Tuesday, May 19, 2015
First Strawberries and Bee Hive Bottoms
One of our side trips got canceled so I made it home in time to not only mow the lawn at the house in town today but I got three of my new bottom boards and one top painted.
While I was finishing up the painting Mrs. PP made a mad dash for the strawberry beds pretending like she was weeding (which they need) but in fact it was all a deception as she had seen that the first of the strawberries were coming ripe.
She was trying to pick as many as she could get before the son discovered there were some ripe ones. Oh who am I kidding it's not like he waits for the strawberries to get ripe either to be honest. He has been known for eating green strawberries as well as green mulberries. He has a weird liking for sour stuff. As it turned out the Mrs. was able to find an entire bowl of ripe ones and we shared em with my Mom on her porch.
As I said I got three of my new screened bottom boards painted and one of my special entrance tops as well. No crosses on them yet as I am waiting for them to dry.
I have been having pretty good luck with this half screened bottom board design. I think one of the biggest mistakes new bee keepers seem to be making these days is giving the bees too much air flow. Let's face it bees were kept for years just fine without screened bottom boards until mites showed up and I think the full screens are a little too open sometimes. Bees seem to handle heat much better than cool temps in my experience. So for the bottom boards I make I only screen in about half the size (maybe a bit more) than the entire bottom. Also screened bottom boards are notorious for allowing other vermin like ants and wax worms to flourish were the bees can't get to them.
This is why I designed this type of bottom. The tray closes completely up allowing less heat loss in Winter but has enough clearance that I can put sticky traps and ant traps in the tray. This catches and sticks any ants, roaches, beetles etc and takes care of large ant colonies too. If the mite count get's high and I need to do a powdered sugar treatment I remove the slide in tray and leave the screen open for a few days after dosing the bees with the sugar. When Winter hits I can put a piece of insulated foam in the tray as well.
Currently I use an assortment of power tools to make these bottoms but the design is such that it can actually be built using simple hand tools as well in case I ever need to make replacements in a grid down situation. It takes a lot longer of course. The sides that actually hold the weight are made out of 2x4's and the floor is 3/4 marine plywood. This makes them much sturdier than the bottom boards you can buy commercially and they stand up to the weight of a full hive much longer.
The only issue I sometimes run into is the tray inserts swelling and making it hard to remove them sometimes, especially when it is very wet. I increased my router bit size some and gave myself a bit more clearance on the tray with this batch of bottoms to see if it works better.
The top, which is setting on one of the bottoms, is my design to allow a top entrance that is placed over what is traditionally an inner cover. So far it seems to be working too and the prototype has lasted almost four years now in the weather without a metal plate. I haven't had any issue with the bees building comb between the inner cover and the top and most hives seem happy to use the top entrance getting into the top supers by way of the hole in the inner cover. I make all the entrances two and a half inches wide so in Winter I close em up mostly. This also removes the need to clear the entrances immediately after a heavy snow fall or ice storm during Winter and allows condensation to be removed from the hive top.I can even attach hooks that allow me to hang a pollen trap in front of the entrance if I need to collect some. This has the bonus of only taking pollen from foragers at one entrance so I do not take too much.
Now I am restocked a bit again on bee stuff in case I catch some more swarms this year. So far I am at five and counting. Another three more or so would be nice this year but if I don't catch em I am happy with five. That replaces all the Winter losses plus two.
Keep Prepping Everyone!!!!!