November – getting ready for Spring


It is Thanksgiving and I have most of my beehive woodwork mostly ready.  My plan is to put out a single hive early in Spring.  Looking at this shot you might wonder why I have so many boxes for just one hive…

The far left stack is a couple of 8 frame deeps that I built from scratch for practice.  This was mostly an experiment in woodworking to get an idea of what the cost and effort was in building beehives.  I’ll post a blog on that later.  The plan is to attach a solid bottom and a plywood top to each of these, attached with lag bolts, and set them out in late march as traps.

My Beehive

The second stack from the left is what I plan to use as my beehive for year one.  It has a screened bottom board, two 8 frame deep hive boxes and two medium supers, along with an inner top and the roof type telescoping cover.  I have a five frame deep NUC on order for early April that will populate the bottom box of this hive.  If the NUC has a lot of bees in it I will add the second deep when I move the colony from the NUC box into the hive.  If the NUC is a bit light on bees this addition may have to wait for a couple of weeks to give the bees time to move into their new home.  The medium supers (like all of the boxes) have new frames.  The bees need to make comb on these frames before they can use them.  They will be added to the hive as the supers below them have considerable comb built on them.

My current guidance is that the peak nectar flow in my area happens in April and May.  If I can keep the bees alive through the spring they should be able to build out the comb in these without too much suplimental feeding once the two bottom brood boxes are filled out.

Spares and Backups

The smaller box (second to the right) is a five frame NUC hive.  My understanding is that these are sometimes needed to handle re-queening or deal with swarming behavior in the main hive.  I’m assuming that these will most likely stay in the wax closet in the garage, but if I need a NUC I’ll have one immediately at hand.

The hive to the far right is a complete setup eight frame hive with two deep and two medium supers.  This is just contingency space in the event of something unexpected happening (like actually catching a swarm in one of my traps).  I’ll probably build solid bottoms and simple plywood tops for the two deeps and put them out as traps in the spring (depends on getting some brood comb to add as bait).

So that’s why I have so much equipment for setting up a single beehive next spring.  We’ll see how reality impacts my plans as I move along!


Getting Started

Starting on the left foot

So I was struck by the insane notion that I might enjoy keeping honeybees.  After a couple of evenings of research, I decided that I could plunk down a small hive in my side garden, buy (or trap) some bees, and be rewarded with some honey in the fall. Along the way I might learn a thing or two about one of nature’s more interesting creatures (the honey bee) and about the problems that they are encountering surviving in an environment complicated by invasive species.

English Garden Hive
English Garden Hive from Brushy Mountain Bee

A few more evenings poking around on the internet and I had ordered an “English Garden” hive from Brushy Mountain Bee, along with a couple of additional NUC boxes and I was all ready and set to order some bees and get on with this project.  I was about to learn that there was a lot mort that I needed to learn before I could sit back, relax, and enjoy having a cool bee hive in the garden.

Digging in to Learn the Basics

There is an incredible volume of information on honey bees on the internet.  Evening after evening was consumed in reading articles from around the world about different approaches, hive management philosophies, bee differences, beetles, mites, and approaches to pest management, bee types, and on and on and on.

In the time between researching and chasing down various inexplicable ‘bunny trails,’ I was spending time assembling hive woodwork and frames, carefully sanding and priming and painting.  Then, back to more research and even more endless ‘bunny trails’ in the search for bee understanding.  There is quite a range of opinions ranging from witchcraft to some very solid academic and scientific research.  Some common themes seemed to emerge from all of this that:

  1. Pest management is an issue, whether the approach was praying for natural selection to provide strong bees or carefully managing chemical treatments.
  2. Preparing hives for winter survival needs to be a key component of any hive management approach,
  3. Hives need to be managed to prevent or control swarming.

Through all of my early research it became clear to me that while all North American beekeepers were addressing these issues, and there were a few accepted schools of thought in how to address them, the when of addressing issues seems to be determined by a mystical event known as the nectar flow.

Bee Keeping is a Local Endeavor

With the nectar flow being such a critical determining event for when everything happens in bee keeping, I turned my attention to trying to learn a little bit about the nectar flow in my area (Baltimore County, Maryland).  In researching this, I came across the research of George W. Imirie Jr.  George was a serious scientist who studied honey bees in my area for 74years.  What I learned from his publications and how they are affecting my next steps will be the subject of my next blog.