Friday, May 24, 2013

Wooden Frame Assembly – A Pictorial Guide

A picture is worth a thousand words. Hopefully these pictures will simplify and clarify frame building. The frame consists of:
• a wedge top bar
• two end bars
• a grooved bottom bar 
The first step is to remove the wedge. Break it out. You should use a jack-knife or razor blade to remove any irregularities after removing the wedge. Save the wedge to attach the foundation. Your topbar will now look like this:
Now Assemble the frame pieces using good waterproof glue in each corner. You will use 2 1-1/4 inch nails at each joint. The following pictures tell the story
Nailing top bar


Thursday, May 23, 2013

Betterbee Double Nuc with Supers

June is the time to start making nucs to overwinter. Overwintered nucs are an excellent method for Northern beekeepers to minimize their dependence on package bees. These allow the beekeeper to prepare nucs during the summer to overwinter and provide nucs for sale or use the following spring. Colonies overwinter in 8 frames in a four frame over 4 frame configuration. The overwintered nucs that we sell are raised in these boxes Package consists of special divided bottom board, divided deep super, 2 four frame supers and two half width inner covers. Please note that frames, foundation and an outer cover are not included.

Michael Palmer will be presenting at our Betterbee Field Day on July 13, 2013 at Washington County Fairgrounds. Mike is a strong proponent of overwintered nucs. He will be describing his highly successful program of creating a sustainable apiary through the use of overwintered nucs.

Double Nuc Assembly instructions
The deep super is assembled with components with hand holds on all four sides. The notch faces in on both ends of the super. Two of the half width pieces are used to construct the divider between the 2 parts of the bottom deep. The larger 7D nails are used for all but the top nail of the super. A smaller nail is used in the rabbet to prevent splitting. The supers are assembled with sides without hand holds. Because two of these are placed together on the divided bottom super there is no way to use side hand holds and they are not present.
Deep super assembled with 1 of the 2 divider boards in place. Use 7 D nails for all but the top thin part of rabbet. Use small 1-1/4 in nail for rabbet.

Note in lower picture hand holds on all 4 sides
Bottom super with both halves of divider in place, ready for nailing

Assembled half width super. Note that sides of super do not have hand holds
Side view of ½ super. Note no hand holds. ½ supers are nailed same as bottom super 


Thursday, May 9, 2013

Varroa Screen and Bottom Board Setup

There is some confusion on the setup of the combination of Varroa screen and bottom board. The bottom board should be placed on the hive stand. The tall (3/4 inch rails should be up and the open end facing the rear. The varroa screen goes on top of the bottom board . The rails are also up with the open end facing the opposite way. The entrance is formed by the open end of the rails. The tray slides in from the back.

Front view of varroa screen on top of bottom board. Entrance is in foreground. Slot to insert and access tray is towards the back

Entrance formed by rails of varroa screen faces left. Slot to insert tray formed by rails of bottom board is to the right. Note that left end with wide board forms the entrance and alighting board for the hive

Entrance created by varroa screen rails with hive body in place. Note entrance reducer for use when starting hive with package or nuc.

Rear of hive slot for tray created by rails of bottom board. Small piece is used to close off tray slot if desired for winter

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Installing Bee Packages

Bee package pickup is an exciting time! Be sure that your hive(s) are assembled, painted and in the selected location ready for the bees so that they can be installed without delay.

When you get the bees home

Bees will do best if installed immediately. If you cannot install the bees into the hive due to weather, store them (for up to a day) in a cool, dark area and lightly spray the package with sugar syrup (one part white sugar to one part warm water). This will help calm the bees before installing them into the hive.

Installing the Bees

There are several methods for installing bee packages into the hive. The following technique works well and is quite simple.

Wearing protective clothing, take the package to your hive and spray the bees lightly with syrup. You only need to moisten the bees lightly with sugar syrup so that they are less likely to fly. Remove the thin wooden cover from the top of the package. Carefully remove the queen cage from the bee package. Replace the wooden cover so that bees do not exit from the hole left by the queen cage. Examine the queen cage and verify that the queen is alive. Remove the metal disk from the end of the cage. There usually is no cork over the candy end of the cage. If there is a cork over the candy end remove it. Do not remove the cork covering the end of cage opposite the candy The candy serves as a slow release mechanism so that the bees become acquainted with their queen and her scent before she is released into the hive. (Bees eat the candy and "release" the queen.) Place the U-shaped screen around the queen cage. The candy end should be up and the cage screen should be exposed. Secure the screen with a rubber band. The screen serves to suspend the queen cage between the frames where the bees can care for the queen and keep her warm until she is released. Refer to the picture to ensure proper placement of queen cage. If done improperly, the queen will be unable to exit the cage.

Open your hive and remove five frames from one side of the hive body. Suspend the queen cage between the two frames in the center of the remaining group of frames. Bump the cage on the ground to dislodge bees from the syrup can Remove the can and shake about ½ cup of bees directly over the frames where the queen cage is suspended. These bees will release pheromones telling the remainder of the bees where the queen is.

Place the entire package in the open space you created by removing the five frames and make sure the open end of the package is facing up to allow the bees to escape. Pollen patties (optional) can be placed on the tops of the frames before placing the inner cover and/or feeder on the hive. A feeder should be placed on the hive to give the bees access to sugar syrup. If you are using a pail feeder, cover the feeder with an empty deep super and cover with the outer cover. Syrup should be 1 pound of sugar per 1 pound (pint) of water. The size of the entrance should be reduced an opening ½ by 1 inch using a wooden entrance reducer.

3 to 5 days later

You should check on the bees 3 to 5 days after installation. Remove the empty package at this time. There may be a few bees in the package. It can be learned outside against the front of the hive. These bees will re-enter the hive on their own. Carefully separate the frames where the queen cage is suspended and check that the queen has been released. If she is still in the cage, carefully use a nail or match stick to make a small hole in the candy to aid the bees in freeing the queen. Re-suspend the queen cage in the same location or remove it if the queen has left. Replace the five frames which were removed for installation. Continue feeding the young colony. If the queen was not released, plan to reexamine the hive 3 days later to insure that she has been released.

Two weeks after installation

You now can examine the colony to verify that the queen is laying eggs. You should see eggs and larvae at this point. It is not necessary to find the queen, simply observing eggs and larvae is an indication that she is present. Continue feeding the colony until combs are well drawn out (built). Remember that it takes 10 pounds of sugar for the bees to produce 1 pound of wax. They will need to produce 2 or 3 pounds of wax (20 or 30 pounds sugar) to fully draw out 20 deep frames. When they have established the 20 frames, stop feeding and remove the feeder and add a super. Follow our blog for further suggestions as your hive develops.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Welcome to Betterbee's Blog!

We are very excited to be seeing some sunshine here at Betterbee today! With the warmer weather coming, many people are preparing for new bees. Our bee packages are arriving in May. Preparing in advance is very important when starting out with a new hive.

Choosing a location for beehives
You should carefully consider where to place your beehive and prepare the site before the bees arrive. Here are some suggestions for bee-friendly and neighbor- friendly locations:

  • Full sunlight especially in the morning
  • Hives facing to the South or South-east
  • A good electric fence in place to discourage bears and skunks
  • Good air drainage (avoid damp, low-lying areas)
  • People friendly
  • Avoid high traffic areas
  • Easy access for removing honey crop
  • Be certain that there are no ordinances restricting beekeeping in your community
Assembly and painting of beehives
Our catalog gives good assembly and painting instructions. Hives only need paint or stain on outside surfaces. Latex paint or solid color stain works well. Use your imagination and let your creativity soar. If several hives are being painted, use different colors to help bees orient to their own hives. Allow one week or more for hives to air before installing bees.
Installing packages
Your packages will come with instructions for installation. We will also be doing package installation demos on both Beedays. It is important that packages be kept cool. Install as soon as possible but if a delay is necessary keep the package in a cool dark area.