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Thread: young newbee

  1. #1
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    Default young newbee

    My daughter, has decided to do a 4H directed study in beekeeping. We have a rather unique situation, and I gather that beekeeping is much like child-rearing... there is no one right way to do it. So, I want to offer our situation and get some input - before we buy lumber! We live in a research forest in Northern BC, and have visitors (researchers/students/recreational) out at our camp regularly. We also have lots of bears and other critters.

    We have a small island 550 meters offshore, and I would like to put the hive(s) there. Wind is minimal, south-facing shore of island faces our cabin, lots of trees on the north side. This keeps the bees away from human interference, most animal interference, and allows my daughter to obsess over them through binoculars. It is a five-minute kayak ride out, easy to access and we can intervene quickly if need be. We are still planning an electric fence, as moose sometimes swim out to birth. I imagine that a bear could easily cross, if properly motivated. There is not enough forage on the island alone, so the bees will also have to cross.

    We are planning on a Warre-ish sized hive for weight and portability issues (remember, 9 years old, kayak, and a small mom). I like the top entrance idea, as we do have otters resident on island, and other mesocarnivores visiting. Is that wierd? A top-entrance on a Warre-ish hive? Finally, we are thinking top bars over frames. This is for fun and education. Max expectations: enough honey for the bees and us, beeswax for crafts. We are going chem free - kids and chems don't mix. If they are not healthy, I'll let them die (bees, not kids).

    Any direction is appreciated - just please keep our circumstances in mind. Specific questions - screened bottom board needed? Bottom drilled hole(s) for housekeeping/drones? is a simple entrance feeder good enough? how do you mix a top-entrance w/a quilt? concerns about island location?

    I thought the sow/piglet moms had it tough...
    Last edited by Barry; 10-21-2013 at 12:49 PM.

  2. #2
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    Rader, Greene County, Tennessee, USA
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    Default Re: young newbee

    Welcome to Beesource!

    An interesting project, for sure. Transporting bees via kayak is definitely a different concept, to say the least!

    You might want to look a Michael Bush's Top Bar page. Very simple to construct. If you chose to put an insulated top on that would be very easy to incorporate to this design:
    http://www.bushfarms.com/beestopbarhives.htm
    You could just put a layer of foamboard under the wood lid. Note the bees don't have access to the upper side of the top bars, so they would not be able to chew the foam.
    Last edited by Barry; 10-21-2013 at 12:59 PM.
    ultracrepidarian >> noting or pertaining to a person who criticizes, judges, or gives advice outside of his expertise

  3. #3
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    Default Re: young newbee

    Thanks, Graham! So, we would truck this thing out via motorboat at the beginning of the season, and it could stay there? When harvesting honey, it is a little vague about what is appropriate to take home/leave for the bees - any ideas on that? Also, looks like keeping it level is ciritcal - how often should it be checked for level?

    This looks viable. After the intial set-up and acclimation period, it looks relatively low-maintenance. I'm going to spend a little time investigating KTBH maintenance and harvest. We are starting to stretch my carpentry skills with the window, but daughter loves it.
    Last edited by Barry; 10-21-2013 at 12:59 PM.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: young newbee

    Having the hive "level", is mostly an issue when the bees are building comb. So of course you need it to be level when first installed. After that, it depends on whether/when you harvest honey, and if there is nectar available for the bees to rebuild.

    As far as timing a harvest, I would recommend leaving all honey for the bees the first summer (except perhaps harvest a small amount to maintain a child's interest in the project - perhaps one bar). The following spring you can assess how much they used over the winter and act accordingly.
    Last edited by Barry; 10-21-2013 at 01:00 PM.
    ultracrepidarian >> noting or pertaining to a person who criticizes, judges, or gives advice outside of his expertise

  5. #5
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    Default Re: young newbee

    Awesome project in an awesome place. We want pictures!
    Last edited by Barry; 10-21-2013 at 01:00 PM.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: young newbee

    My first thought is to find a local survivor stock of bees rather than mail-ordering bees from far away. You might have some nicely adapted local stock near you, and you might even consider swarm trapping/catching to keep your local genetics clean. Do you know how far it is to your nearest existing beekeeper?
    Last edited by Barry; 10-21-2013 at 01:00 PM.
    Disclaimer: I've never been a bee.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: young newbee

    We have a woman about 1.5 hours away. She has 10 colonies, and she may be able to "shake off" some bees for us (assume that means exactly what it sounds like). They have been acclimating to her microclimate for about ten years. The day we visited, she had bees flying at 1 degree C. She's chem free. Or, at least, her bees are.

    Never in my life have I seen or looked for a swarm! We have several biologists working the forest in spring... what/where are we looking for a wild swarm???

    We've decided to go with the Warre plans for portability. The KTBH is kinda big, and I like the idea of less interference/interaction

    I might be inviting trouble with this question... would drilling holes in the top of the uppermost hive box suffice as a top entrance? It's cool here, so I was thinking of drilling holes the "warm" way. It's a little confusing (possibly nuts?) putting a top-entrance on a Warre, as I'm not sure how to incorporate the entrance without closing off the quilt. Google isn't helping.

    Also, it sounds like the bees build brood downwards, toward the entrance, as hive boxes are added from below. Am I fighting the bees' instincts, by introducing hive boxes AWAY from the entrance (entrance above, empty boxes below)? Should I (gulp) be adding hive boxes above, and harvesting honey from the lower boxes, as the bees move brood toward the entrance? Show patience with me, people. Thanks.
    Last edited by Barry; 10-21-2013 at 01:00 PM.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: young newbee

    Quote Originally Posted by valerieanne View Post
    We have a woman about 1.5 hours away. She has 10 colonies, and she may be able to "shake off" some bees for us...
    You have an opportunity that many beekeepers would be envious of, maybe even Tom Seeley. Are you familiar with his book "Honeybee Democracy"?
    Last edited by Barry; 10-21-2013 at 01:01 PM.
    Disclaimer: I've never been a bee.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: young newbee

    Hi Scott. No, I've never read it. You are talking with a woman who has been googling beekeeping for all of 1 week - since our last 4H meeting. I'll order it in at the library, which may take some time. In the meanwhile, are you saying I should take this woman up on her offer? Or, are you saying DONT, but try to hunt down a swarm? I know nothing about bees, but I do live in a research forest - I don't want to screw with honeybee ecology in my area just for a 4H project.
    Last edited by Barry; 10-21-2013 at 01:01 PM.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: young newbee

    Quote Originally Posted by valerieanne View Post
    Hi Scott. No, I've never read it. You are talking with a woman who has been googling beekeeping for all of 1 week - since our last 4H meeting. I'll order it in at the library, which may take some time. In the meanwhile, are you saying I should take this woman up on her offer? Or, are you saying DONT, but try to hunt down a swarm? I know nothing about bees, but I do live in a research forest - I don't want to screw with honeybee ecology in my area just for a 4H project.
    It sounds like she has good stock and it's not impolite to ask what the bee breed is, if known. She may say mix or mutt, which is fine if she has had good success keeping them. If she does say a specific breed, it might be worth asking if she purchases queens from out of the area.

    Swarms are usually a genetic gamble, but probably not so much in your situation because you are so isolated, relatively speaking. You may not get many swarms from wild bees, but I am guessing that late may to June would be the peak swarm season for you. The benefit of a swarm is that they are ideal to start a Warre, because they are primed to make a lot of wax as part of the swarming behavior.

    I'll not pester you with it after this, but I think you and your daughter might enjoy reading Seeley's book.
    http://press.princeton.edu/titles/9267.html
    Last edited by Barry; 10-21-2013 at 01:02 PM.
    Disclaimer: I've never been a bee.

  11. #11
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    Default Re: young newbee

    Quote Originally Posted by Scott Klein View Post
    I'll not pester you with it after this, but I think you and your daughter might enjoy reading Seeley's book.
    http://press.princeton.edu/titles/9267.html
    Yes, I wholeheartedly concur. She's still a bit young for parts of it, perhaps, but if she has the slightest interest in biology (and bees) this could make a lovely birthday gift, IMO.

    -K
    Last edited by Barry; 10-21-2013 at 01:02 PM.
    Kevin M. Pfeiffer -- Berlin, Germany

  12. #12
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    Default Re: young newbee

    I placed bees for pollination on an island one year and bears swam out to the island and took out the unprotected hives. You ought to at least think about the bear issue some more. Do you have access to electric fencing materials and a solar energizer? I'd hate to be the parent of a nine year old whose hive was destroyed by a hungry bear.
    Last edited by Barry; 10-21-2013 at 01:02 PM.
    Master Beekeeper (EAS) and Master Gardener (U Maine CE) www.beeberrywoods.com

  13. #13
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    Default Re: young newbee

    Scott - Phew! I got a little nervous there Yes, we will definitely get Seeley's book, and we have access to a publications database as well.

    Andrew - We will be putting in electric fencing, with a solar panel and battery or two. We'll put chicken wire around the base and hang tin cans with peanut butter... hope for the best.

    What about my specific questions regarding construction? Thanks for all the input!
    Last edited by Barry; 10-21-2013 at 01:02 PM.

  14. #14
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    Default Re: young newbee

    I note you said Warre sized hives. I do not keep Warre hives (though I have thought about it!) so take what I have to say as potentially uninformed. My understanding is that the whole Warre concept depends on having a bottom entrance. If you have a top entrance and holes in the bottom, I'm not sure what you'd call it, but you'll proably be having Warre turn in his grave!

    If you want to do something with a top entrance consider 8 frame mediums (Langstroth type). Without doing the math I'd guess that two of those are going to roughly equal the capacity of a single Warre box. Plus there is lots of info on using upper entrances with that type of configuration.

    I use entrance feeders solely for feeding water and believe can attract too much robbing to use as a regular feeder. You could use the feeder on top of the frames and surround it with empty box(es).

    Good luck with your adventure - I'm glad to hear you have an electric fence in your plans.
    Last edited by Barry; 10-21-2013 at 01:02 PM.
    Master Beekeeper (EAS) and Master Gardener (U Maine CE) www.beeberrywoods.com

  15. #15
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    Richmond, Virginia, USA
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    Default Re: young newbee

    BC is ASSUME. Had a client buy Kitsault so I got to briefly visit and it was just breath takingly beautiful. The problem you're going to have is the amount of rain and the depth of snow. A lot of folks that far north bring the hives in to the cellar for the winter. Its going to be tough moving a full hive by boat. I'd make the Warre lid with an extra big soffit (roof edge) to help keep the hive dry. I don't think you'll find any swarms, but if there are exterminators in the area, call them. They are called to remove swarms. They'd know if there are wild bees around and might be willing to call you when they are called.
    Last edited by Barry; 10-21-2013 at 01:03 PM.

  16. #16
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    Rock Port, MO. USA.
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    Default Re: young newbee

    To Valerieanne,

    I'm fairly new with raising bees in a Warre hive (got the bees last Spring). Still, I did some modifications to help my bees along. One is putting a top feeder and added an entrance hole on the side of that feeder. http://www.keepandshare.com/photo/45...bees?fv=y&ifr= And instead of using the Warre roof, I made a flat roof with deep sides to protect the top entrance. So far, my bees are still alive but winter is not over yet either.

    You might also want to go to www.warre.biobees.com to learn more about the Warre hive and some modifications tried through the years. I'm actually going to try adding circular entrance reducers for my next set of hives.

    Good luck with the fun project.
    Last edited by Barry; 10-21-2013 at 01:03 PM.

  17. #17
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    Default Re: young newbee

    i understand ur concerns for the size. but you could actually take KTBH apart and transport it. all you would need then is the parts and a cordless drill i personally think it would do better in the givin situation and let's be honest....a KTBH on an island is way cooler than a Lang. no chems of course :P
    Last edited by Barry; 10-21-2013 at 01:03 PM.

  18. #18
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    Default Re: young newbee

    I see some great feedback here, and we know a bit about your location, where you hope to get bees, as well as the likely equipment (either top bar or warre).

    I'm familiar with top bar beekeeping, but have not yet propagated the the top bar that I have here, so FWIW. One of the biggest concerns about a horizontal hive such as a top bar is that bees tend to cluster and move vertically through the winter to consume honey stores, without breaking cluster (huddle). However, bees do create holes in the comb to move from comb to comb as a group called 'communication holes', they just don't always maintain these holes in ideal spots for moving frame to frame. Some beekeepers cut a small 1"-2" hole in the center of each frame to allow the cluster to move laterally, without breaking cluster. in colder, wetter climates I'm not sure top bar is ideal. It's also NOT a multi-part hive system (other than the frames) so you have to decide how large (how many frames) the top bar will need to be.... permanently.

    Warre does sound like a good match, but the top entrance modification is worth serious consideration. I have a propagated Warre and is doing great, I simply made the mistake of getting the octagonal design. I highly suggest a square or rectangular so that you can more easily manage and inspect down the road.


    Going forward, it will be of great interest to others if you can take some good notes (keep a diary).

    Some of the basic observations you can document are:

    Observations about the bees you procure (general appearance of the bees). Are they light or dark, defensive or gentle, not overlooking your intuitive perception of the beekeeper, apiary and other bees and hives there (even if you have limited experience).

    Including a bit about the transport and install is also useful..., as soon as possible after you get the job done.

    Weather conditions are also extremely useful to document at key times such as install and subsequent visits to the colony or colonies.


    IMO, beekeeping is an art more than a science because there are so many variables. It's nearly impossible to create and control conditions that give us 100% certainty about much beyond the very basics (hence the isolated island virtues). Anticipating future needs of your colony AND the weather conditions/timing to provide support/management is not rote.

    So don't hesitate to ask many questions and then make the decisions that feel right to you.
    Last edited by Barry; 10-21-2013 at 01:04 PM.
    Disclaimer: I've never been a bee.

  19. #19
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    Default Re: young newbee

    Addendum: Some other modification done on my Warre hive; I removed the quilt and left the top feeder in its place to act as condensation collector also. If you're going to feed with sugar syrup (I add Honeybee healthy as supplement to the syrup) place some kind of floating device to keep the bees from drowning. I used a waffle shelf liner. Just make sure the bees don't propilize it to the bottom of the feeder once the feeder is dry.

    Other recommendations: since this is the very first hive you are planning to start, I think it would be safer to start it in your back yard. It would allow you to check on them more often in the beginning plus you can react and get help faster in case of emergencies like getting stung and having a severe allergic reaction. I understand that Warre hives are supposed to be lower maintenance but I ended up feeding my bees at least once every week to two weeks until they have built combs in 3 boxes. I got this recommendation from thewarrestore.com and a smart beekeeper in Biobees.com. But that's just a suggestion. There are so much to consider but it is better to be prepared before any problems come.

    http://m.thewarrestore.com/site/mobi...etwork=fw#2330
    Last edited by Barry; 10-21-2013 at 01:04 PM.

  20. #20
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    Default Re: young newbee

    Wow - great input, thank you! The biobees warre modification page was a fantastic resource, "Bubbles". No way I can put a hive in the backyard though. Bears are everywhere, and it would be unethical/dangerous to bait them in this way. I figure, if they want to take a swim out to the island and get zapped - at least there is no association with human activities on this side. We will also get insurance and a couple of epi-pens, as we are so far from medical care. Just in case.

    The plan is to pick up bees from a beekeeper 1.5 hrs out, after ice-out. That way we don't have to push through rotten ice. That will be around May 1. We'll have to go out twice daily to check/feed at first, then slowly wean the girls until most checks are from the porch with binoculars.

    I'm lost on the hive design. The more I read, the worse it gets. A top entrance is absolutely critical - so much snow! Small, light, able to harvest small amounts of honey at a time are also critical. Daughter wants a window. Foundationless, yes. Frames - negotiable. Maintenance, relatively low-key. I got an email from someone recommending all 8-frame shallows - just MORE of them. I'm giving us one month to examine all the options, two weeks to build, get them out and leveled just before ice-out, move in the girls just after ice-out, fence it all in.

    Daughter is already making a list of all the people she wants to mail honey-straws to. THAT is where this whole thing started - an ag. fair and Honey Straws.
    Last edited by Barry; 10-21-2013 at 01:04 PM.

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