Beau May 23rd, 2009
It was time to set up another bee hive this week. Probably should have set it out earlier, but I wanted to have an extra on hand as a bait hive in case a swarm was looking for a new home. Sometimes bees just pack up with the queen and move away, taking half to two-thirds or more of the hive workers with them. If there’s a ready bait hive nearby, they may just move into that. Otherwise I’m setting it up to add another hive to the mix either this year or next.
Here’s the pieces laid out for a basic hive. I’ve assembled some of the products and painted them- they don’t have to be white, but I like it that way. I’ve set my hives up on concrete blocks to keep them off the ground. I just arranged the blocks to make a rectangle, and spaced them between the other two hives. I use a level make sure the blocks lean slightly forward and to one side to ensure rain falls off the front corner of the hive, and so water cannot drain into the hive. We’ve got a few skunks around too, and I think the height of the blocks can keep them from getting to the entrance. I’ve read that skunks love to claw hives and suck on bees like candy… I’m not keeping Jujubees thank you very much :)
I use roofing shingles on top of the concrete blocks to protect them from moisture, freezing, etc. and maybe reflect a little warmth to the hive. There’s a downside in terms of the hive becoming too tall to handle the heavy supers comfortably, but I’ve got them on gravel and should manage okay- I can drive up behind the hives if necessary in a truck.
I’ve assembled the hive stand and bottom board here, and like to place a screened bottom board on top of a regular bottom board. The screened boards help with ventilation, and theoretically reduce potential mite problems on the bees allowing the mites to physically fall off and through the screen where they can’t get back to the bees. Many beekeepers only use the screen, with no other bottom board. I like it this way though- and the bees have done well with it so far. I can put a tray or sticky paper in at the back and check for mite populations.
Next comes the hive body, and then the inner and out covers and the hive is ready! Empty, but ready. I’m thinking of trying a split off one of the other hives, using some frames of brood and honey, and getting a new queen for the new hive. It’s getting late in the season though, because the hive would start very small. The bees need time to build up their population while gathering enough honey to take them through winter. We’ll see.
Three busy hives would be nice- in a year or two I could have a good bit of honey. Can you tell what’s different about the third hive setup below (besides being smaller)? Bees can actually use pattern differentiation to tell their hives from others. Some folks paint them different colors or paint a pattern on the front. I thought maybe the trees on different sides of the first two hives would help, so that’s why I put them there. But adding a third hive introduces a new factor, so I wanted it to look different.
With three hives closer together, I wonder if I’ll get some drifting of bees from one to another? I’ve spaced them more than three feet apart to minimize the likelihood, and the different patterns should help. But sometimes the wind blows them around so much they become confused or go right to another hive. I doubt it is fully explained- some research indicates that young bees may also join other flying clouds of bees and go right in to a different hive thinking it’s their own. And if worker bees come back drifting to a different hive with pollen or nectar I think they become assimilated… kind of like the Borg or something. But do they go back to their own hive later? Don’t know.
And why are drifting bees not stung when going into a new hive? Some say it’s because they act like it’s their own hive, not giving any behavioral cues to the guard bees to think otherwise. But robber bees are different, displaying some furtive intent or behavior to steal honey, and the guard bees are alerted to their presence. I find it all so fascinating- there’s so much to learn, and much that researchers still don’t know.
The hives look settled on the edge of the woods, facing south toward the pond. I like them to have a little shade for the heat of summer, although some “beeks” believe full sun is best. If they stay healthy and make honey, that’s about all I could ask for.
While setting up the hive, a friendly little tiger beetle stopped by. Well friendly is a bit emotive, but it stayed still long enough for a picture. It’s probably looking for it’s next meal, and I’m glad tiger beetles are really small! This little guy is the six-spotted tiger beetle and he has some good sized chompers.
I’ve learned a lot more about tiger beetles (and other insects, trees, plants…!) thanks to Beetles in the Bush’s amazing pictures and information. I can’t say for sure, but I’ll bet he’s got a big smile on his face while testing out his new DSLR photo system. His picture of the six-spotted tiger beetle is awesome!