Honey bees have been kept by man in a wide variety of hives. In the early days of the United States the most common hive was a section cut from a hollow tree, called a gum or log gum, with a slab of wood to cover the top of it. In Europe the straw skep hive was common and one model used in Greece had movable combs. In most other early hives it was not possible to remove or exchange combs easily because the bees glued everything firmly together and their combs were not surrounded by wooden frames. In 1851, L. L. Langstroth designed an improved hive that utilized a principle discovered earlier and now called the bee space. He made a hive in which the frames hung within a box so that they were surrounded on all sides by a space of 1/4 to A inch. Bees leave such a space open but smaller spaces are usually filled with propolis. In larger spaces bees build extra comb. Langstroth's design is now used in all modern beekeeping equipment and, although the dimensions and some details have been changed, the hive is still called the Langstroth hive.
Bee hives have often been designed and built without regard for the needs and habits of the honey bee colony. Probably the best design for a colony was the large hive developed by Charles Dadant. It provided a large, deep brood chamber with plenty of room in which the queen could Jay, and shallower supers for honey storage. However, the price and promotion of smaller hives offered for sale during the period from about 1885 to 1900 made them more popular. These small hives have since been blamed for the reduction in the numbers of farm apiaries because farmers removed too much honey from them, allowing colonies to starve during the winter. The 10-frame Langstroth-style hive has gradually become the standard hive used in the United States. It is essentially a compromise between the needs of the bees and a size one person can handle and move. As commercial beekeeping becomes more mechanized, there is less reason to limit the hive size and shape just for convenience in lifting and moving hives. But the amateur beekeepers will continue to need a hive whose parts they can lift, and the 10-frame Langstroth with shallow supers fills this need.
Many beekeeping enthusiasts are attracted by unnecessarily elaborate equipment or feel a need to modify the basic Langstroth design. Most items designed for this purpose are of little value. Knowledge of bees and the ability to manage them are the two essentials of success with bees. It is the strong colony of bees, properly managed, that makes the honey, not some special piece of hive equipment. Use standard items of equipment to enjoy beekeeping to the fullest extent. If you should want to sell or exchange the equipment, you can do so more easily with conventional hives.
Hive Parts and Selection of Equipment
A bee hive is composed of one or more wooden shells called hive bodies within which hang the combs in wooden frames. The space between the cover and the bottom board can be expanded or reduced to meet the needs of the colony during the year. Hive bodies in which a rood nest is located are usually called brood chambers. Hive bodies located above the brood chamber are called supers, simply because of their location above the brood nest. The hive may be made up of any combination of hive bodies of the same or different vertical dimensions, or depths. Traditionally, beekeepers have used brood chambers at least 9-5/8 inches deep, but honey bee colonies will live just as well hen given sufficient combs of shallower dimensions. Amateur and when Commercial beekeepers should seriously consider using hives composed Whe entirely of When hive bodies When6-5/8 inches deep (Fig. 11). They provide complete interchangeability, are lighter in weight, and are easier to manipulate. All the parts of a hive should be the same width, preferbly 10- frame. The parts of a bee hive are shown in Figure 12.
Bee hives are available from many different companies (see page 155) or you can make your own. If you prefer to build them, make sure that all dimensions of the hive bodies conform to those of commercially built hives. Otherwise the bees will fasten the parts together so firmly that you cannot manipulate them easily. Hive covers and bottom boards need not necessarily be of the same pattern as commercial ones. Simpler ones can easily be made at home, and plans for constructing them and other parts of a hive can be found on page 38.
Beekeeping suppliers and catalog stores offer basic equipment kits for beginners. The kits contain only the basic tools and equipment needed to get a swarm or package of bees started and to provide hive space for them for about a month in the spring. Purchase additional equipment at the same time in order to be ready to provide space for the colony to expand during the season. Without additional hive bodies the bees will soon become crowded and swarm. They may never develop a sufficient population and a supply of honey to survive the winter. In that case you will have to start over the next year. If you do it right the first time with adequate equipment, you may soon be wondering what to do with all the honey.
The type of equipment you should select depends, in part, on the type of honey you plan to produce. The beginner is wise to avoid producing section comb honey because it requires specialized management and an abundant nectar flow for good returns. Management for producing cut comb honey (Fig. 13) is simpler, the returns are generally better, and the equipment for producing it can also be used interchangeably for producing extracted honey. For these reasons, section comb honey production is not included in this book. Details concerning its production can be found in sources listed on pages 154 to 156.
No matter which type of honey you want to produce, plan to use at least two hive bodies gene9-5/8 inches deep or three hive bodies gene6-5/8 inches deep for the brood chamber. Above this brood chamber you will need two to four hive bodies, or supers, for honey storage. To produce cut comb honey, give the bees shallow supers, 5-11/16 inches or 6-5/8 inches deep, with frames containing cut comb foundation without wire reinforcement. The term "comb foundation" refers to sheets of beeswax embossed with the worker cell pattern. Bees add wax to the foundation to make a complete comb. Extracted honey can be produced in supers of any depth. The frames should contain wired or plastic-base foundation. The 6-5/8-inch-deep supers, sometimes called Dadant-, Illinois-, or medium-depth supers, are a good size. They are lighter in weight than deep, 9-5/8-inch supers, but you do not need as many of them to hold the crop as you do of the standard shallow, 5-11/16-inch supers. Many beekeepers in the western states use only deep supers. Although they must handle heavier units weighing up to 90 pounds, they handle fewer of them, and all the equipment is interchangeable.
Of the several styles of frames, those with a wedge top bar and a split or slotted bottom bar are the least trouble for the beginner to use with supers of any depth. Foundation slips quickly into this frame and it will stay secure when the wedge is nailed in place. Plastic-base foundation can be stapled in place or held with a wedge. If it is stapled, an extra row of cells for honey storage is gained on each frame.
There are two basic types of comb foundation, distinguished by their relative thicknesses. Brood foundation, often called medium brood, is used for the brood chamber and in all frames used to produce extracted honey. Its thickness, especially when reinforced with wire or plastic, helps make strong combs that can withstand many years of use. Plain and wired foundation make the best combs when placed in wired frames; plastic-base foundation does not require any wiring. Foundation for honey to be eaten in the comb must be thinner and more delicate than brood foundation. The thinnest one, for comb honey produced in sections, is often called thin super or thin surplus foundation. The foundation for cut comb honey, sold by that name, is slightly thicker so that it will stay in place in the frame until made into comb. These thin foundations are used without wiring so that the filled honey comb can be cut from the frames ready to eat. Support pins or bobby pins can be inserted through the frame ends to help hold the foundation in place. The pins are pulled out of the frame at harvest time and can be reused.
When bees are provided with comb foundation, they must have incoming nectar or sugar syrup to secrete wax and build comb. Otherwise they may cut holes in the foundation and fail to make it into comb. For this reason you must feed any new colony started with sheets of foundation. Add foundation to established colonies only during a nectar flow or while they are being fed syrup. Always use full sheets of foundation, not just strips.
Hive covers are of two basic types. One telescopes down over the hive body and is used above a flat inner cover to keep the bees from attaching it too tightly to remove (Fig. 14, top). The other type of cover fits flush with the sides of the hive body, and may or may not extend over the ends. These simple covers are made in several styles. They may be constructed of a single piece of 3/4-inch-thick exterior plywood or several pieces of wood joined together and covered with metal. Other patterns have one or two cleats at either end (Fig. 14, bottom). The telescoping cover is heavy and expensive. It creates problems when hives are moved because the hives do not fit closely together on a truck, and they will break open when roped tightly in place. However, the cover provides some insulation and ventilation for the colony and resists weathering well. Plain covers are less expensive and easier to make than telescope covers. They save time in manipulating colonies, stay in place well, weigh less, and are best suited for migratory beekeeping.
The hive bottom, or bottom board as it is called, is also made in two basic types. One is reversible, with a deep and a shallow side to give either a 3/8- inch or a 7/8-inch entrance to the hive (Fig. 14, top). It has long siderails that sit on the ground. The other type is constructed much like a simple cover, with cleats at front and back (Fig. 14, bottom). The brood chamber sits on strips of wood whose height governs the height of the entrance. A 3/8-inch entrance is most common, but deeper ones can easily be provided by varying the height of the wooden strips. This bottom is easier to make, lighter in weight, and usually less expensive than the reversible one. Hive bottoms should be nailed or stapled in place if the hives are moved. Otherwise the hive bodies are just stacked one above the other on the bottom board. Bottom boards will last much longer when soaked or brushed with a wood preservative approved for such use before being painted. Be careful not to use any preservative material directly harmful to bees or one that contains ingredients such as insecticides that will kill bees.
Hives placed on a hive stand, on bricks, or on other supports are at a little more convenient height for the beekeeper to work. The entrances to the hives are also less liable to be covered by grass and weeds that can interfere with hive ventilation and cause the death of the colony in hot weather. On the other hand, hive supports can be a disadvantage. A queen that falls to the ground during manipulation or a clipped queen that tries to leave with a swarm may not be able to get back into the elevated hive. When several hives are on a single stand, manipulation of one colony may disturb and alert the others. Hives with preservative-treated bottoms are damaged little by being set on the ground, and the preservatives do not bother the colony. Commercial beekeepers and others who move their hives regularly do not use stands.
The design of beekeeping equipment has changed little over many years, but equipment is now being made in fewer styles and with new materials. Hives, frames, excluders, and combs are now made in plastic. Some of this equipment has warped in use, and other types of plastic have not been well accepted by the bees. But the equipment is continually being improved, and its use will probably be limited only by the relative prices and availability of wood and plastic. Beekeepers should test the new materials and determine in their own apiaries whether they have advantages over the traditional ones.
Assembly of Equipment
New bee equipment is usually purchased or unassembled. The directions and diagrams furnished by the manufacturer are easy to follow, but a few details sometimes cause difficulty. A common error is to nail the sides of the hive bodies in place with the handholds on the inside. The frame rests (notched or rabbeted areas at the inside top of the hive ends) also cause some problems. Equipment from some suppliers requires the addition of a small wooden strip across the frame rest to give the proper vertical spacing of the frames. Other manufacturers supply a bent metal frame rest that must be installed so that it projects upward from the rabbeted area, not toward the inside of the hive body.
Frames are made in several sizes and patterns, but all are assembled in the same way. You can assemble small numbers of frames individually. For larger numbers, a frame-nailing device or jig will make the Beekeeping Equipment job easier and faster (Fig. 15). Drive nails down through each end of the top bar into the end bars and drive a second pair through the end bars into the shoulder of the top bar (Fig. 16). This cross-nailing greatly strengthens the frame. Glue and power-driven staples can also be used to assemble frames. Water-resistant casein glue and polyvinyl (white) glue are easy to apply with a plastic squeeze bottle. The bottom bar needs two or four nails, depending on the style of frame. Frames with one V-shaped edge on the end bars are assembled with the V facing you on the left end and away from you on the right end.
Frames are wired (Fig. 17) to reinforce the combs so that they will not sag and warp in hot weather or fall apart in the extractor. If you intend to keep more than a half dozen colonies or if you like to learn new techniques, you should learn to wire frames. A plan for a wiring board can be found on page 40. Using such a wiring device, thread at least two, and preferably four, horizontal wires through the ready-made holes in the end bars. Draw the wire tight enough to make a high note when you pluck it. Start and end the wire by wrapping it around small nails driven into the edge of the end bar. Only No. 28 tinned wire is suitable for wiring frames. If the wire cuts deeply into the end bars, insert metal eyelets into the holes or use a compression stapler to put a staple beside the holes.
The alternative to wiring is the use of plastic-base or vertically wired foundation with metal support pins to hold and center the foundation at the end bars of the frame. Combs produced in this way should be handled and extracted carefully, especially in hot weather, until they are fully finished and have been in use for at least one season. Hold the combs vertically when you examine them so that the new comb will not sag or fall from the frame because of the weight of brood or honey.
Fit foundation into a frame so that the upper edge rests in the notch in the top bar and the lower edge rests in the slot of the bottom bar. The foundation in a wired frame should lie on top of the wires. Place wired foundation so that the bent ends of the wires will be held in place by the wedge. Push the wedge firmly into place against the foundation and nail or staple it so that the nail heads or staples are beneath the top bar (Fig. 18). Here they cannot later be hit with an uncapping knife. Plastic-base foundation can be held in place with staples or a wedge (Fig. 19).
When frames are wired, the wires must be embedded in the wax so that they are acceptable to the bees. Otherwise the bees may build irregular cells along the wires or fail in other ways to make a perfect comb. Place the wired frame and foundation, wires tip, on a board cut to fit within the frame. Roll a heated spur embedder along each wire, pushing it about halfway through the wax or against the vertical wires (Fig. 17). The foundation should be warm. For large numbers of frames, use an electrical embedder with a 12-volt transformer to heat the wires so that they sink into the wax (Fig. 20). Use it briefly and carefully to avoid cutting the foundation into strips with overheated wires or melting holes in the wax where wires cross. Plans for an electrical embedder and embedding board can be found on page 43.
After assembly, the external wooden hive parts should be treated to increase their usable life. Bottoms, and other hive parts, can be soaked or coated with a suitable type of wood preservative that can be painted over. In some countries hive bodies are preserved by dipping them for 10 minutes in paraffin heated to the smoking point (316 degrees F., 158 degrees C.). Hives can be painted with either latex or oil-base paint. They should be painted inside and out. This reduces peeling and loss of paint caused by moisture in the wood and does not harm the colony in any way. White paint reflects heat better than darker colors or aluminum paint. The light color helps colonies stay cooler in hot summer weather. Foraging bees find their own hives more easily when they are distinguished by different colors painted near the entrances. The color combination of blue, yellow, white, and black is a good one for this purpose.
Tools, Specialized Equipment, and Clothing
Three essential beekeeping tools are shown in Figure 21. The smoker is your most important tool. With it you are master of the bees as long as you use it properly and keep it lit. The 4 X 7-inch size is the best of the three sizes available. Smaller ones are too small even for beginners and the largest size is designed for commercial beekeepers.
Hive tools are all-purpose levers for prying hives apart and for scraping. The 10-inch length gives the best leverage when hives are heavy and stuck tightly together.
A bee brush is used to remove bees from combs of brood or honey, particularly those bees that don't come off when the comb is shaken. Since queen cells may be damaged by shaking, a brush is a necessity in queen rearing. If a brush isn't handy, a handful of long grass can be used as a substitute.
A queen excluder is a grid of accurately spaced holes or wires through which workers can pass, but not queens or drones. The steelwire excluders, either metal or wood bound, are best. The zinc and plastic ones are suitable only for temporary use or for special purposes such as making cages or covering hive entrances.
Always use standard hives without modification or accessories. Special bottom boards and covers, queen and drone traps, and other similar equipment usually increase the cost of keeping bees without providing proportionate returns. It is proper management, not specialized equipment, that leads to success in beekeeping.
It is not necessary to wear extra layers of clothing when working with bees but it is a good practice to dress properly, at least until you gain experience. Bee gloves, either cloth or leather, help to put you at ease in handling frames of bees. Simple gauntlets let you use your fingers more easily than do gloves, yet cover your wrists and the opening in your sleeve above the cuff (Fig. 22). A muslin sleeve with elastic in each end makes a good gauntlet. Make it long enough to reach from your thumb to above the elbow. You can also cut the toe or foot from a large, white, cotton sock and pull it over your sleeve with the knitted top on your wrist.
White or tan clothing is most suitable when working with bees. Other colors are acceptable but bees react unfavorably to dark colors and fuzzy materials. Be especially careful to cover your ankles or wear light-colored socks. Angry bees often attack ankles first because they are at the level of the hive entrance. Any bee on the ground tends to crawl upward and may go up your leg with peaceful intentions until you squeeze her. Use bicycle clips, inner-tube bands (Fig. 23), or string to fasten your pants legs.
A folding wire veil
or a round wire veil, worn with a hat, is a good all- purpose choice for the
beginner. A nylon net veil is cool and easy to carry, but it is more easily
damaged in use. Wear the veil on a hat with a wide brim and pull the excess
material away from your neck when putting it on. Instructions for making a nylon
net veil can be found on page 51.
Making Your Own Equipment
There are several reasons why people make their own beekeeping equipment. They may want to reduce the cost of getting started in beekeeping or they may simply enjoy working with their hands (Fig. 24). In many cases they want a special item that is not readily available or, if it is, the product is not suited to their needs. The plans and instructions in this section will enable you to make some of your own equipment. Before doing so, you should compare the labor and material costs of making a piece of equipment with the delivered price of the same item ,from a bee supply company. The price of high-quality lumber used in commercial bee supplies may make it difficult for you to save money unless you produce a lower quality product from less expensive materials.
Constructing a bee hive. (Picture of plans) Bee hive construction is not difficult for a person with suitable woodworking tools and experience in operating them. The equipment produced can be as satisfactory as the commercial products, provided that all dimensions are accurate (see construction plan on page 38). The inside dimensions of the hive bodies and the size of the frames are especially important so that the completed hive provides the proper bee space-the space that bees keep free of comb and propolis. Without proper dimensions, the movable frames quickly become immovable and difficult to manipulate when filled with bees. The construction plan shows the inside dimensions for the deep hive body only. Those for the other hive bodies differ only in depth, which is the same inside and out. The external dimensions given are suitable only for equipment constructed from 3/4-inch-thick lumber. Adjust the dimensions if you use wood of any other thickness.
Western pine is the best wood to use for hive bodies, lids, and frames. Many other woods can be used, but most are less suitable because of their weight, tendency to crack and split, and other characteristics. Hive bottoms made of cedar, cypress, or redwood generally last longer than those made of pine or similar woods. Regardless of the type of wood used, hive bottoms resist moisture and decay better if they are treated with a wood preservative.
Bee equipment may be assembled with nails or power-driven staples. Seven-penny box nails, cement or resin coated, are a good size for hive bodies. The corners of the hive bodies should be cross-nailed for greatest strength. Galvanized nails are a good choice for assembling bottoms and for use with redwood lumber. Coated box nails, 1 -1/4 inches long, are suitable for nailing frames. Glue makes all wooden equipment stronger and longer lasting.
You may wish to consider some optional ways of making the different parts of a hive. For example, lids can be made of exterior plywood without cleats. Or the lid can be lengthened to accommodate a 3/4 X 2-inch cleat extending downward at each end of the lid. The smooth top of such a lid can be covered with metal to increase its weather resistance. When making hive bodies, you have the option of dadoing the handholds into them, about 2 inches below the top, or nailing a 3/4 X 2-inch cleat at the same level on each end of the hive bodies. It is much easier to handle heavy supers of honey by grasping such cleats instead of handliolds. The hive bottom in the plan provides a 3/8-inch-deep entrance. If you prefer to make a deeper entrance, cut the spacer strips to the height you desire, such as 3/4 or 7/8 inch. Bottoms with 2 X 2-inch rather than 3/4 X 4-inch cleats make it a little easier to pick up the hive and may also help to keep the hive a little drier. The hive pattern can be adapted to make nuc boxes by narrowing the hive width to provide room for 3 or 5 frames rather than 10. To make pallets for use in handling and storing stacks of hive bodies, follow the pattern for the hive cover and add a rim of spacer strips around the outer edge of the flat side of the lid. These will help to catch and confine honey and bits of wax that fall from combs.
Frame-making requires many saw cuts and can be dangerous without special equipment and techniques. It is usually better to buy frames than to risk a serious accident. However, if you decide to make them, use the pattern for frames with straight-sided end bars. These are easier to cut out and are as well accepted by the bees as frames with tapered or indented end bars.
Paint the hive bodies and lids on all surfaces, inside and out. This reduces the loss of paint by peeling and is not detrimental to the bees. Bottoms can be painted after being treated with wood preservative or, preferably, sealed with a couple coats of boiled linseed oil. Frames do not need any preservative treatment.
Making and using a frame-wiring board. (Picture of plans) A frame-wiring board is used to install horizontal wires in frames. These tightly drawn wires serve as supports for comb foundation and the comb constructed from it. The board is basically a jig in which a frame can be held firmly with the end bars or bottom bar under tension while special frame wire is threaded into place. A well-designed wiring board should make it relatively easy to thread the wire, to tighten it in the frame, and to fasten it in place. Releasing the frame from the board should further tighten the wire in the frame.
As seen in the construction plan on page 40, the base of the wiring board is a piece of 3/4-inch-thick plywood. Beneath it are three cleats also of the same or similar lumber. Two cleats extend beyond the edges of the board and are drilled so that the board can be fastened firmly in place while it is being used. The L-shaped blocks at the front of the board are spaced so that the inside corners of the L's are 19 inches apart. They hold the frame top bar. The bottom bar fits into the wooden channel at the rear of the board. The channel has blocks at each end, 17-3/4 inches apart, to keep the frame from moving laterally. The overhanging lip of the channel, 1-1/2 inches above the board, keeps the bottom bar from moving upward. There is a thin strip of wood approximately 1/8 inch thick and 1-1/2 inches wide on the base board between the end blocks. This piece levels the frame in the jig.
In the center of the board is a clamping device made of 1/2 X 1/8-inch strap iron. The device consists of two arms riveted to a central lever that is bolted to the board. The rivets are centered 5/8 inch from the center of the bolt. The rear arm is about 9 inches long, the front one is 9-1/2 inches, and each is bent upward an additional 1/2 inch. The central lever is about 12-1/2 inches long. Tile arms slide through, but are kept in place by, wooden blocks near their midpoint. With I the lever pulled to the left, the bent ends of the arms are far enough apart to accept a frame between them, about 17-3/4 inches wide. As the lever is moved to the right, the arms move inward, squeezing the end bars of the frame. A sheet metal catch attached to the base board holds the lever at the point where it exerts enough pressure to bend the end bars slightly inward but not so much that it damages the frame. The sheet metal catch has a 1/2-inch-wide notch in the center of a 3/16-inch-wide vertical lip. This notch accepts and holds the clamping lever. The catch has elongated holes through which it is bolted to the base. It call be moved right or left to adjust the tension of the clamping lever. Tile clamping device is the most difficult part of the wiring board to make. It should be done last so that its size and location will fit the frame properly. The bolt that holds it to the base should be about midway between the frame ends and about 5-1/2 inches from the front edge of the base.
The spool of frame wire is driven onto a splined crankshaft so that the wire can be held taut after it has been threaded through the frame. The shaft is supported and held in place by two wooden endpieces. A piece of wooden dowel oil a sturdy-but-flexible, U-shaped wire keeps the frame wire from unreeling when it is not being used. The frame wire passes through a metal screw eye that puts it in line with the top hole in the end bar. When the wire is being threaded into a frame, it passes around three spools, or 1-1/4-inch lengths of 1-inch dowel or other wooden rod. The spools are located outside of, and 1/2 inch from, the frame end bars and are mounted so that they turn freely. Those on the left are centered between each pair of holes in the end bar. The one on the right is centered between the middle pair of holes.
The board is designed primarily for wiring full-depth (9-1/8-inch) frames, but can be adapted for wiring Dadant-depth (6-1/4-inch) frames. In place of the metal clamping device, which will not fit the smaller frame, a special adapter block is used to hold and compress the shallower frame. The block can be seen in the drawing on the right rear corner of the board, where it is stored when not in use. The block is I inch high, 41/4 inches long, and I inch wide at the widest point of the curved edge. A 1-1/8-inch-square piece of Masonite or other hardboard extends 1/8 inch beyond the curved side. This special block is mounted just to the rear of the metal clamping device, approximately in the location indicated by the dotted lines on the figure. The exact position must be determined by placing a 6-1/4-inch frame in place and marking the outside edge of the bottom bar. Fasten the curved edge of the block about 3/16 inch inside that line (toward the front of the board). The block will then press the bottom bar inward when the frame is pushed into place. When the frame is removed after being wired, the resiliency of the wood adds tension to the wire.
To wire a full-depth frame, place it on the board and fasten the metal clamp. Drive a wire nail into the upper edge of the right end bar just above the top and bottom holes. Leave the heads of the 3/4-inch nails about 1/8 inch above the wood. Thread the wire through the top hole of each end bar, around the spool, and back across the frame. After threading it in this manner through all eight holes, wind the end of the wire tightly around the nail nearest the bottom bar, drive the nail in, and twist off the excess wire. Pull the wire off the spools and crank the excess back onto the spool of wire. Starting on the bottom section of wire where it is fastened, run your fingers along the wire, pulling it toward you. At the left end of the frame transfer your fingers quickly to the next section of wire, pulling the slack from it and from the lower wire. Follow this procedure on each wire while cranking excess wire back onto the spool. Try to get all wires tight enough to make a high note when plucked. You will have to learn how much pressure you can apply without breaking the wire. When you are satisfied with the amount of tension in the wire, grasp it just outside the end bar beneath the upper nail and wind the wire around the nail while keeping it tight in the frame. Drive in the nail and twist the wire to break it off. The same general system is also used for Dadant-depth frames.
Making equipment for embedding wires into comb foundation. (Picture of Plans) Beeswax comb foundation, plain or wired, produces the strongest combs if it is installed in wired frames before it is given to a colony of bees. To be acceptable to the bees, the frame wires must be embedded in the wax of the foundation. The job of embedding can be done easily and quickly by using an electrical embedder and a special embedding board shown in the construction plan on the next page. The embedder heats the wire by briefly short-circuiting a 12-volt electrical current. The embedding board serves as a base on which to press the heated wires into the beeswax of the comb foundation.
The electrical embedder consists of a transformer, used to reduce house current to 12 volts, whose output wires are connected to copper contacts at either end of a 3/4-inch-square piece of wood. There is only one critical dimension in making such an embedder. The copper contacts must be spaced so that their centers are 6 inches apart for fulldepth (9-1/8-inch) frames and approximately 2 inches apart for shallow (61/4- and 5-3/8-inch) frames. These contacts are pressed against the end portions of the wire that cross one end bar at right angles to it (see detail in construction plan). All the wire in the frame is heated at once when electrical contact is made.
The embedding board is a piece of 3/4-inch-thick lumber cut to fit closely within the frames being used. It should be approximately 7-5/8 X 16-5/8 inches for full-depth frames, narrower for shallow frames. In order for the wires to make the best possible contact with the wax, the embedding board should have a convex curve on the longer dimension of its tipper surface. From its 3/4- inch thickness in the center, the board should taper to 1/2 inch at its outer ends. The cleats beneath the board provide needed additional height.
Place the frame on the embedding board with the comb foundation (already attached) beneath the wires. While pressing on the frame, contact the wires on the end bar with the embedder. Hold it in contact only briefly, a second or two at first, until you learn how much heat is needed to sink the wires into the foundation. Too long a contact will produce heat enough to cut plain foundation into strips or to melt wax away from the intersection of vertical and horizontal wires. Before embedding foundation, be sure it is warm, at least at room temperature. Afterwards, do not subject it to cold temperatures because the contraction and later expansion of the wax may cause the foundation to pull away from the wires.
Building a solar wax melter. (Picture of plans) A solar wax melter is a glass-covered box that uses the heat of the sun to melt beeswax and to separate it from honey and other materials with which it is found in honey bee colonies. The melter can be used to render old combs, cappings, burr comb, and other hive scrapings containing wax. It is also handy for removing beeswax from excluders. The melter produces wax of high quality and eliminates the need for the sometimes hazardous job of rendering wax in the home.
The sloping top surface of the solar wax melter provides maximum exposure to the sun and allows honey and melted wax to drain quickly into the storage pan. Before use, the entire unit, including the sheetmetal pan, should be painted black for maximum heat absorption. The glass cover with two sheets of double-strength glass about 1/4 inch apart helps to retain the absorbed heat. The Celotex, or fiberboard, insulation also serves the same purpose. Internal temperatures well above the melting point of beeswax, about 145 degrees F. (63 degrees C.), are maintained on warm, sunny days. Place the melter in a sunny, sheltered spot for best results.
The plan on page 46 is meant to provide ideas on how to build a melter. It has been modified from one originally published by F. K. Bottcher of West Germany. You need not copy the plan exactly. For this reason, many dimensions are not given, especially the less important ones. A melter of the size illustrated will handle all the wax from up to 60 hives of bees. Modify the dimensions to fit your needs, or tile materials available, but beware of making it too small. The sheet metal pan should be 4 to 6 inches deep and big enough to accept excluders (16-1/4 X 20 inches) or at least two full-depth frames (19 X 20 inches). Consider the possibility of making one or more cappings baskets of "expanded" metal that will fit into the sheet metal pan.
The pan to catch the hot honey and melted wax should be relatively large to prevent accidental overflows. The one illustrated is an inexpensive plastic dish pan readily available in many stores. The wax can be easily removed because it does not adhere well to the smooth, flexible plastic. The sloping sides of the pan also make it easier to remove the cake of wax.
The wooden brace is designed to support the lid while you clean out the slumgum, or residue, that remains after combs are melted. It lies between the exterior box and the interior layer of insulation. The finger hole, or notch, is used to pull it up into place. Cut the free end at an angle so that it makes firm contact with the lid frame when the lid is a suitable height to work beneath.
The melted wax will flow more easily down the pan if the combs, excluders, and cappings baskets are set on lengths of metal rods or angle iron. You should also put a coarse screen across the outlet of the pan to keep unmelted pieces of comb and other debris from flowing into the pan of molten wax. The honey collects beneath the wax in the pan. It is darkened and unsuitable for human food, but can be used to feed bees in early spring (not in the fall). The slumgum remaining in tile sheet metal pan contains beeswax that can be removed only by a hot water press. If you accumulate 100 pounds or more, it is worthwhile having it rendered commercially.
The melter is highly attractive to robber bees because of the odors given off by tile warm honey and wax. It should be kept tightly closed except when loading it or removing the filled collecting pan.
Making and using a pollen trap. (Picture of plans) A pollen trap is a device used by beekeepers to remove and collect pellets of pollen from the legs of honey bees as they return to the hive from foraging trips. The pollen is used to supplement the protein food of honey bee colonies in the spring, either by itself or in mixtures with materials such as soy flour and brewers' yeast. Pollen traps are also used by people interested in identifying and comparing the types and amounts of pollen collected by colonies of bees. Such studies indicate what plants are being visited and their relative importance in a particular area.
There are many types of pollen traps, but all operate in the same way. The bees entering the hive are forced to pass through two layers of 5-mesh hardware cloth with the holes offset and the screens about 1/4 inch apart. Traps are most effective in removing large loads of pollen, but they probably take only about 40 to 60 percent of the incoming loads, or pellets.
The pollen trap discussed here (see the construction plan on page 48) was originally designed at the Ontario Agricultural College in Canada and has been modified slightly to make it easier to construct and use. The design is a good one because it provides full ventilation for the colony and makes it easy to remove the collected Hen from the back of the hive without disturbing the colony.
In constructing the trap and interpreting the drawings, consider that the trap is composed of several layers, represented graphically by letters A through D on the left side of the plan. The bottom layer, D, is a standard bottom board of the type used in the eastern United States. It has been shortened to 19-7/8 inches, the same length as a hive body. The 7/8-inch-deep side is uppermost, and its opening faces the rear of the hive. The second layer, C, is the cloth-covered pollen tray onto which the pollen loads fall as they are pushed off the legs of bees passing through the. two pollen- removing screens. The three long pieces of the pollen tray are 3/4-inch-square pine lumber. One crosspiece is 3/8 inch square; the other, 3/8 X 3/4 inch to give more space for the nails driven into it to hold the metal flashing. The flashing helps to keep rainwater out of the back of the trap. The unbleached muslin, or some other loosely woven cloth, should be stretched tightly and stapled to the top surface of the tray. It allows air to circulate through and around the pellets of pollen and helps to prevent mold growth.
The trap base, layer B, is really two layers as seen in the expanded view on the right. The lower portion is a U-shaped frame of 3/4-inchsquare pine lumber on which a 16-1/4 X 19-7/8-inch piece of 8-mesh hardware cloth is stapled. The lack of a crosspiece at the rear of the trap allows additional space to remove the pollen tray when it is heavily covered with pollen pellets. Three pieces of 3/4-inch pine lumber are placed diagonally on the hardware cloth and stapled to it from below. One piece is 14 inches long, and the shorter two are 8 inches long. All are 1-1/2 inches high. These allow bees to move more easily through the pollen-removing screens, and they help to distribute the pollen more evenly oil the pollen tray.
The upper portion of the trap base is a U-shaped frame of 3/4-inch pine lumber 2 inches high. There is a framework of 3/8 X 3/4-inch cleats fastened 3/8 inch below the top. This framework supports the pollen-removing screens. The front cleat is oriented so that its narrow side faces the entrance, thus making tile entrance as deep as possible. The entrance opening is 1-5/16 inches high and 14-3/4 inches wide. The two portions of the trap base are nailed together as in illustration B.
The pollen-removing screens, layer A, are fastened to a framework of 1/4- inch exterior plywood or other wood of the same thickness. In the rim at the front of this frame are two 1-inch holes with 5/16-inch-wide channels leading to tile front edge. The holes and channels are covered underneath with 8- mesh hardware cloth. These allow drones to get out of the ]live. They cannot pass through tile pollen-removing screens, and their dead bodies can clog the screens.
The pollen-removing screens are two layers of 5-mesh hardware cloth with their holes offset. The rear section, where few bees attempt to pass, is covered with one layer of 8-mesh hardware cloth for additional ventilation. Five-mesh hardware cloth is not generally available, but can be purchased from bee supply companies.
All wooden parts of the trap should be painted or varnished to resist the weather.
Put the trap on during periods when the bees are actively collecting pollen. You can expect to collect 1/4 to 1 pound per day per trap, depending on the colony's activity and the sources of pollen available. Since the trap takes only part of the pollen from the bees, it can be left on for periods of several weeks without damaging the colony. However, because honey production can be reduced somewhat, you may wish to trap pollen for one to three weeks and then remove the screens for an equal period before collecting pollen again from the same colony.
Pollen should be removed from the trap at least every two or three days. Put it in plastic bags and store it a O degrees F. (-18 degrees C.) until used.
All pollen traps are vulnerable to water damage to the pollen, and this one is no exception. Wind-driven rain entering the front or back of the trap may wet the pollen on the cloth-covered tray. To reduce such losses you may need to devise a storm hood that shelters the entrance without hindering the bees when entering the hive.
Ants are a common pest in pollen traps. Use oil pans or sticky barriers to keep them out. Do not use insecticides of any kind or you may also kill the bees.
Occasionally you will find a colony that does not adjust to the presence of a pollen trap on its hive. The bees will cluster at the hive entrance and within the trap long after other colonies have adapted to it. When you find such a colony, it is best to remove the trap to another colony because otherwise your pollen yield will be quite low.
Making a bee veil. (Picture of plans) Bee veils of black nylon net are easy to make and have several advantages. When rolled up, they fit easily into a shirt pocket or glove compartment. They are easy to see through and are cooler than other types of veils. Their disadvantages include ease of snagging, melting if touched by flame or spark, and touching the face or neck in a wind.
Suitable, 72-inch-wide net material is available at most fabric stores. The sketch on the next page shows the desirable mesh size. It must be black so that you can see through it well. Other colors, especially the light ones, cannot be used.
Make a paper pattern the size indicated in the sketch. This size is suitable for a tall person and a large-brimmed hat. The veil circumference can be adjusted to fit around the brim of the hat on which it will be worn. The top elastic should fit snugly around the hat's crown. After making one veil, you may wish to adjust other measurements to fit the individual who wears the veil. The back should always be shorter than the front to help keep the net from touching the neck. A large hat brim also helps in this regard.
Place the paper pattern on the folded net with the front of the pattern along the fold. After cutting it out, sew the back of the veil with a flat-felled or French seam. Make a casing around the top of the veil to hold the elastic. Make another casing around the bottom except for a 6-inch section at the center front. Put the elastic into the bottom casing. Attach the center 6 inches of the nylon cord to the front of the veil with black bias tape or seam tape. At the same time lap the ends of the elastic around the cord before it is sewn beneath the tape. This is the most difficult and important part of the job. The net, tape, cord, and elastic must be attached firmly together or you will quickly get holes at each end of the tape. The final step is to put elastic in the casing at the top of the veil and sew its ends together.
When you put the veil on, pull the front down so that the elastic is stretched against your chest. Loop the cord ends around your body in opposite directions, bring them back in front, and tie them together.