I bought a brand new hive today for £6! Ok it’ll take some work to make it usable as such. It is a plastic transparent crate that I got from a discount store (Normans as was) in Weymouth. It is about 22 ” by 14″ by about 9″ deep, which makes it about a bushel and a quarter or 5 pecks in volume, a National brood box being about 1 bushel.
I need to do some thinking about how best to use it. Which way up for starters? If I have it right way up I can use it as a top bar hive as the sides will slope inwards and so the bees won’t attach comb to the walls, thus allowing me to remove bars to examine comb. But I’ve already got a plastic crate with which I can do that as well as my wooden TBH.
I’m thinking that it might be more educational for me and less stressful to the bees if I invert the box so they hang their comb from the underside and attach it to the walls, allowing me perhaps to observe brood rearing from the side. Plastic is slippery though, so should I copy Ron Hoskins and screw top bars to the was-floor-now-ceiling? If they’re not removable, then there’s no point in having separate bars and I may as well have a solid board from which they can hang their combs.
Should I give them starter strips or draw a bead of wax with a soldering iron as I usually do with my TBH? Why? I might persuade them to build straight and parallel combs at right angles to the long side for example, but what would I learn from that?
My current thought is that I should have a solid, rough surfaced, ceiling in the front part of the hive to give them a good grip when they start comb building, but leave the back end clear. There are two reasons for this: first to allow me to observe comb building in action from above and to take measurements and photographs and secondly, as the bees tend to store honey towards the rear of the hive and the roof attachment should be less strong, maybe I could steal/harvest a few combs without too much disruption.
Where would it live? I’m thinking of the allotment shed that I’m considering turning into a bee-shed anyway. I have already acquired an old door to use as a platform for hives and there would be room for the crate hive as well. I have some wide plastic tubing that I used for an observation hive a while ago and I expect that with ingenuity and glue I can make an entrance for them.
Floor. Should that be the crate lid or should I make a mesh floor? Don’t know. The former would be a lot easier but the latter would allow for mite monitoring/reduction and for additional ventilation. How would that help? Bees have been air conditioning very efficiently for millions of years and don’t need any help from me. They often live in cavity walls or hollow trees with an entrance no larger then I shall give them and no additional ventilation.
It would be interesting, though, to see what drops through a mesh and, following Hoskins, I might find evidence of bees fighting back against the mite. I do have some mesh so maybe I’ll cut a panel out of the lid and fit it with mesh, probably to go towards the entrance where most of the brood will be.
How do I stock the hive. A swarm is the obvious way. I think I shall take a Taranov swarm from an advanced colony in May with which to stock it. If you don’t know what a Taranov swarm is, read ‘Getting the Best from Your Bees’ (published any day now!) as it has a detailed description and lots of photos.
I may be away from my computer for a couple of days now as I am to represent Dorset at the Annual Delegates’ Meeting of the British Beekeepers’ Association up in the frozen north, but please leave your comments and observations and I may, if so inclined, respond as soon as I am able.