Monday, February 27, 2012

How to Build a Dadant Five frame Nucleus Hive or Ruchette.

The Parts.

I have taken a picture of all the parts that I use to construct this 5 frame Dadant Nuc hive, The parts are all easy to get hold of but more difficult if you wish for example to use scrap ply wood.
I go to my local dump when I am dumping green waste, which for me is usually two or three times a week, so for me I am lucky. If you dont have a resourse of recycled tymber or ply you will just have to buy some but its still usually cheaper to make 1 or 2 nucs than buy them off the shelf but worth checking out and comparing the costs. You may find if you make as many as you can get out of a sheet of ply, you get better value for money.
The best thing about making your own it that you generally get a better product at the end that will last you a lifetime if you make it correctly.The "off the shelf " ones are not a patch on the ones you will make yourself.

See the video here part one (added Jan 2014)

Part two.

Parts needed for nuc box construction

I use 16mm ply for the for the main box construction. The ply should be  "WPBP"  grade, which stands for weather proof, boil proof. This should ensure that the box will not warp or split if it gets wet. You can use ply that is also graded as "MR "which meanse moisture resist but you will need to treat the nuc with PVA sealer or similar, to give it more durability.
It is aslo important to say at this stage that you should never treat the inside of your nucs and hives with any kind of timber preservative. All the treatement you need can be applied to the exterior of the box when you have finished the construction this will therefore have no impact on what goes on in the hive.

List of parts and dimensions for construction.

Enough 16mm ply to cut to the following sizes (all sizes in cms)

2 x 48 x 32.5 ( for the two sides)
2 x 30 x 20 ( for the two ends)
2 x 23 x 10 ( for the two handles each end)
1 x 23 x 51.5 ( for the base)

1 x 23 cm x 16mmx16mm  quadrant For the front lip on the wooden base
1 x front door in metal 23 x 3.5
2  small eyelets to secure the front door
6 eyelets and penny washers to secure the base to the main hive body.
Enough wood to make a lip around he top of the nuc to suport the lid.
10 to 16 mm ply to make the lid for the box and enouch 10 mm ply to cover this afterwards.
1 sheet of thin alluminium for covering the lid of the box.
4mm x 35mm Screws for the main construction.

How to

Cut the six main pieces that make up the hive body.  Tip:If you dont have a workshop and are cutting on a makeshift bench by hand, take care to at least get each pair exactly the same size. This makes the fitting together so much easier.

With glue and screws join the two end pieces to one of the sides ( as per the photo and when this is done, flip it over and then complete the basic shape by adding the other side. Its a little tricky to get the first end and sidepieces to hold while you drill and screw. Once you have got the first screw in you, will find that this will hold the rest together as you complete the basic shape. Make sure the two ends are fitted to either the upper or lower section of one of the sides, not one upp and one lower!! i have done this a few times doh!!! (as per the picture below!)

Next fit the two handle end pieces to the upper end of each side.

And yes, when you fix on the handle that leaves the correct gap for the frames to go when dropped in to the hive body afterwards. Its that easy!!

Wipe any glue away as you complete the initial construction. You should now have the basic shape completed .
Next, decide which end you wish to have  the door ( you may have used some ply thats not the best finish on it so choose the best looking end!)
Draw  line 2 cm in height  across the base of where the door will be . Then simply with a jig saw cut out the "u "shaped piece of wood starting and finishing from aproximately 1 cm in from each end. Dont forget that each end where you start and finish cutting there may be some screws holding the box together, screwed in from each side. Jigsaw blades dont like these!!

 Nuc with entrance cut out

Next turn the whole nuc upside down and fit the base section. This should overhang the entrance door you have just cut  and finish flush with the rear of the nuc. I like to fix the base down with eyed fixings. ( the same type you would put in your garden wall to tie in your garden plants). This enables you to unscrew your base if you need to clean it in the field. It makes the job so much easier. I also use penny washers between the base and the bottom of the eye hook as it gives you a really tight finish.
Tip: Pre drill the holes first or the ply could split!

Next fit the small quadrant piece to the front of the Nuc entrance. Dont worry if you have the wrong size quadrant. Its the finish on the top that is important. This picture taken from underneath shows a difference in height between the base and the quadrant but its not a problem and you wont see it when you turn the Nuc over.
As previously when fitting the quadrant pre drill the holes with a 1 or 2 mm drill bit and use glue and panel pins to fix in position.

 Quadrant fitted to base. Leave dry before you trim off the ends !

Next flip the box back over and fit the two pieces of scrap wood to the base as in the picture below.
Do not worry about this wood being good quality. These feet are  really "sacrificial" and will support the nuc well. This shape also fits well in to different roof structures if you are using the nuc as a swarm trap.

Tip:  Don`t extend the feet too far towards the front of the nuc. Ensure they finish about 10cm back from the edge of the landing strip. When you are doing a transfer to a hive or another nuc, this lip will enable you to rest the nuc on the entrance of the new hive and allow the remaining bees to walk in to their new home, making it seamless and smooth!

Next, fit  a band of wood around the top of the hive . I use 18 x 21 mm strip pine or similar but its not too important as  long as the size will match up with the size of the lid you are making later. The key thing  is to ensure you create a rim of about 1cm depth minimum. This will give the lid a good base to sit on and not blow off with the first gale that passes!

Ok, so the basic construction is now complete. Its a good time to give everything a good rub down with sand paper, about 80 grit and again with about 120 grit , but dont go mad its not a chippendale finish you are after.

Next fit the two metal bands that support the frames.Tip: you may not need these spacer bands if you are making a nuc for american or british use ie langsdroth and british national hives have their own supports on the frames. Have a empty dadant frame handy when fitting and just ensure that when you finally nail the supports in place there is a good 8mm gap between the top of your frame and the eventual position of the lid of the nuc. This will allow your bees to move around the hive and crawl over the top of the frames . I use cut  14 mm cut brads as panel pins are too small for the holes already cut in to the metal supports.

Next with a empty, unwired,  un waxed frame placed in to position in the hive, draw a line either side to mark the natural position of each frame in the hive.Tip:  press this down firmly to ensure it well in to position!!
When you have done this for all five frame positions the using a small set square placed in the hive draw a paralell line through all these marks at about 10 cms up from the base of the inside of the hive. This will give you the correct position to hammer in your "U" shaped wire fixings that when in position will stop the frames in the hive moving from side to side if the hive is knocked or moved by accident. The result of this movement of these supports will cause bees to get squashed, set of a chain reaction of distress feromones released within the hive but also in the worse case senario kill or damage the Queen.

Frame wire supports in position

Next cut out from some clean scrap ply the top frame cover for the nuc box. Ideally you should make the length and bredth of this about 1 or 2 mm smaller than the top of the nuc. This helps when taking the lid on and off and also helps againts knockng the lid when removing it and disturbing the bees. Some recent research suggests that the thickness of frame cover for all bees is important. Certainly for heat loss reduction in the winter months but also for noise reduction within the hive. Try and use at least 10 mm ply.
Draw a line from corner to corner on one side. This will mark the centre of the lid.
Then with a hole cutter, cut out a centre hole with diameter about 6 to 8 cm . This will be your feeder hole. It needs to be this size to allow a steady passage of bees to and from a feeder. Any smaller and a queue can form and this is just wasted time for the bees.

Sand the inside of the hole on the frame cover on both sides, then also sand the small disc that came out of your hole cutter when you made your hole in the frame cover.
Find another scrap of ply left over from cutting the lid approx 10 x 10 cms is ideal. Then glue and pin the disc of wood from the hole cutter to this.
You have now created  your lid and feeder hole!

Feeder hole with  plug in situ on top of the frame cover.


Now its time to give all the hive a good paint. I like to use a water based exterior wood stain. It is harmless to bees when dry, water washable and really easy to apply. You can just wrap the used brush in a plastic bag between coats and that stops it drying out. I find that usually 2 coats is sufficient. Be a bit liberal when painting the landing strip in front of the doorway. This is really the only piece that may have a small amount of water on it from time to time. I like to paint the top lip of all my ply edges but that still doesn't allow any paint to be on the inside of the hive when its being used by the bees. Dont forget to paint the undereath. It really will help everything last for a lot longer.
When the paint is dry you can fit the door and put any numbers on you may need. Its always a good idea to mark any Nucs up with either simple numbers or letters. You may think you will remember which one is which but you wont when really need to!
I get my numbers and letters from my local car garage. They are a by product of  number plate production.
They are metal, very long lasting, reflective and  perfect produce again for free!

Making the lid.

If I am making more than 1 or 2 lids I like to cut off a load of strips with my skill saw. It makes making the lids less of a labour, especially when you have got this far. The lid depth should be at least 10 cm. This means that when it sits on the top of the hive you have aproximately 8 cms plus of space between the frame cover and the inside of the lid roof.  This is purley so that you are able to feed your bees and leave the lid in situ. You may want to make some very shallow lids so the hive isnt so tall when transporting or using as a swarm trap but its really your own preferance.
I fix my lids together with screws at each end. Construct the lid frame on a flat work surface ensuring that as the lid is constructed, you have one side of the lid perfectly evenly joined. This is the side that will  be closing to the hive. The other side is to be covered in ply and doesnt have to be oh so perfect. I dont even bother glueing my lids together. Dont forget that when you cover the lid frame with ply you are giving a lot of extra strength to the whole thing. Use any old scraps of ply, it really does not matter what you use. Even  orange painted old cupboard doors. any scrap, just try to give it a bit of thickness sround the 10mm size.

When you have covered the lid in ply, you are ready to paint up the lid. Be sure you paint up all the joins and cuts in the ply well. These are the places where water will ingress during the long winter months. Remember the lid will not come in to contactwith the bees so paint it well, also remembering that about a third from the top lid down will not actually need painting because you are going to cover that part with your water proofing material.
I like to use a thin alluminium sheet, that is a by product from the printing industry. The trouble is sourcing the sheets. I got a load from my local printers but glad i did because the machine has  now been scrapped. However I have seen the same sheets for sale at bee keeping shops. You can use roofing felt but this can heat the hive too much in the summer months. The thing with metal sheets is that they are light, quick to fit, reflect the sun and also dont break down. They will last the lifetime of the hive. You may pay slightly more for them but they are by far the best product. If you have access to and are a good fiber glass resin user then I think that that would also be a good choice of material but I| think also the the resin would give of an odour for the first couple of year so thats something to consider.

Fit the metal sheet by cutting it to shape first with a stanley knife and a good straight edge.
 You only have to score to sheet to cut it , then bend it back and forth and it easily breaks along the desired lines. Centralise the sheet and then bend it in to place over the edge of a work bench. I also find a rubber hammer is a good tool as well. Cut and fold the ends as though you were wrapping a present. You are not going to get perfect joints the first time you do this as it does take a little practice. Watch your finger, its all sharp and the classic DIY accident waiting to happen!!!
I use 10 mm staples to secure the roof to the lid. The staples may not go all the way home when fixing but you can give them a little tap with a hammer to tidy them up. you can also use small galvanised felt roofing nails.

The Completed Nuc

I will be explaining how to change one of these in a viable swarm trap in my next blog. Its very simply but again the attention is in the detail! Wild swarms are few and far between but you will stand a good chance of catching one if you follow a few simple steps. You can also use a swarm trap in the close vicinity of your own apiary. This will help protect you against losing a swarm. I hopefully will be posting that in a couple if weeks. Good luck in you Nuc Construction.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Spring is nearly here

Spring is nearly here. We have lost the bitter cold in Brittany and most of france that has been around for the best part of the last 2 weeks. The wild Salix is starting to come into bud and some bees are beginning to come and go from the hive in the middle of the day at the peak of  day time temperature. The visits outside the hive this time of the year are more for the bees to relieve themselves of the waste products within the hive.
If we get a period where the temperature  rises to more than 14 degrees you will very quickly see a large amount of bees buzing around the hive.
They will be primarily cleaning themselves but if you watch you will soon see some  bees  emerging from the hive carring underneath them, bees that are dead , dying or otherwise designated no use to the hive and therefore to be disposed of !
One of the other main jobs within the hive is also to immediately re stock the hive with pollen from outside ( if availible) and sugars ( honey ) from else where in the hive. The main problem with bees in the winter is that they may have sufficient food within the hive but they sometimes just cant reach it if the temp is just too cold.
Bees become progressivly lethargic as the temprature falls. If you have fed candy during december and you are able to see the bees you will notice how quickly this is removed from its packaging and taken in the hive.
You will also notice more pollen coming back in to the hive.
There are a few mature gardens near my bees that have large early flowering camelia bushes in. Most Camelias are a really good source of pollen and you can watch the bees on the shrubs and  also returning back to the hive with this bounty carefully loaded to their legs.

Hopefully with in the next 2 or 3 week I will be giving my hives their first inspection. I will be watching the temperature carefully that it about 14 degrees or above and I will  also be going to treat the hive against varola mite which will have weakened the hive over the las 5 months since my last inspection.

I will also be cheching for any diseases such as American Foul Brood (AFP) and European Foul Brood which can take hold ( more so over the winter months) and devastate the hive  well as possibly infecting the hives of my neighbours.
If you find or suspect foul brood within your hive then you must inform you local "Defra" In UK or for me in France the" Department Service Vetrinaire".
You cannot treat this disease but you can move the hive off its stand, place a clean hive in its place, fitted with brand new frames and undrawn comb. Brush all your bees off each old frame one frame at a time in to the new hive untill the vast majority of bees have been brushed in to the new hive. Put the old frames in to a sealed bag and destroy them by burning.
Try to find the queen during the transfer, as there will be no eggs on the new frames for the bees to make a new queen . If the queen is missing or she is damaged during the transfer then the colony is lost. Feed your newly hived colony with pure liquid sugar. They will very quickly recover as if they are please you have given them a new clean home.
They will draw up their new way frames with amazing speed as though you have just hived a spring swarm.

Also during the inspection I will be feeding the bees with half a litre of sugar syrop per hive.(for the next 3 weeks) This is a great way of stimulating the queen in to increasing her egg laying and hopefully getting the colony away quickly  for an improved spring build up.

I will let you all know how I get on. In the mean time I will be finishing the "how to make a Nuc" but its taking a little longer that I thought.