One of the first decisions you will have to make is whether or not you want a 8 Frame or 10 Frame Beehive. 8 frame beehive means there are 8 frames hanging inside each box and 10 frames means there are 10 frames hanging inside. According the Brushy Mountain Bee Farm 2016 Catalog: “The 10 frame hives do not build up as fast as the 8 frame hives because the bees don’t want to work the outside of the frames, requiring less manipulation of the hive. Every time you work your hive, you set the bees back a couple of days to a week. The bees like to move vertically so it may be difficult to get them working the outside frames.” The main advantage of 8 frames is that when full of honey it will be lighter and it’s easier to carry because your hands will be closer to your body because it is less wide than a 10 frame. The obvious disadvantage of 8 frame is that your hive will fill up faster and you will have to work it more and buy more supers (boxes that are superior to the hive body) and frames for those supers as they fill up.
So it really is a personal preference. Will you be able to lift a fully loaded 10 frame super or hive body? Fully loaded meaning with frames and foundations full of bees, honey, pollen and whatever else. If the answer is no, then 8 frame is your answer. I’m choosing 10 frame and the idea is that from here on out all the equipment I get will be for 10 frames so I won’t have to worry about coordinating supplies…everything will work for a 10 frame box.
All the parts of a beehive:
Let’s start from the top down.
- Telescoping Top-It is the very top cover of the beehive tower. It’s “telescoping” because the sides come down like a lid. Its helps provide protection from the elements.
- Inner Cover- This piece is very important because the bees produce this stuff called propolis and it’s sticky like a glue and the bees have a tendency to glue everything down. It’ll be easier to pry off this flat inner cover with a hive tool than the telescoping top that has sides that come down and can be super hard to get off…or so I’ve heard.
- Supers-First of all, supers is short for superiors. Any box that is superior of the hive body (the big box where the queen lays eggs at the bottom). Supers are where the worker bees store honey. Supers have different sizes: shallows, medium. Apparently, shallows are often used as comb honey supers. I’m going with the more popular medium honey storage and extracting super.
- Queen excluder-this simple layer does what the name says it keeps the queen in her own space and away from the honey you will extract later. The excluder prevents the queen from laying eggs where you don’t want them just by making the openings smaller so that her large body won’t fit but the other bees can move through easily. I’m not getting this piece of equipment right off the bat.
- Hive body-this is the brood chamber which is where the queen lays the eggs and is basically the nursery for the little baby bees. Some people use the same size box for their super as for their hive body. This is nice in that all your boxes will be uniform, of the same size, and interchangeable. All the frames you use to put in those boxes will also therefore be of the same size and it’s easy to move stuff around without having to coordinate sizes. I however, am going with the bigger hive body that uses 9 1/8″ frames and medium supers on top of that. I want to give the queen as much space as I can to make babies and spread out without worrying about her running out of room.
- Bottom board-the latest thing in bottom boards is called a screened IPM Bottom board. IPM stands for Integrated Pest Management. The bottom board goes below the hive body. In the old days, they were just a solid piece of board. Nowadays, they have a screen in them like you would find in a window screen. The idea behind a screened bottom board is two-fold: 1. better ventilation. When it’s hot, especially down south where it’s also humid, the bee hive can get very hot. The screen helps with ventilation. 2. there are pests that can invade your hive (that’s a whole other topic!) and the screen actually allows the pests to fall out of the hive and out onto the ground where I’ve heard they get devoured by ants. How gruesome!
- Entrance reducer-just a simple piece that makes the opening to the hive smaller. It helps the hive keep in heat in the winter and also helps keep unwanted pests out.
- Hive stand-I think most real beekeepers just use cinder blocks instead of buying some commercially made product. You just need something to keep the hive off the ground so they are farther away from pests and excess moisture. I’m going with the cheaper cinder block route.
Well folks, I’ve decided to enter the world of beekeeping! When I try anything new, I always relish in the fact that during this novice time period that I know nothing. Nothing at all. It’s always an interesting experience into a whole new world filled with lots of people talking a different lingo with their own unique culture. As I embark on this adventure I’ll document what I learn and my progress.
Here’s what I’ve done so far…I’ve attended to local beekeeper meetings. These have been very helpful in that they lots of resources, not just seasoned beekeepers that have a wealth of information to share but also simple things like books and dvds on beekeeping. At the beekeeper meetings I’ve already met many people who were eager to help and lend a hand or just be available for our many questions.
I’ve also been online and scouring catalogs trying to piece together what kind of equipment and bees I will get. This is a tremendous job in itself. You have to make a few decisions right of the bat. What strain of bees do you want? What size hive? What size hive body? What size supers? Wow, look at me spewing lingo already. I’ll detail in a later post what kind of equipment I’m choosing and why.
So far, I’ve learned this much: start early! Start going to meetings, read books, get online, and talk to beekeepers. You will want to start deciding what equipment you want to work with and get all that in order and in place before you bring any bees home. And on that matter, you will need to figure out where and when you will get your bees. As I’m typing this in March I have found that most bee sellers are already sold out and I will be getting my bees in the second wave of availability in May. I will also have to drive to another city to pick them up which isn’t ideal but I’m eager to get started!
In the end, there’s a lot to learn and a lot to decide but you gotta start somewhere so I’m jumping head first into this interesting world of bees and I’m looking forward to the day I can look back and remember there was a time I knew nothing about bees.