There are multiple hives and plans with the same basic name here. Use the search bar at the top left of this page if you do not see exactly what you want and came here by a search engine. Use the "Older Posts" hyperlink at bottom for more hives. For a larger photo, click on the photo. Got Small Hive Beetles? Use the traps in our Build It Yourself section and get the upper hand.

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May 31, 2010

E. L. Pratt baby nuclei.  Circa about 1900.  More info HERE.

Comb honey and extracted honey from same hive

Looking for a way to get comb AND extracted honey from the same hive?  Is this a different hive design?  Sure it is, ever see one before?  Check out this article.

Bulk bee feeder and/or bee waterer

It seems that high volume feeders or waterers for bees are just not available or they drown more bees than they feed.  At the request of some visitors I started searching for a homemade waterer or feeder for honeybees.

This DIY bee feeder can be used to supply a large volume of water to your bees in areas where water is hard to come by.  Today we can use five gallon buckets instead of the metal can as pictured.  I found this old design that I think many readers will like it, the one pictured is about two feet long and refills itself as the water level drops. You could even add a second container to double the water available.

You can also use chicken water feeders, bird baths, "trickle or drip" down bottles and many more items.  There is a "Sugar water feeder w/rocks" featured in our DIY section for a quick idea.  Automatic dog waters (pictured here) can also be used, I've even seen a toilet tank valve set used along the same idea. On the low tech side, a water hose with a "leaking" cap on the end provides a constant supply of water too.

Many readers may not be aware that bees use water to cool their hives.  As summer begins to heat up, keep plenty of water around to aid against swarming and to boost your bee population.  To see more types of feeders, one from from an old orange juice container click HERE.

May 20, 2010

Transferring bees - techniques and tools

Transferring honeybees from one hive design/type to another can be done in many different ways.  Recently I found an old book (Farmers Bulletin #961) that covered the topic well and had a nice assortment of photos including ones on the old box hive style.  Box hives were long ago the most common hive type.  Today they can still be found around the world in various shapes.  Cheap to build and they worked fine.  Used with modern techniques and practices, they produce nature combs and at a near zero price.

Drumming bees out of a hive is not seen very often and this topic is addressed in this book.  Click HERE to read this great old book.  Enjoy.  Buck

Alley queen rearing hive

More info HERE.

May 13, 2010

Swarm trap and $3 bait hives

Bait hive working
Before we begin building our $3 honeybee swarm trap (swarm box) & bait hive you need some info.  I am going to call this a bait hive as this is what most call it.  A bait hive should be placed in every apiary to catch swarms from the hives. More than one would be better.

Your bait hive should be placed 15' to 30' up a tree.  You will need to be able to lower the hive once it contains bees.  In this design, you can throw a rope around a limb near the trunk (this keeps the spinning down) or using a long pipe or stick, you can drop a role of line around the limb.  No pipe you say?  Try using a spear with the line tie to it (weight is the key).  Click on the photos for a larger view.

You will need the following:

  1. Hot glue - It helps to reinforce the weaves and adds strength
  2. A trash basket (cane or wicker works well)
  3. Another basket, piece of cardboard or wood for the front of the hive
  4. Some nylon tie wraps, you could also use twine or small rope
  5. Some old chunks of comb (old, not moldy), if you don't have some, don't worry
  6. Either liquid swarm lure, lemon-grass oil or anise oil (look on the products page if I sell it)
  7. Rope (1/8 or larger, no twine) to hang, lift and lower the bait hive with. (you can also attach a rope to the hive to pull it down, recommended)
There should be no liner in the trash can.  The open weave of the basket lets the smell of the honeycombs and the oils out.  Use the hot glue to seal the splices of the weave together (see photos) and to reinforce the centers of each basket.  This helps to ensure that the hive does not come apart as it hangs outside.  This also strengthens the necessary attachments points for the rope.
Hanging loops detail
In one end of the hive you need to cut an entrance about 3/4" x 1 1/2".  To big of a hole and you have a bird house and not a swarm trap.  You will also need to attach two loops (one at each end) to hang the hive from (see photos).

Before attaching the two halves, place the chunk of old comb inside the hive and rub some lure scent (what ever you have) INSIDE the hive near the entrance or sprinkle it on a cloth and place inside.  Don't go crazy with the oil and only use one type.  Mate the two halves together and secure with 4 nylon ties.  When filled, you cut these loops to get the bees and combs out. Use two ties to make the rope attachment loops at each end. See photos.

Detail of entrance

Find a tree or building to place the hive.  Attach a small rope to the loops at each end.  This is used to attach the hive to your lifting rope.  You can level the hive by moving the knot to one end or the other so the hive hangs level.

Get the rope around the limb and pull the hive up the tree.  Tie the end of the rope to the tree, a limb or a nail in the same tree so you can lower the hive.  White nylon rope snags a lot on the bark, try a natural rope or poly rope.

Waiting for a swarm
When the bees come, give them some time to check it out.  You should lower the hive soon after the swarm comes.  If you wait to long they could leave.  Consider placing sugar syrup nearby.  If after some time you have no bees, try a different oil or maybe another location.  Lower the hive and sprinkle the oil on some cloth and place inside.  Good luck.

With plywood front - cane basket
Made with a $3 laundry basket and a plywood front.  You can see the bees beginning to cluster on the bottom.  These bait hives can also be coated with dung, mud or painted paper mache to enclose it more if desired.  During swarm season, try placing some form of swarm hive on a stick about 6 feet tall and about 15 feet from your hives.  Sometimes YOUR swarm goes right for it.

You can also make a low cost swarm trap out of a cardboard filing box available from an office supply store. Just add scented oils or bee lure and some old comb.  You can use the hand holes as the entrance, just tape/block one closed, leaving only one open.

Here's a video on making a swarm trap from a concrete sonnet tube you can buy at most building supply stores.

If your looking for an article on how to use the cone type trap below, HERE is an article by Mannlake.
Below are a few pictures of various other swarm traps.  This site has plans available in the DIY section also.
Cone type w/sign
Nuc used as swarm trap
TBH swarm trap

May 6, 2010

Drawn comb VS. New foundation during honey flow

Every beekeeper wants "drawn comb" in their hives at nectar flow time.  Drawn comb is simply comb that is ready for either honey/pollen storage or ready for brood.  Now days, you can purchase drawn combs made of plastic such as "Supercell".  Sometimes we also here the term "fully drawn" meaning combs that extend to the full depth of the frame, so that we can separate them from those combs NOT fully built out.  If you want your bees to build combs, either you must feed your bees sugar syrup or there must be a nectar flow going on.  The most simple way to get combs is to feed the bees 1:1 syrup. The sooner you start feeding, the sooner comb will be made.  It is important to regulate the amount of syrup that is eaten by the bees.  This done by blocking some holes or areas of the feeder or not putting many holes in a jar feeder (the lid).  You want to feed but not over feed.  Recipe for syrups here.

If you have found yourself during a nectar flow without drawn combs available, what do you do?  You of course have two choices. 

  1. Use fully drawn plastic frames such as Supercell.
  2. Install new foundation.
  3. The other is to install frames with wax guides or triangle starters such as used in top bar hives, for the bees to build comb on.  
Below is the procedure that may help you when you use new foundation.
Rule #1:  Fill any new super or brood box with frames.  Do not use 9 or 8 frames in a 10 frame box.  What ever size you have, fill it.  Otherwise the bees will draw the comb weird. 

If your hive is over crowded or you intend to replace the queen use the following instructions:

  1. Find the OLD queen and transfer the frame she is on PLUS most (NOT ALL) of the frames that contain brood and all the adhering bees into a new hive body with a super of new foundation on top of that, and set this ("new colony") on a new stand and feed it 1:1 sugar syrup. The older foraging bees attached to these combs that you have transferred will go out to forage but return to the old colony by "habit". The result is that your "new colony" consists of your old queen, some brood, and the non-foraging nurse bees who will feed the brood larva and draw foundation because of the sugar syrup feed and the incoming nectar.
  2. The old hive will make a new queen from the brood remaining if you have left young eggs and cells in the old hive or you can purchase a new queen and install it.
  3. Your old hive should be a brood box and a new super of new foundation.  Many may say this is a mistake as the the foraging bees will not make comb.  Your goal is to scent the foundation and make it ready for the emerging new bees.  Time is not on your side as the flow has already started.
  4. Monitor both hives. When you have 6 frames of filled honey rearrange the frames so that you have 3 frames honey, 4 frames of new foundation (in the center) and then 3 frames of honey on the other side.
Traditionally, drawn frames where use up to 20 years.  Many beekeepers are changing combs on a three year cycle now.  Some beekeepers will not use ready made foundation for fear of pesticides in the wax.  Are they wrong?  I do not think they should be as concerned as they are, but I do not think they are necessarily wrong either.  

If you take old dark combs and carefully cut the cells in half, you can see the cocoon that is made inside the cell.  You might note that the cell floor has the greatest thickness and increases over time (plugging).  The cell walls regardless of age varies little.  The bees keep the cells walls groomed.  The thought that old cells make smaller bees is only true due to the depth, but even that has limits.  It is this thickening of the cell floor that adds strength to the comb and additional protection to the brood.

The cocoon liner protects the brood from any contamination of the cell wall wax.  The brood are never in contact with the comb wax until they emerge, as the cell caps are made by the current bees and is fresh with each generation.

Given their choice, bees will always pick older combs over fresh combs.  New foundation is quickly covered by cell wall wax made from your bees.  The floor of the cell (where the foundation is) is covered by the cocoon from the first generation.  If you fear the introduction of pesticides, the best practice is to first limit their use by yourself.  Second try getting your neighbors and politicians to limit their use.  Thirdly, place you apiary in a area where chemicals are used less.  And of course if you still think changing out your combs helps, change them, but don't kid yourself in believing that something that looks bad to you, is bad to the bees.  Bees do not eat old wax, that is one thing that wax moths do well.  Make comb replacements based upon insect invasions, damage and plugging.