Start a Back Yard Honey Bee Hive

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Introduction: Start a Back Yard Honey Bee Hive

About: I'm a computer engineer - but please don't judge me by that. I heat with wood, fix broken things and love camping with my family. I'm a closet solar nerd, love coupons, not scared to dumpster dive and love...

This Spring I knocked off one of my long standing to do's - free range bees! Just kidding well - sort of. We started two hives of honey bees.

My dad has kept bees for the majority of my adult life - sadly a turn in his health has left about 20 empty hives. He was kind enough to let me have two hives, some gear and a good amount of knowledge. I've spent the past year reading and talking to bee keepers.

Bees are amazing little critters. They are smart, organized and most importantly directly involved with pollination for food production. I like to eat and the bees are dying off. So my wife and I decided it was time we did our part to help them out. Even if we never harvest a drop of honey it is worth our time and effort to save the bees.....but don't get me wrong we have full intention to harvest the honey too!

I'm writing this as an encouragement to any who might be considering doing this. I'm by no means an expert and I have many hard lessons to learn but I'd like to share the process of getting a purchased box bees into a new hive. It was very straight forward. Everyone has an opinion on how to do it right. I've found Mr. Bush of Bush Bees Natural Beekeeping site to be extremely helpful resource.

Step 1: Set Up the Frames

Frames are the inserts we put in hive boxes to give the bees a road map of where to put the honey and brood will go. 10 frames will go in the brood boxes - or the bottom two sections of the hive.

We decided to use a wax foundation in our frames. This is a thin small honey comb on a wire frame that is nailed into the frame.

A utility knife is used to remove a pre cut piece of wood that holds the foundation to the frame.

I used small 5/8 inch brad nails with 30# of pressure to knock out the frames.

Step 2: Set Up the Hive

Pre assemble your hive in anticipation of the bees arrival.

Base with landing board goes on the bottom. Notice the wire mesh that helps keep the larger critters out.

Brood boxes are stacked on top of the base with 10 frames each.

The excluder is placed after the top brood box and before additional boxes. This is used to keep the queen from laying eggs in the honey frames that will be harvested. There is much debate on using these. Right now the jury is out for me for long term use. If the queen runs out of room in the bottom brood boxes your bees will "swarm" and find a bigger house.

The inner cover helps in several ways - especially helping your bees manage the internal hive environment.

Additional hive boxes go on top and then we put the metal covered top on.

Step 3: Order Bees

We bough two 3# boxes of bees from Busy Bee Apiaries. They operate over 600 hives and move them across the south east with crop pollination schedule.

My dad picked them up and to my mother's angst drove them the two hours up to our house.

They come in a small wood framed mesh covered box with a single piece of wood nailed to the top. Inside is the queen (in her own box), a feeder can of sugar and water syrup and about 11,000 bees.

It is quite common to see bees being sent by US Mail.

Step 4: Prep Hive for New Bees

Remove the top and the inner cover from your new hive.

Remove 5 frames from one side of the hive. This is where the bee box will go. Be careful of the wax foundation and it will bend and tear easily. Ideally these should be stored upright like they were hanging in the hive.

With the remaining 5 frames make a small opening about the width of two fingers between frame number 2 and 3. This is where the queen will go.

Step 5: New Home for the Bees

Handle the bee box with gloves. Give the bees a gentle puff or two of smoke. Too much will make them confused and attack.

Remove the staples from the top cover on the bee box. It is a good idea to put a clamp or vice grips on the queen box tab. If it falls you will have to retrieve it from the bottom of the bee box....and it will be covered in bees.

Slide the cover of to reveal the feeder can. Remove the can and gently brush off any bees that might come with it. Quickly replace the cover - all while not letting the queen box drop to the bottom.

Some beekeepers like to drizzle the sugar water out of the can over the hive frames to give the bees something to eat inside the hive.

Step 6: Long Live the Queen

Now it is time to set the queen.

Slide back that access wood on the bee box again and quickly remove the queen box by pulling on the tab. Gently shake off any hitchhikers. Put the cover back on the box.

Look in the queen box - she will be longer than the other bees in the box. You will notice that on each end of the box there is a cork. On one side you will see a white sugar based paste. You will want to remove the cork on the sugar side of the queen. This will make the bees have to eat the sugar and work to get to her.

Gently pinch the queen bee box between frames 2 and 3 while holding the tab not letting her fall.

Remove the top to the bee box so the bees can find the queen.

Still holding the tab set the excluder and top cover on the brood box. Ensure the queen won't fall when you let go and then place the top on the hive.

Step 7: Remove Bee Box

48-72 hours after placing the bees in their new home it is time to check to see if they set the queen free.

Time for another gentle puff of smoke.

Hold the tab on the queen bee box and lift the top. Again it might be useful to attach a clamp or pliers here. With the top of the box off see if the queen is still in her cage. She will be longer than the rest. Plus you should be able to see a big hole where they ate the sugar to get to her.

If she is out set it to the side.

Remove the bee box from the hive. This will probably have several dead bees and a few stragglers in it. Set it to the side and the living bees will find their way home.

Replace the 5 frames you removed and close up the hive.

There is much debate on feeding your bees. I chose to do a 1:1 organic cane sugar and water mixture to get them started.

Step 8: Legal Stuff

I live in the city limits. My city does not have an ordinance against keeping bees. You should check with yours as well.

I also decided to buy this very cool sign. I did not actually have a no trespassing sign and now I have a much less threatening one. Plus as an added bonus I'm telling people to please stay away from my hives.

Step 9: Enjoy

Some of my neighbors were really freaked out initially. But to be very honest these guys are docile. I only wore gloves as protective gear. I might need a hat or suit at harvest time but that is too be decided.

I can sit on my bee hive platform and watch them fly in and out carrying in pollen stuffed in their back legs with no issues. Nobody has been stung yet.

Our family is excited. Our flowers are happy. And grandpa is ecstatic to tell his grandson all about the wonderful world of bees.

Step 10: Video Update!

Here is a quick video of the bees on a warm sunny day. The jars in the front are the organic cane sugar solution.

The bees love their new home - and you can see even standing this close they don't bother me.

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    122 Discussions

    0
    GWorks
    GWorks

    5 years ago on Introduction

    Very nice instructable!
    I hope this will inspire others to keep bees themselves, also for the sake of our crops.

    0
    jim.barron.nz
    jim.barron.nz

    Reply 4 months ago

    Keeping bees will also greatly increase your understanding and appreciation of nature.

    Great experience for kids too if handled well.

    0
    Karaliynn
    Karaliynn

    5 years ago on Introduction

    Just started to look up everything for beekeeping, and I am very glad to have found these instructions! Thanks from AZ

    0
    AlphaOmega1
    AlphaOmega1

    Reply 2 years ago

    Hopefully you are up and running now? :)

    Obtaining your first bees is an important step in continuing your hobby. Buying packages of bees and starting with a swarm are both unpredictable (although I'd prefer the later). And it's important that you are successful in your first year/winter. So many people give up at the first colony loss (usually from too much fiddling!) Which is a great shame.

    The best option is to contact a local bee keeper and purchase/pester/trade a nuc. This is a small colony (usually 5 or 6 frames) with a young queen that is laying well. Place the nuc into a full size hive, add a super or two and sit back!

    Bees are wild creatures and WANT to succeed despite our efforts. They do this very well in the wild without our "help" ;) So many new bee keepers keep opening the hive. When asked why they are opening up, they don't know, or "need to see the queen". If you don't have a good reason, not opening is the better option ;)


    Enjoy

    0
    jim.barron.nz
    jim.barron.nz

    Reply 4 months ago

    Starting with at least two hives is a good idea, IMHO. If one or both get very weak and supplemental feeding won't pull them out of it you can combine them. Even if you lose one, you'll still have a good hive. And you can do things slightly differently and compare the results.

    It' costs a bit more money but might save you an entire year of learning experience by being able to continue after losing a hive instead of sitting out until the next season.

    0
    More Cowbell
    More Cowbell

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Wonderful - I would love to see photos of your setup after you get it going!

    0
    seamster
    seamster

    5 years ago on Introduction

    Excellent info, and beautiful photos to boot. What a great instructable, as always!

    I knew nothing about beekeeping prior to reading this, and found this very interesting. Thank you!

    0
    More Cowbell
    More Cowbell

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Thank you for the kind words and all the hard work you put in for this site!

    0
    gdsmit1
    gdsmit1

    4 years ago

    Nice job. I shake the majority of the bees out of the package when I hive a package. I then set the mostly empty package in front of the hive so the bees left inside can easily find their way out.

    I'm not a glove wearer. I find that it is too easy to smash a bee if I have gloves on. I also think that it makes me much more deliberate in my movements and keeps me aware of where my hands are amongst all those little stinging insects.

    0
    jim.barron.nz
    jim.barron.nz

    Reply 4 months ago

    shaking is stressful for bees. Just place the box in an empty hive body on top of an inner cover. The bees will go into the hive body where the queen and foundation are and you can remove the box a day or two later. Much less stress on the bees.


    0
    gdsmit1
    gdsmit1

    Reply 4 months ago

    Hehe, that comment was from 4 years ago.

    1
    Lashway
    Lashway

    4 years ago

    If you are going to do this, you need to be prepared for the costs and time commitment that go along with keeping the bees healthy. You need to spray medicate against mites and fungus on a regular schedule. A recent review of the massive loss in bees over the last year actually found that beekeeping hobbyists neglecting these duties was a major culprit. Mites and fungus spreading from improperly maintained hives to wild ones result in the death of the wild hive.

    0
    jim.barron.nz
    jim.barron.nz

    Reply 4 months ago

    You do need to monitor and take action (preferably preventive) but spraying and medication should only be a very last resort, IMHO. They're generally needed because you failed to do something you should have.

    Provide proper ventilation. Have a good location and stand. If you have no other option and have to use spray or medication try the least toxic measures first.

    But routine use of sprays and medication only develops high resistance to it in the pest and that's a core driver of the increasing problems. Pesticide salesmen promoting routine use - exactly what's causing antibiotic resistance in farm animals..

    When I stayed on a sheep farm for awhile the farmer was complaining bitterly about what a problem he was having with scrapie (a skin disease in sheep) and wondering why some of his neighbors didn't. I pointed out to him that all of the neighbors who didn't had "wasted" potential pasture by leaving groves of trees the sheep could find SHADE in. "Try staying out in the sun all day every day with no shirt and see how YOUR skin fares!" Suddenly the "waste" of potential pasture didn't seem so wasteful after all. You have to UNDERSTAND your animals. They're not machines, they're living organisms.

    0
    tenlee
    tenlee

    4 years ago

    Bush doesn't recommend smoking or spraying a package of bees when installing in a hive. The bees are surrounding the queen in her cage and if everything is right with them, they should be fairly docile when doing an installation.

    0
    jim.barron.nz
    jim.barron.nz

    Reply 4 months ago

    I sprayed my package bees (on the screens) with 50:50 sugar/honey every 8 hours until I can install them and a few minutes before installing them. This calms them for the same reason that smoking does. Smoking prompts them to fill up with as much honey as they can manage (the only way they can transport it to a new location away from the "fire"). This highly stresses them but they can't sting when full of honey.

    Just spraying them with sugar solution gets them to fill up but without the STRESS.

    It was my first time working with bees, my protective gear hadn't arrived and my packages had sat for two days (after the trip) before I could install them. And they were still only very mildly aggressive. (I did use low stress installation: setting boxes opening up in empty hive body on inside cover over 8 frame hive body full of frames and cover on top. and NO shaking..

    When inspected for queen release 5 days later they were so docile (with no spraying of anything) they hardly noticed I was there (beekeeping suit still hasn't arrived. May not even need or want to wear it).

    Your job as beekeeper is to think about what your bees are experiencing and figure out how to make things better for them.

    Im near a lot of pine trees that are loaded with pollen with this give a bad taste to the honey?

    0
    Katie5757
    Katie5757

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Pine trees are wind pollinated, so therefore bees are not interested. However, they may be affected by normal dust in the windy air. Can you locate the hives well away from these trees?

    0
    bruce.desertrat
    bruce.desertrat

    Reply 4 years ago

    Honeybees will indeed collect Pine pollen.

    When I was a college student I worked for a couple years at a USDA Bee research facility in Arizona, our particular project was identifying chemical cues in pollen that bees liked, to let us make more palatable artificial bee diet.

    We had hives scattered all around the city and nearby wildlands that we collected pollen from. When pines were in bloom we collected a ton of it.

    One of my jobs was sorting the pollen loads from the collectors. Since a single bee will only collect pollen from a single species on any given trip, each little blob is a single species, and can be separated based on color (I became VERY good at differentiating subtly different shades of yellow!) which we then identified microscopically.

    Bees will collect a wide range of wind-pollinated species, especially when there's a lot of it.