Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Anatomy Lesson-Hive Anatomy

WHAT'S IN THERE?   Just looks like lots of wooden boxes--do they have tops and bottoms? Are they special, or will any old box do? Why do bees live in boxes? How do they get in and out? Do you have to teach them where they must stay, like a dog? (I hope they stay more like a border collie than a beagle? Sorry, Bart) How many boxes do you need to stack up? Sometimes I see just one box, sometimes very many. Why are they usually painted white? or any other color? Will it matter what color I paint them? (Painting is my favorite activity, you know.) Oh, yeah, love those copper topped ones! And looking in the catalogs--do I really need THAT? How many? Why? And how much is this all going to run me? Last night I broke out the airline miles Visa card and earned some good miles. About $288 worth. Without shipping. And what I bought isn't all that I will need.  Left off a few things for now. I will pick this all up in Greenwich, NY at the Betterbee guys. That's my effort to save $70 shipping  Wood is heavy.   After an evening with the catalog here is the scoop:

The photo to the right shows a basic good set up.  A hive consists of boxes, called supers and hive bodies.  This one has two hive bodies (the bigger boxes on the bottom) and two supers (the smaller boxes on top.)  These boxes are just 4 sided.  No tops or bottoms.  Bees, with the exception of the queen and drones, are free to move vertically through all the boxes.  That white piece in the middle is a queen excluder.  The holes in it are too small for her to pass through (and the drones, the males, as well.)  This keeps that stay-at-home queen down where she can lay eggs all day.  In the kitchen, barefoot and pregnant.  No larva or eggs, thank you, in my honey. A Queen will naturally stay in the lower box, but, just to be sure. . . Then there are some other, flatter pieces inbetween and also the two covers at the top in this arrangement. 

The following diagram from Betterbee has been my Bee Bible, my Beeble.
Photo credit:  all photos this blog post are from the Betterbee catalog.  Thank you Betterbee. 


I have not ordered a telescoping cover.  I will make my own.  I see most hives out in a field with a big ol' ugly rock sitting on top for weight.  Not me.  And I don't think I'll spring for the pretty copper ones, but I have an idea how to make a nice roof to match my architecture.  Think slate shingles.  They are rocks, but better. 
Going from top to bottom on the picture: 
Inner cover:  hole in the middle for ventilation.  even in winter there needs to be air moving about inside the hive 
Feeder: I'll buy later. used to feed syrup during times of no nectar-think early spring
Fume board: this has a felt pad that soaks up a stinky liquid that makes everybody leave the hive.  Chad might call this the crop dusting board.  I can do without.  I will instead use a slower method-the triangle escape board --below.  Utilizes the greatest bit of bee trivia of all:  If a bee comes up against a wall it will always turn to the right.  Always. So on this board they go right and it leads them out of the hive and they can't get back in because they would have to make a left turn.  Like my mother-in-law, they just don't ever make left turns.  (She could go half way around town to avoid that left.  But it worked for her.  Works for the bees, too.)
Then two supers: my supers are mediums which are 6 5/8" deep with 8 frames each-where the honey is made and stored.  This is my honey to harvest.  I will not touch what is in the hive bodies.

queen excluder sitting on hive body

Then two hive bodies.  These boxes are 9" deep with 8 frames each-where the bee nursery, and the bees' store of honey and pollen is stored.  This is a good place to mention why I am doing boxes with just 8 frames instead of the usual 10.  Easy.  Weight.  Imagine how heavy a 9" body is filled with honey, bees, wax, propolis, pollen,etc.  I need to be able to lift the thing.  Most beekeepers have to quit because their backs just can't do it any more.   The boxes all come unassembled.  I will glue and nail them together.  Everything else is all assembled.
With these hive bodies and supers there are frames.  I am going with Pierco plastic frames --white.  These are all American-made, covered with beeswax, also American.  The man who wrote Dummies
does not recommend the plastic ones.  He preferes the wooden frames.  I like the ease of the plastic ones.  They can be used and washed and reused.  I don't have to mess with installing fragile wax sheets and wiring them in time and again.  Betterbee swears by the Pierco.  Good enough.
An empty wooden frame- installing wax foundation on right

Pierco frames   all one piece  


white Pierco frames in place with bees
Slatted rack: creates more space below the frames for the bees to hang out and watch tv--just checking if anybody is paying attention.   The slats run front to back, exactly under the frames.  This picture shows 10 slats, but I did order an 8 slatted one.

slatted rack    see the tiny tv?
 The slatted rack provides an extra space for bees to be, it is a good measure to prevent swarming.  Swarming happens when some of the bees decide it is time to move to better quarters.  It is my job to make sure that doesn't happen.  I don't want to be chasing my bees around town trying to get them back.  Remember Chevy Chase in Funny Farm?  He buys the dog that runs off before he even gets to the house.  I don't want to watch $135 worth of bees just fly away.  Ouch.  I need Yellow Dog bees, not the Irish Setter type. 


What's that smell, Yellow Dog?   Oh your tail is in the fire.



Varroa screen: a necessary way of monitoring the pest population
Pollen trap: not now   pollen is another product that we humans can use also
Bottom board: the take off and landing strip
Hive stand: just a nice way to keep it all off the ground.  I think I will even put the stand up on a stump.
Other purchases: two hive tools to pry and scrape; a smoker-that little can that you build a fire in and smoke out the bees, very necessary;  beebrush for gently moving bees, and a grip that will help lift sticky frames out of the boxes.  That's what I got for my money.
I need help decided on the best beekeepers wear.  Here are some options:
#1                                     #2
tie down veil  #3


Leave me a comment--Which would YOU wear?  We'll call them #1  #2  and #3.  Which is less geeky?  Which is so cool you'd wear it around town just for the heck of it?  Which will John wear around the yard on the lawnmower--for the mosquitos?  I suspect soon we will see people dressed as beekeepers when they are not.  Like people in cowboy boots who have never stepped in a pile of manure in their lives, or girls in little short denims with plaid shirts tied up around their middles--cowgirls? not. Or what of all the tight equestrian pants and tall boots on people who don't ride. You know the real riders that you see.  They smell like a horse. And those white pants are all horse dirty. And I haven't even begun with all the gangstas out there.  I intend on wearing my whole bee suit to the grocery store.  Maybe I'll go in and buy 150 jars of peanut butter to go with my honey.  That'll show 'em who's real.  I digress.
I will also need a white, long-sleeved jacket and gloves.  So you won't see those strings under the jacket.  I am leaning toward this last one.  The hat is separate from the veil.  Any suggestions from the crowd?  (Because those of you close enough to visit me will be wearing one of these fine veils to look at my hives)  Remember the little red hen?  Do you want some honey?  You want to, I know you want to!    And last of all,  and the cutest!! 
kids' version of tie down veil for the little boys

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