnels in the sandbox at my parents' house when I was a kid. I've also known that you can build houses for various types of solitary bees, but never did much research. So I did a little last night. It seems that many of these native bees are even more prolific pollinators than honey bees! Plus their homes are super easy to build, inconspicuous, and probably wouldn't bother the neighbors in the city too much. Maybe I'll take up a project soon and build a house for some bees here. Then I can be a city beekeeper as well!

Bumble Bee Homes
How to make a bumble bee nest
Providing bumble bee nest sites
Plans for building bumble bee nest boxes


Orchard Mason Bee Homes
How to build a bee house
How to construct a sturdy, all wood mason bee house
Bring on the bees

Thursday, May 23, 2013

More on making a bait hive from our extra Warre box

I've got some pictures of the construction of our bait hive a few posts back. Here's a video talking about preparing the hive to put out and using our beeswax "polish" to seal/waterproof the outside of the hive.


Busy as a bee - One week after installing our bee package into our Warre hive 05-18-13

Whoever coined the phrase "busy as a bee" was NOT joking. Check out everything they've accomplished in just one week. Keep in mind this is in Minnesota, spring arrived late (there was snow on the ground less than one week before we installed the bees), there has been rain for about 2-3 of the 7 days they've been in the hive so I don't know how much foraging they've been able to do, and this is a 2lb package of bees instead of the 3lb package I was expecting. Crazy...

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Lighting our smoker for the first time and our first beehive inspection 05-15-13

After soccer on last Wednesday, we stopped by Grandpa's to check on our bees for the first time. We passed our first test (lighting the smoker and getting it to stay lit) and were surprised by how active the bees have been. Whoever came up with the phrase "busy as a bee" wasn't joking! Look at how much they've accomplished in just four days!



In addition to what you can see in the video, check out the picture below. I wasn't sure how much foraging they'd be doing with Minnesota's late spring, but the bees have already found flowers and are bringing in pollen. We saw bees with yellow, orange, and white pollen.


Again, sorry about the picture quality, but in this picture you can see a little more of the comb coming down from the top bars. You can also see from the lines where the bees are, in other words, where there's more comb coming down that you can't see.


Pretty amazing work for only four days in a late spring!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Bee Day Videos 05-11-13

Well, I finally figured out how to use Windows Live Movie Maker to edit these clips together. Here's the video of our first ever experience with live honey bees. I'll pretty much let it speak for itself. Just be warned, however, the videographer was a eight year old boy. It is, at times, shaky. And, at others, not even pointing in the right direction. Still, I think it captured the day quite well, and I can watch it over and over again just as enthralled as when I was actually there with the bees.

More videos coming soon. Here's the first...


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Our extra Warre box transformed into a bait hive

In preparation for beekeeping this spring, I read a number of books (you can read some of my reviews here) including McCartney Taylor's book Swarm Traps and Bait Hives. I thought it would be great fun to try and capture a swarm of feral bees. Ultimately, however, I decided to purchase package bees, at least this first year, to guarantee that we had bees instead of sitting around all summer twiddling our fingers. On of the upshots of deciding to build a Warre hive as opposed to a Kenyan Top Bar was that we have extra boxes sitting around and doing nothing right now. I decided to take an extra box (or two or three if I build more) and make them into bait hives.

According to McCartney Taylor, the ideal interior dimensions of a bait hive should equal 40 liters. I don't know about you, but I don't think in liters. Here's what it turns out to be in cubic inches:
- McCartney Taylor's interior dimensions are 19.25" x 13" x 10" = 2502.5 inches cubed.

Contrast that with the interior dimensions of one Warre hive box:
- Warre box interior dimensions are 11.8" x11.8" x 8" = 1113.92 inches cubed.

That ends up being about half of what Taylor recommended. What's the downside of a smaller box? Well, aside from the obvious (the bees might not like it as much and decide not to take up residence there), apparently smaller cavities are more easily accepted by Africanized honey bees (i.e. "killer" bees). Thankfully, we don't have Africanized honey bees in Minnesota, so, despite the smaller size I decided to go for it and build the bait trap. More likely I'll catch a swarm with a small box than if I don't put one out at all, right?

In the future, I may use two Warre boxes bungeed together to make a trap (that would be almost exactly the right size). Or if I decide to make specific bait traps, I could make one double long, but still fit my Warre top bars. Then, after the trapped bees have started building comb, I could move the correctly sized top bars to a waiting Warre hive. That's all in the future, however, so I'll just show you what I did for now.

First, I cut out a single piece of plywood and screwed it on as a cover. I chose a single piece here, to keep rain from dripping onto the bees.


Then I cut two pieces to use as the bottom of the trap. I didn't have a big enough piece of plywood left over to make a single pieced bottom. I figured it didn't matter as much on the bottom if there was a seam, no rain water would leak in there anyway. Then, near the edge of on of the bottom pieces I used a jig saw to cut a 2" hole, and I staples some straightened out paper clips across the hole to keep birds out.


And then I attached both these pieces to the bottom with screws. And that's really about it. Taylor adds a piece to the back that he uses to hang it from. I think I'm just going to set one out on a little deck we have that we never use, and if I make another, I'll bungee that to a tree (level of course) in my father-in-law's backyard.


It's nice that we made our boxes with windows. It will be easy to check on any swarms we happen to catch to see how their comb construction is coming a long.


Here's the last picture. You can see the 2" hole near the back of the box.

Pictures of the homemade jar feeder

So, in case you didn't know, spring in Minnesota arrived over a month late this year. I know, I know... You're saying, "Minnesota has spring?" Yes, yes we do. Normally in April. This year we had two winter storm warnings (ended up getting about 6 inches each time) during the first week of May. In fact, the day we got our bee package (May 11) we had some weird snow/sleet stuff falling for a bit. Long story short, I didn't know if I was going to build a feeder or not, but with the late spring and smaller package of bees (our supplier changed every one's 3# package to 2# due to the bee shortages), I decided I had better feed for at least a little while. After doing some research, I thought a jar feeder would be easiest to build and operate. I liked the double jar feeder at Bee Thinking quite a bit and made a quadruple jar feeder based on the pictures at their website. Here's how I made it.
 
 
This is a piece of plywood cut to fit inside one of our Warre's boxes. It ended up being not quite square due to the plexi-glass windows inside our boxes. I marked up the edge strips and center where the lath would be, and used a standard mason jar top to trace where the holes would be. Then I used a jig saw to cut them out.
 
 
 
Here are the four holes cut out, with the first layer of lath in place, ready to nail on.
 
 
And here it is again with a piece of 1/8th inch hardware cloth attached. I did this to keep the bees from coming up into the box when changing the jars out, and to give them something to hang on to when their upside down beneath the feeders. The hardware cloth was then covered again on the outside with the lath. This was done to give the bees just enough "bee space" underneath the feeder so they wouldn't fill it with comb. FYI- in order to allow them to come up into the feeder, I cut about 2-3 inches off of one end of my top cloth, that way they have about an inch strip along one end where they can come up. When I remove the feeder later this spring, I'll just put a new, full sized top cloth in its place.
 

Here's the finished product with four jars in place.

And a view from the underside.
 
 
So far in the first four and a half days we've had our bees, they've gone through about two and a half jars of sugar/water (50/50 ratio) syrup. I'm not sure how long I'll feed them. At least until the first major bloom which my dad thinks will be the wild plum trees sometime this weekend. After that, I'm not sure how long. I want to give my bees a good start since their numbers are so diminished, but I don't want to keep them from doing their thing naturally either. I'll have to keep you updated on that.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Finishing the Beehive


After we took the pre-cut parts for the beehive home, there was more that the kids could help with.


This is me and James stapling the felt in place and screwing together some of the extra boxes. Noah and little sister Mary got to help out with this as well.


This is a close up of the toggle we made to keep the windows in place. We used a small piece of the lath that was cut narrowring for the top bars. I think I made the toggle 2.5 or 3 inches long and just screwed it in place.



This is what I decided to use for sealing the hive. If we had used cedar to make the hive, this wouldn't have been necessary. However, as ceder was more than 3 times as expensive as pine, we had to seal it. I was originally going to make a linseed oil and beeswax paint, a-la McCartney Taylor, but I thought that might be too messy (and not to mention hot... burning hazard!) to use with little kids helping out. I found this recipe on you tube instead for a beeswax "polish." for lack of a better term. It's equal parts (we usex 8oz each) of beeswax, linseed oil, and turpentine. Now, I know the linseed oil is "boiled" which means there are addatives in it that might not be the best for the bees. Also, I'm not sure the how the turpentine affects the bees either, but all it is is distilled pine resin. I still decided to go this route, however, for a couple reasons. First, it's only going to be on the outside of the hive. Second, the turpentine will evaporate. And third, it just seemed so much easier. In the future, I might find somewhere to order raw linseed oil, but for now, this is what we did.

I made a "water bath" to melt the beeswax in, then added the linseed oil and turpentine. It was liquid at first, so you had to let it sit until the next day. Then it turned into a semi-solid polish that we could rub in with old rags (cut up t-shirt).



Here are James (top) and Noah (bottom) "polishing" the hive to make it waterproof.



The next big task was to make the beeswax starter strip on the top bars. I liked what McCartney Taylor did with the beeswax and cotton string, but thought his technique (using a soldering iron to melt the wax, could be simplified).0

Instead, I cut the string to length...

... dropped it into a jar of melted wax...

... and took it out with a pliers. Then I held one end down with a screwdriver and streatched it out into a straight line with the pliers. The beeswax hardened quickly, so it wasn't too hard to get it to stick into place on the top bars. Some tips, though, DON'T put more than one string into the wax at at time. They WILL fray. Also,  the wax will hardened almost instantaneously on the metal pliers, so you need to really push it down on the other end with the screwdriver so you can get the pliers unstuck.

All in all, it was a good technique, however. I got four boxed done (32 top bars) in less than an hour. Here are the results.


The last thing that needed to be done was to staple the burlap on to the quilt...

... and fill it with sawdust we saved from hive construction.


Here's our finished product! We let the whole thing sit for about two weeks for the polish to soak in before we moved it outside.


Here we are at Grandpa's leveling some left over cement landscaping blocks to set the hive on. I think we did this about two or three days before "bee day."


I'm going to bed now. I'll try to put up more pictures tomorrow. I've still got to show you how I made the jar feeder and also a bait trap out of a spare box. After that I'll try to figure out how to do some simple video editing and put up some videos from "bee day." Until then... Goodbye!