Friday, January 6, 2012

Hives, Honey Supers, Mini Hives and Nucs.

Taking a look at the parts that make up a hive

I have taken a series of photos in order that if not already, you become familiar with the components that we use in beekeeping. It is important you know the basics before you start your beekeeping practices.
Good knowledge of the individual parts will enable you to  carry out the best management  and manpulations for your hives, in turn giving them the best conditions to proliferate. Get it wrong and you can "stall" your bees and effectively put on the handbrake on the hives development.

Hive base

The picture below is a hive base for a Dadant 10 framed hive. All the pictures that follow will be for the same sized hive until we get to the smaller mini hives.
The "Nicot "base shown below has become a favourite to many beekeepers. It puts a of a modern slant on the beekeeps management methods. It offers some physical control over the dreaded but widespread varola mite as well as giving good ventilation to the colony. Previously most bases were constructed of wood  and more recently they had ventilation added in the form or a grillage type metal strip placed over a gap cut in the rear of the base.
The Nicot offers a very robust base that is all plastic and has the obvious added benefit of needing no maintenence. It can also be washed in bleach and very hot water. The sides of the hive constructed  of wood or platic sit exactly over the edges of the two raised groves in the base  making an exact fit.Various doors are also availible that click in to the base and finish tight against the hive.

The same base but with the side attachment fixings visible.
 When in contact with the base thise wires cross over a single screw in the base and secure the base to the hive making the hive easily mobile.
The white plastic door in this instance can be used as a mouse guard or as a closed  door for transportation .

Below is the full hive body attached to the base. You can now clearly see how the door fits snugly against the wall of the hive.

Inside the hive you can see how the base fits against the wall of the hive. I have removed several frames so you can see this. If you look just above the base you will also see the metal spacers that are fixed in to the wall of the hive but only on one side. These are very important  for two reasons. They help keep the frames apart when lifting  them in and out , helping against causing damage within the hive. The other but main reason it that if you move your hive around or it falls over, the frames with in do not rock from side to side and  in the worse case senario killing the queen!

 On top of the hive goes a frame cover or combined frame feeder/cover. The picture below shows a simple frame cover with a single hole for additional feeding. In my view this hole could actually be larger than it is. It does not allow a large amount of bees access to a feeder when the need arises and should be increased in size to at least 6cm diameter.

Below is a standard honey super of 9 frames. Yes it is  9 frames. Thats because honey comb is larger in width than brood comb  in order to give the bees sufficient space to store their( our) honey therefore replicate the natural hive. It fits over the top of the hive body. When sufficient nectar flow is availible they will start to fill the edges of the frames in the hive body. When these are full then they will  start to fill the upper spaces in the hive.  One of the best ways to deley swarming is to add honey supers. It wont stop them swarming but it can be a help. When one is nearly three quarters full you simply add another on top of the first and so on. It has been said that in exceptional years in a strong coloney you may have 4 supers on top of each hive. Each honey super if full gives you aproximately 20 pots( half kilo or 1.1 lbs per pot) of honey
Even if you have only 1 or 2 colonies of bees always try and have a spare hive or Nuc ready either at your aipiary or at hand at home to grab. There is nothing more frustrating than losing a swarm and the queen just before the main honey flow starts thus leaving you with a small hive of bees that will not have many foraging bees to gather honey. The Hive will recover but your honey harvest will be poor.
You will obviously move the frame cover from the top of the hive body and place it on top of the honey super,  but you will also need a queen barrier between your hive body and the honey supers. This will stop the queen laying eggs  in to the honey super.
This I will cover more in may time when I will hopefully be taking some spring honey!

The 5 framed Mini hive, Nuceus, Nuc or Ruchette

This is basically a small hive that is usually used for a small colony. There is no hard and fast rule but common sense dictates that a small swarm needs a smaller space than a larger swarm. We  aslo refer to a colony of  bees  as a Nucleus hence the shortened name of  a Nuc.  Generally when you buy a nuc of bees they come as a five framed mini hive made out of cardboard type material . This is ideal for transport but not for long term use.
The best thing about a Nuc is that it is much more portable than a ten framed hive and can be kept in the back of your car quite easily, waiting for that swarm. Its also desirable size for a swarm to build a  new home in. Studies have shown that the ideal size of cavity for a swarm to build in to is about 30 to 40 ltrs. You can also turn this nuc in to a swarm trap. I have and it worked in the first year.  I will show  you  how to make a nuc and all the parts and then how to further turn it in to a viable swarm trap in the next couple of months.

The  frame cover on the nuc is important. As well as good insulation  the 10mm ply cover is needed to help noise levels down within the hive. You also need to make a good plug for the use of a top feeder. You will need to feed your bees if they are in a nuc. You can feed a recently established swarm or a weak colony easily in a nuc

The picture shows the nuc with lid fitted. I make my nuc so that a feeder can be use while the lid is on. You need to hve a clear 10cm gap between the top lid and the lid supports on the nuc itself.

Feeder in place with lid off for demonstration.

Dimensions for the dadant hive . Ruchette dimensions will follow in a few weeks when I show how to make one up.

Cross section from above. If using ply that is 24mm you can cut to external sizes and it will still sit on a Nicot base  and do the job just as well.