Thursday, March 10, 2011

Beehives! - Part One

OK. So I have been not so secretly working on making some beehives. My mother has wanted to keep bees for a very very long time. I did, too, but the conventional beehive that I kept coming across just seemed time/equipment/money consuming. I kept thinking about, of all things, Friar Tuck from Robin Hood and couldn’t see him traveling around the English countryside with boxes and frames precariously perched upon his drunken rotund backside.
So. After some further research I found out about Top Bar beehives. They are what people use in developing countries, and are enjoying a renaissance of sorts amongst backyard beekeepers.
I love the idea that this method is not necessarily honey-centric – it basically lets the bees do their own thing in their own time, and this enables healthier hives. Healthier, happier, bees. This seems like a good thing, no?
The other upshot of this is that I am not in this for the honey. If anything, I prefer to get more wax than honey. And wouldn’t you know it! Since the bees aren’t constricted to a frame that you introduce to the hive, they have to build all the walls of their cells, which means more wax. So. Yay for me!
I think I was convinced to actually try to build a hive when I came across a post on Little House in the Suburbs. I love this blog, and I appreciate the sense of humor that they approach it with.
Armed with this plan, I set out to build my own.
Cutting the sides and ends out of raggedy yet new (yay!) plywood. And yes, that's the saw I used to do this whole project. Why? Because it's small, cute, does the job, and that way I didn't have to haul out/set up more tools.

Cut top bars - enough for one hive. The way the plywood worked out, it was more efficient to make two hives at a time. So. Yes. I cut 50 of those.

Follower boards being glued to the top bars. Nope. I don't have clamps big enough, so they just had to be pressed by their own weight.

Concerned with said glueage and lack of clampage, I decided to pop some nails in there, too. Just for my piece of mind.

You have to give bees a bit of incentive for them to latch on and build comb where you want them to. Some people put grooves down the length of the top bars, quarter round and things like that - they add some sort of texture and cover said texture with beeswax to coax them into wanting to make that unused piece of wood their home. I am too broke to be buying 60' or soof quarter round, so I decided to staple extra thick bamboo skewers I happened to have to the undersides and I will cover those with beeswax. I cut off the points with tin snips first.

Attached bamboo skewer - ready for wax!

Really it should be made out of proper wood – and by proper wood I mean wood planks. I am, as you very well know at this point, unemployed and broke as hell so I made it out of exterior grade plywood and furring strips. Which means that when I lay the top bars down on top of the hive, there will more likely be gaps due to curvature of the wood. This is really not something I could avoid. I picked out the straightest ones I could find, but for the price and quality – there’s gonna be some curveage.
Right now the ‘beehive’ is in the shed waiting for me to get off my butt and get wood for the legs so I can assemble the thing. Stay tuned!


George and Kerri said...

I can *not* wait to hear about the bee colony hunting expedition to come. :) Also enjoy the drunken rotund bottoms kind of posts.

George <--- future bee keeper.

caitlinvb said...

The legs are on it - it just needs some screen on the bottom and eventually a top (I've got some sheets of old roofing I'm going to slap on it for now...), and it needs to be coated! But it has been raining buckets and the plywood is wet to the touch, even though it has been in the shed, so I'm waiting to coat it with my experimental coating. #2, when assembled, will be much less experimental. (maybe)

I was proud of the drunken rotund bottom meself.