Back to basics: Frames and Foundaiton

This is a frame with foundation.

The frame is made of 4 pieces of wood, called bars, stapled together: top bar, bottom bar, and two side bars. They come in deep, medium, and shallow. The frame size should match the box size.

Frames come and with or without foundation. Foundation is inserted in grooves in the top and bottom bars. The foundation gives bees a place to build honeycomb. We like plastic foundation because it holds up best in the extractor. Wax foundation is not sturdy enough on its own in a deep frame. 

Notice that the side bar to bottom bar joint above is designed so the side bar is stapled to the bottom bar, rather than the bottom bar being stapled to the side bar. This prevents separation when the frame is heavy with honey.

The side bar to top bar joint below has two staples: one from above and one under the ear. This helps prevent the frame from separating, as shown below. 

Sometimes we add side support staples to our personal frames. They are not absolutely necessary with plastic foundation; however, if you choose to scrape old (dark) or damaged wax comb from the foundation, staples will keep the foundation securely in the frame. (It is a good idea to scrape off old wax about every 3 years, or 1/3 every year, to prevent some bee diseases.) Also, the staples help keep foundation and wax in the frame when extracting honey.

Be sure the communication holes in the foundation go at the bottom of the frame.

Our invention, the Middle Bar Frame, makes it possible to use a deep frame with solid wax foundation. The middle bar frame has two horizontal bars in the middle of the frame. One bar is permanently fixed and the other is a removable dowel. Wax foundation fits between the middle bars. This can be used in the brood nest, or in honey supers. It is especially for honeycomb production, but can be used in an extractor as well.

Back to Basics: Lid

This is a lid (bottom right).

The lid goes on top of the stack of bee boxes. Ours are a piece of plywood with two end pieces attached. 

There are two main styles of lid, the migratory lid and telescoping lid. We use migratory lids. Migratory lids fit flush with the box on the sides and overhang on the front and back. This is useful when stacking boxes next to each other, like when wintering or trucking bees. 

The telescoping lid fits around the whole box and has overhang on four sides. Telescoping lids require an inner cover for winter to vent moist air. 

Some migratory lids, like the ones shown below, have ventilation holes cut in them for winter. This eliminates the need for an inner cover. 

Bees glue down the lid with propolis so it will stay on in the wind. . . until the beekeeper breaks the propolis seal open with the hive tool to inspect the colony. Sometimes it is necessary to put a rock or other weight on top after inspecting.

Some beekeepers like fancy garden-style lids, like our invention, the Barn Hive, which acts both as lid and 5-frame box.

 Some lids are plain wood and others are coated with metal sheeting. We recommend painting the top and sides of the lid.

Back to Basics: Bottom Board

This is a bottom board. 

The bottom board goes on the bottom of the hive, under the stack of boxes. 

This style of bottom board is a piece of plywood with three raised edges. The fourth side is left open to create the entrance of the hive when boxes are stacked on top. Boxes fit flush on the sides. 

Most people use a hive stand to elevate the bottom board off of the ground. We use 4' by 4' wooden shipping pallets, but there are hive stands commercially available. Four hives fit on a standard pallet. Below is a photo of Grandpa Andersen's hive with stand. 

There are other styles of bottom board, including a popular screened bottom board. Some beekeepers use it as part of their mite reduction strategies. We don't use them because they can be drafty, even with the solid insert in place, and can freeze bees. Research shows they are not very effective in reducing mites.

Back to Basics: This is a box

Sometimes we get blogging about beekeeping topics and forget that some of our readers are brand new to beekeeping. Sooooo. . . This post will be about boxes. Oh, and beekeeping jargon. 

This is a box. 

It is also called a hive body, a super, a "Langstroth," or a hive. 

A hive body is the bottom box in a stack of boxes, and sits on top of the bottom board. It is typically where the queen lays eggs. A new hive starts with a bottom board, 1 box with 10 frames (the hive body), and the lid on top of that. Later in the season, more boxes are added on top of the hive body box and below the lid. 

Supers are any boxes above the hive body. Supers are typically where bees store honey.  

Mr. Langstroth invented the box with removable frames. The Langstroth box is standard in the beekeeping industry. Other non-Langstroth styles include top bar hive, Worre hive, etc. We use Langstroth boxes. 

A hive is the place where bees live, be it a box, swamp cooler, or hollow log. 

Boxes come in deep, medium, and shallow. Deeps, mediums, and shallows have the same length and width, but different depths. They are stackable. By volume, 3 deep boxes is equivalent to 5 medium boxes. 

There is much debate on which box size is best. Frankly, it doesn't matter to the bees. We choose to run deep boxes, but others who prefer lighter weight run medium boxes. (See post about deep vs medium boxes.)

Some beekeeping catalogues call deep boxes "hive bodies" and the mediums and shallows "supers." We use deep boxes as hive body boxes and as supers. Having the same size boxes helps us keep things uniform. 

Boxes are open in the middle so that when they are stacked, bees can move between boxes without restriction.

Boxes hold frames. There is a rabbet groove cut in the end of each box to hold the frames. We cut this rabbet AFTER assembling the boxes to make a stronger joint. 

10 frames per box is standard, but some beekeepers choose to put 9 frames in each box. Some people prefer 8-frame equipment because it is lighter, but still uses deep frames. 8-frame boxes hold 8 deep frames and are a different size from 10-frame boxes. We also use deep 5- and 6-frame hive nucleus boxes. Below, the box on the left is a 10-frame box, and the two on the right are 5-frame nuc boxes. 

When assembling our boxes, we put the rough side of the wood IN. This is to encourage bees to collect and smear propolis all over the inside of the boxes. Propolis is an important part of bees defense against disease. 

Boxes have handholds cut into four sides. 

Box joints are dovetail or tongue and groove joints. 

The boxes below are stacked, but they are all hive body boxes. Each box holds an individual colony. There is a lid and bottom board for each box. We've stacked them close to keep them warm for winter. 

Below is our invention, the Barn Hive, with a 10-frame langstroth box below and a 5-frame nuc box above.

It is a good idea to paint the outside of boxes with outdoor paint or stain to protect them from the weather. Pay special attention to the box joints, which can collect moisture and expand without paint.


Installing a Package in the Barn Hive

Here's our latest video on installing packages--IN THE BARN HIVE!

For more information about the barn hive, see www.thehoneycompany.com under "Barn Hive."


Honeybee on Grape Hyacinth Photos

Out on a walk today, my girls and I took some photos of honeybees on grape hyacinths. They were so pretty I thought I'd share!