I am spending quite a few evenings this week buzzing around ebay picking up various bits of kit I think I'll need for the bees and for me (to protect me from the bees!)
So far I have managed to acquire most of the basic kit; bee suit, hive tool, smoker etc., and I'll post a few notes on these later when I've taken some shots of this stuff so you can see what the heck they all are. There's loads of kit you can buy for keeping bees but I suspect that much of it is actually not really needed and is just typical paraphernalia you get with any hobby.
By far the most important item though (apart from the bees! Ed.) is the bloomin beehive!
Now I've filled the workshop with power tools of every kind over the past couple of months so I thought I'd have a bash at making my own hives.
There are loads of reasons why making you own beehives is a good thing.
Firstly, it's cheaper. A good quality National hive can set you back approx. £180.00 and you will usually only get the basic kit for that and will have to buy more brood boxes and supers as you need them - adding to the cost (I hope you are going to explain what all this stuff is! Ed.).
Also, I'm making my hives from Pine as it's cheaper and easier to come by than Cedar. Ok, even treated Pine won't last as long outdoors as Cedar will, but since I'm making my own hives anyway it shouldn't be a problem to replace them a few years down the line. The Pine will be treated with a bee friendly wood preservative, details will follow when we get to that part.
Secondly, making your own hives means that you can make a 'batch' of parts ready at a moments notice without having to wait for delivery, so you will be pretty much self sufficient.
Anyone with a bit of woodworking skill can make a beehive I'm reliably told by G. He's let me have a 'bought' brood box, in its component bits, to copy and use as a template which is great.
What I have managed to find on the internet though is also pretty good. Found on the Scottish Beekeepers Association website, these pdf's of old MAFF (the old Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food) bee hive plans are a bit dated (imperial measurements) but will help you get your head around the parts required to make one. I'll post these myself soon in raw PDF format but here's the link for those of you who can't wait Scottish Beekeepers Association MAFF plans
I'm working the National Hive pamphlet up into some basic line drawings and exploded 3d views this week and will post them later together with drawings in working metric measurements as near a I can get to the original imperial measurements.
The reason for converting these measurements into metric (mm) is that I've found it tricky to get hold of timber at local woodyards to the exact MAFF dimensions. When your dealing with measurements like 15/16" then I imagine it's critical to get it spot on if you can.
To that end I've ended up getting a small table saw to help cut the bits accurately. It's the internal measurements to the hive which are most important, creating the required 'bee space'.
There are a few improvements around these days to the 1970's MAFF descriptions of the design such as replacing the solid wood floor shown with a mesh floor section which ejects any falling Varroa mites through onto the ground rather than letting them crawl back up though the hive.
So much to think about. The next few posts will be mostly progress pics and the drawings so stay tuned...