How Quickly It Can All Go South

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It’s hard to believe……..well…..maybe not too hard to believe.

Let me start again.

It’s not hard to believe that this tiny little honey bee…..yep…….the exact one in the photo……..could COMPLETELY turn our home upside down. For those of you who want to play along, the key words in the previous sentence are honey bee and home.  Yep…you guessed it!  Somehow……someway…..this particular honey bee got into our home last night and caused quite the kerfuffle.  Well…I have to be honest….I actually let her in……… by mistake.  It was dark outside, somehow she never made it back to her hive and she became attracted to the light inside our home. I thought I shooed her away from the sliding glass door, but……….. I guess……. I didn’t.

Well, ……….I knew I didn’t when I saw the cat (it’s kinda’ in between a kitten and a cat) go from a dead sleep on the couch to a stealth predator in 1.6 seconds.  All of a sudden, there’s a bee swirling around in a lampshade and our cat  (Marty) pouncing on the lamp shade.  Dutiful Son, no longer transfixed by whatever he was viewing on his laptop, spouts off that the cat’s gonna’ get stung.  Before I could grab the cat, the honey bee exited the lamp shade, headed over to the bright computer screen and ………..WHAMMOO.  Marty successfully captured the honey bee in his…………..mouth.  Before I knew it, the cat let out a blood-curdling meoooooooooowwwww, shook his head from side to the side, and opened his mouth.  Out flew the honey bee and that’s……………………………..when it all went south.

“He’s stung….He’s stung!” cried Dutiful Son.

“Who’s stung?” shrieked Beloved Wife.

“The cat!” yelled Dutiful Son.

“My cat?????????????” cried Beloved Wife.

Now…………you have to know my wife to understand her affection towards this cat.  She’s not one of those “crazy cat ladies”, but she does register somewhere in the general vicinity.  Needless to say, she loves this cat.  I mean…REALLY LOVES HIM! I hear her talkin’ to him throughout the day, pampering him with treats and toys and generally……….just doting on  him when he’s not sleeping those other 22 hours in a day.  It kinda’ reminds me of the way she was when are kids were small.

“Oh my God……..Oh my God…..what do we do???????????????????  she cried.

And…..before you knew it……Dutiful Son was tapping on that damn lap top keyboard………..pushing the panic meter towards the “red zone”.

“Dad………you gotta’ check his tongue. You gotta’ check if the stinger is in there.   You gotta’ see if his tongue is swelled and turning blue”.

” I’m not stikkin’ my fingers in there! I said.  Look at him.  Look at those eyes and those turned back ears.  Can’t you see how cheesed  he is right now?”

“Oh my God……….Oh my God!  Can he breath? Can he breath? screamed Beloved Wife.  “Who knows CPR?  Is the side of his face getting bigger?  Oh my God…I think it is getting bigger!”………………..

And before you knew it……….everything was COMPLETELY out of control.

As it turned out…..calmer heads did prevail and I successfully managed to push the panic meter back from the red zone. Marty’s face didn’t get any bigger and he resumed his usual Marty self in a short period of time.  All in all…the night ended on a positive note.  Marty learned that a honey bee may not be the wisest choice for a late night snack.  Dutiful son hopefully learnt that his helpful information really just helped his mom reach a new “personal best” in the panic department and I………..well I didn’t have to try and perform CPR on a cat.

Hopefully, tomorrow night we’ll return to our “norm” and Marty will be curled up on the couch between Beloved Wife and myself as we watch the Blue Jays try to win another baseball game!  And hopefully, just hopefully,…..every honey bee will decide to find their way back to the hive!

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How To Build A 5 Frame Nuc Beehive

 

 

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Building a nuc box is really no different from building  the boxes for a standard Langstroth hive.  It’s really just a smaller version.  It’s also not a complicated project and is fairly easy for the DIY guy or gal.  I chose to make my own nuc boxes for the following reasons:  First,  I didn’t want to buy a cardboard nuc box from my bee supplier and end up tossing it into the recycle box.  Second, I’ve built everything else for my hives, so why stop at this.  Third, I’m planning on either using these boxes for future swarm traps or creating additional colonies by “splitting” my original colonies in the future.

So…..lets get started.  But first, lets talk about safety.  Make sure that you read and understand how to SAFELY operate your power equipment.  In  some of the pictures below, the safety guard has been removed so that you can get a better understanding of the photo.  NEVER operate your equipment without a guard in place!

Nuc Box

In order to begin, you are going to need some 1×12 lumber or some glued up  1×6.  I choose the second option because it was what I had available in the shop.

Begin by cutting the pieces of the box to the required length and width.005

The front & back are 3/4″ x 7- 1/2″ x 11″.

The sides are 3/4″ x  19- 7/8″ x 11″ .

The bottom is 3/4″ x 7- 1/2″ x 18- 3/8″.

Using a 3/8″ countersink bit, drill the holes for the screw locations on each piece to a depth of 3/8″.

Using a 7/8″ forstner bit, drill the hole for the entrance.  The center point for this hole should be 1-1/4″ from the bottom of the front.

Now, cut the rabbet joint on the inside of the front & back.  This joint will support the frames..  This joint can be made in two passes on the table saw.  First, set the rip fence to 3/8″ and the blade height to 3/4″.  Use a feather board clamped to the table saw top in order to help stabilize the stock as it passes over the blade.

 

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Next, lower the blade to 3/8″ and adjust the rip fence so that there is 3/4″ from the left side of the blade to the fence.

 

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Now assemble the box using 1- 1/2″ galvanized screws and glue.

Fill the screw holes with wooden plugs, trim to flush and sand the box.

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If you would like to make handles for your nuc box, CLICK HERE to see how I made them for my standard hives.

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Material List:

Plywood – 3/4″ x 9-1/2″x 20-1/2″.

Front & back strips –  3/4″ x 2″ x 9-1/2″.

Side strips –  3/4″ x 2″ x 22″.

Metal covering – 14-1/2″ x 25-1/2″.

Begin by cutting these pieces to the required width & length and countersinking screw locations in the front, back & side strips.

Just like the nuc box, glue, screw, plug and sand the assemble top.

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Next,  paint the top before securing the metal “roof”.

Once the paint is dry, evenly position the and trace the circumference of the roof on the metal sheet.  These pencil lines will become the 90 degree edges that must be bent for the top.  Using metal shears, cut a 45 degree angle from each edge of the metal sheet to the outline edge of the top.001

Using a 90 degree edge (like the end of your table saw) begin bending the metal along the two sides.  Take your time and only exert a bit of pressure as you move down the line.  Continue repeating this process until you have a nice crisp edge.

Now screw those edges to the sides of the top with #6 x 1/2″ pan head metal screws.

Next, fold the 45 degree edge (from the side) on to the front/back and begin bending the edge for the front/back. 004Fold the 45 degree edge (from the front/back) to the side and secure these areas with screws.005

Inner Cover

Material List:

Plywood – 1/4″ x 7-1/4″ x 18-1/8″

Front & Back Strips – 3/4″ x 1 – 1/4″ x 9″

Side Strips- 3/4″ x 1-1/4″ x 19-7/8″

Using a 7/8″Forstner bit, drill two holes in the center of the plywood so that the distance is 3 – 3/4″ in length from the outside of each circle.  Cut out the rest of the shape using a scroll saw, jig saw or coping saw.

The front & back strips of the inner cover are connected together by creating a lap joint.  It’s a fairly easy joint to make and consists of removing half of the thickness of stock on the opposing face of each piece.  In order to make this joint, set the table saw blade to 3/8″ and remove 1-1/4″ from the opposite ends of each strip.  This will be done in several passes if a dado blade is not used.  Never cross-cut stock with a miter gauge when it is butted up to the rip fence.  This could potentially bind the stock and cause kick-back.  Instead, use an auxiliary fence for this procedure.006 007

Using the table saw, cut the 1/4″ slot in the front, back & side strips which will receive the plywood.  Set the table saw blade to 3/8″ for height and the fence to 3/8″ from the left side of the blade.  Using a feather board for additional support, rip this slot in the above mentioned pieces.  Adjust the rip fence (depending on the thickness of your blade) to make a second pass in order to complete the 1/4″ slot.  Don’t forget to alternate your strips for this step!

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Next, cut the entrance in the inner cover.  I made mine 3/8″ x 3/4″.016

Finally, glue the pieces together and sand after the glue has completely cured.

If you would like to learn how to build your own 10 frame Langstroth hive CLICK HERE.

Best of success.

Regards,

CB

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How To Make A Screened Bottom Board For Your Beehive

 

010A screened bottom board is a great addition to any beehive.  It not only provides great ventilation for the hive, but can also be used in your IPM (Integrated Pest Management) practices to help determine the number of Varroa mites that are in your colony.  The premise of this theory works like this:  Count the number of mites that have fallen off the hive and have adhered to the “sticky board” over a 24 hour period.  Compare this number to the “threshold numbers” that are recommended by your local beekeeping agency.  For example: where I live, the governing agency recommends that a treatment be considered  when 9 mites are found on the sticky board in a 24 hour “drop” during the month of May.

Initially, I thought that this would be a great way to determine if I would have a future mite problem (levels above a particular threshold).  But then I came across a different theory which argued that the number of mites found on the sticky board may not be an accurate way to determine if your hive is infested with  mites.  The rational for this was that hygienic bees may be better at removing mites from each other and, therefore, you may not have an infestation, but rather, bees that are very good at removing these beasties from the hive.  GGGGGGGRRRRRRRRRRRRR!  Beekeeping………….Nobody ever seems to be on the same page!

Anyways, the screened bottom board is still a great addition to the hive because:

A)  The mites that do drop off will fall through the mesh and (from what I’ve read) not be able to crawl back up into the hive.

B)  The sticky board will allow you to monitor how many mites will drop in a 24 hour period.

C)  The screened bottom board ( without the sticky board is place) provides great ventilation for the hive.  This will be extremely useful through the entire year to help rid the hive of excess moisture.  This is just as important in the Winter as the Summer.

So…I decided to make a screened bottom board that would have a sticky board that could easily slide within the bottom board.  The entire “unit” will be made up of 2 sections that, when combined will become the final bottom board.

 

Material List

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Section #1

Sides: 3/4″ x 1- 3/4″ x  21 -1/4″

Back:  3/4″ x 1 -3/4″ x 16- 1/4″

Front: 3/4″ x 3″ x 14- 3/4″ (This will be the “landing pad”)

Sticky Board Front: 3/4″ x 7/8″ x 14-1/2″

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Section #2

Sides: 3/4″ x 3/4″ x 21-1/4″

Back: 3/4″x 3/4″ x 16-1/4″

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Directions

Cut all pieces to the above measurements.

Using a table saw, rip a 3/16″ wide x 1/4″ deep channel through the inside of the sides, back and the sticky board front.  This channel will allow for the sticky board to be positioned in the bottom board when in use.  I set the table saw fence to 7/16″ and made sure to put the bottom of each board against the fence.

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Next, counter sink the screw locations to put this section together.  (Note: Set the sticky board front aside for now.  It’s not getting assembled with these pieces.)  I used 1-1/2″ deck screws for this job.

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Now screw these pieces together using a good exterior glue.

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I used coroplast for my sticky bottom board.  You can get it at a sign shop or, better still, re-purpose an old real estate or election sign if one is available.  I cut it to 15- 1/8″ wide x 20-7/8″ long and glued the end (using construction adhesive or silicone) to the sticky bottom board piece that you previously put aside.

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Now, fill all screw locations with wooden plugs, flush cut each plug and sand the frame.  Now is a good time to paint all the parts of the bottom board.

Cut a piece of #8 hardware cloth for the size of the bottom board.  Use must use #8 because it is small enough to prevent your bees from going through these holes.  Staple it to your frame.

 

010Next, staple a thin piece of metal or wood to the front of the screen and screw the 3 pieces of wood from section #2 to the frame.  I used a counter-sink bit to ensure that I did not split these pieces.

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And…there you have it.  A home-made screened bottom board.  Your bees will be delighted with all the ventilation for your hive.  As well, you’ll be able to begin monitoring for mite levels as well.

Please CLICK HERE if you would like to view my other posts on making your own beehive.

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How Do Bees Make Honey?

063Have you ever thought about how bees make honey?  The thought crossed my mind a while back and I didn’t have an accurate answer.   I figured that since I was going to become a beekeeper, than I’d better become educated in this process.

Step #1 The Need For Pollen and Nectar

Bees and blossoming plants need each other in order to survive.  Bees seek out flowers for their nectar and pollen and in return end up pollinating (fertilizing)  the flower as they transfer pollen grains from within each flower or from one flower to another.

In order for pollination to occur, pollen must be transferred from the stamen (male part of a plant) to the stigma (female part of the plant). When pollen from a plant’s stamen is transferred to that same plant’s stigma, it is called self-pollination. When pollen from a plant’s stamen is transferred to a different plant’s stigma, it is called cross-pollination. Anybody else feel like they just got teleported back to grade 5 science class?

But, this doesn’t tell us how the bees actually transfer the pollen grains from one part of the plant to the other?  Well…bees are pretty hairy and the pollen grains stick to the 100s of hairs on their bodies.  Some have even argued that bees actually carry an electrostatic charge which helps the pollen grains to stick to the hairs on their bodies. These grains attach and then come loose as the bee moves within each flower or from flower to flower. Thus, pollination  (reproduction) is completed.

But,  the bees also intentionally collect pollen from flowering plants.  It is this protein packed food which is used to nourish their larvae.  Believe it or not, they actually transport the pollen back to the hive by way of tiny baskets (scopas) that are attached to their rear legs.  No…I’m not joking!  Take a look at the picture below from one of my bees.  Do you see the yellow stuff on her back legs?  That’s pollen!  It’s a great sign for beekeepers because it signifies that the Queen is laying eggs which are developing into larvae who need to be fed. 055 - Copy

So, how do the bees get the nectar back to the hive?  Well, first they have to draw it up into their body by way of a giant tongue (proboscis) which remains rolled up (kinda like one of those party favors that you blew on as a kid) until it is need to extract nectar.  This tongue, when fully extended, is around 1/4″ long.  Considering that a honey bee is between 1/2″- 3/4″ long that makes for a freakishly long longue!  To make a comparison, a 6 foot human would have to have a tongue somewhere in the 2-3ft. range .  These bees make Gene Simmons trade mark tongue look like a joke!

Below is a picture of my bees drawing up some honey that I accidentally spilt while inspecting my hive.  Check out the length of the tongue on the bee who is hanging upside down in the rear of the picture.  And still, that tongue is not fully extended!078 - Copy

Once the bee begins drawing up nectar via its tongue, it is deposited into her “honey stomach”.  In fact, bees have two stomachs; their honey stomach which is like a nectar backpack and their regular stomach.  The honey stomach holds almost 70 mg of nectar.  When it is full, it weighs almost as much as the bee, herself. Now……That’s impressive!   Imagine picking up and carrying a load which is equal to your body weight?  But to make it even more outstanding……..we want you to fly to between 100 and 1500 flowers in order to gather that weight.       I don’t know about you, but I am TOTALLY impressed.

Step 2: Back At The Hive

Once the honeybees return to the hive, they  pass the nectar on to other worker bees.  These bees actually suck the nectar from the foraging bee’s honey stomach! This is definitely one bit of info. I’m not sharing with my kids.  If they ever found this one out, our honey consumption would drop to near zero!

The “transfer” bees then “chew” on the nectar which helps to break down the complex sugars into a digestible food source which can be stored indefinitely within the hive.  Incidentally, did you know that the honey which was found in King Tut’s tomb is still considered edible after 2000 years. Talk about a natural preservative!

The bees then deposit the nectar into the honeycombs where it continues to evaporates into a thicker syrup.  The bees make the nectar dry even faster by fanning it with their wings.  Once the honey reaches a moisture content of around 18%, the bees seal off each cell of the honeycomb with some wax.  The honey is then stored until it is consumed by the colony.  Incidentally, did you know that honey bees need to store around 100 pounds of honey in order to survive the winter?  Talk about the ultimate Prepper! As for the honey that you and I eat?????  Well….that will have to wait for another post when I will show you how I took off some honey from my own hive.056 - Copy

Honey Bee Trivia: 

Did you know that one honey bee will only make about 1/12  teaspoon of honey in her entire six weeks of life?  Maybe I’ve been taking that teaspoon of honey for granted that goes into my tea each morning.  Considering the above calculation, I consume the entire life’s work of 12 bees in a few gulps of tea.

Cited Work:

1) http://www.mbgnet.net/bioplants/pollination.html

2) http://www.pa.msu.edu/sciencet/ask_st/073097.html

3) http://animal.discovery.com/insects/question300.htm