Saturday, October 30, 2010

Lesson 85: Special and Unusual Beekeeping Items

Lesson 85: Special & Unusual Beekeeping Items
For those just getting started in beekeeping there is a learning curve involved. How do you pronounce “propolis”? Is the first vowel long or short. What is a frame? Do you call a hive body a deep hive body, a brood box, a deep super or what? But, after you’ve been in beekeeping a while, it’s old hat after awhile. Soon you sound like a university entomologist. But just when you think you have a good handle on the fundamentals of beekeeping essentials, suddenly you realize there are many more pieces of equipment that you’ve never seen or heard of before.

That’s because beekeeping is that way, like most hobbies…there is always more to buy. Obviously, the back yard beekeeper doesn’t need all of these specialty items. Some are a waste of money and really aren’t useful, but others are a big help and can save money in the long run.  So my wife encouraged me to write a lesson highlighting some of these strange and unusual items in beekeeping that aren’t so common among most beekeepers, but it’s fun to know what they are and how they are used.

Top FeederMy first piece of equipment is a funny round shaped item. A fellow beekeeper donated a large amount of equipment and this was in the mix. It puzzled me when I first saw it. I spent a few minutes wondering if it was part of a larger item or not.  What do you think it is? It was purchased from a Canadian vendor at a bee conference. Look at the photo and try to guess.
Okay, click on the video below as we walk into my apiary and look inside the hive to see how this item is used.

Video of Top Feeder
I always enjoy learning something new about beekeeping. This item is a top feeder that fits over the winter cluster. Fill the reservoir with 2:1 sugar water, then put the plastic cup around the center and then the plastic lid on the top and sit it on top of the frames as shown in the video. Works great and you can probably feed your bees this way until it becomes so cold that the sugar freezes.   In real cold weather I would advise placing your inner cover on your hive, and then placing this top feeder over the oval shaped hole on the inner cover. The inner cover will prevent the warmth the cluster is producing from rising up and away, but he hole in the cover will still allow the bees to access the feeder.
capping scratcherOur second item should be easier for most beekeepers to identify. Take a look. Do you know what it is? Looks like a hair pick. It' is actually a capping scratcher.   Some beekeepers use this tool to open up cells on sealed honey comb. Others use it in places where the heated knife did not cut open all the comb cappings. This stiff pick will open up all the sealed honey comb for extraction.
Cell protectorHere’s a harder one. What is this? It’s orange and has lots of holes that hold little cups.  Any idea?  It is a queen cell protector used in shipping queen cells. Almost ripe queen cells are placed in the small cups and the plastic cups are then placed in the orange holder. The bar is then placed in a shipping box with air vents, bees, water and sugar to care for the cells during shipment.
Conical Bee EscapeWhat in the world is this? Have you ever seen anything like it before. Can’t believe it would be used in a bee hive? It is. In fact, many beekeepers like these a lot. Do you know what it is?
It is a conical bee escape board.  Place it under your supers and above the brood area and the bees will walk through the small, red, conical (cone shaped) pieces but will not walk back in due to the opening being small at the tip. This conical bee escape has two rows of conicals with 5 on each side. conical bottomHere’s a picture of the bottom and you can see how the bees can easily walk into the groove and out of the red conicals.  Keep in mind that the proper way to place this on the hive is with the red conicals down closest to the brood area.
It’s an effect way of clearing out the bees from honey supers before removing them from the hive.
Mouse GuardPut on your thinking caps for this one.  What do you think this piece of metal could be?  Notice it is L shaped and has holes in it. It is not a frame rest. Ready for the answer? It is a mouse guard. You place it in the entrance of a hive and the bees can fly out and in through the holes but not mice.
slatted rackNext item please. Look at this. All those little rails. What do you think about this piece of equipment. Some beekeepers love them. Some claim it prevents swarming. It’s called a slatted bottom rack or a slatted rack. It fits on the top of a bottom board just below the bottom deep hive body. Carl Killion used a similar idea to allow space for bees and extra ventilation. C. C. Miller believed in the idea but he simply made 2” bottom boards but found that the slatted rack2bees would build comb on the bottom of the frames to fill the extra space provided. But with a false bottom, the bees are tricked no to build comb.
People are always confused which way to place these on the hive because on one side the slats are close to the top and the other side they are a over an inch away. Place it on the hive with the slats as close as possible to the frames.
combcuttereFor our next strange and unusual item we have a metal item with a handle. If you’re good in the kitchen you may want to pick this up and use it like a cookie cutter. You are close, but it’s not a cookie cutter. Instead it is used to cut comb honey. It is sized just right to cut comb to fit into the plastic provided containers. It’s a comb cutter. Remember if you are going to make comb, use the then rib comb foundation or no foundation at all. Even most wax foundation has embedded wire. This will not be tasty for your customers to bit into a wire.
Bee EscapeHere’s one that is sure to stump the biggest beekeeping know-it-all. What is this? Looks confusing doesn’t it. Complicated. Hmmm… Do you know what it is?
It is another bee escape! It is called the Triangular Escape Board.
screenYou will not believe how it works. What I’m about to tell you is unbelievable, but it is true and tested.  Bees would not be able to be NASCAR drivers because they don’t like to go left when faced with a wall. I’m not kidding. The way this escape works is that bees will easily walk out by taking right turns, but will not go back in through the openings. It is another way to clear out a super of all bees before taking it off. Amazing!  Bees are amazing aren’t they. Place it on the hive hive with the screen facing the brood area.
queenmansionMy last item looks a lot like a regular deep hive body. But notice some things are different. There are three sections to this deep hive body. Why would a deep hive body have three sections? We started making these last year and it continues to be a popular item. It is a deep hive body that has been converted into three sections to either be a queen mansion where you can raise three queens in one box or you can have 3 separate 3 frame nucs in one box.
queen castleTake a look at the inside. Notice each section is completely sealed off from the other so the queens and bees cannot make contact. Their entrances are unique to their compartment around the sides and back so that each section has its own entrance. Also, it has a screen bottom board and this is important for small nucs in the summer heat.
queen castle nuc 2

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David & Sheri Burns
Long Lane Honey Bee Farms