We Have Bees!

Kenyan top bar beehive

There it is: our version of a Kenyan Top Bar Beehive!

We finished the Kenyan Top Bar Beehive just in time!  Ray and I built our own Kenyan Top Bar Beehive with plans given to us by Master Gardener Kim at one of her workshops we attended on beekeeping.  The plan was simple and easy to follow.  Now all we needed were some bees!

I had ordered the bees from Olivarez Honey Bees via phone a few months in advance.  While on the phone I was given the choice between the Italian or the Carnolian variety of bees, but I wasn’t sure which one to go with. I told the order taker that we were first time beekeepers and I had a fear of being stung, so I wanted the most gentle bees possible.  She said both varieties are gentle.  Then I told her they would be at 3,000 foot elevation and would have to withstand a little bit of snow now and then, but hot and dry summers.  She said both varieties were excellent for the situation I described.  I told her we would be using the Top Bar Hive system and would be beekeeping organically.  She said either one would be great for a top bar hive. So with the Italians and the Carnolians being fairly equal, I decided to go with the Italians.  It was easier to say. 🙂

The day arrived to pick up our bees.  We had about a 2 hour drive to get to the ranch holding the bee day and we wanted to get there early.

Oliverez Honey Bee Day

Free coffee and donuts – I’ll have two (of each)  🙂 They also offered free fruit smoothies – yum!

Parking was a breeze in the large cow pasture next to the event.  We were offered free coffee and donuts (yes, please!) and then set about exploring and mingling.  Ray and I sat at a table to enjoy our morning snack and met a very nice lady who was there to get her second package of bees from Olivarez, as she was very happy with the package she got last year.  Another couple we talked to were getting their first package of bees, but had been helping a neighbor with his bees for years and enjoyed it so much they decided to get some of their own.  When I asked if they had ever been stung and how many times, they answered “of course” but that it was “their own fault”.  I ask this question a lot and I get the same sort of answer a lot. I am petrified of getting stung, so I want to know every detail of why, how and what happened when I hear someone else’s story.  Usually their answer is something like “I got too close to the hive entrance” or “I was working too quickly and hit the hive with my elbow”, or stories similar to that.  Then they would tell me, “it hurts (not gonna lie to you) but only for an hour or so”.

Well, alright then. I’m probably going to get stung.

Our first order of business was to check-in at the ordering desk. We have bees!-9

Everyone was so friendly and happy to have us there as customers, and the whole process was very smooth!  They found my name, saw that I had ordered one package of Italians, and that it was already paid for with my bank card.  I was given a receipt and told that I can pick up my bees at any time, but she said most people get their package after lunch.  Cool!

Here is the Mann Lake Booth.  We got some gloves, a smoker and some bee food here.

Here is the Mann Lake Booth.

There were also several vendors at the event.  Mann Lake, ltd  had a large retail area under the huge circus-like tent. They brought just about anything a beekeeper would need.  We looked at their books and browsed through some of their equipment.  Most of their equipment was for Langstroth hives but we did buy some gloves, a smoker, and some bee food.  We had previously purchased our bee suits online.

 

Another vendor was the Chico Honey Company, and they had some very delicious honey to purchase, along with t-shirts, honey paraphernalia and such. There was also a kid’s area with face painting.  Maybe next year when we get another package of bees we can take our grandchildren.  I think they would really enjoy the day.

I also have to show you this beautiful quilt they had hanging at the venue. Isn’t it just the cutest thing?

Newbee Beekeeping

Isn’t this just the cutest quilt!

After eating our donut (s) and drinking a few cups of coffee (it was really good), it was time to watch one of the demonstrations.

Installing bees into a top bar hive

A demonstration on how to install a new package of honey bees.

One of the Olivarez Beekeepers gave a very thorough and informative demonstration on how to install your bees into your hive. He made it look just a bit too easy, but then he is a professional.  I was very glad to hear a lot of his tips, such as to spray your bees with sugar water because it makes them happy and less likely to sting or fly and also to avoid installing the bees when it is dark because they don’t fly in the dark, have to crawl, and are more prone to sting out of fear.  After the morning demonstration, we had a little more time to browse the vendors and mingle with other beekeepers, then a hot dog barbeque lunch was served!

It was finally time to get our bees and go home.  All we had to do was hand our receipt to one of the bee guys, who promptly disappeared into the barn.  Seconds later he came out with our package of Italian honey bees that included one mated queen and three pounds of worker bees!  Here they are…

Italian Honey Bee Packages

Here is Ray with our bee package and the Queen Bee!

We Have Bees!  Stay tuned for the installation!

 

0001

Where the party is:  Meet Up MondayThank Goodness It’s MonClever Chicks Blog Hop;Grand Social; Mix It Up Mon;Create, Link, Inspire;  Amaze Me MonMotivation Monday;Inspiration Monday; Made By You Mon;Homemaking Monday; Mum-bo MondayShow & Share Tuesday; The Gathering Spot; Tues Garden Party; Brag About ItTuesdays with a Twist;The Scoop; Two Cup Tues; Tweak It Tues; Inspire Me Tues; Tuesdays at Our Home;  Pinterest FoodieLou Lou GirlsInspire Us Tues; Party In Your PJ’sMake, Bake and CreateDown Home Blog HopWildcrafting Wednesday;  Wicked Awesome WedWhatever goes Wed; Show and Share Wed; Wined Down Wed; What We Accomplished;  Project ParadeWake Up Wed; Fluster’s Creative Muster; Hump Day Happenings; Homestead Blog Hop; The Blogger’s Digest; Wow Us Wednesday; Turn To ShineOur Simple Homestead; Share Your Cup Thursday;  Home and Garden Thurs;  The Handmade HangoutCreate it Thursday;  Think Tank Thurs; Green Thumb Thurs;Homemaking Party; Treasure Hunt Thurs; All Things Thursday Inspire Us Thurs; Inspire or be Inspired; Project Parade; Inspiration Gallery; Pure Blog Love; Favorite Things;Freedom Fridays; Friendship Friday; From The Farm Blog Hop; Eat, Create, PartyPinworthy Projects PartyFarmgirl Friday;  Friday Flash Blog Party; Weekend re-Treat; Family Fun Friday; Friday’s Five Features; Real Food Fridays; Friday FavoritesOld Fashioned Friday; Fridays Unfolded; Inspired Weekend; Show Off Friday;Craft Frenzy FridayFront Porch Friday; No Rules Weekend Party; Friday Favorites;Giggles Galore; Say G’Day SaturdaySuper Saturday; Simply Natural Sat;  Saturday Sparks;  Show and Tell Sat;  My Favorite Things;  Dare to Share; Scraptastic SaturdayFrugal Crafty Home; That DIY Party; Nifty Thrifty Sunday; DIY Sunday Showcase; Snickerdoodle Sunday;  Simple Life Sunday; Think Pink Sunday; Sunday Showcase

Kenyan Top Bar Hive – Part 1

We always knew that we wanted a beehive on our homestead.  Honeybees provide many important products and services.  Not only do they give us a delicious honey and beeswax, but they also provide pollination, which is very important.

Over the past couple of years we have attended several talks and workshops dedicated to honeybees and apiculture.  First, we attended a wonderfully informative lecture about

Wine and honey tasting - what could make a better afternoon?

Wine and honey tasting – what could make a better afternoon?

the life and value of a honeybee, and then we got to taste several flavors of fresh, organic honey (and wine!), in Livermore with Gerard’s Honeybees.  A couple of years ago we attended our first National Heirloom Expo in Santa Rosa and attended a discourse about the importance of natural beekeeping.  Finally, last summer, we attended a talk given by Kim, Master Gardener of Berry Creek Station, who first talked about the lifecycle of bees, types of bees and the uses of bee products.  She was gracious enough to take us into her private backyard to show us her bee garden and three of her hives.  At the lecture, Kim also gave us simple plans to build a Kenyan Top Bar Beehive.

A Kenyan Top Bar Hive is a more natural home for honeybees than the traditional Langstroth hive, although it isn’t as natural as a hollow log.  The advantages of the top bar hive over the Lanstroth are numerous, the most important being the health of the bee.  You see, wild bees will make the cells in their honeycomb about 4.7 to 4.9 mm in diameter.  If you give a bee colony a comb foundation that has larger cells, about 5.3 to 5.5 mm, they will draw the comb out to that size, and since the cell is larger, the baby bee will be larger also.  It was thought that larger bees would make more comb and therefore more honey…  right?   Well, not really.  Scientists found that the larger bees were actually lazy!  Go figure!

But that’s not the big problem.  The big problem is that the tracheal mite, which couldn’t fit into the smaller bee’s trachea,honeybee could now fit into a larger bee’s trachea.  Ouch!  And the varroa mite, which is a nasty little leachy parasite for honeybees, reproduces inside the cell with the developing honeybee, and the longer the honeybee is in the cell, the more varroa mites!  The larger bees develop inside their cells about 2 days longer than the smaller, more natural bees.

The disadvantages of the Kenyan Top Bar Hive?  The bees must first make their own comb, which means they have less time to make honey.  Is that bad?  Not really.  It just means we don’t get to harvest any honey the first year, that’s all.  (well, we might take just a smidgen to taste!)  We would rather have healthy, happy bees than have to use chemicals and pesticides, which is what I believe is part of the colony collapse problem!

Bottom line – smaller bees, no tracheal mites and less problem with varroa mites!

With this knowledge and plans in hand, we decided to build our own Kenyan Top Bar Hive.

Kenyan top bar beehive

We begin our project of making a Kenyan Top Bar Beehive!

We used Poplar wood for most of the project because it is a relatively hard wood that doesn’t twist or shrink too much, and it didn’t cost an arm and a leg.  We used the plans that Kim gave us, but after researching Kenyan Top Bar Hives, we found numerous other plans on the internet.  They were all pretty much the same, and we improvised a bit here and there.

Kenyan Top Bar Beehive

A viewing window was cut into one side of the beehive, and a plexiglass window inserted.

We did stay true to the measurements for the actual box, along with the angle of the sides.  In hindsight however, I think it would have been nice for the bees to have a wider landing spot – maybe 2 inches instead of one.  This is what we will do when we make our next hive.  We also discovered that straight cuts are very important, and we were blessed to have inherited my father’s old table saw that allowed us to make straight angled cuts for the side walls.

You really don’t have to make legs for the Kenyan Top Bar Hive.  If you wanted to, the box could be set upon bricks or some type of sturdy structure – just don’t leave it on the ground.  That might invite ants, mice, etc., and you don’t want that!  Ray made legs out of simple 2 x 4 framing lumber with braces to keep it sturdy. We stayed away from any type of treated lumber because, well, it’s been treated with pesticides!

Making a Kenyan Hive

2 x 4 legs with plenty of bracing will hold the hive off the ground.

Once the legs were attached to the box, we added the hardware for the viewing window.  I saw these cute suitcase-like latches and thought they would be great!  A couple of hinges made the whole thing complete.  After the plexiglass window was caulked in, the viewing window was compete.Making a top bar beehive Part 1-5

Now for a roof.  When you search for images of Kenyan Top Bar Hives on the internet, you can find many, many types of roofs.  In some areas, the beekeeper doesn’t even put on a roof!  Others use metal.  Some pictures show thick cardboard held on with bungies!  We opted to go with a pitched roof, both for the aesthetics, the insulation value and the snow load.  However, we didn’t want the bees to go willy-nilly in the attic of the hive and start making comb from the inside of the roof, so it was decided to make a flat roof first, then add a second “A-frame” over the top.  Why two pieces?  Because the whole thing was heavy, and we aren’t getting any younger!  I can easily lift each piece off, one at a time, and it’s no big deal.

Kenyan top bar beehive

Our version of a Kenyan Top Bar Beehive!

So, there it is!  Everything but the actual Top Bars!  We will finish the hive and some accessories in the next post, so stay tuned!

0001

I may be attending the following parties:

Monday:  Meet Up MondayThank Goodness It’s MondayClever Chicks Blog Hop; Grand Social; Mix It Up Monday;Create, Link, Inspire;  Amaze Me MondayMotivation Monday; Inspiration Monday; Made By You Monday;Homemaking Mondays; Mum-bo Monday Tuesday:   Show & Share Tuesday; The Gathering Spot; Tuesday Garden Party; Brag About ItTuesdays with a Twist;The Scoop; Two Cup Tuesday; Tweak It Tuesday; Inspire Me Tuesdays; Tuesdays at Our Home;  Pinterest Foodie;Lou Lou GirlsInspire Us Tuesday; Party In Your PJ’s Wednesday: Make, Bake and CreateDown Home Blog HopWildcrafting Wednesday;  Wicked Awesome Wednesday;Whatever goes Wednesday; Show and Share Wednesday; Wined Down Wednesday; What We Accomplished;  Project ParadeWake Up Wednesday; Fluster’s Creative Muster; Hump Day Happenings; Homestead Blog Hop; The Blogger’s Digest; Wow Us Wednesday; Turn To Shine Thursday:   The HomeAcre Hop; Share Your Cup Thursday;  Home and Garden Thursday;  The Handmade HangoutCreate it Thursday;  Think Tank Thursday; Green Thumb Thursday; Homemaking Party; Treasure Hunt Thursday; All Things Thursday Inspire Us Thursday; Inspire or be Inspired; Project Parade; Inspiration Gallery; Pure Blog Love; Favorite Things Friday:  Freedom Fridays; Friendship Friday; From The Farm Blog Hop; Eat, Create, PartyPinworthy Projects Party;Farmgirl Friday;  Friday Flash Blog Party; Weekend re-Treat; Family Fun Friday; Friday’s Five Features; Real Food Fridays; Friday FavoritesOld Fashioned Friday; Fridays Unfolded; Inspired Weekend; Show Off Friday; Craft Frenzy FridayFront Porch Friday; No Rules Weekend Party; Friday Favorites; Giggles Galore Saturday:  Say G’Day SaturdaySuper Saturday; Simply Natural Saturdays;  Saturday Sparks;  Show and Tell Saturday;  My Favorite Things;  Dare to Share; Scraptastic Saturday Sunday:  Frugal Crafty Home; That DIY Party; Nifty Thrifty Sunday; DIY Sunday Showcase; Snickerdoodle Sunday;  Simple Life Sunday; Think Pink Sunday; Sunday Showcase

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...