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Making a double Bee hive stand

To help with making my hives being more transportable I decided to make a hive stand. One of the issues before in moving hives was not so much the hives, but rather the awkward size of the hive stands. I’d seen another that a friend had made and took my lead from that. Recognising the weight of honey that two hives can carry I decided to make it sturdy.

Shopping list :

Total = 37.60

Well, good enough I guess but the 2nd will be £9 because all that is used up is the wood.

I don’t tend to take measurements in the classic way of using a ruler or tape measure. I make things to fit their purpose by measuring against what they are going to be used with. One of my aspirations with this stand is to make it so I can hang a frame between the side bars when I take it out. This is so I can take frames of bees out and not have to rest them on the floor (I’m not keen on hive frame rests). So the first measurement was against the brood frames, wide enough to fit a frame not so wide as to drop the lugs at the edges

The picture does not do it justice, but the lugs are about 1cm longer than the cross bar shown here.

The next thing to do was to attach the side bars to the cross bars, I wanted it to be sturdy so I chose some hefty coach screws. I used 8mm metalwork all round, given the toughness of the unit as a whole maybe I should have used 10mm, but I am fairly sure it should be sufficient to the task.

As can be seen below I might have overdone the depth of the screw, I didn’t want to do things by half. Who is going to be the first to point out that its not weight bearing… ahh well wait a bit.

 

With the basic structure set it was time for the legs. Oh and note in this picture the use of a stool, a dremel case, a hive leg and an entrance block to hold up the other end. Don’t underestimate the usefulness of someone to hold the other end when dealing with such large heavy timbers. I definitely needed help when trying to cut the end of an 8ft 2×4.  As to the length of the stand, the length was defines as comfortably being able to hold a hive at either end with a nuc in the middle; might just be able to get three hives on at a squeeze. 

 

The next step was the ‘feet’. Given the legs point outwards I wanted them to be flat on the floor, requiring an angle cut. This is where  I did used two classic measurement tools. A tape measure to ensure the legs would all attach at the same relative point on the long bars and then a set square to make use of the right angles between the cross bar and the floor, to make sure the angle cut would be right.Before I get complaints, yes I know I have taken the blade protector off my table saw – don’t try this at home kids, its very dangerous.

Attaching the legs with the threaded bar was next. I tell you after this you wont ever want to look as a nut again, not to mention a washer that keeps down falling down. Anyway, 2 washers between the side bar and legs to allow movement and a washer inside each nut to it would not cut into the wood (like it did on the coach screws, oops).  

 

In this next picture you can see a couple of things. Firstly the legs fold in nicely for transport without meeting in the middle, an aspect that meant that I could not make the hive stand as tall as I would have liked, but it saved on wood. Secondly, something to remember next time, the screw bars are still a metre long, not that I forgot, as one you cut them you can’t get a nut on that end as the screw gets messed up. The issue here is that I wanted to cut it nice and close so it would not catch on things in transport, because it was in place I could not get the jigsaw in close enough that I had just found a metal cutting blade for, so I had to do both with a junior hacksaw. That took some time – lesson, plan ahead.

And here is the finished article (short of running round it with the sander to get rid of corners).

Now it is finished, what would I do different?

  • Well it is heavy, so I would like it made of cedar to lower the weight.
  • I’m not sure of the need for the threaded bar, maybe just long bolts would do. It would cut down on the time I spent spinning nuts down the threaded rod.
  • Next time I will cut the bars with the jigsaw before putting them in.
  • I would have preferred bigger penny washers between the legs and the side bars
  •  I will sand the wood before assembly next time.
  • A friend of mine made a lighter and smaller one – I will see how he does with his this year and maybe make mine smaller next time.

I’ve not tried to fit mine in the car yet…

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Good news, bad news

A hatch, a hatch !!

So the dark patch / hole between the two bees with their bums in the air is a hatch, where a queen has cut her way out and emerged from her cell. This means she is out and roaming the hive, still a virgin until she is mature enough to go on mating flights (about 4 days from hatch – Saturday), and we have the weather and the drones (cross fingers).

I wasn’t so lucky with the two mating hives, they both failed. On opening them the queens were not being cared for and only about 20% of the bees that I had put in were left in the hive. Lessons – follow instructions about stocking mini-nucs, or at least move them to another apiary so the flying bees don’t just go to the hive they started in. I also suspect that putting the queen cells in the metal cages might have dissuaded the bees from looking after them due to being cold metal – next time have comb to press the cell into.

Still, I have a hatch from my own first grafting, one way or the other its a win. Even if the queen does not make it to mated, I’ve kept the colony from turning to laying workers (or just being bored).

I’m going to leave them to a week on Saturday (12th April) so she has had time to become mature and hopefully had a weather window to get out and mated; maybe by then I will get to see eggs, fingers crossed.

 

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Change of plan & mating nucs

Bit of a change of plan. Following a chat with a fellow beekeeper, and the suggestion that combing over should not be an issue at all and was quite normal, I decided that I should try to raise all three queens separately. This was also helped along by the fact that I have a mean colony in one hive and a suspected failing queen in another.

Now previously I mentioned that I had prepared some mating nucs, so this seemed the solution here.  Looking at the frame the comb had increased overnight and now the cell I though was good because it was clear of extra comb was now linked to the neighbouring cell and starting to get its own covering. I cut between the paired cells with a stanley knife and then pried the combed over cells from the bar, leaving the partially covered cell on the bar and putting it back in the original hive.

Actually I left a step out there, I prep’ed and filled the mating hives with bees, using a correx nuc box to shake a commercial frame into each box. I put each cell into a wire cell protector, because I didn’t have comb on the bars in the mating hive and needed something to hold the cell. The entrance dial on each of the nucs was then turned to ‘vent’ to keep the bees in – don’t worry they had lots of fondant to feed on in the rear compartment. The bees will be let out tomorrow once they have acclimatised to their new home and queen cell.

Given the timetable of events the queens should hatch on Monday or Tuesday; I’ll pop back on Wednesday to see what has hatched.

 

 

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Three, three, the rivals

So three cells have been made; three out of 30, but I only need one queen.

Well I say three, but two of them are heavily combed over, so maybe that means they are dead in the cells.

As I only need one I am going to leave them in the queenless hive and if they are all viable then they can fight it out to see who is going to rule the roost.

Today’s the day

I did my queen rearing today.

As the donor hive only had 4 frames of brood I didn’t want to leave them short at this time of build up.

I grafted tiny larvae from cells using a paint brush. I found that trying to see tiny larvae in a cell with a veil on and have fine hand eye coordination nearly impossible so I had to remove it. Fortunately the bees were smoked and calm so didn’t bother me.

I put the larvae in some plastic cell cups on a bar and put the bar in a frame. Then put the frame in the queenless hive.

I will now wait 9 days.

A little mistake

I, err, cough, chopped some queen cells down before finding the queen. Then I looked back and could not find eggs. OK you caught me doing something stupid and now I think it is queenless.
BUT, I have a plan. I have a much nicer queen that I am going to graft eggs from onto a cell raising bar and do a bit of ‘very early’ queen raising. The drones in cells just now should be up and mature by the time she is ready to need them.
In May I am doing a talk on Queen rearing and by then I hopefully will have something to show for this.
Although I hadn’t planned to start myself until about then, conditions are such that I should in this case and we seem also to be having a very early spring in terms of other colonies building up.
Why didn’t I just put a frame of brood from an adjacent hive in? Well we have three reasons there :
  1. On that site the queenless colony is the only live commercial hive I have on that site, the others are 14×12 national hives. Yes keeping bees on different sized frames is not a good idea, but I have my reasons.
  2. At this time in spring the other colonies only have a few frames of brood so removing a frame will severely set them back.
  3. If it all goes pear shaped I can do something else, but in the mean time - Plan B is to move the hive to another site where I can swap frames.

 

Seven is the magic number

On Sunday I opened a hive and found 7 frames with brood on. Not just national frames, 14×12 national frames, the ones with more cells per frame than a commercial !

7 is the magic number, it translates as time to put a super on.

Hooray, honey time !

In not so good news, I have lost a queen, my favourite one. Her colony was trapped in because the mouse guard got blocked with dead bees. I merged her colony with a neighbouring one because it was too small to requeen.

Oh and on one hive on Saturday I had 9 queen cells, half way to being capped complete with growing larvae inside. They are making an early start of that then… it may involve a lost queen though so…

…and how are your bees?

Mini nucs’ prep

Last year I went on a queen rearing course and at the end I bought some mini nucs. They needed cleaning first so I did that first.  Then I was left with an interesting design choice by the manufacturer of having a bottom entrance. So I decided to change it, cutting a hole in the front and adding a rotating disc opening restrictor; one of those things you turn to choose open, vented, closed or queen restricted. Well a picture paints a thousand words so here….

As I had cut out the new entrance with a hole saw I had a nice chunk of wall material with which I could fill up the old entrance.

Then I took the top bars and cleaned them up and melted the wax in the slot and used it to hold a new starter strip.

On occasion I have broken foundation sheets, either in storage or when trying to put them into frames. This is why is it a good idea to keep them. In the background is my jar for odd bits of wax, which can be used as hot glue or melted elsewhere for reuse.

Finally, my old friend correx (aka fluted board plastic) came to my aid as an inner cover which I am told is a good idea. Just cutting round the nuc as a template and then trimming a bit so it does not get stuck in the lid as you lift it.

Red is what I had, if they did clear that would have been better as I could have seen the bees through it.

All it needs now is a sugar tray for the back section, some bees and a queen cell.

Spring prep.

Whether you are new to beekeeping or an old hand there is always lots to do in preparation for spring which is not a long time away. 

With the bees coming out of winter with low numbers it is one of the key times of the year to get right or repent at your leisure.

So I thought I would start with a few key points.

1. Purchase your equipment in advance. If you wait til you need it by the time you order, wait for the post then assemble it, it will likely be too late.

2. Increase your knowledge of beekeeping. Now is the time to take a beekeeping class. A thorough beekeeping class can make all the difference on how you can keep varroa mites under control, install a package, harvest honey,  trap small hive beetle and much more. It’s a different beekeeping world now. So much has changed so keep up with it all by taking a class.

3. Be prepared to know when to add hive bodies and supers to your expanding colony. I have a complete article and video for you to study so you will not make rookie mistakes.

4. For new beginners, brush up on how to install a package of bees. It’s really enjoyable. But watch my video first so you do it right.

5. Even though spring is close, do not let your bees starve to death now. Remember, bees need food and most colonies starve in late winter and early spring just before flowers bloom. Be sure to put on one of our Winter-Bee-Kinds to help your bees get that added nutrition to hit spring running. Be sure to select either 8 frame or 10 frame when ordering.

 

For those of you who have hives enduring the winter you need to have a plan ready as soon as spring arrives. I have some suggestions on how you can prepare yourself and your hive for spring:

1. First, DO NOT pull out a frame unless the temperature is above 60 degrees (f). Otherwise the cold can damage the brood. Warmer is better, but you can do a quick inspection if it is 60 degrees (f).

2. Once you can perform your first inspection you need to look for the following:
     a. Brood in various stages such as eggs, larva and sealed brood.
     b. Identify the queen.
     c. Assess the amount of pollen/honey. Add pollen patties or our Winter-Bee-Kind if low on food.
     d. Clean debris from bottom board.
     e. Determine how well the hive came out of winter in population. Are they low in numbers of bees are very strong?

3. Once you have performed your first inspection in the spring you will need to plan what to do to help your hive grow well. Questions to ask are:

    a. Is the queen laying well or does she need replaced?
    b. Is the colony so strong in population that splitting the hive is necessary to prevent swarming?
    c. Do I have mites? Place green drone comb in each deep hive body to begin capturing varroa mites.
    d. Do I have small hive beetles? Insert small hive beetle traps, one in each deep between the frames.
    e. Determine if you need to place a honey super on for the spring flows.

These are important ideas and questions to encourage you to think now what you will do in the spring. For example, if you find your hive is very populated and you need to split the colony but you do not have another hive, then half of your colony may swarm. Be sure to have adequate beekeeping supplies before you desperately need them. Now is the time, while you are bored of winter, to prepare for spring.