|Western Italian Bees - Apis mellifera ligustica - Honeybees|
This story begins with our being adopted by a colony of Western Italian honeybees. It was really odd. We were talking the week before about possibly starting a beehive and the following week we had a swarm building a nest in the hollow bricks of our retaining wall. We are concerned it will become too hot and they may fly away, so we decided to build a low cost beehive. First, we wanted to be sure we could keep a hive in the city, so we researched the local Apiary laws.
Lucky for us, we have ample room and based on our lot size we don't require permission to keep a few hives on our lot. Green light means go!
A Few Dog Eared Planks
While cedar isn't the only choice for making a beehive, it is quite acceptable:
Cedar: Cedar is a beautiful wood, and it smells divine. The natural oils make it less prone to warping, less susceptible to bug infiltration, and less likely to rot than other woods. Though you can paint it, you certainly don’t have to because of its naturally durable qualities. Left untreated it will weather to a lovely, light gray patina. Frankly, were it not for the fact that it’s more expensive than pine, many would use it for every beehive. Many varieties of cedar exist, and depending on where you live, cedar lumber can sometimes be tricky to find. Western red cedar is the most widely available type across the United States.The planks are about 6', so we trimmed them down to 4' and 2' pieces for making the top frame sides, roof and ends.
Making The Planks 'Right'
Following the smoothing and flattening, we marked two planks side by side and then used a plate joiner to make cuts for the biscuits. The biscuit cuts are a bit difficult to see on this sample image, but the transformation of the good 'ol dog ear planks is very cool! Hard to believe these pieces started out looking like some sad old fence planks...
Cooking With Biscuits
Clamping It Down
We did the same for the end walls. By forcing the planks to cure flat,
straight and with a seamless join, we are basically creating our 11" sides of the top frame hive.
Checking The Work
The long side and roof planks turned out just as well, and we're excited to move forward further along with the project! We just need to sand off the leftover paper towels and trim off the exuded glue.
Putting Pieces Together
The un-assembled pieces came out looking very nice. The biscuit cuts are set up, the bottom is laid out, the walls are fitted well. The next part is to do a test fitting and make sure everything will be snug enough to keep the bees safe and everything else out. So far, so good!
Considering Smooth Or Rough Interiors
|Western Italian Bees - Apis mellifera ligustica - Honeybees|
smoothing block with propolis
The bees often smooth the bark surrounding the hive entrance, and the cavity walls are coated with a thin layer of hardened plant resin (propolis). Honeycombs are attached to the walls along the cavity tops and sides, but small passageways are left along the comb edges. The basic nest architecture for all honeybees is similar: honey is stored in the upper part of the comb; beneath it are rows of pollen-storage cells, worker-brood cells, and drone-brood cells, in that order. The peanut-shaped queen cells are normally built at the lower edge of the comb.
Many people are now recommending that we score or scratch the smooth service of the insides of our hives, forcing the bees to add propolis as they would in a natural hive in a tree. Bees also add wax to comb to give it strength. It is believed by some that house bees use propolis to polish brood cells between brood cycles.We really want to encourage a strong hive. Frankly, we don't know what we're doing, much like many people that build hives and blog about it, so we're just trying to somewhat emulate what the bees already picked out just in wood. In any case, we decided to leave the wood somewhat rough, but paint the interior with beeswax, then paint a mixture of beeswax and linseed oil on the exterior. Luckily, I have some yellow wax pellets purchased for making DIY lotions, soaps and shampoos that we can melt down. Beeswax smells so good! ... It's really no wonder why bees are attracted to it.
Topping It Off
Once fitted we braced it all together. Then added the roofing panels and created a top strip to join the roof at the peak. The underside looks great and is very sturdy. The design is lightweight and well sealed. The cavity between the
We are getting so close to the end of the project, and we are so ready to finish this project! It has taken more time than expected... But, more to go...
What Type Of Top Bars?
We ended up cutting the slats at 1" and then added spacers of 1/4" along side each. This was quite tedious. A wider board was created to have the ability to shorten or lengthen the interior of the hive, if needed.
I read somewhere that constantly disturbing the hive and poking around tends to make the bees more defensive. Defensive bees are more ready to behave aggressively and defend the hive of minor disturbances. To prevent this, we ended up cutting an observation window into the south side of the hive so we can make spot checks on hive progress without getting into and disturbing the hive.
Honey bees and wasps are not the only creatures preparing for winter. Colonies in the fall may be attacked by raccoons, opossums, or skunks. Regular visits by any creature—including a beekeeper—may make honey bees more aggressive. ~ Honeybeesuite.com
Getting A Leg Up
After all this work, we put some legs on. The hive is about hip high after adding some very stable legs. The legs are doubled up, half-width dog-ear planks with tops and bottoms cut at 20 degrees, to match the sides of the hive.
Putting It All Together
Finishing It Off
The hive is constructed from cedar wood, so we really don't have to do anything to protect it, but we do want to make it water-tight. For that part, we melted some linseed oil and beeswax together, and painted it down. The linseed oil and beeswax really brought out the grain of the wood.
Now all we have to do is add lemongrass scent to make it more attractive and wait... Good thing we grow lemongrass and have easy access to the wonderfully aromatic roots to rub down the interior.
Welcome home, bees! Our board is open!