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First log hive

 
Michael Cox
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Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
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Michael Cox
Posts: 1570
Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
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Inspired by the other thread on log hives, here is my finished monstrosity...

It has 5 levels/sections... from the base up

  • A solid slab base - approx 18 inches
  • A deep body section, hollowed with top bars
  • A second deep body section
  • A "super" - shallow section, again with top bars
  • A lid - approx 8 inches thick


  • Overall I think I have around 10 hours invested in this, but a lot of that time was learning how to do it quickly. I could probably do a second hive now in around five hours, and do a better job too.

    Choosing a Trunk Section
    I happened to have access to a large section of a lime (linden/basswood) tree which fell a few months ago. By some very rough calculations I knew I was aiming for a height of around 6ft for all five levels, for it to be manageable, and an internal volume of around 60 litres. This means at a minimum a hollow diameter of 1ft, but ideally more like 18 inches. With around 4 inches of wood left all around for structure and insulation you need a log around 2ft diameter as a starting point. Don't bother going much smaller unless you can cope with a very tall hive!

    The piece I chose was actually a crotch section, so had a slightly odd shape. It all worked fine.

    Before cutting the rounds free score along the trunk so you can easily line them up again. I did a single line on one side and a double line on the other so I can't get jumbled up. I also numbered each section so I can get the order right more easily.

    The cuts you make to separate each round from the trunk will determine the stability of your finished hive - these big cuts required cutting from both sides with my saw which highlighted issues with uneven sharpening (barely noticeable when cutting firewood). Make sure your chain is evenly sharpened so it doesn't pull in one direction while cutting.

    Hollowing Out
    Hollowing and cutting of the logs was all done with a chainsaw. I was a little apprehensive of the plunge cut to begin with, but it all went smoothly. After some trial and lots of error I worked out that the best way to get a good finish is to cut as much material away with the very first plunge cuts, when you drop the core out of the middle. The less nibbling away you need to do to enlarge the hole the better. When using the saw to further hollow the sides out it works better if you cut with the top edge of the bar - this throws the long shavings away from you, otherwise they tended to clog the chain cover.

    It takes practice to get good clean cuts like this and I managed to stuff up my first section - I cut too thinly in one spot and later dropped the log which split. Lesson learned. A few things to look out for:

  • Work from the smaller end of the log - you are less likely to go wrong
  • Score the outline you are intending to plunge cut away before you start - double check it all lines up properly at the other end.
  • Do at least one practice run before you try to do it for real - my last log looks MUCH better than my first, and was quicker too.


  • Fitting Top Bars
    The idea with this type of log hive is zero intervention other than honey harvest by removing the top super. To that end it doesn't matter at all if the bees cross-comb, and there is no need to try and respect bee spaces and the like. The top bars are just there to give the bees something to hang from. They are removable though, and all different lengths based on the shape of the log.

    I used a hammer and chisel for this - I've never cut notches with a chisel, so again there was a lot of trial and error. On the whole I notched to give each bar about 1 inch of support at each end and a couple of mm of wriggle room so they are not a tight fit (I'm concerned about the log drying and shrinking). The gap between bars is about half an inch, or a little more.

    For the bars themselves I used some timber that the local hardware store had in, which looked about right - I think it was about 1 1/2 inches, by 3/4 inches pine. You could probably do just as good a job from the bees point of view using straight splits shaved to rough shape.
     
    Michael Cox
    Posts: 1570
    Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
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    A few more pictures.
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    Scores down the sides help to get it lined up properly
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    My helper checking out the log before cutting
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    Again, supervising daddy - I now keep getting told "Daddy make noise" or "Daddy chainsaw!"
     
    Cory Collins
    Posts: 40
    Location: McKinney, Tx
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    This is awesome! How do the bees enter the hive, and how's it going so far? Do you have bees moved into the hive?
     
    Michael Cox
    Posts: 1570
    Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
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    Hi Cory,

    I put a medium size swarm in there about 6 weeks ago. They have two entrance holes drilled in the lower part of the body, but there is also a narrow crack between two of the levels where they get in and out.

    I don't have any kind of viewing window so I can only tell what is going on from the outside. Bee numbers are way down, just seeing 3 or 4 bees per minute at the moment. Unfortunately they were a late swarm and missed our main honey flow.

    I'm leaving them undisturbed and will see how they do going through the winter. If they don't make it I will either put another swarm in or hope that a local swarm finds the log - likely as the old wax will smell attractive to them.

    Mike
     
    Martin Miljkovic
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    Hi, you may wish to add a wider entrance so that you may protect them from summer heat better. Also a cone on it so that you stop mice from entering during winter.
     
    Michael Cox
    Posts: 1570
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    Hi Martin,

    Their entrance is quite adequate at present. The site gets shade in summer but nice early morning sun. Also, the thick wood walls do a pretty good job of insulating so I don't anticipate too much heat as a problem. Thus far there are very few bees so small entrances are appropriate.

    Here all the feral colonies I have seen are using tiny cracks in the mortar of buildings. I've never seen a feral colony using an entrance the size of those in modern bee hives.
     
    Martin Miljkovic
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    I can't really asses the size of your hive. My assumption is that you will do some management of swarming and in that way get some honey. If you do it that way you will have amount of the bees that is much higher than in those feral colonies. That means more bodies = more heat. You can solve the overheating by adding a net on a frame on to of the hive during the next summer. That way you may not need the wider entrance. It may not be the best idea to redo the enterance once you already have them inside.
     
    Michael Cox
    Posts: 1570
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    I'm basically planning on letting them go feral. If they throw off swarms I might catch them, or they may end up in one of my swarm traps. There isn't really a way to manage them for swarming, as they are building fixed comb.

    A honey crop may or may not come given time.
     
    Martin Miljkovic
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    If you have a nice piece with whort trees near your house they will go there when they swarm so you will not need to climb. Once they find a spot "to go" they will use it every time.
     
    Martin Miljkovic
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    That is short trees not wort
     
    Michael Cox
    Posts: 1570
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    Just to let people know, this swarm didn't make it.

    They were flying from the log hive for a good month or so but never built up numbers and then were suddenly dead. That is my third failed caught swarm this year. Still no closer to working out why they are not making it.
     
    Bill Bradbury
    pollinator
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    Sorry to hear that Michael. Your house, wow!!!
     
    Michael Cox
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    Nice place isn't it

    That is actually my parent's place - I just steal their garden for my daft projects and get sent out with the chainsaw and hedge trimmer every now and then to beat back the jungle. Downsides of an old property is that it has a large "formal garden" that needs lots of upkeep and basically cannot be altered because it is protected. The large and rambling place was divided into 7 properties about 50 years ago, my parents own three and knocked the flats back together to make a larger house. We got a nice bit of garden with it.

    They were friends with the guy who used to own it and by chance bumped into him as he was thinking about moving. They popped around the next day, made an offer on it there and then - shook hands on the deal without it ever going to agents. They spent the first 12 months shell-shocked saying they couldn't believe they lived there
     
    Rob Irish
    Posts: 223
    Location: Estonia, Zone 5/6
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    Hey Michael - the bee house and your parents place looks great! Sorry to hear you haven't got a swarm living in there properly yet. Any ideas why or updates on this?

    We've got an old birch we're thinking of chopping down that is hollowed on the inside.. about 3' diameter. Reading your post cleared some things up I wasn't able to gather from the other post on Holzer style log beehive.

    Just a idea - do you know if the pine milled wood you bought was treated somehow? I personally will just be hand squaring off some hazelnut rods for this as I don't trust shop wood for the process they put the wood through. I don't know if they treat it always with chemicals but that comes to mind as a reason why bees might react poorly.

    In your plan you have a deep body section with top bars and a second deep body section and a "super" shallow section with top bars. Newbie question but what are the sections for?
     
    Michael Cox
    Posts: 1570
    Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
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    Rob - sorry I didn't see your post before!

    The various sections are:

  • to act as a "super" so I can have the possibility of a future honey harvest
  • to make the chain saw cuts easier - I have an 18" bar on my saw which makes the really long log hives a non-starter.


  • Regarding the construction process - practice makes perfect, I got much better at carving and shaping with the saw. Since then I have seen videos of log hives hollowed out with a long sharpened bar, once an initial core was worked by the chainsaw. It looks like it gives a more even finish and, depending on the wood, is not much more work. Chainsaws are heavy and hard to wield like this!.

    I have some more logs available that I'd like to make more hives from this year.


    This guy has a good process going for him, but his is obviously not hoping for a honey harvest (no bars/harvest mechanism!)
     
    Rob Irish
    Posts: 223
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    Thanks for getting back to me Michael.

    I like how he finished it off with the long diy chisel. It kind of makes sense like he says to avoid the chainsaw oils being all over the inside of the hive.

    I've got a shortish bar like yours as well, but I'm working with a 3' diameter log which I'm guessing means I can go for a shorter hive.

    Is there an ideal volume of the total hollow?

     
    Michael Cox
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    Wild colonies average in at about 40 litres... I aim for about 60 litres in a log hive, but would do smaller if I was limited in log dimensions.

    I'd love to know if that tool has a special name - I can't find anything quite like it online. Bark Peeling Spuds are similar but have a flat blade, where his is dished to make carving the interior possible.
     
    Michael Cox
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    Here is another style... hollowed from the long side rather than the ends






     
    chad Christopher
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    Location: Pittsburgh PA
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    In the future, hot coals are one of the best ways to hollow a log. Look into natural drum making techniques.
     
    Michael Cox
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    Chad - thanks for that tip. I've thought about that before but not yet had a chance to try it. From some videos I have seen the progress is slow but steady. I usually get chunks of time that I need to work with efficiently. Long drawn out projects just don't get finished.

    That said, I think there is room for a hybrid method: plunge cut a core out your log then burn out to the desired final diameter. I wonder what effect the chimney shape of the hollow log would have? I know a swedish torch burns like rocket when it gets going. I'm currently sketching up some ideas based on the last few videos I linked to. I'd like to be able to maintain the structural integrity of a long log length, which basically means cutting from the side of the log and then hollowing. I start the shaping with the chainsaw, then finish the hollowing and shaping with fire and hand tools. Plus I think if you get this right you can even possibly super with a conventional box. Leave them for a season to build out the colony in the hive, then the following season open a second hole in the log and put a super box on top to give them extra room.

    This method should make some smaller diameter logs more viable, especially if you can leave them in a horizontal configuration, rather than needing to arrange them vertically in slices.
     
    Rob Irish
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    That is really interesting. Ok 40-60 litres! Thanks

    I think that tool he used he said it was just a self made diy chisel. I'd say he just took a metal rod and angle grinded out a curved chisel head. It looks really effective.

    I love how there is so many ways to do it.

    I couldn't find natural drum making coal burning, but did find it with burning primitive bowls. Would take longer than chainsaw but coupled with other activities, maybe outdoor bbq and other people involved in the sharing of the blowing load it could be more fun.

    If the bees choose often rotted out logs, that wood is often darker on the inside where it has rotted. So a coal burned log might be more what they like compared to a clean cut chainsaw hollow.

     
    pato van ostra
    Posts: 30
    Location: 0deg lat, 1100m elev. Choco-Andean bioregion
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    I'm curious if this log would be too large. It's about 4' diameter with an inner diameter of 2'. I can cut it to whatever length I need with my chainsaw.
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    I agree. Here's the link: https://richsoil.com/wood-heat.jsp
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