Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Beekeeping: Equipment Build Day

Another bee post. Everyone still laughs when I talk about my bees. In fact, my friend from New York called me a few weeks ago and said, "Did you officially fall off your rocker? A beekeeper? WTH!"

It's still happening guys. In fact, the bee arrival date is getting closer, which meant I needed to start thinking about their house.

I purchased most of my bee equipment in January after my class ended. There are a few well known bee companies in the industry (Mann Lake Ltd and Dadant and Sons) and our instructors encouraged us to purchase equipment as soon as possible. When you are a first time beekeeper, you want to ensure you have your bee boxes (AKA hive bodies) and frames put together long before your bees arrive.

With that said, all of my equipment arrived at my house unassembled and in three very large boxes. I made the decision to have two hives, which meant I needed double the equipment. The reason for two, is primarily to compare and contrast. As a newbie, I don't really know what a normal hive is supposed to look like, so this way, if one starts to look different than the other, it will be a good learning process. Plus, more hives mean more honey. #honeyaddict

Unassembled Frames

Mr. B was kind enough to put a little film together of this building process, but before we get to that part, there is some bee terminology that may be helpful. You had no idea you were signing up for an education class when you started following this bee adventure, did you? Think of the following pieces being built from the bottom, up:

  • Hive Stand: The entire hive sits on this and usually consists of a landing board, as a place for the bees to land when they return home. (Not shown in the video or photos)
  • Bottom Board: Essentially the floor of the hive. (Not shown in the video or photos)
  • Deep-hive Body: Typically hives have two of these.
    • Lower Deep: Initially I will start with one hive body. When my bees arrive, I will release them into this box. The Lower Deep will become the "nursery/brood chamber", which is where the queen will lay her eggs and the worker bees will raise thousands of baby bees. Yes, thousands. That Queen Bee is a powerful insect!
    • Upper Deep: This is the same size as the Lower Deep and will be added to my hive when more than half of the Lower Deep is filled out with brood. This box can also become a nursery area for the queen to lay her eggs, but is primarily used as the "pantry/food chamber", where they store honey and pollen for their own use (not for the beekeeper to harvest). Remember, they need a food supply to survive the winter. 
  • Honey Super: These are similar to the Deep-hive bodies mentioned above, but not as large. The supers come in two sizes, shallow and medium. Typically these are not used until later in the season when the bees have filled out the first two hive bodies with brood, nectar, and pollen. I hope I purchased some hard working bees, because I'd like to put my supers on at some point this season, which is not guaranteed in your first year. The supers are used to store honey for the beekeeper to harvest. It is essentially stacked on top of the lower two boxes. When it's full of honey, the shallow supers can weigh up to 40lbs and the mediums, usually over 50lbs. I don't lift weights, so thankfully I will have Mr. B around to do the heavy lifting. He did ask for a bee suit, so I am going to make sure we put it to good use.
Two Hives: Each one has two Deep Bodies and one Medium Super
[Missing from the picture is the Hive Stand and a few other key pieces that I will explain in later blogs]
  • Frames: These are wooden frames that go inside the hive bodies and supers. My boxes will each contain ten frames. So if you do the math, I have 4 hive bodies (2 per hive). I also have 2 supers (1 per hive). Six boxes mean I need 60 frames. That's a lot of work. Did I mention, each of those frames need a beeswax foundation? That will require a whole other post, which will be coming soon! [Note: Not everyone is a beekeeper for the honey. I am, which means I want to give my bees a foundation to start building out their comb immediately. If I don't give them a foundation, I will have to wait for them to build it themselves. They would, if I let them, but I would rather not lose time when I could give them something to start. The time it would take them to build out their foundation, is precious time the queen could be laying eggs, nurturing more worker bees to life, and sending them out to collect pollen and nectar.]
Frame Assembled (without foundation)
Ten Frames in Each Hive Body and Super

Rather than share every single detail about how we put these hive bodies together, Mr. B was in a filming mood and decided to take a mini-video of the process. I am not very good at talking on the spot, and missed a few key details, which is why I explained the definitions above.

I have three comments before you watch: Thank God for power tools or else we would have been building for 8 weeks; Thank God for husbands that know how to fix their wife's mistakes (because I made a few); Thank God most of you don't watch films the whole way through, so you will miss my bee dance at the end. Enjoy.

Mrs. B's Hive - Build Day
 from Scott Bores on Vimeo.

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