Bee Syndicate S2 E5 03/01/2016 Got Wood?

Bee Syndicate S2 E5 03/01/2016 Got Wood?

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Throughout the history of beekeeping there have been many hive designs. Hives that range from a hollowed out log or a mud coated basket, to a glass observation hive used to study bees and let you see what its like to live the Hive Life. Most hives have been quite a nightmare for beekeepers and for bees. hives of the past often required that you destroy the hive to harvest the honey. Others were also impossible to inspect. That is until Reverend L. L. Langstroth the Father of Modern Beekeeping received his patent for his top opening hive with removable frames in 1852. The Langstroth hive is the most commonly used hive today. They come in several varieties but most commonly the two types you find are simply referred to as 8 and 10 frame. Langstroth found that by using “bee space”. He could encourage bees to draw out comb in wooden frames. Bee space is a 1/4- to 3/8-inches wide space that the bees will rarely fill with comb or propaliss when the bees are given foundation or some drawn out comb mounted in frames they will fill the frames with comb and not the other parts of the hive so that the frames can be easily removed.

I Received the first of my Langstroth hives for Christmas this year and I have been anxiously waiting to construct it. My first hive was a full hive from Valley Bee Supply.

It was a starter hive that had 2 Deeps, 3 Supers, a Screened Bottom Board, an Inner Cover, and Telescoping Lid. a few weeks ago I opened the package to inspect the hive and discovered that it did not include frames. It’s a good setup but why a starter hive would not include frames and foundation I don’t know but it has everything else as far as the hive is concerned. and it will get you through the season that is if you are going to just have one hive.

It is often recommended that new beekeepers start with at least two hives. This way you can compare one hive to the other if something doesn't seem right . You can also swap resources if one of your hives becomes week you can swap in a frame of brood from the stronger hive. or add honey before the winter. It makes logical sense so that is what I will be doing. Starting off with 2 hives.

Rather than buy a second complete starter hive from Valley Bee Supply. I opted to get a Single deep with 10 frames and foundation starter hive and an additional deep with 10 frames and foundation from Mann Lake Bee Supply ( or find them on amazon as i did)

The nice thing about Langstroth hives is the sizes are standardized so so you can mix and match stuff from different manufactures so this guys 10 frame stuff will work with that guys 10 frame stuff. Mix and matching all of the above mentioned Wood Ware should get me through my first season. i will have to buy some more frames at some point but that isn’t a problem or a priority early in the season.

So let's take a look at at all the parts of the classic Langstroth hive and do a little unboxing shall we?

From bottom to top let's start with the Aptly named Bottom Board.

Bottom board

The Bottom Board is the base that all the other components of the hive will stack on. Generally there are two types of bottom boards. Solid and Screened. Screened bottom boards are prefered by a lot of hobby beekeepers because Varroa and other debris can fall out of the hive and not return. I recently met a master beekeeper and he mentioned that he would be switching back to Solid bottom boards. I will have to see If I can get him to tell me why. Most bottom boards include a landing board. Often the bottom board is just longer than the boxes on top of it giving its residents a convenient place to land.
(Build it or )

The Entrance Reducer

An entrance reducer is a simple looking, but important piece of wood. It fits in the space made where the bottom board meets the hive box that's placed above it. This piece of lumber has two different sized notches on perpendicular sides. The entrance reducer makes smaller the point of access for the bees to enter the hive. This is done when a colony is weakened or is just beginning to establish itself so that the bees have an easier time defending the hive from various invaders. First, on the smaller setting. Then, the larger position is used. eventually The Entrance reducer will be removed altogether. In some cases a mouse guard will be installed in its place. The mouse guard isn't made of wood so I don't think we need to talk about it here.
(Build it )

Hive Bodies

Deeps are the full sized hive boxes that the bees will live in. there are generally two Deep hive boxes used for a fully developed colony. When you first get your bees only one deep will be on your hive arrangement. Once 80% of the frames in the first deep are drawn out a second deep will be added. The Deeps are often called Brood Boxes, or Brood Chambers because this is where the queen lays eggs and the Brood is raised.

Supers are boxes that are roughly half the height of the Deep boxes these boxes are usually used as honey storage. It is from these supers that a beekeeper would harvest honey from the hives . Often a special divider called a queen excluder is placed between the brood boxes and the honey supers to prevent the queen from laying eggs in the honey supers.
(Build it or )

Inner cover

The inner cover creates the proper bee space for the top most section of hive It also helps with ventilation in the hive. Ventilation in a hive is super important. making honey is all about dehydration and evaporation is essential in cooling the hive. all that evaporated moisture needs to be moved out of the hive so ventilation in the top of the hive is critical.
( Build it or )

Telescoping Top Cover

The top cover is the roof of the hive It keeps the weather out of the hive and protects the bees and the woodware from the elements usually it has a metal top to helps it hold up to the elements.
( Build it or )


Probably the most iconic piece of the modern beehive. The movable frame is what makes the modern beekeeping modern. the frames hold the foundation that the bees will build the combo on and the comb is where the young are raised where food is stored and honey is made. Frames traditionally are made of wood but recently plastic frames have become available. In a future blog post I think we are going to have to look closer at the pros and cons of plastic over wood frames.
(Build it )

Not discussed here is the hive stand
the hive stand is what it sounds like but most people use something like cinderblocks to keep hives a little higher off the ground

but if you like ( Build it )

The people and groups below were awesome enough to produce and provide free plans online so that people can build their own hives. Please take the time to visit them.

Mann Lake is a respected supplier of bees and bee supplies. If you are like me and aren't talented or confident enough to build your hives, or you need to purchase beekeeping supplies
Mann Lake should be one of your first stops.

Mmmmmmm fresh honey is the best

Yes, yes it is

I've heard queen excluders can cause problems for the bees. Have you found this to be the case? or is it pretty much bullshit?

Do you have an issue with varroa mite?
as i see you have a solid bottom, where we would have mesh to allow varroa mite to fall though and exit the hive.

I have heard this too. The thinking is that the queen should feel free to use as much of the available space for rearing brood as possible. This would leave to a stronger healthier colony. but I thing that a properly managed hive with 2 deeps worth of space is plenty of room for a queen to do her thing. If that is not enough room chances are that the colony is going to divide and swarm out. This is true too if you are using a queen excluder. That said people keep bees for different reasons. Not everyone cares about honey harvest If your not interested in honey then a swarm is probably up your alley you can split the colony into another hive let the bees out into the environment or catch the swarm and sell it in a nucleus.

I have also heard that it is possible for the queen to get stuck in excluders and die. but have never met anyone who has actually seen this happen.

Yes, I know things are different in Aust but that's just about the only place with non africanized bees that you will find a hive that dosn't have Verroa in every hive. Probably most aficanized bee hives have Veroa too but that they are more resilient to the other challenges that are caused by Vero Distructor.

Thanks, I work out.

I actually have both a screened and a solid bottom board so it will be fun to compare the hives this season and see how big of a difference the screened bottom board makes. I will be treating with some soft chemicals so we will see it there is a big difference with the screened bottom . I met a master beekeeper recently who manages hundreds of hives and he told me he is going back to solid bottom boards. I need to get in touch with him and ask him why. It seems to me that screened is the way to go but it seems at least he is thinking differently.

ya, didnt know that :) The out gassing plastics make sense.

Yea myself like the author of that article was excited when I heard about the flow hive. As time went on the excitement wore off and I began to see that the flow hive wasn't something that was as good as it seemed. That is for me anyhow. Now If it is something that can get someone interested in keeping bees that otherwise wouldn't then hey why not. or if you want to keep bees and not harvest a lot of honey so perhaps you throw 1 or 2 flow frames in a traditional hive. For me the flow hive takes something important away from beekeeping.

I've seen a couple youtube videos on the flow hive. One guy was having trouble getting the bees to use the flow hive frames at all. I've seen others where bees avoid the plastic frames altogether. I would guess some bees are more temperamental. Or it could just indicate bees prefer a wax base.

Question, have to ever tried to not use any base and just set in empty frames? I hear it's better for the bees in the long run.

I'm looking to start a hive this summer. Any pro tips before I dip my toes in the water?

Or it could just indicate bees prefer a wax base.

I would think so

I'm looking to start a hive this summer.

@Bobholderman Don't wait until summer. Start in early spring if you can. I will be boxing my bees on April 9th. If you wait until summer you will have missed the most important nectar flow of the year, and you will be starting in a dearth. On top of that your bees will have less time to prepare for winter. If you wan't to start a hive later even late spring Get your bees in a Nucleolus colony so they will start with some honey, brood and wax.

have to ever tried to not use any base and just set in empty frames?

Making wax is the most resource intensive thing that bees do. So I don't think giving them foundation is a bad thing. Lots of people use plastic wax coated foundation (Loooots of people) now its certainly miles away from the all plastic comb of the flow hive. but one could still make arguments about off gassing of the plastic. Alternatively all wax foundations are available. they are slightly trickery to install but its not a huge deal in the end.

Foundation is just what it says it is a place for bees to start building comb. Regardless if you use plastic foundation you still will get wax comb.

Its important to remember that Bees don't care about the frames in your hive. unless you give them a reason to.

Bee Space is how we make them care. We establish the bee space with foundation to get the space to line up with the frames. Without foundations you will get cross comb that is comb that is built across the frames not in them. then you will not be able to remove your frames. You will not be able to inspect your hive and getting it apart will be a huge mess and hard on your bees.

(cross comb see how it goes across multiple frames )

If you start from a nucleus hive you will be swapping in frames from a smaller (usually 5 frame) hive into your 10 or 8 frame hive this should (and I stress should) be enough to establish the bee space so you could get away without extra foundation.

Starting out I would use foundation in all your frames. You can always rotate out frames as time goes on. I would probably suggest wax coated plastic foundation to get started its just easier for you the beekeeper and it seems to be fine for the bees. I went to a bee keeping seminar recently and %100 of the beekeepers there were using plastic foundation. I will be starting this years new hives with plastic foundation and slowly rotating them out for wax. over the next few seasons.

If you don't mind me asking?
Where are you? (generally speaking what part of what country) and where are you going to get your bees from? and how? Package, Nuc, Capture or relocation.

I'm in Michigan. Its still epic cold up here, so I was thinking about ordering them as soon as it looks like they won't die from the cold. I don't have a source. I have no objection to feeding for a bit. I just don't want to start to early and have them die. I'm still in the research phase, but everyone starts somewhere.

I'm doing this as a hobby, so if it takes me an extra season to harvest honey it's no big deal. I don't even much care for honey really, I just think it looks like fun and its a small thing I could do to help the environment and give relatives some free honey if I have extra. My main concern is for pollination and healthy bees.

I don't even much care for honey really, I just think it looks like fun and its a small thing I could do to help the environment

That's admirable and I applaud you. You don't even have to harvest the honey. In fact just leave your honey supers on over the winter to help keep them fed then if you want take a little honey from them in the early spring for gifts in your second season.

You should start with some of the above plans for wood ware is from them. seems like a good organization. use them to get to know some local beekeepers. but do it soon it will be all the more important for your bees to get that first nectar flow so they can get trough your cold, early winters.

Try to get some local, bees winter survivor stock. Bees that have already survived the winter and a locally bread queen if you can. If not you can try they have a location in East Lansing (apparently they have a location in MI but i cant find a phone number for them other than the 800 number) I have never used them but they have a good rep and come highly recommended. if they are not selling bees Im sure someone at the local location can get you in contact with a local source.

at you can find a list of local beekeeping clubs for you. Join one of these so you can build some contacts and have some contacts to call if things start to go pear shaped on you or you need bees or supply on short notice. Like if you accidentally kill your queen during installation of your bees. (it seems this happens quite a bit) Act quick if you are wanting to start this year. A lot of places are sold out already of bees. If you are a member of a club it is possible that someone will be splitting a hive in the spring to prevent swarming so that is a possible source for you too but knowing some people in the club by then will be to your advantage.

I have no objection to feeding for a bit.

Yea, feed feed feed. Feed them until they stop taking the feed regardless of when you get them. I will be using the gallon chicken style feeders (get them here) so my installation have setup will look like this bottom to top --- Bottom Board > Entrance Reducer > Deep (for brood) >Inner cover > 4 feeders in an empty deep > Telescoping Lid. Just be sure to fill the void space in the feeder deep with crumpled news paper so that the bees don't fill it with comb.

Additionally, I love to talk about bees so feel free to ask me any question any time.

@Bobholderman how serious / optimistic are you about starting a hive this year?

I'd say probably about 70% sure. I still need to nail down a few details, but I think I'm going to order the boxes and frames pretty soon so I'll have them ready for when spring gets here. We are getting a whole ton of snow today, so i still have some time.

lol we had snow today (not a lot but a few flurries in the air ) and it is supposed to be 63 on Monday and I'm not that far away from you. Unless you already have a source for bees Id start making some calls now. Bees sell out quick. I know its hard because once you have ordered your bees you sort of committed. Need any input on any of the "details"?

Good news... I'm going to be taking over some hives this summer. My brother doesn't have time to look after about 10 hives, So I plan on splitting a few of those over the summer. I'll have to do some reading, but he already has everything I need to get started.

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That is amazing news! Avoid the split if you can take a full colonies if you can that's what I say. It's cool that you have all Wood wear and things. If you need some tools Mann Lake extended the weekend sale trough today they have some suits and some tools still

I recommend** The Rooftop Beekeeper: A Scrappy Guide to Keeping Urban Honeybees**

since you are going to be keeping in more of an urban setting. This was one of the first beekeeping books that I read and it is very engaging and easy to follow. lots and lots of good info.

full color pictures much better than a lot of beekeeping how to books that can be a bit dry.