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PostPosted: Fri May 04, 2012 8:51 am 
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I know this subject has been mentioned here and there, but I could not find a thread dedicated to information about how to keep bees. We are just getting started and wanted to share our experience here. I encourage other beekeepers to share their experiences with bees here, too, so we can all learn from each other.

Notable posts in this thread (other than this one :wink: ):
Feeding
Bag Feeding
A bit about how bees get water

Hive Types/Size:
Size matters
Size matters revisited
Thoughts on supercell vs traditional frames

Pests/Pest Control:
General pest control discussion
Wax moth infestation (pics)
Dealing with ants in the honey processing area
Options for foulbrood infection

General Information:
Tips from an experienced beekeeper
Healthy hive vs dead hive (pics)
Installing a queen cage (pics)
Random stuff on propolis, types of frames, etc.
A nifty bee-created sculpture
Nifty in-hive jar rig for honeycomb
Make reusable sandwich bags with fabric and beeswax
Halfapint's Meade Recipe


Anianna's Beginning Beekeeping
After many years of research and saving up the money, we have finally installed our first beehives.

Nucs
Nuc is short for nucleus colony. This is basically a miniature hive consisting (usually) of five frames of brood and food and includes an established queen. This differs from packaged bees in that packaged bees are just bees and do not include frames and brood and an established food source.
Here are our nucs waiting to be transferred to hives behind our young peach tree. The hives will sit on the cinder blocks.
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This is a closer look at one of the nucs. Each nuc contains five frames of an already established colony. Buying a nuc has several advantages over simply buying a package of bees. A package is not an established colony and the queen has to be in her own container so the other bees can acclimate to her. In a nuc, the bees and queen are already established together and already have brood to strengthen the colony once it is in a hive.
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Lemon Balm
Bees like lemon balm. Rub lemon balm on new frames to make them more pleasant for the bees.
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Frames
My dear beekeeper here is holding a Honey Super Cell frame. It is a plastic, fully drawn frame and we are trying it out in one of our hives. I only know of two brands of fully drawn plastic cell: Honey Super Cell and PermaComb. PermaComb is only available for medium supers and Honey Super Cell comes in sizes to fit both medium and deep supers. Since we are using both (deeps for colony needs and mediums for honey production), we went with Honey Super Cell. Many beekeepers swear by the ease of these frames and we are hoping to have a similar experience with it. The plastic should reduce wax moth problems and the forced small cell size greatly reduces incidents of varroa mites without the need to medicate the colony. Here you see my hubby lightly spraying the frame with sugar water to encourage the bees to use the frame.
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We are using a standard wax-dipped plastic foundation frame in the other hive. We are using the plastic base to reduce wax moth. The bees will have to draw out comb on this plastic foundation and here you see my hubby lightly spraying the frame with sugar water to encourage the bees to use the frame.
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Hive Tool
The hive tool is a must for a beekeeper. This is how you separate sticky frames.
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Hive Installation
Transfer the nuc frames to the new hive in the same order they are in the nuc. This is the instruction given to us by the experienced beekeeper we purchased the nucs from as well as from many beekeepers online. I don't see any reason not to. In this picture, the bottom board and deep box are in place. The bottom board is sort of a tray with a wire mesh that helps reduce varroa mite infestations without the need to medicate the colony. You can learn more about this at GreenBeehives. The deep is merely a wooden box with no top or bottom that frames can be hung in.
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Some pics of a few of the frames that came out of our nucs:
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In a new colony, the bees need time to establish in the first deep and need to be fed sugar water until nectar flow is established. The next layer of the hive installation is the feed tray which is a board with a hole in the center where bees can access a bucket feeder.
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A medium super (another box with no top or bottom that frames can hang in) is placed on top of the feed tray to enclose the feed bucket.
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The feed bucket goes upside down in the medium super over the hole in the feed tray where the bees can access the sugar water feed that will act as a nectar flow until a local nectar flow can be established.
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Finally, the telescoping cover goes on top of the hive. It overhangs the rest of the hive and keeps things dry in the rain.
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Here's a pic of the deep super with nuc frames and new frames installed:
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All Done. We were short a feeder bucket, so did not put the medium on the second hive yet. We will add it in the next day or two. Since our bees came in a nuc, they should be fine waiting a short time for supplemental food. When the bees have filled up about eight of the frames in the deep, another deep will be added on top of the first deep to give the bees more room to expand. When the bees are well established, the feeder will be removed and frames for honey production will be placed in the medium super.
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Some notes on our experience
Agitating the bees - At one point, a nuc that still contained frames fell over. The bees clearly sounded agitated, but I noticed no aggression. They did not appear to be attempting to sting my husband at all and they certainly did not swarm him. They settled down pretty quickly.

Pacifying the bees - It does not take a lot of smoke to pacify the bees. Just a couple of puffs are usually plenty, with an occasional additional puff or two if the bees get active at the top of the frames. Honestly, I'm not convinced the additional puffs are necessary in most cases.



Resources
Tools and Hives
We purchased our hives and tools at GreenBeehive.

We prefer GreenBeehive hives for several reasons:
1. The wood used is cypress, which is naturally water resistant.
2. The hives are designed with the mesh bottom board that naturally traps varroa mites - a non-chemical way to treat such parasite infestations that could lead to an unhealthy hive if not treated.
3. The guy does quality work.
**Do not expect a speedy deliver from Greenbehives. You have to pay for 2 day shipping, but it takes this guy a long time to get orders out. Plan any orders from Greenbeehives accordingly.

I also love the goatskin gloves from GreenBeehives and find them to be the easiest gloves to work with.

Plastic Cell Frames
The Honey Super Cell frames website. If you purchase them from the link to Simpson Bee Supply (linked on the HSC site), you will see they warn that the frames are slightly warped. We did not find this to be an issue. You have to call Simpson to order as their online shopping cart is not functional. This is a mom and pop dealer and they are not very internet savvy, but our frames arrived two days after we ordered them and we are happy with them.

There is no website I know of for PermaComb, but here is the contact information for the man who sells it. They can only be purchased during certain times and, if you want them, you need to be added to his mailing list so you will receive notification. A production run only occurs if there is enough interest to run 1,000 frames. I did email Mr. Seets and he answers very quickly. You should know that Dadant bee supply company carries a product with a similar name (PermaCell), but it is my understanding that the Dadant product is plastic foundation and not fully-drawn plastic frames. I tried to email Dadant to clarify this, but their response did not answer my question.
John Seets, National/International Distributor
PermaComb Systems
Catonsville, MD.
john.seets@ngc.com
410-471-4335

Bee Suits
Previously: "Ultra Breeze® Ventilated Beekeeping Suit is our suit of choice."
Now: While the Ultra Breeze suit is wonderful, it is also very expensive. Pigeon Mountain Trading Company carries a ventilated suit that is almost identical to the Ultra Breeze for $85 less than the Ultra Breeze. They also carry the ventilated suits in children's sizes, which two of my children have purchased to enjoy helping their daddy with the bees.
Pigeon Mountain Trading Company ventilated beewear
Pigeon Mountain Trading Company children's ventilated beewear

Live Bees
Get live bees locally or drive to pick up your bees. We recommend ordering nucs (nucleus colonies) that consist basically of a miniature hive of an established queen, brood, and food stores. This is the absolute best way to start a new hive as a beginner. Please see this post to read about our experience ordering nucs through the mail.

If you need to order a replacement queen, we recommend Noble Apiaries. They also sell packaged bees by mail and nucs for pick up only. I have only seen good things said about Noble Apiaries across the bee forums and we were happy without our order of a queen from them. Our queen came in a JZ/BZ cage (my favorite type) with two attendants.

Education/Information
Glenn Apiaries has been a positive source of support for the beekeeping community for over 30 years. They were once an apiary providing live bees, but are now a source of education and information on beekeeping.

Video
There are lots and lots of videos of people keeping bees on YouTube. Some are good, some not so much.
Check out this video showing how a professional beekeeper handles her bees. I really think we gained a lot of confidence watching this video.

Cages and Introducing a New Queen
Unless you are selling queen bees, you won't need to order cages, but you may find that you need to order a queen and it is helpful to know about the cages they come in. A new queen should be introduced to the hive while still in her cage or you risk the existing bees outright killing her. They need time to get used to each other. Many cages come with a candy plug that the bees have to eat through to get to the queen. This gives them a couple of days to get comfortable with the new queen before having direct access to her.

Dave Cushman describes the most common queen cages. We have experience with the JZ/BZ cage (my favorite) and the Rice 3 Hole cage. The JZ/BZ arrives ready to install. Simply press it between two frames in the center of the hive just tight enough that it won't fall and low enough that the bees can access the candy plug. With the Rice cage, there is a cork plug on each end and one of three main compartments is filled with a candy plug. You will need to pull the cork plug out of the end of the cage nearest the candy so that the bees can access the candy to release the queen. As with the JZ/BZ cage, you place it between two frames.

There is some disagreement as to what direction to place the cage in the hive:
1) if you place the exit downward, one of the attendants could perish and block the exit for the queen.
2) if you place the exit upwards (the usual recommendation), it is possible that the candy plug heats enough to liquify and drown the queen.

We have put both of our cages facing up without issues, but our experience is limited. From these arguments, sideways seems to be the ideal position. See this post for pictures of the JZ/BZ cage (it arrived taped to a small piece of wood) and how it fit in between the frames. This post shows the candy plug in the JZ/BZ cage partially eaten as the bees work to release the queen. This post shows the Rice cage full of bees (the white bit on the right is the candy plug).



Larger versions of the images I used for this post can be found at my Flickr set of them.

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Last edited by Anianna on Mon May 26, 2014 11:02 am, edited 10 times in total.

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PostPosted: Fri May 04, 2012 8:52 am 
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Great thread. Hall of Fame'd!


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PostPosted: Fri May 04, 2012 9:01 am 
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the_alias wrote:
Great thread. Hall of Fame'd!


That was quick!

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I feel special.

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PostPosted: Fri May 04, 2012 9:08 am 
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Thanks for doing all of this for us. I'm finally getting in the last of the improvements at my house, and once done I hope to be able to setup a small colony along the back of my pond. A lot of people have bee boxes around here, so I'm going to go out on a limb and assume it would probably be very workable.

How far away from your house are the bees? Do I need to worry about the other bee boxes that are probably 1/4 mile down the road? Have you noticed that they've started showing up en masse around your house first? I've got a 20mo old and he likes to play outside, so that would be one of my few concerns.

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PostPosted: Fri May 04, 2012 9:20 am 
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PostPosted: Fri May 04, 2012 9:21 am 
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Excellent write-up and best of luck with the bees.

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PostPosted: Fri May 04, 2012 9:25 am 
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BigDaddyTX wrote:
Thanks for doing all of this for us. I'm finally getting in the last of the improvements at my house, and once done I hope to be able to setup a small colony along the back of my pond. A lot of people have bee boxes around here, so I'm going to go out on a limb and assume it would probably be very workable.

How far away from your house are the bees? Do I need to worry about the other bee boxes that are probably 1/4 mile down the road? Have you noticed that they've started showing up en masse around your house first? I've got a 20mo old and he likes to play outside, so that would be one of my few concerns.


Our hives are about 200 ft from the house, maybe a smidge more. There are several beekeepers in our area, but plant life is plentiful and competition does not seem to be an issue. We only see a significant number of bees on our property when the fruit trees are in full bloom and even then, there is plenty to go around. They have not shown an interest in our house. I would say your bigger concern would be a toddler interested in checking out the hives. If you have a way of keeping the kiddo away from the hives, it shouldn't be an issue. Honeybees (non-Africanized) only attack to defend a hive. They are very docile otherwise.


ETA: In a few years, you can get a child-sized beekeeping suit and the little one can learn first-hand with you.

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PostPosted: Fri May 04, 2012 10:09 am 
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Also fence in the bee yard to protect from predators and toddlers.

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PostPosted: Fri May 04, 2012 10:28 am 
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Tater Raider wrote:
Also fence in the bee yard to protect from predators and toddlers.


The beekeeper we got our nucs from does keep an electric fence around his bee yard. He has a lot to lose if his bees are attacked, considering they are his business.

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PostPosted: Fri May 04, 2012 12:50 pm 
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I watered the young fruit trees that are basically in a horseshoe within around ten feet of the beehives and was not bothered by the bees. They were pretty active around the hives, coming in and out and zipping around. I did not bother wearing a bee suit, figuring I wouldn't be close enough to the hives to set off any alarms.

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PostPosted: Sat May 05, 2012 9:17 am 
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We've got a hive that built in the wall of a block building my grand father never got around to putting the doors in. They go in the wall where the door would have been. They group at the entrance and do their dances. I like to stand there and watch them. They've never paid me much attention. Those have been with us for three or four years now. We kept expecting them to be gone each spring but they stay.

We'd like to do some real bee keeping like you are. It may be something we get into next season. We feel fortunate the group we have stays around but it'd be cool to get honey too instead of having a sticky block wall... :D




Funny story, the honey bees go into the wall at the top right corner of the door. Last year a group of giant european hornets built in the wall going in on the top left corner of the same door frame. As far as we know, they didnt bother each other. Then there was the yellow jackets in the box of crap inside the door... Incumbered by bee's we were.



EDIT: What was you over all cost to get started with your hives?

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PostPosted: Sat May 05, 2012 7:51 pm 
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JesterODX wrote:
We've got a hive that built in the wall of a block building my grand father never got around to putting the doors in. They go in the wall where the door would have been. They group at the entrance and do their dances. I like to stand there and watch them. They've never paid me much attention. Those have been with us for three or four years now. We kept expecting them to be gone each spring but they stay.

We'd like to do some real bee keeping like you are. It may be something we get into next season. We feel fortunate the group we have stays around but it'd be cool to get honey too instead of having a sticky block wall... :D




Funny story, the honey bees go into the wall at the top right corner of the door. Last year a group of giant european hornets built in the wall going in on the top left corner of the same door frame. As far as we know, they didnt bother each other. Then there was the yellow jackets in the box of crap inside the door... Incumbered by bee's we were.



EDIT: What was you over all cost to get started with your hives?


What we have cost around $1,500. You can start cheaper. My husband chose his hives based on quality and them already being assembled, got a more expensive suit, and the Honey Super Cell was $240 plus shipping for 40 frames just for the one hive. You can get hives as kits and assemble them yourself and there are many different types of hives, as well. We purchased these items over time, because there was no way we could afford it all at once. The hives have been empty in my living room for many months (hubby was worried if he set them up outside, something unwanted would move in).

ETA: Purchasing the bees in nucs rather than a package is also more expensive and considered into our overall cost. You might be able to encourage your existing bees into a hive that would work for both you and them. Try joining some of the beekeeping forums and learn from some beekeepers who make it a habit of hiving wild colonies.

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PostPosted: Sun May 06, 2012 5:14 am 
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Cool pictures! I've always wondered.. how much honey and/or wax does one of those boxes produce ?

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I'll check into some of the forums. Be great to get our friends out of the wall. We lost about four feet of cinder block under pinning on our aluminum condo (mobile home) when bees moved in and we had to remove them. But we would rather do damage to the blocks then the bee's. They got a new home with a local keeper. That's why we've never done anything hive. They arent hurting anything in the big picture and they take take of our plants and garden for us.

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PostPosted: Sun May 06, 2012 11:28 am 
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Ajira wrote:
Cool pictures! I've always wondered.. how much honey and/or wax does one of those boxes produce ?


Once the bees are well established (this season they will be growing their colony), we expect 100-200 lbs of honey per hive per year. This can vary greatly depending on a lot of factors including your environment, the availability of nectar flow, hive setup, bee health, etc.

As for wax, my research indicates that if you harvest wax with honey, each foundation frame produces approximately 2 oz of wax, which equates to about 54 oz per hive per year. While I figured we would get less wax for the Honey Super Cell hive since the only wax we will get from those frames will be the caps while the other hive will produce wax in the combs, as well, our research indicates that the amount of wax collected from HSC frames is not significantly less than from the foundation frames. This is something we will learn as we go.

What I will miss from the HSC frames is honeycomb. I used to eat honeycomb as a kid and enjoyed it very much. I expect I will still enjoy it and would like to have at least one hive producing it so long as the health of the hive remains good (the purpose of the HSC frames is to improve the health of the colony without the need to medicate).

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PostPosted: Sun May 06, 2012 11:37 am 
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JesterODX wrote:
I'll check into some of the forums. Be great to get our friends out of the wall. We lost about four feet of cinder block under pinning on our aluminum condo (mobile home) when bees moved in and we had to remove them. But we would rather do damage to the blocks then the bee's. They got a new home with a local keeper. That's why we've never done anything hive. They arent hurting anything in the big picture and they take take of our plants and garden for us.


The primary benefit to hiving them would be that you would have an accessible honey supply. Some beekeepers use all medium supers, but we believe from our research that two deeps is ideal for the needs of the colony. Once the colony is established in the two deeps with brood and honey supply, anything they move up to mediums is extra that they don't need. We will be using a queen excluder, which is a mesh panel that allows the worker bees to move freely between the deeps and medium, but keeps the queen out of the mediums so that we don't risk harming any brood while harvesting honey and wax from the mediums.

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PostPosted: Sun May 06, 2012 12:58 pm 
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Don't forget to watch for queen brood.

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PostPosted: Sun May 06, 2012 1:20 pm 
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Tater Raider wrote:
Don't forget to watch for queen brood.


Yep, you don't want those unless you intend to create new colonies.

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PostPosted: Fri Jul 06, 2012 4:08 pm 
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All has been well with our bees. I plan to do another write-up for ZS later this summer or near the fall. Until then, here are some cursory posts I have made on my blog:

Beekeeping Week 1 - Checking and Feeding (Wednesday, May 9, 2012)

Honey Super Cell vs Foundation - A Cursory Check (Thursday, May 24, 2012)
-There are differences between the HSC and foundation hives. The population in the HSC hive is growing much faster.

Propolis (Made by Bees) May Be Effective Cancer Treatment (Monday, May 7, 2012)
-A recent study published in Science Life looks at the effects of Propolis against cancer.

Beekeeping; A Family Affair (Friday, July 6, 2012)
-We found a ventilated bee suit in children's sizes as well as an adult ventilated bee suit that is significantly less expensive than the Ultra Breeze suit my husband likes. I plan to make another post comparing the two brands of ventilated suits at a later date, but, suffice it to say I see no reason to expend the significantly greater cost for the more expensive brand. They are very comparable.

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 09, 2012 2:38 pm 
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I watch this post with great interest. I don't have the space for it now or in the near future but I would like to have bees for the honey. I learned a bunch just from the constant coming back to this post. Thanks for posting it Anianna.

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PostPosted: Fri Jul 20, 2012 2:54 pm 
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OTTB wrote:
I watch this post with great interest. I don't have the space for it now or in the near future but I would like to have bees for the honey. I learned a bunch just from the constant coming back to this post. Thanks for posting it Anianna.


You may need less space than you know. Several sources I have read regarding beekeeping in urban and suburban settings indicate you need only space enough for the hive and about 1 foot of space in front of it. The bees will travel a radius of several miles for their food and water needs. Putting the hives in a no/low traffic area is ideal, but you can walk by beehives without problem so long as the back of the hive faces the traffic area (you would not want people traffic crossing the bee traffic from the front of the hive). In many of these areas, beekeepers avoid traffic areas by keeping hives on roofs.

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 23, 2012 10:14 pm 
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Subscribing! Bees are probably a couple years in the future for us, but my parents' next door neighbor has three hives. I've been inspired after watching the bees for a while. Garden, fruit trees, then bees!


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PostPosted: Thu Jul 26, 2012 10:05 pm 
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Joined: Mon Sep 05, 2011 9:29 am
Posts: 8
One comment for those of you planning to put in a hive or two, you might consider an 8 or 5 frame hive style rather than the standard 10 frame box. I mention this because a full 10 frame medium super will weigh in between 50 and 60 pounds. We've had bees for 4 years now and I wish we had gone with the smaller format just for the lowered weight to lift when servicing the hive.

I will also add that a 5 frame super format may not be the best for northern climes as the bees attempt to keep the hive at temp. I'm not an expert here, just adding what may be a poorly formed opinion. If others have better info, please post it up


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PostPosted: Fri Jul 27, 2012 1:41 pm 
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Joined: Sat Feb 21, 2009 6:54 pm
Posts: 4554
Location: VA
We only have the two deep supers for wintering. The other smaller supers are for honey production and are only on in season (and for feeding when necessary). The video of the pro from my original post is from Germany and their hives are only two deep supers for wintering, also. I have actually never heard of a five super system for just the living area for the bees, although some people use shallow supers for the living areas. Perhaps some people use five shallow supers?

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