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Bees....and keeping them

 
Tim Canton
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I just watched pauls video on colony collapse and was a bit disturbed......

So I am sure there is tons of info on beginning bee keeping available but I dont know If I have the time to concentrate or the money for equipment  etc......

That being said is there methods to "keeping wild bees"?  in other words I could build a box or boxes but I really want them mainly for what bees do and the honey harvest can be way down the line.

Any ideas?

Thanks
 
Brian Bales
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google top bar beehives. That should be a good start to what you want.
 
Pat R Mann
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Sounds like a Warre hive would be a good fit for you then.
 
jacque greenleaf
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First, make sure it's honeybees you want. They are not native to the Americas, and in many areas, native pollinators, especially mason bees and bumblebees, can do a better pollination job - they will fly in weather that is too cool and damp for honeybees - with much less work and worry.

If you're not interested in honey production, mason bees are what you want to encourage, and you probably already have them. Here are places to start - http://beediverse.com/ , http://davesbees.com/masonbees.html
 
                                        
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keeping honey bees is a lot of work.  If you just want to leave them be and let them pollinate, I would suggest looking into carpenter bees, mason bees or other solitary species.  They can sometimes be even more effective, since they'll fly in weather conditions that would keep honey bees inside.  You can also help all the different kinds of pollinators by planting species they can use.
 
kent smith
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You might contact a local beekeeping group to see if a local beekeeper would want to place a hive or two on your property. Typically if you have some land and there is a good pollen and nector source near by a beekeeper with more hives that space might be interested it sharing some honey with you in exchange to locating hive there.
kent
 
Saybian Morgan
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You can catch wild swarms and hive them, it use to be the real way of doing things.
Cymbidium floribundum is the plant they use in japan to lure swarms into boxes but I'm sure they sell alternatives here in north america. If your looking for the most passive means of keeping bee's look no further than the Warre method.

Other than being nosey hives only really need two maybe 3 visits a year. #1 in the spring to add a box, #2 during the flow to make sure you don't need to add another box, #3 in the fall to harvest the excess boxes and leave two boxes for them to over winter.
If your hive is small or they faced some form of adversity during the year skip step 3 and let them keep it all the first winter.

I started with 3 hives from the usual imported bee's expecting to loose 1/3rd due to colony colapse, I did indeed end up with an empty hive and now I have two strong hives which wern't subject to the collapse. Other than the first 3 weeks where I checked them all the time out of paranoia and because I initially had to feed them the honey b healthy recipe, I only see my bee's when there out at work. I don't want to have to feed them again and since spring isn't always a guarantee I'm leaving them 3 boxes this winter so theres no questions of having a strong start. I can harvest the 3rd box in the spring if things are good and replace with an empty. 

I can't really see a downside to this low management method, your really adding boxes to prevent swarming and that's about it. I'm eager to try catching a swarm in the spring with my empty hive, but seeing how much of a massive difference my bee's made to the surround 10 acres I can't imagine there being wild swarms in my region. Maybe it was because I started planting forage for them or maybe nature just got the memo, but I had at least 5 new species of polinator's go crazy for my yard, nothing could flower for more than an hour before someone was ramming themselves down an unopened flower to spread the pollen. I couldn't harvest all the blackberry this year, I can still find plants with fruit on them from late flowering way past blackberry season.
japan_bait_hive.jpg
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I too set up 3 hives about 5 years ago. I have yet to do a single thing with them. I lost one hive due to its placeement on a dam 17 in of rain in 24hrs caused a bit of an issue there.
Since then, the one lost has become hme to a swarm. I have dobled down twice and as of today I have 6 healthy hives. I check on them twice a year and when ever I am mowing in that area of the property. one of these days, I just might useing the honey.
Bees get in your blood. My son is 8 this year. 2 years ago I was heading out to cut some cedars and saw my son sitting about 5 ft from one of the hives. He had his are outstreached with a bunch of wild flowers in his little fist and his arm was covered in bees. When I asked him what he was doing, he remarked that he was just feeding the bees
 
Phil Hawkins
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I just built a new (small) top bar hive today, it cost me about $100 and took about eight hours.

I wrote all about it on my blog, so you can read it there

Tomorrow, I will put some bees in it. I'll report back on how that goes.
 
Dave Bennett
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"Bees get in your blood. My son is 8 this year. 2 years ago I was heading out to cut some cedars and saw my son sitting about 5 ft from one of the hives. He had his are outstreached with a bunch of wild flowers in his little fist and his arm was covered in bees. When I asked him what he was doing, he remarked that he was just feeding the bees"

That must have been one of those WOW! moments in life. Children have such a grand view of "things." My younger sister used to sit in the backtard and "play" with bees by letting walk around on her bare arms. I love bees also.
 
Kay Bee
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my experience with keeping bees has been in the suburbs. The hive did fine after I started with a 5 frame nuc, rather than "package" bees. I'll definitely start my hives from nucs this next time around.

Now that we live in a rural area, my concern is more around keeping large animal predators out... bears in particular. Back in the suburbs, skunks and birds were my only real pest and they didn't do much damage.

Not sure what the usual method is for keeping black bears away from hives, but I need to find it Layered, tough fences are what comes to mind, but I'm not sure if even that would work. May need a cage.
 
Saybian Morgan
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K.B.
I have bear's like dog's have fleas.
This year I can finaly say after the last bear break in that I think I finaly on fencing v4 have kept the bear's locked out.
I don't have strong fences, if I dig any deeper I'll hit a gas line, so some poles are only 6 inches in the ground and can be pulled out by hand.
What the fences Do have that does the job is, they have barbed wire down low to keep them from pushing it over and electric wire/fence at about 5 feet where there nose and paws would end up when they stand to bypass the wire.
Nothing has ever gotten caught with the wire it's main purpose is to get them to touch the electric before realizing they could simply walk through my fencing. The barb wire I only keep around the bee hives, the rest of the acre is just double fenced with bird netting with the same electric tape where they would naturally consider jumping over or leaning on. Vegetation basicaly makes the netting disapear and really tangles it up so it's more like a matted wall of grass and weeds, the wire I keep about 3 inches above the net so it's stay clear's and gives a whopper of a shock.

Electric fences arn't dangerous, if you've got no sense about you they can easily be grabbed and endured. I was fiddling with the bottom of my truck out just beside the fence, the door nudge open to far and touched the fence, when I put my wrench on the bolt I officialy yelped like a girl for the first time in my life, the blast went straight to my heart. It's not the strength but the shock that get's you. All the free roaming dog's in my neighbourhood learned that lesson trying to get through the hedgerow and into the duck pen. Now all you have to do is wave something yellow at them and they hit the road. For one reason or another the fence has been off almost 1/3 of the summer and nobody comes near it.
The last time the bear broke in was before the double fencing, the fence had been off all winter with no problems and surprisingly enough he came through the gate where there was no yellow line and I know it was a repeat offender bear. I havn't seen him since, and they use to come every day until the winter to ravage my fruit tree's so I think he finally got the message.

But overall you can't be too paranoid, racoon's get into the yard by going from tree to tree until they can land on the roof and bypass the boundary fence, the only reason I havn't had a problem since last year is they got a proper spray of mace in the face in the middle of the night when I found one at my window. Then again the chase to mace them off the roof also allowed the wind to mace me in the face, so I can say with experience nobody is getting hurt when you have to take such serious measure's.

If you don't have a large property to protect then you can really go hog wild and just pen in the bee's with multiple strands of electric wire around your fencing.
 
Kay Bee
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Thank you Saybian - a lot of good info there to think about.

We have 80 acres now, so plenty of room to work with. Eventually, I'd like to have quite a few hives, but will probably start back up with 5 or less and expand from there if things go well. My thought is to cluster the hives to make protection easier, but the downside is that I could risk all of them to a determined invader.

Maybe several layers of barbed wire fencing around a 10x20' area with some loops of electric fencing for extra discouragement. I'm handicapped on the electric wire charging by the property being off grid. I had looked in to a solar fence charger for the half-acre orchard when I was installing the fencing, but decided against it since I could find one that I thought had enough punch to it. For a small area, I could probably rig up my own solar panel charged battery system with a standard fence charger that would put enough Joules in the system to make it work.
 
Deb Berman
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Do any of you experienced beekeepers have some good strategies for dealing with hornet attacks? I had a hive wiped out by being attacked by two different kinds of hornets (baldfaces and some little skinny native kind). My hive was doing great, but I was away on vacation for a week, and when I got back it was literally surrounded by hornets. Every time a bee left the hive to forage she would be attacked by at least 10 hornets. For a while the bees were holding their own and successfully driving off the hornets, but the hornets eventually reduced the bee numbers too much, and apparently finally killed the queen.
 
tel jetson
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mossrose McCoy wrote:Do any of you experienced beekeepers have some good strategies for dealing with hornet attacks? I had a hive wiped out by being attacked by two different kinds of hornets (baldfaces and some little skinny native kind). My hive was doing great, but I was away on vacation for a week, and when I got back it was literally surrounded by hornets. Every time a bee left the hive to forage she would be attacked by at least 10 hornets. For a while the bees were holding their own and successfully driving off the hornets, but the hornets eventually reduced the bee numbers too much, and apparently finally killed the queen.


hornet traps can be pretty effective. best bet on those is to trap early before they're a noticeable problem. get the queens that way before they can establish a colony. trapping later in the season works, too, but by the time you notice a lot of hornets around, there are probably a number of healthy hornet nests pumping out replacements for any that you trap.

but hornets are, apart from killing honey bees and stinging us, nice critters to have around. they're predators of many herbivorous insects that damage food crops. and I believe that bald face hornets eat more honey bee predators than they do honey bees, but I could be mistaken about that. so the alternative is to make sure that the honey bees are otherwise very healthy and comfortable and able to deal with the hornets theyselves. I've seen hornets walk into my hives only to be marched right back out again accompanied by several honey bees.

many folks believe that reducing the size of the entrance helps with hornet problems, but not everyone. there are those who believe that a larger entrance, even to the extreme of bottomless hives, leads to more guard bees and better defense against predation.

and if you're using Warré hives, be sure to check the quilt for overwintering hornet queens. this year, I found a queen tucked up cozy for the cold season in 2/3 of my Warré hives.

 
Kay Bee
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once an attack from hornets or robber bees (another honeybee hive) gets started, it can be pretty hard to discourage. If you can track the attackers back to their nest/hive, you may at least be able to isolate the source of the problem.
 
tel jetson
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continuing on the hornet topic, it was a really bad (or good, depending on the point of view, I guess) year for hornets in western Washington this year. really bad. bad for bees, and really bad for making cider this fall. anybody else notice that here or elsewhere this year?
 
Kay Bee
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we had plenty of yellowjackets, bald-faced hornets, wild honeybees and others hanging out to mooch water from the irrigation pool, buckets, where ever they could find it during the Summer & early Fall, but it didn't seem excessive compared to last year.

You are near a river or other water source, aren't you?
 
Clifford Reinke
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I just finished the first of nine planned Top Bar beehives with my brother in law.




This was our prototype, and we learned a lot. Material costs came to $80.00. They sell on the market for around $350, and for good reason. There is a LOT of milling involved.

We plan to raise the bees with no chemicals. Next step, find some bees, we are leaning towards Russian bees right now.
 
tel jetson
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careinke McCoy wrote:We plan to raise the bees with no chemicals. Next step, find some bees, we are leaning towards Russian bees right now.


have you considered local feral bees? and maybe mixing in one or two Warré hives? they're much easier to build than horizontal top bars.
 
nancy sutton
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I hope to build a hive this spring, and appreciate the recommendations for Warre.

Also, as a prototype, for the city dweller.....and OT, I think the link in the article to "Microbial Kitchen" looks interesting ;)

http://inhabitat.com/philips-unveils-sexy-concept-bee-keeping-gadget/philips-urban-bee-keeper-2/
 
Madden Elout
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A question about reclaimed wood hives.

Spring is coming and it's time to make plans for constructing hives.
I'd rather use the waste stream and reuse wood for a hive than buy it.
Wood Pallets, at first, seem like an option but there are different types.

Heat Treated (HT), Methyl Bromide (MB), food grade, plastic, and probably some others.
Pallets usually have specific markings placed on them at time of manufacture to help differentiate them, and this is what I'd be looking for when picking them up.

But can any of these be used for hives?
Below are my guesses at the meanings. feel free to give me better info.

HT - heat treatment which kills bacteria before being shipped
MB - impregnate the wood with a chemical fungicide/pesticide to prevent food-borne bacteria from spreading.
FG - sprayed? with MB before use

There are also untreated pallets, but I imagine those could be the most contaminated.
Of all these HT seems best. They are not treated with chemicals, just heated to kill bacteria.

Has anyone noticed any problems with their hives?
If I find HT pallets and do a linseed oil/beeswax coating on the outside, should I worry at all? - me
 
Dave Bennett
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Madden Elout wrote:A question about reclaimed wood hives.

Spring is coming and it's time to make plans for constructing hives.
I'd rather use the waste stream and reuse wood for a hive than buy it.
Wood Pallets, at first, seem like an option but there are different types.

Heat Treated (HT), Methyl Bromide (MB), food, grade, plastic, and probably some others.
Pallets usually have specific markings placed on them at time of manufacture to help differentite them, and this is what I'd be looking for when picking them up.

But can any of these be used for hives?
Below are my guesses at the meanings. feel free to give me better info.

HT - heat treatment which kills bacteria before being shipped
MB - impregnate the wood with a chemical fungicide/pesticide to prevent food-borne bacteria from spreading.
FG - sprayed? with MB before use

There are also untreated pallets, but I imagine those would be the most contaminated.
Of all these HT seems best. They are not treated with chemicals, just heated to kill bacteria.

Has anyone noticed any problems with their hives?
If I find HT pallets and do a linseed oil/beeswax coating on the outside, should I worry at all? - me

I did not build hives but I did build my rabbit hutches out of plain untreated pallets. I do not necessarily agree that the untreated are the most contaminated. Building using pallets is not the easiest method but it certainly is the least expensive. I have a fairly good collection of very useful woodworking equipment albeit small portable power tools but it was still pretty labor intensive. I thoroughly enjoyed it however. It is helpful if at all possible knowing what was shipped on the pallets. For me that is easy because of where I procure my pallets. I would suspect that the untreated pallets would be your best bet. I have access to pallets that have been sitting in a railroad yard out in the weather for a couple of years. Most of them are made from white oak so the wood is very resistant to decay. I usually spend a couple of days dismantling them and when the piles of slats and stringers is about two full pickup truck loads I bring them home and put them on my lumber rack.
 
Madden Elout
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Dave Bennet, Thanks for giving me another p.o.v.

Dave Bennett wrote: It is helpful if at all possible knowing what was shipped on the pallets. For me that is easy because of where I procure my pallets.

This may be what I was getting at.

Many of the pallets I see are in someone's backyard or shed so, unless that person knows where they all came from, the pallets and what they shipped with are a mystery.
And that makes me think twice about them.
Untreated wood in and of itself is great, of course.
I'll take my chances if I find UT pallets, and be on cloud nine if I can get them right from the source.
I can always build a better beehive later on if it still bugs me.

Back to my original post: can anyone weigh in on the effects of heat treated pallets? Is the HT done each time before use?
Has anyone noticed ill effects when using HT pallets in the care of their critters?
 
Rob Sigg
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Clifford Reinke wrote:I just finished the first of nine planned Top Bar beehives with my brother in law.




This was our prototype, and we learned a lot. Material costs came to $80.00. They sell on the market for around $350, and for good reason. There is a LOT of milling involved.

We plan to raise the bees with no chemicals. Next step, find some bees, we are leaning towards Russian bees right now.



Nice Hive, looks alot like the hive from beelanding.com, James sells them. Care to share more details on your design and build out?

Like you signature too.
 
Clifford Reinke
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Hi Rob,

I've done a little more work on them. Here is a finished one with the lid attached.


I did buy the plans from beelanding.com, I met James at the Mother Earth News Fair in Puyallup last summer. I liked the fact that he used 2" X's as his primary lumber. I was a little taken aback by the prices of his hives, but after building three so far, I can honestly say his prices are more than reasonable. I would never start a business selling hives at his prices. Way to much labor involved making them. On the other hand, my Brother in Law and I are having a blast building them.

Although his plans were complete, they leave a lot to be desired. There were no photos in the plan documents. The drawings were very hard to read and decipher. He used no shading, and the lines were all the same thickness including the dimension lines. The directions were also a little difficult to follow. I may be a little harsh here. In a previous life, I ran a bunch of technical course-ware and training developers, so I know a little about presentation. That said, the plans were complete, down to the shopping list. I'm thinking about rewriting his plans and sending them back to him.

Since we made some modifications to his plans, I'm going to rewrite them anyway. That way when we build the next set, we will have a nice document to remind us of the pitfalls we found building the first three. We also took lots of pics. Here are some of the changes we made:

1. The bottom on ours is 2"X, the plans called for 1"X. We did that to beef up the hive even more since we eliminated the metal bar support.

2. Added a fixed crossbar at the top of the hive on either end. This gave us a convenient handle for moving the hive, helped strengthen the hive in lieu of the metal bars, and prevents the end pieces from sliding off the end of the hive.

3. Modified the milling of the ends on the top bars.

Since we plan to make more, we built some simple jigs to help with assembly. The top cover was our own design. The design was dictated by the roof panels, which I got for free. They are awesome in the rain, with built in gutters. I think they look nice too. We did not put any finish on the inside of the hive. I debated painting the outside of the hive white, but decided on using boiled linseed oil instead. Now I just have to figure out a stand I like. I want one that will have a place to hang a comb, and maybe some open storage under it.

Sorry it took so long to reply, I was off the board for a while.

P.S. My sig sort of sums me up..... A permie libertarian.
 
tel jetson
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careful with the boiled linseed oil, Clifford. there is some fairly nasty stuff in there. raw linseed oil might be a better bet. some folks mix beeswax in, too, which is a good idea supposing you can source clean, chemical-free wax.

the horizontal hives look good.
 
Dave Bennett
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Tung oil is a pain in the butt to apply but is very water resistant. Mixing Mineral Oil and beeswax works too but isn't as water resistant. I use pure raw tung oil on almost all of my woodworking projects.
 
tel jetson
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I like pure tung oil, too. takes ages to cure. a little citrus solvent helps it penetrate better without the usual solvent toxicity. I wouldn't huff the stuff, but it sure beats mineral spirits.
 
Dave Bennett
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Who suggested mineral spirits? I use orange oil for lots of "stuff."
 
tel jetson
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Dave Bennett wrote:Who suggested mineral spirits? I use orange oil for lots of "stuff."


nobody suggested it. but mineral spirits, along with several other nasty solvents, are commonly used to cut oils and other wood finishes to improve penetration or curing. just trying to preach the merits of a less toxic option.
 
Dave Bennett
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I thought I missed something. I used to make salad bowls out of slices of logs. I only ever use tung oil. Just plain tung oil with nothing in it. I have used linseed oil before but it takes even longer to dry than tung oil. When I was a youngster my Mom would take pieces that my Dad had built for her and submerge them in linseed oil for what seemed like months.
 
tel jetson
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tung oil is toxic until it cures, but only if ingested as I recall. smells a lot better than curing linseed oil.

where do you buy tung oil, by the way? used to be only a few specialty paint stores carried it around here. seems a bit easier to find now, but I'm not convinced the quality is the same. I've never added anything to the tung oil either, but I hear it suggested quite a bit and I could see the advantage of thinning it out for some applications.

back to beehives: any treatment should probably allow the wood to breath as much as possible. that way the bees can adjust things from the inside to their preference. they'll add propolis to seal things up, and remove it to allow more moisture exchange. that's sort of at odds with preserving the wood, but I believe the bees will be healthier. in Clifford's hives, that roof should go a long way toward protecting the wood without any treatment at all. my own preference is to put my hives in a shelter.
 
Dave Bennett
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Tung oil is not toxic. I have been using it for decades.
 
Rob Sigg
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Thanks Cliff. James is a great guy, and Im sure he would appreciate any constructive feedback. I thought about buying the plans but I just dont have the time, so its good to hear you felt it was a good value. Unfortunatley the freight to get it to PA is almost $100, so almost $500 total. I figured I would buy the first one, and then model the following ones after it. I do like your roof idea too. Did James recommend the sealer to you? I thought it was just raw pine and that it had the roof to protect most of it. I have plenty of raw lumber but some of it is pressure treated, so I was assuming I shouldnt use it.

PS, Im also a permie libertarian, nice to see more of us out there
 
tel jetson
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Dave Bennett wrote:Tung oil is not toxic. I have been using it for decades.


I would bet that you haven't been drinking it for decades. I was taught that it's toxic to ingest, just like many other plant products are toxic to ingest. certainly not toxic like benzene or toluene or other brain dissolving and liver scarring substances. and once cured, it's completely harmless. there is also the potential issue of folks with nut allergies reacting badly to it. anyhow, I guess the jury's still out.

back to bees...
 
Dave Bennett
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tel jetson wrote:tung oil is toxic until it cures, but only if ingested as I recall. smells a lot better than curing linseed oil.

where do you buy tung oil, by the way? used to be only a few specialty paint stores carried it around here. seems a bit easier to find now, but I'm not convinced the quality is the same. I've never added anything to the tung oil either, but I hear it suggested quite a bit and I could see the advantage of thinning it out for some applications.

back to beehives: any treatment should probably allow the wood to breath as much as possible. that way the bees can adjust things from the inside to their preference. they'll add propolis to seal things up, and remove it to allow more moisture exchange. that's sort of at odds with preserving the wood, but I believe the bees will be healthier. in Clifford's hives, that roof should go a long way toward protecting the wood without any treatment at all. my own preference is to put my hives in a shelter.

I buy my tung oil here:
http://www.realmilkpaint.com/oil.html
 
tel jetson
steward
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Location: woodland, washington
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Dave Bennett wrote:
I buy my tung oil here:
http://www.realmilkpaint.com/oil.html


excellent. that looks like the good stuff Daly's in Seattle used to sell.
 
Kay Bee
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Location: Jackson County, OR (Zone 7)
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I attended a sustainability show a couple weekends back up in Eugene and had an interesting conversation with the rep from the Lane County beekeepers association.... Immediately after introducing himself and the organization after finding out that I was interested in getting back to beekeeping again, he told me that it was important to feed and treat the bees to make sure that we are not "part of the problem". I left the booth quickly thereafter. Interesting approach for the first minute with a stranger.

I'm excited to get started on building my top bar hives this month. I need to get to work on designing the plans so that they can accept frames from a standard Langstroth hive body. I'll be starting with 5 frame nucs, so I'm kind of stuck with the dimensions.
 
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