4. Equipment

4. Equipment

Excluders, foundation, brood chambers, frames, supers, hive tool, smoker - do you know what these are? You'll need them if you want to keep bees. If you've handled bees before, a review or bee equipment and how to use it may help you do a better beekeeping job.

The Hive
You'll want to use a movable-frame hive. In fact, the laws in all 50 states require that you use them. There are other types of hives, such as the box hive, but they're seldom used today and are not practical. Top Bar hives are gaining popularity as they are used in many other countries. The modern hive in its simple form is made up of the following

Starting at the bottom there is a hive stand with an alighting board. Although not essential it does keep the hive off the ground.
Resting on the hive stand is the bottom board or floor of your hive. Your bees enter the hive through the opening between this board and the hive body above it. Today you get solid and vented bottom boards.
Mounted on the bottom board is an entrance reducer, (not shown in diagram) a device that makes the entrance smaller, thus keeping out cold air that can chill your bees. The reducer is taken out in hot weather. The reducer also allows weak colonies to guard the entrance, preventing robbing by stronger colonies. And a reducer also functions as a mouse guard if set to 3/8” opening.
Next comes the hive body or brood chamber, sometimes called deep super. This is simply a box that holds the brood frames. Most beekeepers (apiarists) use hive bodies containing 10 brood frames. But hives can be 8 frame for hobbyist, and you also get 5 frame nucleus hives too. Each frame has comb foundation made of pure beeswax that is embossed on both sides with six-sided cells. The Queen lays her eggs in these cells. There also is ample cell space for honey and pollen. If you're buying equipment remember that many parts are interchanged, thus all must be the same size and style. NOTE: between suppliers there can be interchange issues with bee space mostly. One option is to use self spacing frames. Not all beekeepers use a queen excluder but you'll probably find it makes colony management easier. The excluder is placed over the brood chamber confining the queen there. It is essential when shallow frames are used to produce bulk or cut-comb honey. You MUST remove an excluder in winter.

Every hive has a warehouse - a place for bees to store their honey. This warehouse is called a super or Honey super. You use supers with regular movable frames if you produce extracted honey, with section honey boxes if you produce comb honey. You can buy shallow, medium or deep supers. Shallow or medium supers are preferred by most Scouts. Here's a picture of all three sizes, side by side. As you can see, the only difference is the height, which is very critical, because the greater the height, the larger the frame in height, and the larger the frame, the more honey it can hold. Therefore, a deep super full of honey can weight close to 80 pounds. A medium weighs close to 50 pounds and a small 25-35 pounds.

Then on top of the supers we use an inner cover because it helps insulate bees from heat and cold. The outer - telescope cover laps over all four edges of the inner cover and top super to protect the hive. It normally has a durable outer top, like Aluminum or Copper.

The main feature of the movable frame bee hive is bee space, or passageways. Beespace was discovered by Rev. L. Langstroth in 1851 and Patented in 1852, Beespace is about three-eighths of an inch (3/8”). We keep bee space between each frame and between the frames, between each box and the sides of the hive body. The bee space keeps the bees from gluing the frames to the hive body with propolis and from building excess random comb.

Most hive woodenware comes from suppliers unassembled in a flat box, and you will be required to glue and nail it together, you do need to make sure it is square. When ordering make sure you have nails as it varied between suppliers whether nails are included or not. Once the glue has set you can paint the exterior and mating surfaces (do NOT paint the interior), any paint or varnish will work, in fact if you would like a colorful apiary, visit the scratch and dent section of the local paint suppliers or large DIY stores, and get the incorrectly mixed paints, as they sell for pennies on the dollar.

Hives can also become art items with a little imagination.

It's cheaper to give bees a comb than to have them make their own. It takes 6 to 10 pounds of honey to make a pound of wax. If bees make all their own comb, you lose the honey they otherwise would be
producing. Foundation can be imprinted bees Wax, plastic with wax painted on it, or just a starter strip of wax. Wax foundation comes either wired (vertically) or unwired, and is typically available in all three sizes. Plastic based foundation in white or black for use in brood and extracting frames, and we also get full plastic frames with foundation built in. You can also get small cell foundation to regress the size of the worker bees to help fight against mites, and also Drone foundation, typically GREEN, for special applications. Most Beekeepers today buy foundation and embed their own support wires, or use the newer Plastic type foundations. (I use pure wax foundation and wire my own frames)

Tools and Clothing
You can control bees with a bee smoker. It's one of the beekeeper's most useful tools. A smoker is a fire pot attached to a bellows. Cedar bark, pine needles, rotten wood, corncobs, cotton waste, scraps of burlap, or pieces of corrugated paper from old boxes often are used as fuel. When you work the bellows you force air through the burning fuel making a dense smoke. We want cool white smoke. Smoke has a quieting effect on bees, as they prepare to abandon their home, by filling their stomachs with honey.

You'll need something with which to pry apart supers, loosen frames and scrape unwanted material, such as propolis, from frames and hives. While you can use a screw driver or a wide-blade putty knife, you'll find a regular hive tool the best.

While some beekeepers prefer to brush bees from frames using a brush or feather when removing surplus honey, beginners will probably find a bee escape makes the job easier. It is a little metal or plastic device that can be inserted in the hole on an inner cover that is put between the hive body and the super. The bees can go down from a super through the escape to the brood chamber, but cannot return.

You may have to feed your bees once in a while. A popular feeder is a 1 gallon plastic pail or large glass pickle or mason  jar with a metal screw top. You put holes in the lid with a three-penny wire nail, one
or two holes for slow feeding, three to five holes for winter feeding. The pail is filled with sugar syrup and inverted over the bee escape hole of the inner hive cover. Or you can place it right on top of the frames.
Hive top feeders are very successful these days too, made from wood or plastic, as they can be filled without opening the hive and disturbing the bees. Winter feeding can be done by making Candy Boards or putting blocks of Fondant Icing directly on top of inner cover. Dry Sugar can also be used in Winter.

Some beekeepers handle bees with their shirt sleeves rolled up. But unless you're an expert, don't take chances.

Wear light-colored clothes and use NO Perfume or deodorant. A zippered coverall fastened at the wrists and ankles makes a good outfit. Wear high-topped shoes or boots. When handling bees you should always wear a veil. Preferably one with a wire cloth facing. It should be fastened securely around the neck … bee-tight. Straw hats or any hat covered with cotton cloth is best. Bees tend to sting felt or flannel. Bee suits and bee jackets are available from many suppliers , and the newest type is a breathable suit made from many layers of vented material. NOTE the most numerous injury to beekeepers is heat stroke, keep hydrated and as cool as you can.