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Bee hive inspection


The first job a beekeeper has is to build a good beehive. In the United States the standard hive is sometimes called a Langstroth hive. Most beekeepers build a 9 5/8" deep hive body for the brood chamber. Above that will go another deep if it is a very large colony or 6 5/8" super. It is called a "super" because it goes over the bottom box (superimposed, in other words). This super is where the bees will put the excess honey. You don't have to have a stack of lumber and a saw to build these boxes because they come pre-cut and drilled. It is just like putting a very easy puzzle together! The bottom boards and tops come already made. I highly recommend that you purchase or build a screened bottom board with a monitoring tray. These are very useful in controlling mites and ventilating the hive. You have two choices for the top of your hive. You can buy a two-part top called a telescoping cover with an inner cover or a one piece top called a migratory top. The migratory top is what beekeepers use when they are moving their hives from one location to another for pollinating various crops. You will also have to assemble frames for these boxes or buy pre-assembled frames. The frame pieces do come pre-cut. Pre-assembled frames are the easiest to deal with for beginners but our 4-H children quickly learned how to build their own and saved money!

Mann Lake Ltd. is one source of beekeeping supplies. Their web site is www.mannlakeltd.com Another supply site is www.GloryBeeFoods.com GloryBee Foods, Inc. also sells soap, candle and candy making supplies to help you use the by-products of the hive. The Dadant & Sons company a wide range of products including good books. Their web site is www.dadant.com Brushy Mountain Bee Farm has a good catalog, too. Contact them at www.brushymountainbeefarm.com.Send for these companies' catalogs to familiarize yourself with all the equipment a beekeeper might buy.

Sometimes people will donate used equipment to the children. The only problem with that is knowing there never was American Foul Brood in the hives. Have an experienced beekeeper evaluate any used equipment first.


Things to Remember about a Bee Hive:

4-H children building frames in a jig Griffin  with a drill
4-H children learning to build frames using a jig that holds ten at a time. This speeds up the work! Griffin made his first hive a five-frame nuc using plans his father found on beesource.com/plans Katie and Kendall have decorated their first hive. They just added the second brood box because the colony was growing.
Young boy building frames screened bottom board with molded tray hive in the rain
First step is to put side grommets in the holes. The second step in building frames is glue the joints then nail parts together. This is the screened bottom board we prefer to use. The board and molded tray were also designed by Serge Labesque . A plain sheet of thin plywood will also work as a monitoring board in place of the molded tray.The main advantage to this bottom board is that the monitoring tray slides out the rear of the hive so checking the board does not disturb the hive. Serge Labesque has shown us that a hive does not have to be painted completely. Painting the joints protects them. This hive also has a feeding tray above the 2 brood chambers.
bottom board on coffee cans This hive is being placed on coffee cans that are placed in pie pans. The pie pans will be filled with old oil or sprayed with a orange based cleaner that repels ants to keep ants from climbing into the beehive.The cans keep the hive high off the ground so it will stay dry and last longer. hive up on base on coffee cans

Phoebe cleaning the grooves of an old frame

Cleaning old frames in front of the fire was a good task to do in the winter when we could not look at the bee hives.Phoebe is cleaning the grooves of the old frame.

Arianna cleaning hive body

Arianna is going to clean this hive body up before she will use it for her next colony.

Child holding a top bar hive frame

Visiting the Wallenstein's Lavender Bee Farm and actually seeing and holding a top bar hive frame was a great experience.

In 4-H the children learn to teach other children about their projects. Katie and Kendall helped at the Ag Day telling school children what was happening in the observation hive.
Garret putting on bottom board.
Garret, Kyle and Jessie are putting on the bottoms of the nucs.Kyle and Jessie putting the last piece on the bottom of the nuc.
Megan and Jewel finishing up their nucs.
Megan and Jewel are almost finished. They have the air holes drilled in the bottom of this nuc.

Aspen holding a live queen

Aspen was fascinated to hold this queen that was found in a dying colony.

Children passing the queen to each other

The children were able to pass the queen around.

Phoebe looking at the queen lick honey off her finger

Phoebe put a dab of honey on her finger to hold the interest of the queen. This worked very well!


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  1. Put brass grommets in the twenty side bar pieces.
  2. Facing the sides with the grommets to the outside, put a little wood
    glue in each notch before putting the top and bottom bars on the sides.
    Nail the tops and bottoms with two small nails in each corner.
  3. If using wire to hold the foundation in place, put the frame in a holder
    and thread the wire back and forth through the grommets. Secure the two ends
    of the wire by wrapping them around the heads of the wire nails on the top
    and bottom of the left side and then pound the nails all the way in.
  4. Place the wax foundation on the wires. Run a quick jolt of low power
    electricity through the wire to heat it and gently press the wax foundation
    into the wires. You can also do this with a gadget called a spur imbedder which
    looks like a little spur. You must have a board under the foundation before
    pressing the wire into it. This is true for either method.With practice,
    the children do just fine.
  5. If you are using the plastic foundation, it pops into the top and bottom grooves
    and needs no wire so you do not need the grommets in the pre-drilled holes. Plastic foundation is easier for children but the bees really prefer the beeswax foundation.
    See the picture to the right below to see how the bees don't like to attach comb to
    plastic foundation.
    4-H children building a hive body boy using embedding tool bees on plastic foundation

    These 4-H children on the left are using wood glue on the hive body joints before they nail the box together.The hive body came pre-cut and pre-drilled so it is not much harder than putting together a simple puzzle. The boy on the right is using a spur tool to embed the wire into his beeswax foundation.
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    Bottom board
    The board that fits under the hive boxes and projects out about two inches for the bees to land on as they enter the hive. It is recommended to have a screened bottom board to let mites and other debris fall through to keep the colony healthier. Bottom boards have a short edge that sticks out the front to form the landing board. Place a thin sheet of plywood under the screened bottom board to monitor what is happening in the hive. Our monitoring boards slide out the back so the bees are not disturbed while we check.
    See a photo above that has the molded plastic tray.
    Hive body
    This is sometimes called a "deep" or "brood box." It is where the queen lays the eggs. The hive body holds 10 - 9 1/8" frames. A very strong colony can be in two hive bodies or a hive body and a medium box over it.
    Medium super
    This is sometimes called the "honey super." It holds 10 - 6 1/4" frames or 9 of them spaced a little further apart usually with special metal spacers nailed along the edge. Beekeepers prefer to collect the honey in mediums because they weigh about 30 pounds when full. The deep boxes would weigh about 50 pounds when full and this is hard on beekeepers' backs. Several supers can go over the main hive body if the bees are in a very good foraging area with a good nectar flow.
    Shallow super
    This box will hold 10- 5 3/8" frames or 9 if a spacer bar is used. The shallow boxes are most often used to collect comb honey. Special adaptors can be put in them to collect squares or rounds of comb honey. Comb honey is made when the nectar flow is the strongest because the bees need to be able to make lots more wax than in boxes with foundations.
    Inner cover
    This is a board that goes under the telescopic cover. It usually has a small oval hole cut in its center. There are little one-way escapes that can snap into these holes and the inner cover can then be moved down between the hive body and the filled honey super . This is how the beekeeper can take away the honey without disturbing the bees so much.
    Telescopic cover
    A cover that fits like a lid on a shoe box. It is usually covered with metal to keep the hive better insulated and weather proof. The inner cover goes directly under it.
    Migratory cover
    This is a flat cover made of wood that has ends that hold it in place but allows several beehives to be placed side by side. This is what beekeepers use when moving the hives to pollinate crops. These covers are not as heavy as the telescopic covers and allow the hives to sit closer to each other on the trucks.

    bees on the top of the frames
    The frames in the hive fit close enough together that the bees will not want to make comb between them.This is what we call "bee space". You can see how they have enough room to go down. The bits of comb they put on the top bars we call burr comb. Beekeepers puff smoke on the bees so they run downwards and then scrape off the burr comb with the hive tool without hurting the bees. This comb can
    be collected to melt down later.
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