Saturday, May 5, 2012

Beekeeping: Assembling Your Hive and Necessary Gear

I have been planning to start beekeeping for about a year now and am so lucky to have a local beekeeper right down the road!
Justin Vincett helped me decide on a hive and was so great about encouraging me to do everything in a frugal way. 
I hope through this series, you will "bee" inspired to think about beekeeping...and maybe learn from my blunders along the way:).
I am really not an expert, so feel free to tell me about your tips and ideas:).

So let's start out with the basics.
What do you need?
How much will it cost? do you put that hive together?

HERE is a great article on how a hive works and how bees function as a colony. 
It will give you a basic idea of how your hive will operate.

You are going to have to start out with the the basics: 
a hive
 a place to put the hive
 a colony of bees
 a hive tool
 a smoker
a feeder
 and protection of some sort from stings:). 

If there is a beekeeping group that meets in your area, it is VERY beneficial to attend meetings an learn all you can!

I will start off by telling you that most beekeepers recommend starting out with two hives.
Many times, you will lose one over the winter, or to other causes.
Because of cost, I decided to take my chances on one hive and add another next year.
By the time you have everything ready, you will have spent around $300.
Right now, I could easily spend $30 per month on a gallon of honey that weighs about 12 pounds.
If my hive produces the 100# or more of honey that it should, I have more than earned my money back!


There are many varieties of hives out there on the market from ready-built, to hives that you can assemble yourself, and plans to build your own.
I chose to order through a company called Mann Lake, which Justin deals with.
 Justin actually had all of the hive parts, pre-assembled, and I was able to save on shipping!
My hive is a 10 frame and was super duper easy to put together.
Let's look at all of the parts...{I will have a link to each one if you are looking to order your own:).}


A bottom board is essential to the hive and provides an entrance for the bees on one side when the hive is placed on top.
My bottom board has a mesh bottom so Varroa mites will fall through. 
This just helps to control them in a more natural way.
 I also plan on trying to use essential oils if this problem arises (there are a few different types of mites.)
 Information HERE. 
{This is a whole post on its own!}


The hive body rests on the bottom board and forms the first story of the hive. It is also called a "super." Mine is deep {9 5/8"}. There are three sizes: deep, medium, and shallow and are identical except for depth. In our area, we have harsh winters, so a deep super allows the bees to store a lot of honey to feed from through the cold months. 
This first super you will always leave for the bees and NOT harvest honey from it.
This is what your bees will need to survive.

I purchased two and only added frames to the first one. 
In a couple of months, I will add frames to the second. 
I could also add another medium or shallow super...but for now, I am sticking with two large ones.
I still need to learn a bit more about hive structure.

It was very easy to assemble! 
In fact, my two oldest boys {13 & 11} did it by themselves. 
Mann Lake suggests nailing the joints.
We just used wood screws and laid the pieces together, while one person held it at a perfect angle.
My boys screwed them together in no time.
The wood is pine, and the holes were pre-drilled, so it was simple.
Here is what it should look like once you are finished.

Next, you add the frames.


I bought 10 pine frames  {9 1/8"} to put together.
They come in plastic or wood. I think wood is just a little sturdier.
They were simple to assemble!
We added a little wood glue to the joints and nailed them.
  You simply add a little wood glue to each joint and nail them together.
A good staple gun with longer staples works great, too.

If you have a construction square, use it to make sure your frames are at perfect angles.

At the top two corners of the frames, add a reinforcement nail and go at an angle.
It will help when you have to lift a heavy honey laden frames form the super.

Here is another link on how to assemble frames.

There are a few different types of foundations available in wax or plastic.
If you do a little research, there are arguments as to why one is better than the other.
These are what your bees will build their comb on.
I bought the "Rite Cell" food grade plastic foundation with a beeswax coating.
You just pop them into the designated grooves in your frames.

See the little triangle shaped hole in the lower left corner?
There is a perforated line to break off. This allows the bees to hop from frame to frame a little easier.

Next, we add the inner cover.


The inner cover provides an insulating dead air space between the top of the hive and the outer cover.

 You could just put the outer cover directly upon the top super, but in addition to the extra insulation, the inner cover provides sort of buffer when taking off the outer cover to work the hive.
 It’s not as alarming when the hive is not completely exposed as soon as the outer cover is taken off.

The second super goes on top and protects the feeder...for now.
When I add the next 10 frames in a couple of months, I will probably buy a medium super to go on top and leave it empty for now. 
It will just provide a covered space for the feeder.

Once I fill the second box with frames, it will be my honey super.
The honey supers are where the honey crop is stored and you can harvest the second year.
{The first year the bees need to get established.}
As with the hive body, any size super can be used, but because I decided to use a deep super as a honey super, it might be REALLY heavy when full of honey. 
I may need to do some weight training before then:).
If lifting heavy things is an issue for you, you may want to look into a more shallow super.

During the first season, it is important to feed your bees.
 They will need a head start in making all of the honey needed to survive during the winter.
You can buy feeders that fit right inside of a super, or make your own!
I used an 8"x8" piece of plywood, a mason jar, and old lid.
The idea is to fill the jar with a solution of sugar water {two parts water, 1 part sugar} and then flip it upside down so it rests in the hole.
The hole was cut to fit my lid.

I punched two very small holes with a nail in the top.

Fill it with your sugar solution and then flip it upside down.
It should vacuum seal and the bees will feed off of it for at least 3-4 weeks.

Whoops! I spilled!

 Here it is from the underside.
After you get your bees in the hive, this feeder will rest on two wood blocks {about 1 inch} so that the bees can come underneath to eat...on top of your inner cover.

Last we put on the top cover.


 The outer cover or top cover is the roof of the hive. 
There are a couple of different styles. 
You can buy a telescoping cover, which has a flat roof, or you can buy a garden hivery cover that has a peaked roof.
 Either one works just fine.
Mine is a telescoping cover with a galvanized top.

A smoker.

A hive tool.

I did buy a hat, but opted to just purchase mosquito netting at the hardware the camping section.

I didn't invest in a suit, either, but just wear garden gloves, a thick shirt, and rubber boots.
I taped around the top of the boots so there was no gap and then did the same with my gloves.
I won't win a beauty pageant, but it works!


I didn't paint my hive.
Many people do to try and save the wood and make it last a little longer.
Justin informed me this one would last about 20 years or more.
In our area, most people lost their hives last winter....and most of those hives were painted.
Now I'm not trying to say that if you paint your hive, you will lose your bees!
There was just some speculation in our area that paint may have not let the hive "breathe" enough during our weather conditions. 
Either way is fine....for me it was just one more thing I DIDN'T have to do:)!

I hope this helps if you are thinking about diving into beekeeping!
I am just thrilled to have a hive and to be learning so much about beekeeping:).

Next beekeeping post: How and Where to Install a Bee Hive!



Carissa Anne said...

This was so informative!!!

Thank you. We would like to try bees, but I don't see us doing it for awhile. First we want chickens. :-)

I will book mark this though, very good!

Unknown said...

Julia! Now you have me wanting bees! Thanks for such an informative post!

Michelle said...

Great post. Your hive turned out great.

Missy said...

I follow your blog in my reader and I'm so glad you are posting this information. My husband is wanting to keep bees, so this is very informative for us since we know nothing about it at all. Thanks so much.

Laurel Stephens said...

I just find this whole process fascinating reading. Thanks for sharing it.

Laura said...

Quick note - use cane sugar only when making sugar syrup for bees - not 'granulated sugar' which may be beet sugar, which is often GMO. :)

Anonymous said...

Thank you SO much for this post, and I can't wait to read the other ones. I am filing this for future reference! Also, were there any books that you read, in addition to attending local meetings, that you found helpful in your journey?
Julie Zilkie

Elisa said...

Thank you, thank you, thanks you! I admit I did not read the whole thing yet, because I cannot have been until Spring 2014, but I bookmarked this and when it is time to buy, I am coming back here and studying it. Love the pictures.

Gone Country said...

I absolutely LOVE honey but it's so expensive and store bought honey doesn't take as good as raw honey. Beekeeping is on my homesteading list and this post REALLY makes me want to dive into beekeeping soon!

I look forward to more beekeeping posts!

Gumbo Lily said...

This is an exciting project you are undertaking. I'm looking forward to your bee keeping progress and updates through the year. The HONEY will bee so good and sweet bee-cause it will be made from your own land and your own hands!


Megan @ Restoring the Roost said...

Looking forward to learning more about beekeeping! Thanks for such an informative post!

Amanda said...

my goodness this is a fine tutorial.

we've gone back and forth on bees for years now.

this is pretty inspiring and it doesn't seem as hard as I imagined.

I'm looking forward to learning more from you.

Unknown said...

My chicks arrived last weekend. And now what is next... bees?
Not so sure about that yet.
I will wait till I have learned enough from you.

casinada said...

Nice concise tutorial.

New beeks and hope-to-be-beeks can also check for a local bee club. They're usually free to join, meetings are informative, and some offer free classes. You'll meet other beekeepers in your area - good to know someone when you have a question.

You'll also hear about specials on bees & supplies and when there's a swarm or cut-out close by!

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