Tag Archive | build

Super Spacers DIY

May 23, 2014 (Friday)

I’ve added supers on both Blue and Green Hives.  In fact, Blue hive looks like a skyscraper compared to pink and yellow.  Since we don’t feed the bees once supers are added (the girls fend for themselves since we want pure honey), I didn’t have the upper entrance exposed.  Also, we didn’t have any entrances or vent holes between all of those boxes.  With all of that activity, it can get darn hot in those hives.  Not to mention,the forager bees didn’t have direct access to the honey supers, which means they had to travel all the way up and down through 3-4 very busy boxes to get in or out of the hive.  That does not make for efficient honey production!

The Solution

I saw some nifty spacers at my last bee meeting and immediately put the hubster to work.  Using 1″x1″ lengths of wood, he built frames with entrance holes that fit between the supers.  Super easy and much needed.

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I also added a 1″x4″ spacer frame at the top, above the inner cover, to elevate the top cover an expose the inner cover entrance.  We also drilled a hole into this spacer for yet another entrance and for added air circulation at the top of the hive.

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The girls wasted no time using these new entrances – a simple solution with great benefits. Quicker access means faster honey production, and better air circulation makes for happier and healthier bees!

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Inspect-Move-Deter

June 21, 2013 (Day 42)

The objectives included:  Inspect GH1 for Queen, Add the Ant Deterring Additions, and Make Room for a Third Hive

For the first time, we entered the hives at dusk when the bee activity was very low.  That’s because we had to move the hives.  Temps were in the mid-80s, sun had gone down, not much breeze, just a beautiful day that turned to a beautiful evening.  Both hives were highly active around 5PM.  Our mission began around 7:30PM.

Challenge with Moving Hives

In beekeeping class, they tell you to place the hives where you plan to keep them, because moving hives is no easy feat.  When filled with bees, honey and comb, one 8-frame medium box can weigh about 40 lbs.  It has to be done in chunks and, believe me, the girls do not like to be moved around.  Bees also become easily disoriented when their hives are moved.  Even if moved only a few inches, they may have trouble finding their way home after flying out.  The rule is, anything more than 2 feet doesn’t matter.  You may as well move it 2 miles.  Of course, I’ve watched a number of YouTube videos on the subject, but since we were talking inches rather than feet, we decided to take the risk and just shift them without further measure.

We had both hives on 2 levels of cinder blocks.  Since the hives are growing in height, we decided to lower them down one level. We also decided this would be a good opportunity to move Green Hive 1 (GH1) to the left about 8 inches so we can add a third hive in the center, when that time comes.  Just for the record, I never said anything about a third hive.  That suggestion came from straight from the hubster.  Not that I haven’t been thinking it, but I wasn’t gonna say it.

Ant Deterring Additions

Ants have been a problem for several weeks now.  Every time I lift the top covers, ants scurry around the feeders and down the sides of the boxes.  Not a huge infestation, but enough to be annoying.  I also see spider mites and other creepy crawlies that are enticed by sweet sugar syrup and the smell of honey.

I’d previously posted the hive enhancements shared by members of my beekeeping association.  These enhancements consist of PVC end caps that, when filled with water or vegetable oil, form mini-moats at the base of the hives.  So unless the insects are good swimmers, they’ll likely become floaters.   Mine will be filled with water so they’re easy to fill and easy to flush out.  This will be done regularly because floaters make good stepping stones.

Thank goodness the hubster loves projects.  We made our usual 4 or 5 trips to Home Depot to get exactly what was needed for his “improved” design.  For some reason, men can never just look at another design and replicate it.  There always has to be a one-up.  This is not a complaint, just an observation.  In fact, his one-ups are pretty ingenious and have a high success rate.  He created bottom frames footed with the PVC caps and held on with heavy screws and bolts.  They’re very solid and the hives set right on top of them.

Two ant deterring frames footed with PVC caps that will be filled with water.

Two ant deterring frames footed with PVC caps that will be filled with water.

Preparing for Our Mission
I suited up, the hubster brought up the frames, and I carried up 4 quarts of sugar syrup. I started separating GH1 and realized I’d forgotten my hive tool and brush. Had to run and grab those. Hubster set two cinder blocks between the hives as a place to set the boxes. The feeder pail was completely empty. They’d gone through about 5 quarts of syrup over the last week, so they’ve been feeding like crazy.  Just before filling their buckets, the hubster asked me if I’d added the Honey B Healthy supplement ($30 a bottle!) to their feed.  I forgot AGAIN – 2nd week in a row. Ugh!

GH1 Having Queen Issues
I opened GH1 and saw a comb ladder leading to the top board.  Immediately, I ran down to the shop to get a new box and frames.  GH1 bees weren’t active. Just going about their business. I decided to inspect for the queen. I’ve been digging into this hive for over a month trying to determine whether it’s queen-right. The side frames on the top box haven’t been touched, so false alarm – no need for a third box yet. The bee population is not increasing, and may even be decreasing. I looked at every frame and saw no sign of the marked queen. Doesn’t mean there isn’t another queen in there, I just can’t find her. On a good note, there were no drone cells and no supercedure queen cells, but I didn’t see any new larvae either.  I can’t keep waiting to figure it out.  I’ve decided to purchase a new marked and mated queen and solicit help from someone in my bee club who can identify and remove the existing queen, if there is one.

Adding the Ant Deterrents

We moved GH1 in two chunks to the temporary holding place.  Hubster removed the original top blocks, shifted the bottom blocks 8 inches outward and leveled them.  We added the PVC frame and positioned the bottom board over the frame.  Perfect fit!   Just in time, since GH1 was starting to get irritable.  I assembled the rest of the hive and moved on to Yellow Hive 2 (YH2).

Hubster repositions and levels GH1 base and adds ant deterring frame.

Hubster repositions and levels GH1 base and adds ant deterring frame.

On to YH2

Unlike GH1, YH2 is growing like crazy and the girls are much more irritable and active.  We moved quickly on this one, no inspections.  I transferred the bee-filled boxes, the hubster aligned and leveled the blocks and added the frame, then I started to reassemble.  The girls were getting angrier.  That’s when the smoker burned out.  Hubster made an emergency run to reignite the smoker.  I was left with angry, darting bees.  Even in full gear, I worked faster and faster.  I decided not to wait for the smoker and just slid the boxes back on, taking down a few casualties in the process.  Hubster returned with an active smoker and a few choice words, but the deed was done.

Bees do not like it when other bees are killed.  Communication in the hive is instantaneous, which is why smoke is so important to keep them settled.  The sides of YH2 were lined with bees trying to inspect the damage and clean bee parts that extruded from between the boxes.  It’s what they do, clean house, remove the dead, protect the hive.  Oh, the guilt!

End Result

I visited the hives this morning.  Both are active and GH1 bees are flying in and out of the right hive.  Good news.  The PVC caps are filled with water, ready to foil any hive robbery attempts by the ants and creepy crawlers.  I’ve determined my next action for fixing GH1’s queen issues.  And I’ve decided to install a white board checklist in the greenhouse, to be reviewed before each inspection…because lack of preparation is unacceptable.

It wasn’t pretty, but mission accomplished.

PVC caps filled with water.

PVC caps filled with water.

DIY Frame Hanger

By removing 2 or 3 frames from the box, I can easily space out the other frames, allowing me to remove, inspect, then slide them back in with less risk of rolling or squishing bees. The question is, where do you set those first few frames when they’re covered from top to bottom in bees?

I recalled several YouTube videos that showed beekeepers hanging the frames between two extended bars that attached to the boxes. I turned to my brilliant hubster to conjure up a homemade frame hanger that I could use during my inspections. Sure enough, after flipping through catalogs and watching a few videos, the hubster took off to Home Depot to buy some parts and came home to build my frame hanger.

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His concept is simple and works perfectly. It consists of a 2×4 piece of wood the same width as the frame, 2 large utility hooks (like the ones used to hang bicycles), and two metal brackets that slide onto the side of the box. The hanger comfortably holds 3-4 frames – enough to free up some space – then lifts off to be hung on the next box. It is now a must-have tool in my bee inspection tool kit.

Best of all, he found two great beekeeping “build your own” websites for beehives, jigs, boards, covers, honey extractors and more. The links are below and I’ll add them to my Beekeeping DIY links list.

Bee Source
Beehive Journal

Do you build your own bee hives and equipment? What are your sources for plans and instructions? Leave a comment and share!

Deter Ants with PVC Caps

I walked up to the hives one morning and noticed ants crawling around.  Ugh!  I knew exactly why, because I remembered leaving a small sugar syrup spill in the feeder box.  Shame on me.  I quickly ran and grabbed a wet towel, opened the top cover and wiped up the syrup.  I also wiped all around the hives to clear off the ants.  I haven’t seen any since, but I certainly learned my lesson about leaving sugary messes around the hive.

Ants are a big problem for many beekeepers, but I learned an easy way to mitigate this issue long term.  Two gentlemen from the Frederick County Beekeeping Association (FCBA) use PVC caps at the base of their hive stands to keep the ants and other ground climbing pests off of their hives.

Dave Maloney, President of the FCBA put four of his hives on stands with legs. The legs have bolts set in PVC caps filled with vegetable oil. “No ants in those hives”, he claims.

Dave Mahoney of the FCBA fills his PVC caps with vegetable oil to track ants and other climbing insects.

Dave Maloney of the FCBA fills his PVC caps with vegetable oil to trap ants and other climbing insects before they get to the hives.

Chuck Schwalbe also uses PVC caps to keep the ants out of his hives.  He says, “I screwed lag bolts into the bottom of the legs of my hive stand.  These sit in PVC end caps.  When filled with water, the moat keeps ants and earwigs at bay.  Its a lot more durable and cleaner than tack trap or grease around the base.  Rain usually keeps the cups full.  Flooding them with a bucket of water flushes debris out.”

Chuck Schwalbe of the FCBA uses PVC caps filled with water at the base of his hive stands.  (Image courtesy of Chuck Schwalbe of FCBA)

Chuck Schwalbe of the FCBA uses PVC caps filled with water at the base of his hive stands. (Image courtesy of Chuck Schwalbe of FCBA)

Close up view of PVC caps installed at the bottom of a hive stand (image courtesy of Chuck Schwalbe of the FCBA)

Close up view of PVC caps installed at the bottom of a hive stand (image courtesy of Chuck Schwalbe of the FCBA)

Have you used this method or other methods to keep ants and climbing pests at bay?    Leave a comment and tell us your methods and experiences keeping ants and other pesky climbing insects from entering your bee hives!