Building and Tracking Bee Equipment

With cold weather bringing a halt to work on the chicken coop, I worked in the shop assembling bee hives until it was finally warm enough to paint them.

Over the weekend, I assembled four deep hive boxes and 30 frames. I also built a spacer with a hive entrance, a bottom board, and a custom lid for a swarm trap. I worked inside as the cold weather dominated our area. Things are warming up and I will revert to working on the chicken coop again. My goal is to have the roof on by the end of the week.

I am having fun building the bee equipment, which surprised me. Of course, when I’m on my one thousandth frame some years from now, I might not feel that way, but I am enjoying it now. There’s something satisfying about working in the shop building something with power tools. I can see why so many retired men become woodworkers, and I think it is at least in part because they finally have time to do the job right.

Can you believe each frame required eight staples and two tiny nails? I was happy to have my pneumatic brad nailer and stapler, which I reviewed just a couple days ago. I even bought a second air hose so I could run both at the same time.

Assembling frames for beehives.
without a jig for use when assembling beehive frames, I use a hive body and a couple of 2x4s for spacers. It works well enough when you are just making a few dozen

To paint the components, I strung a rope between two fence posts and suspended the hive bodies over the rope. (See main photo.) I primed these yesterday and they are ready for their final coat. Once I paint two sides, I rotate them on the rope and paint the other side. I set the bottom boards and other items on the grass to paint them. My bee yard now has white rectangular outlines on it.

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Over Hill and Dale: The Quest for Beekeeping Equipment

We put some miles on the truck and some wind in our hair as we cruised the back roads in search of beekeeping equipment.

Since it was too cold to work outside, my wife and I made the long trip to the bee supply store yesterday. There are only a few in the state, so we had to drive two hours.  On the way home, we picked up supplies for our chick brooder and more bags of soil at Tractor Supply. We made it all the way there without using a single mile of Interstate highway.

The drive took us up and over mountains, all around twisty-turny backcountry roads, and through some pretty valleys where colorful wildflowers and trees were in bloom. We passed cows and horses, goats and sheep, and fields that looked like they were recently plowed. Our ears popped multiple times. It was a pleasant drive.

We even stopped for lunch at an old-fashioned diner. Unfortunately, the food was not as good as I would have hoped. They had “help wanted” signs up, and I’m guessing their best cook is still home collecting unemployment checks.

When we got home, we loaded up the stove and started the fire. The house had dropped to 63 degrees after we didn’t stoke the fire this morning because of our expected absence.

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A New Beekeepers Guide to Feeding Your Bees

You would not think twice about feeding your chickens, your goats, your pigs, and other livestock. Feeding your bees is important for hive health and honey production.

In the wild, bees manage without a kindly beekeeper feeding them.  Of course, no one is robbing their honey, except for the rare bear or other critter. 

You will find plenty of arguments online over whether you should feed your bees, when to do so, and what to feed them.  That decision is ultimately up to you. 

I consider my bees are a type of livestock, and I feed them when they are short on natural food, just as I would offer pasture-raised cows hay or other feed during the winter when the fields are covered in snow or the animals are locked in their barn due to the weather.

Because I believe my job as a beekeeper is to make sure my beehives are healthy and the colony can overwinter successfully, I feed them. It increases their survival rate, can boost hive size, and can ultimately increase your honey harvest.

My thoughts on what to feed, when, and how to feed your bees follow. Click on 2 learn about various foods, 3 to learn about feeders, and 4 for the four best times to feed your bees.

A New Beekeeper’s Guide to Setting Up Your First Beehive

Beehives in the field
Beehives in the field

If you’ve purchased a basic beekeeper kit or a beginning hive, congratulations!  This article will help you understand how to use and assemble the wooden Langstroth hives, which are the most common hive type in the U.S.

The components of a Langstroth hive should go together in a particular order, but since they are modular, a new beekeeper could conceivably get them out of order.  This guide will help you assembled your hive components in the correct order so that your hive is ready to receive and house bees.

This article is intended for someone who is just starting their beekeeping journey. It is a simple step-by-step guide to setting up your first beehive.

Click #2 below to continue.

So You Want to Raise Bees: What are your Objectives?

Many homesteaders and preppers raise bees. Are they right for you? What are possible objectives for raising bees? What are the start-up costs?

I’ve decided to take up the hobby of beekeeping again because it fits well with our current lifestyle: We have moved to a home in a rural location, we have plenty of land, and I have the time to give them the attention they deserve. Because I raised bees before, I have some experience, enough knowledge to be dangerous, and a good bit of equipment, reducing my startup costs.

My objective is to raise bees for their honey, which I expect will provide us with a resource during tough times. That resource may be as simple as added calories that can be easily preserved (honey stores forever), or it may be as a means of barter. It could be an important natural sweetener down the road since we won’t be making maple syrup or raising sugar cane around here.

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A New, Local Queen and Bees to Strengthen our Hive

When we went to pick up the bee hive components I had ordered, we found a source for local queens and bees to help our hive start off strong.

We picked up our beehive equipment today, but even more exciting is that I have found a new source for our bees. Instead of a three-pound package of bees from a big national company, I am buying a nuc from a local beekeeper.

The bees will not be ready as soon, but I am excited about a local source for two reasons: First, a nuc gives me a head start over a package of bees, and second, I expect to get better queen genetics. Let me explain:

Bees, Hives, Frames, and Brood

Starting with a nuc (short for nucleus, or the core of a hive) is far better than three pounds of bees. The nuc comes with five frames of brood and honey, which means new bees will hatch over the next few days, and the honey will provide stored food. A package of bees would have to start from scratch and build up to this point.

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Picking the Best Breeds for our Bee and Chick Orders

As spring comes closer, we order our bee hive, bees, and chicks. It was a learning experience but we will plan better next year.

Earlier this week, I took advantage of the warm weather to spend some time in the garage and inventory my beekeeping supplies. I have a brand new hive bottom, a super with frames, and several spare large and medium frames. I also have a hive tool, a bee keeper jacket with hood, gloves, and a smoker.

When my daughter was in high school, she raised bees as a science project. When she went off to college, I inherited the bees. We had them for five or six years before we lost the hive to some unknown die-off. To get rid of any mites or disease, I burned the boxes, disposed of the frames, and packed away all the unused parts and accessories in case I had bees again one day. Looks like that day is almost here.

To construct a full hive, I ordered two hive bodies, an inner lid, an outer lid, a queen excluder, an entrance reducer, and an inside feeder that replaces a frame. I still need a bee brush and hive staples. I have a few cinderblocks that I plan to use as a base.

The three-pound package of Italian bees with their queen will show up in April. Then I will don the bee suit and pour the bees into the hive. I’ll add a second hive body once the queen is free from confinement and starts producing brood. Not knowing what will be flowering and providing pollen and nectar when they arrive, I expect I will need to feed the hive.

THis image of our old hive is from 2009.
This image of our old hive is from 2009, but the new one will look the same. Prices for beekeeping supplies have definitely gone up in the past decade.
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Chickens, Gardens and Bees, Oh My!

As gardening season approaches, we concentrate on chickens, bees, and appropriate fencing to protect them all

Lately, I have been reading, watching videos, and studying up on chickens like there is no tomorrow. 

Having a “backyard” chicken flock has always been part of my long-range planning, even after one of our neighbor had more than 50 chickens and ran a free range chicken egg business out of her house.  (Thank goodness our bedroom was on the opposite side of the house because she had a rooster.)  So I’ve been reading articles and blogs for some time, but that has intensified lately.

I have made up plans to build a 4-foot by 8-foot chicken coop and made a list of building materials that will be required.  The only unanswered questions I have are how much insulation will be needed and how much venting I need to have, plus do I need to cover up the vents on super cold days.

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