2018 Beekeeping Class: Week Two – The Hive and Its Accessories

Abigail and Bethany both had a prior 4-H commitment the night of this bee class, so I get to guest post on their blog.  – Susan (aka Mom)

The Hive and Its Accessories is the topic for this week’s bee class.  The colony of bees lives in a hive, a man made home for the bees. There are many different ways to keep bees and many different variations of each hive set up.  When we talk about a hive on this blog, we are talking about a typical 10 frame Langstroth Hive.  I am only going to cover the very basics of hive set up and tools needed to keep bees.  I know there will be a lot missing, but if you want more info, you can read one of the books the girls recommend in earlier posts.

A Langstroth hive consists of a bottom board, with an entrance reducer, two brood boxes (deeps), two or more honey supers (shallows), inner cover, and a telescoping outer cover.  Each box contains 10 frames, either wood or plastic and with or without plastic foundation.  Bees don’t start in that set up however.  Typically, bees start with one deep box and then another box is added when the comb is drawn out on 7 of the 10 frames.  Once the hive has two deeps on it, a honey super is typically added.  When 7 of 10 frames are drawn out, another super is typically added.  Since many hive kits come with 2 deeps (brood boxes) and 2 supers (shallows), if more supers are needed, the beekeeper has to decide whether to harvest honey or buy more supers.  That is a topic for a different day.

The most economical way to purchase hive equipment is non assembled. That means that you need to build the boxes yourself, but they are pretty easy to do because they are built to make it easy to assemble. If you know someone with a pneumatic nail gun, that is the speediest way to assemble them. You do want to make sure you have high quality wood glue.  Doyle recommends Tight Bond III.

This is what a typical late spring set up may look like. The hive on the left, has 2 deeps on the bottom and one super on top.  The hive on the right has 2 deeps.  The screen in front of the hive is a robbing screen.  It makes it harder for bees that don’t belong there to get into the hive.



This is what a frame of drawn comb looks like.  There is a sheet of plastic foundation under the beeswax that the bees built out.

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This is what a late summer set up can look like.  Notice they are not exactly like I described earlier.  Sometimes bees have a mind of their own or the beekeeper only has certain equipment available at the time so they do the best they can with what they have.  You would think this is 4 colonies of bees because you only see 4 stacks of hives, but in reality, there are 5 colonies here.  The tall stack of hives somehow a second queen was made above the queen excluder and then there were two colonies in that hive body, separated by a queen excluder.  I don’t even remember all the details of how it happened, but it was a pretty fun thing to be able to see as Mike and Julie worked their hives.



Another component of the hive is the hive feeder. When there is no natural occurring food available for the bees, it is important to feed them. This can be done in many different ways, in body hive feeders, feeder inside the hive, but not in the frames of the hive, outside feeders. Basically any way to provide the bees with sugar water that won’t attract bees from other hives.

If you look in a beekeeping catalog, you will find thousands of dollars can be spent on hive bodies and tools to work the hive. Experienced beekeepers will tell you that not all tools are necessary. Most companies will also sell beginner hive kits that consist of a complete hive and the basic tools necessary to get started. These tools include a hive tool, bee brush, smoker, bee jacket. Other helpful tools that you likely have already include duct tape, shims, lighter, fuel for your smoker, and a clean spray bottle. A few other tools that you might want to purchase include a frame holder, to make inspections easier, extra hive tools, because they are easily lost or misplaced, and a frame grabber.

One thing we are hoping to be able to do this summer is to catch a swarm or 2. There were some specific tools recommended for swarm catching, they include a nuc box (1/2 size of a regular 10 frame hive), handheld garden clippers, spray bottle for sugar water, duct tape, frames with drawn comb. If you don’t have a truck and the bees will have to ride with you in the vehicle, some sort of netted bag large enough to hold the nuc box or cardboard box of bees would be helpful.


Thanks for letting me guest post girls.



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