Archive | May, 2013

My First Woodworking Project : Building a Top Bar Hive

29 May

I’m feeling both really stimulated and a little stymied by this project. As it’s my first woodworking project, I’m pretty impressed with myself…but I’m using Phil Chandler’s plans and they’ve been frustrating to follow for an absolute beginner.

I’m now to the roof and kinda stuck…at this point the directions basically say: do whatever. Whatever is less than helpful for me.

Anyway, here are my pictures.

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Day one, part one: Body, sliders, a couple of top bars.

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Day one, part two: Top bars, all the comb guides glued up and weighted down, screened bottom stapled on.

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Day two, part one: entrance holes drilled, landing board glued on (upside down, oops)

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Day two, part two: legs on, roof frame built.

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I’ve also built dividers for a second hive…and want to build at least one nuc while I’m at this….but before I get too ahead of myself…what to do about the roof? I think I may need to put fabric into it so that the bees can’t get up into it (through the gap between he edge of the bars and the roof frame…) and then….how to build the top? Any tips for a complete novice?

–Update–

So based on some input from readers (and the beesource.com forums – love it there) I’ve come up with approximately this:

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The glue is still drying on the triangle pieces (there are 4) and somehow between the parking lot and my office, I lost the foam inserts that go in to seal the ripples off…so I have to take my car apart later and find those before screwing it all together….and then I’m going to staple some burlap into the underside of the roof frame so that bees can’t get up into it, but it vents ala warre quilt…and I’m probably going to try to put it on in overlapping pieces so I can still fiddle with it to stuff insulation in for the winter…..but at that point….I’m done!  Hive 1!  Oh, and then the linseed oil/beeswax coating and the beeswax on the bars.  This is labor intensive, but I’m learning a lot -and- getting a pretty thorough working knowledge of the tools in the woodshop!

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Bees Loose in my Car! (and a bunch of other little updates)

28 May

The weather has been pretty cold and rainy this week again, but since JuJuBee and the newly named Cleopatra have observation windows, I was able to peek in anyway.

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That’s the full panorama of JuJu Bee’s workings.  On closer inspection, there’s definitely honey being stored away!

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Also, out on the front porch, there’s the definite posture of Nasanov fanning going on.

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Over on Scratch Farm, Cleopatra has a lot of work going on as well.   Her girls had 7 bars built out on Friday and so I popped another one in for good measure.

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Even though there was intermittent drizzle happening, the entrances were hopping. Now that they’re pretty set up, I’ve opened two of the front three holes and have popped off the Winter bottom board (well, I took the picture first and then took the bottom board off).

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On a neighboring farm, the farmer has asked me to keep a few hives for her as well.  Finding bees after package season is a bit of a pain, but I found a nuc in New Haven, CT and dashed over there to grab them on Friday afternoon.

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There’s a whole lot going on in there!  Because Betty was a close 2nd in the naming poll, I’ve decided that this is Queen Betty.  And, unbeknownst to me, I got a pic of her little butt as I was grabbing the shot of the frame.

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On the far left side about a third of the way down the frame is Betty Bee’s Beeeeeehind.  Doing her job!

On the hour and a half drive between New Haven and Cranston, I had the nervewracking experience of having bees loose in my car.  One got out pretty quickly and soon several more followed.  It was a bit of a nail biter to be sure, but they hung out on the ceiling, for the most part, and didn’t come see what I was doing….which was definitely for the best.

 

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This is their temporary hive in their new home – woods, and farm fields, oh my!

IMG_5767Coming out to explore a little…

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And this is a few hours’ progress on their new home!  I’m working on it in the wood shop in the studio where I teach.  I’ve got the followers and about 5 bars made (although with no comb guides) and the body.  Before I head home tonight, I’ll make a bunch more bars and figure out some kind of comb guide and then I’ll probably put together another set of followers so I can make a second hive body tomorrow (I have the bits for it).  I also need to figure out roofing and legs.  I have some legs-material at home, but not enough I don’t think.  I’m hoping to have at least one complete hive for Friday…and if I have two, then I have two and that will be exciting!

Spring is bursting into summer and I’ve got a lot going on!  I’m hoping to find another nuc or  two if anyone knows of one in New England!

Name the Scratch Hive Queen (poll)

21 May

Well, I did it…I asked a bunch of 15 and 16 year-olds what to name the queen bee in Scratch Hive, these are the answers they came up with. Please choose from among them, or give me another idea….I’m going to check on them on Friday and it would be good to have a name for her by then. 🙂

Queen JuJu Bee, released!

16 May

I went over to visit Queen JuJu Bee and the Warre hive this afternoon.  I’d been meaning to check all week, but with the cold/damp we’ve been having, I didn’t want to open up the hive.  77 degrees and sunny today and with a free hour in the afternoon, I headed over to check in with the girls.

First, I peeked in the window.

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Lots of bees doing lots of bee things!  It’s hard to get a clear picture because the windows are reflective, but it looks like they’ve already got a *little* honey going in there.  Which, obviously, is what we like to see!  There’s clear evidence of both new comb and some work being done on the old comb they were given, so go girls!

I popped the feeder off, which was bone dry, and then looked down in between the bars – lots and lots of activity!

Then I pried up the corner of the top box and looked in to where I’d left the queen cage.  If it were empty, there wouldn’t be a lot of mind paid to it, and I’d be able to reach in and grab it.  When I looked in, I noticed that it was totally COVERED with bees.

I reached in, pulled her out – she was very much alive, thankfully!  And I popped the cork out of the non-candy end of the cage and then lay her back on the bars and got to watch her walk out through the hole and down into the hive!  It was really exciting to me.  I tried to take a quick pic, but of course when I looked at it WITHOUT the veil in front of my eyes, I realized that it was blurry.

 

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Picture fail.  But if you give a good squint at it, you can see that the queen cage (covered with bees) is laying on one of the bars.  She had just walked out and down.

I gave her a minute to be sure that she was clear before I started brushing the girls back in and closing the hive up for the day.

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And just so your eyes don’t explode from blurriness, here’s a clear picture of some action at the hive entrance.  In three weeks the first JuJu Baby Bees will be born and the hive population will start climbing to its summer peak!

Processing Beeswax!

14 May

Last night I was chilly – we got temperatures in the 30s – brrr!  I decided to warm up by processing the wax I’ve had kicking around since last August.

IMG_5694It started out looking about like this – only there was a bunch more.  This is stuff I saved in case I want to use it for something.  Old comb turns out to be somewhat useful to have around the house.

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I stuffed it all into a stocking and a muslin shoe bag I had in my Goodwill pile…I think there’s probably a more efficient way of doing this, but it worked fine for the right-then solution…and filled the pot up with water.  I put it on a low simmer, covered it to get the heat up a bit.

IMG_5689It’s important to not leave this bad boy covered for long…or unattended really.  Wax is super flamable and from what I’ve read, boiling does weird stuff to it – so I erred on the side of not letting it get that hot.

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After I’d let it all seep out and then left it to cool in the fridge for a time – I was left with this disk of wax.  I did two batches, so got two of these disks.

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Then I stacked up my burners to get the pan as far from the heat as I could and put the pieces back into the pot sans water to let those melt again.  This part is the super tricky, really really don’t leave the kitchen at all part.  Once it had all re-melted, I poured it through another piece of old stocking and a funnel into molds and got the most gorgeous, pure gold beeswax bars.  It was quite the transformation from start to finish.

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I’m excited to have it, but don’t really have a need for it right now.  If I do, though…..it’s ready to go!

 

Scratch Hive Bee Check & Queen Release!

10 May

Today I checked on Scratch Hive (queen still nameless)….it’s such a pleasant drive to get out there. Farm fields, chickens, butterflies, and bees!

I rolled up as close as I’d prefer to put my car to the hive and peeked in the window to find a bar and a half of pure white virgin comb and the girls bustling in and out with full pollen baskets of about 10 different colors!

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Stuart had suggested that I not even remove the cork to candy release the queen for 3 days so that they could really get used to her. He’s such a quick turn around for package delivery, that they haven’t even been together for 24 hours when he drops them off. I was skeptical, but I’d rather not lose a queen in such a difficult bee year. I also have heard a lot about KTBH hives absconding more often than other types, so I figured…caged queen = less likely to wander off.

When I installed them, I put the seed comb in one end and the queen cage in the other (on the bottom), hoping they’d build on the opposite side from where she was…easing my release of her today.

Of course….I was wrong.

That beautiful comb? Yeah, it’s right over her regal little head.

So I decided….today is the day to light my smoker (for the first time…). I’ve been meaning (for over a year) to light it up at least for practice, but I never felt like I needed it with my warre. Reaching down into a hive full of bees, picking up the queen, uncorking her, and putting her back….seemed like a smokin’ sort of activity.

I loaded up the smoker with light cardboard and leaves, pulled out the matchbook that’s been in my bee box for over a year, and opened it….to find that it was completely empty. Like defective and never had any matches to begin with empty.

Heart rate rising.

I’ve never had a problem using my bee-calm spray before, but I’ve also never opened a hive to this degree.

Heart rate rising.

So I suited up, got my bee calm spray and set to work, slowly and carefully. I opened the hive, pulled a few empty bars out, slid the comb bars over…which they didn’t like, but it was necessary…and then I took a deep breath and reached my arm down into the hive. It took a little maneuvering to find the queen cage in the mass of bees, but I found her, picked her up, uncorked her…really hoping that she’d prance out…to no avail…set the cage back into the bottom of the hive….closed it back on up (which involves a lot of brushwork and coaxing) and backed off!

I was really nervous the whole time (still a newbeeeee) but I got it done and they seem really happy there.

I’ll be back next Friday to make sure there’s a good lay pattern and to see if they need more bars. At this rate, it seems like they will in pretty short order. I started them with 10 or 12 bars and they’ve already mostly filled one bar and started on another.

I also need to decide if I’m going to open the hive floor or not. I worry it’ll be too bright in there if I do.

So 1) What should I name this queen. And 2) Should I open the hive floor?

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Bee-Day is the Best Day – Warre and KTBH Installs Complete! Also, Name the Queen!

9 May

On Tuesday, I zipped over to Stonewall Apiary in CT to pick up my newest lady-friends.  His set-up is super enviable…chickens, bees, little dogs, clothes on the clothes line, land all around, cute little stone walls…Dreamtown, USA.

The girls were ready to go and seat-belted into the car in short order and we were off!  Back over state-lines to settle them in.

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^^^Bees in car! ^^^ Stewart said, “The seatbelt is probably not necessary….” but I believe in safety first.  Also, I’m not the most attentive driver.  It just seemed like it was in everyone’s best interest.

First stop was to Scratch Farm where my KTBH is.  It’s SO gorgeous out there, and I’m so excited for a weekly trip to visit the girls.  I haven’t really found any definitively good way to feed in a KTBH and I want to do some research before I commit to more woodenware…so I decided to try something out…I’m not sure if it was a good idea, I guess I’ll find out tomorrow.

I laid paper in the bottom of the hive, put a pollen patty on it…and then put down a layer of dry sugar…which I then sprayed with water…not a lot, but enough to make sort of a paste.  I’m feeling worried about that as an idea now, but the damage…if it was a bad idea is done.

I also tied a piece of comb from another hive onto a bar, just so it would be homey smelling…and put some LGO on another bar.

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Now that I’m writing about this, I’m feeling nervous.

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There she is all set up.  This queen is nameless-  for now I’m calling it Scratch Hive – which is where it is.  I’m willing to accept name suggestions for this lady.  Feel free to post comments…if no one steps up, I’ll let my students name her.  No one really wants that to happen.

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My other install went easy as pie, the warre I’m a little more used to.  And my beekeeping-apprentice (aka, the willing homeowner) got her first taste of what being a beekeeper is like.  Mostly, she just watched- which for day 1 at the hive, is a good thing to do!  She named the queen in her hive JuJu Bee- pun wildly intended – but in her defense, JuJu Bee is her favorite drag queen and was at her bachelorette party.  I think it’s a pretty fun name.

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