My daughter had to give a presenation at school about an animal. Her grandfather is a beekeeper, so the choice was obvious: she talked about bees. She got a lot of stuff from her granddad, including a small colony of bees in a so-called mating nucleus bee hive. She wanted to keep the bees, so I agreed to make a hive for the bee family. The Obamas and the Britain's Queen keep bees, so why don't we?
We got the bees in a small mating box where a young queen was housed together with a small part of a colony. The purpose of this work was to make an enclosure for the little box, well-isolated so that we could let the bees get in and out. This is not a description for a full-sized beehive. After spending some weeks in our beehive, the colony will be tranferred to a bigger hive.
The first thing I came across while I was looking for something to make the beehive, was an old computer, so I used the cover as a starting point. Other restrictions I imposed myself were: The footprint should be very small. As it is a temporary home, I didn't want to ruin the lawn and didn't want to add new obstacles when mowing. It should be very well isolated because bees like a constant temperature in their living room. The work should not take too much time so that there would be time left to write an instructable. Finally, all materials should be free. I am lucky to have a pile of wood left over from our house construction.
- Bee (!) careful! Working with bees can be dangerous. Do not try to become a beekeeper when you are allergic to bee stings.
- Do not swat at the bees. They may get angry and sting you. They are social beings, so you may be attacked by the whole family. If they attack, cover your face and try to get in an closed place.
- Obtain the bees from a trusted source. There are many varieties and they are bred and selected for their properties.
- Check with legal prescriptions and restrictions in your country. Keeping bees is often restricted to open spaces, certain distances from houses, registration etc.
- Get more information about the life of bees, their behavior and legal issues. As a strarting point see here for example: http://www.ent.uga.edu/bees/Get_Started/How_to_Get_Started.htm
I am not a professional beekeeper, I barely can distinguish a drone from a queen. This project was only done to make an enclosure for the box that my daughter got. If you plan to become a real beekeeper, the best thing for starting is to go to an experience beekeeper and ask for advice. Very likely you will get this for free.
Step 1: Materials
A computer case. Mine was from an old 286 if I remember well. I only used the cover.
Insulation material. I had leftovers from our house construction and packaging material as well. There should be enough for filling the whole case.
Wood. I used medium density fiberboard for the front and the bottom and plywood for the top. There are better weatherproof solutions, but that's what I had at hand and it is a temporary hive anyway.
Tools. Nothing fancy here, just basic woodworking tools: a (cordless) drill, electric saw and/or jig saw, (cordless) screwdriver, tape measure or ruler and screws.
Step 2: The bottom
Step 3: Attachment board
Step 4: The front
The bottom side of the front has an opening (6cm x 6cm) allowing the bees to reach their home.
The red cover is from a prepared-meal jar from polish origin. Don't ask how we got it, it was laying around. The purpose is to facilitate the recognition of the hive. Bees are not blind. That's why you see colored marks and signs on hives in an apiary.
Step 5: The cover
I had the router table out, so I routed a groove in the bottom of the cover at the overhanging sides 1cm from the edge so that the rain does not get a chance to flow inside.
On the bottom of the cover the pieces of wood keep the cover in place and receive the locking pins that can be attached from the sides. I made these from a cloth hanger, but a 4 or 5mm thick nail could also be used.
At the back, a 2cm wide piece of pine was attached to prevent water leaking in.
Step 6: Insulation and bees
Step 7: Finished hive
It looks as if the bees are happy with their new house. I saw the queen going out and in again. Very soon she will leave for a mating flight and will start laying eggs. 21 days later worker bees leave the cells while drones come out after 24 days.