Fire-Ant Catastrophy
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Wood JHH Style Cutout Hive

Wood JHH Style Cutout Hive

A while back a co-worker notified me of a lightning damaged tree that had bees in it. The city had tried to remove the tree by pulling it over, and the top split off down the side, exposing the hive. Needless to say, they scooted out of there pronto. I’m sure they were planning on coming back with some poison later, so this became a rescue operation, as are most cutouts.

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Frame Jig
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Frame Jig from scrap wood

Frame jig from scrap wood.

Putting together frames is actually a pretty simple thing, but if you’re doing a lot of them, it helps to have a jig of sorts. There’s a great design for a frame jig over at BeeSource.com but I had a cutout very soon, not a lot of fancy wood-working tools and just some scrap wood to work with and not the time to mull over it so I simplified it a bit for my current project.

As you can see, it’s not much more than a simple rectangle made of scrap wood. I measured and cut the wood so that when they’re assembled, they’d fit within the 17″ space inside the verticals snuggly.  I had a couple more pieces of scrap wood that I placed on the the outside of the verticals so that I could clamp it down to hold them tightly.

Frame Jig showing top-bar ready for glueing

Frame Jig showing top-bar ready for glueing

In this case, I used my 12″ clamps – but now I’ve got a 24″ clamp that will work much better. Once clamped down, they’re ready for gluing and nailing. Or just nailing if that’s what you prefer. I’d clamp a few on – three or four frames for my little jig, but you can make it bigger and use a couple more clamps to spread the force out a bit – then make sure they’re even and straight then I’d tighten the clamp down. After that, while they can still slip a bit if I’m careless, they’re still held tightly enough that I can work quickly and securely.

Assembled frames removed from Frame Jig

Assembled frames removed from Frame Jig

I do the top-bars first. I preset the nails so that after I apply the glue and set it in place, all I have to do is nail it in. It’s like a factory – it goes very quickly. Once that’s done I flip it over and do the bottom-bars in the same manner. I wipe off any dribbling glue and let it set for a little bit. Then I’ll undo the clamps and slip the frames off and place them in a spot where they can finish curing.

And that’s that.

Second Cutout
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100% Cotton Strips for Comb Hammock Method

100% Cotton Strips for Comb Hammock Method

As you have no doubt gathered, from reading my previous posts, a cutout is the act of cutting a hive out of a cavity where it is not wanted. Such as, out of a wall or a tree. I’ve yet to do a tree and may not do trees tho I will be putting out swarm-traps by several local bee-trees. But I’ve done a wall cutout, and today, I have done a well-cover. Both times were enjoyable, from a hard-working perspective. Wasn’t easy by a long-shot, but it was very rewarding. This time around, I had the help of the son of the owner of the property from which I was removing the bees, and that help was a true blessing. The final fruit of this removal is a top-bar hive with several brood-combs, several honey-combs and thousands of bees happily at home. Another colony rescued.

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Yet Another Inspection
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Current Bee’s Eye View

Current bee’s-eye view

Most of the routine work involved with bee-keeping seems to be inspecting. Going out periodically and giving the combs a good gander. Is the queen laying? Is the laying pattern consistent? Are there queen cells? Drone cells? Are there honey and pollen being stored. Are there any bees with malformed wings – an indicator of mites? How crowded are the brood-combs and do they need more space? Are the bees drawing new comb? Is that new comb straight and orderly? Does the comb need to be separated from the sides or need to be straightened? And the questions seem to continue.

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First Hive Inspection
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Bee’s Eye View

Bee’s Eye View

Since the cutout, I left the bees pretty much alone. It’s been a week and they’ve been busy foraging. It’s strange to conceptualize the thousands of bees inside that box and only see a few bees coming and going as they forage. I’m not seeing a lot of pollen coming in – perhaps they bring that in later on in the evening. Nevertheless, duties await me – I need to see their progress on connecting the combs to the top-bars, clear any comb-work that doesn’t belong like wall attachments, tie up some scrap comb for them and just give them a good gander.

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First Honeybee Cutout – Epilogue
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Hive Stand

Hive Stand

The cutout of my bees from the wall of a workshop owned by a son of my boss took the better part of the morning and early afternoon. I was tuckered after that and it was hard to come home and get things ready for the hive. I left the hive next to the cutout location to give the foraging bees a chance to return before their home was removed. During the night, all the bees return to the hive and sequester themselves inside until morning. I still needed to place the hive-stand in it’s final location and plan the move. I had placed a couple of 2×4’s on top of the top-bar and secured it with duct tape to keep the bars from popping off during the move – so the hive itself was basically ready to be picked up and moved. But I still had work to do before then.

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First Honeybee Cutout – The Act
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Bees ready for relocation

Bees ready for relocation.

I don’t think anyone should lightly contemplate ripping a hole in a wall and sticking your hands into thousands of angry bees. It’s just not something that normal people do. And yet, if I was going to get my honeybee hobby started with any kind of frugality, sans any other opportunities – I had little choice. Cons – this was my first hive of honeybees – my experience isn’t extensive. A cutout isn’t ideal in this circumstance. Nevertheless, I’ve spent the last year researching bee documentation extensively and listening to beekeepers advice – I may have preferred a simple swarm, but I wasn’t going into the cutout blind. I spent the last couple of weeks gathering together the tools and implements of beekeeping to make this a successful honeybee removal. I refreshed myself by reviewing documentation, watching numerous videos and reviewing beekeeping discussion groups, not to mention pestering these groups with the usual newbie questions – fine-tuning my understanding as much as possible in preparation for the cutout. Now, I have all the required gear, the hive is ready, and an opening formed in the schedule of the home-owner from whom I was removing the bees. It was time.

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