Sunday, March 24, 2013

Building our First Bee Hive

Last year my wife and I attended a couple of bee keeping classes from a local bee-keepker, Jacqueline Freeman.  Shortly after attending these classes my wife witnessed two swarms.  We were then called by Jacqueline to see if we wanted to go with her to capture another swarm.  Unfortunately, we did not have a hive ready for them to live in, so we missed out on having a few hives last year.  Being a do-it-yourself person, I did not want to spend $200 to $300 on a hive.  So, the plan was to build a hive during the winter so we would be ready for when the bees swarm this year.

I spent about $80 on some cedar boards, acrylic plastic and screws to build a 3 foot top bar hive.  Plans for the beehive were downloaded from the Bare Foot Beekeeper.  A few modifications to his plans were made, mainly due to sizing.  His plans are for 12 inch lumber, but most lumber yards and hardware stores only carry cedar that is milled down to 11 1/4.  None of the local lumber yards had a 14 or 16 inch wide board that could be ripped or a rough cut 12 inch board, though I can't imagine what the cost would be for those.

The main modification is an acrylic window.  Originally, this was supposed to be a glass window because I have some glass lying around that I found on Craigslist for free.  I have never cut glass before and cutting a 20 inch piece of window was not a pleasant experience.  After about 20 minutes, I gave up and went to Home Depot for the acrylic sheet.  It took only a few minutes to score and break the acrylic sheet to the size I needed.

Another big modification was the ends.  Instead of keeping the ends squared, I used a table saw and cut on a 15 degree angle to allow the end to fit inside the sides.  Bare Foot's plan called for the sides to be squared and the sides to be screwed in on an angle.

A bottom was added even though, Jacqueline and the Bare Foot Beekeeper mentioned this is an optional addition.  Because of the measurement changes, I screwed up and had a 5 1/2 inch bottom instead of a 5 1/4 inch bottom which is what a 6 inch cedar board milled down to.  I ended up getting an 8 inch board and ripping it down to the 5 1/2 inches I needed.  I used the remaining wood for the trim along the top.

To make the top of the hive, cedar fence boards were used.  They were tacked over each other, then caulked the seam where they met.  Hinges were added to the back of the hive and lid.  One issue that arose, is the lid is heavy and will tip the hive over when open.  I will have to work on this with the next hive, maybe scrap the idea of hinges.

In our classes Jacqueline recommend a shelf for the bees to sit outside of the entrance to cool themselves.  A small piece of wood was screwed below the two 3/4 inch openings.  She also mentioned a screen on the bottom for mites to fall through.  The mites then get trapped under the screen and stay out of the hive.  I used a window screen for that.  Two little blocks were added inside and I stapled the screen tight to the sides and the blocks so that a gap was present between the floor and screen.

For the bars I ripped some 1" thick pine boards I had lying around.  Using the table saw a 1/8 or so track was cut down the middle.  This is to help the bees keep the combs straight.  The best design is to have a triangle type shape on the underside of the top bar.  I don't own a router yet so that would have been harder for me to cut.

Lastly, the hive was painted with a wood paint that I had left over from painting the chicken coop.  While the wood is cedar, a coat of paint will make the hive last a bit longer.  With all the rain this should also stop the wood from becoming soaked.  The inside was not painted to allow a healthy environment for the bees.

The hive was placed near our fruit trees on the edge of our forrest.  Concrete blocks were stacked on each other and anchored with 4 foot rebar.  Small cement bricks are used to secure the hive on top of the blocks.  The fence will also hold the hive when it is propped open so it doesn't tip.  We baited the hive with a few drops of lemon grass oil to attract the scout bees for swarms and will continue to do so through the swarming season.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Chickens and Slugs

I had a good lunch time discovery today.  Our chickens like slugs.  I was dumping some compost and noticed a giant slug on the lid of the bin.  I took it over to the chicken run and threw it in.  They went ape over it. This gives me a nice source of protein for them out of the garden.

Update: March 31st, 2013
Today was a good day to repeat the experiment.  I was out in the garden this morning checking some transplants and I noticed some slugs on the lettuce.  I gathered them up in my hand and took them to the chicken coup.  I dropped them in on their feeder and the chickens went nuts. 

I have to remember to go to the garden with a cup to stop my hand from getting slimmed by all the slugs.