On my way to visit a friend near Bridgwater today, I didn’t turn the radio on; instead I applied the brain to mentally designing a bait hive designed/disguised as a hollow tree.  Professor Tom Seeley, in many years of playing with bees, has concluded that they prefer a vertically aligned cavity with a capacity of about a bushel with an entrance towards the bottom and the site being above head height.

So I started calculating: I reckoned on a diameter of about 10″, giving a radius of 5″. 5 squared is 25 to be multiplied by 22/7. 25 x 10 = 250, so x 20 = 500 + 50 = 550. Divide 550 by 7 = 78.5ish. Call it 80 square inches to be multiplied by whatever depth is needed to make a bushel.  I reckoned on 30″. It may be a bit over but there is the thickness of the wood and my carpentry to reduce it a little. Anyway, the bees aren’t THAT precise!

My standard choice of timber is the second hand pallet which usually has planks of between 3″ and 4″.  How many would I need? The diameter of the hive being 10″, that, multiplied by Pi comes to 30″ and a smidgeon.  So that comes to 10 planks 3″ wide (+ a tenth of a smidgeon).

The planks would need to be shaved down slightly to butt well. 360 degrees to a circle, so 36 degrees would be the centre angle of each of the 10 triangles. I could calculate either setting my saw to as close as possible to 36/2 = 18 degrees to get it right or else I could work out that, as a triangle has 180 degrees, and, as 36 of them are accounted for, that leaves 180 – 36 = 144 degrees. Divide that by 2 and there are 72 degrees each side of the plank.  Hmmm 72 subtracted from the right angle of 90 degrees = 18 which is the number I first thought of, so I can set the saw at 18 or at 72 degrees, depending which way I am going to work the wood.

Now comes the difficult bit: construction.  My first thought was to create rough and ready circles of pallet or ply wood and cut grooves in the planks to anchor them. However, further thought persuaded me that that might produce snags.  If a swarm occupied the hive, as is intended, I would want, eventually, to remove it. This means either dismantling the whole hive, which may be disruptive, or lifting the combs gently while they are attached to the roof.

First thought was simply to cut a groove towards the bottom as planned, but at the upper end, to make the same depth cut right at the top end of the planks so the lid could be lifted out, complete with the attached combs.  However, it is likely that some of the comb would be partially attached to the sides of the cylinder and, if there was a stop in the way, I wouldn’t be able to lift it out without risk of disruption. Therefore I shall have just to put in a few nails, staples or dowels to support the roof so that I can insert a knife and cut through any comb attached to the vertical sides.

This arrangement would mean that I can’t nail the planks to the lid or base.  Unless YOU come up with a better idea, I shall cut and assemble the wood,and hold it together, temporarily with a rope.  Then I shall cut some garden wire and make a loop at each end of several lengths of almost a circumference.  I shall tug each wire tightly around the cylinder, attach it to each plank with a staple and join the loops with plastic ties, vertically aligned so that, if the occasion demands, I can snip through the ties and unwrap the cylinder.

In order to know what’s going on inside, one of the planks will need to be doctored so as to provide a removeable piece with transparent plastic within. It won’t provide a detailed view, such as is required for disease inspection, but it will enable me to see how the comb building is progressing. As for the entrance, when I dismantled a pallet on getting home, I found a couple of knot holes that, strategically placed, will provide a perfect entrance.

Why was I driving all the way to Bridgwater? To deliver to my friend, Martin, his latest book (as yet untitled) which I have edited and tweaked for the 3rd or 4th time.  Like the previous ones: “Okhotriki – The Hunters and the Hunted” and “WRAP” it is a relatively violent political thriller.  One of the leading characters in Okhotriki, and a minor one in WRAP bears my name and, having survived the Cold War incident, a quarter of a century ago, retires to become a beekeeper.

Martin asked if I would accompany him, briefly to visit a friend who is convinced the events described in Okhotriki are real (some of them are!) and that the character bearing my name really acted as described.  Martin said the visit would be brief and that I should keep my mouth shut.  He introduced me to his friend by my name and, truthfully, as ‘the beekeeper’. We shook hands and I doubt whether Martin’s friend has washed his since!

If you want to read Okhotriki, try the local library first; otherwise Amazon etc.The author is Martin Charles.


About chrissladesbeeblog

I have been keeping bees since 1978 and currently have about a dozen hives. I am a member of the BBKA where for many years I represented Dorset at the Annual Delegates' Meeting. I am the co-author (with Dave MacFawn of of S. Carolina) of "Getting the Best from Your Bees" and am working on a book of my own poems : "Bee People".
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  1. Ma.Grizzly says:

    Husband/Son cut apart and pulled out a downed tree, could be a cotton wood. It was a tall tree, they had to cut it into sections, and still it was heavy to pull out of that spot. The tree had been down a few years, near the beehouse. The beauty of it, part of that tree was pretty much hollow. I got the men to cut off and leave me two sections. They are there, laying on the ground. I will need to figure out what to do with them. The insides are filled with easy to remove rotten stuff, so I could hollow those lengths pretty good. There are “entrances”, round holes from branches long gone. I want to make what they used to call “Klotzbeuten”. Neat would be if I ever ever get bees to survive longer than a season, and they could either get into those themselves or I could try installing them. Don’t know yet how this will work out, but the two lengths are there, and they are of good size and diameter. So there are possibilities. .. .. I hope you will get to build what you were planning, as per your story.

    • Alec, I’ve now glanced through it. I used the Fibinacci spiral to provide a series of small entrances to a TBH where I anticipated robbery might be a problem. Perone seems to favour stacking boxes. I am gradually moving to top bar hives or hives of the Slovenian patern whence combs can be drawn horizontally.

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