Monday, September 10, 2007

Building Top Bar bee hives

So this weekend I went to Woodsman Bill and Doctor Anna's place out by Estacada and built some Top Bar bee hives. This is a hive and beekeeping style that's organic, and considered biodynamic as well. It appeals to me because it is low tech and puts the health of the bees as top priority. With the state of our bees in the U.S. declining, the more of these hives in the world the better as far as I'm concerned.

The first photo here is of the boxes only of the 3 hives that Woodsman Bill helped me make. There are no lids or bars in the hives, they aren't painted or anything, but it was the first step. Note in the front of the top hive the little entryway and landing pad for the bees.

The simple pine boxes reminded me of old-west coffins. The construction is pretty remedial for anyone who has done woodwork before -- it does take a table saw that can cut on an angle however, so Bill's tools were a great boon to me. He also saved me tons of time and wood and heartache by just knowing what cuts to make and where to bevel them. I'm sure I would have figured it out eventually, but not without some screaming and gnashing of teeth. The website where we got our design info has lots of other info and literature that you can check out regarding top bar bee hives and organic beekeeping.

Here are the same hives with one lid on. The way I'm going to finish off the lids and waterproof them is the next photo. Simple system using corrugated plastic, and putting a bit of a tip to the lid so it drains away from the landing pad. The prototype lid here is Bill's.

Here are two pictures of the top bars themselves. In the first you see how they stack up in a hive, and in the second is a detail of how the bar itself looks underneath. That little strip of extra wood is the part that the bees build their combs on. You prompt them to do this by rubbing beeswax on that strip before you introduce the hive. This is how the bees get to make their combs from scratch, choosing the size of their openings and whatnot to fit their needs. A much more bee-centric system than a standard production hive.

The hives are now out back at my house drying their first coat of primer. The old traditional white color is for a good reason -- to reflect sun and help keep them cool -- so I'm sticking with it.

I'll post more as the project progresses. There will not be bees until Spring, that's the best time to start new hives. Here are a few more pictures of Bill and Anna's place, their pigs and their sheep. They are working hard to live healthy and as much off their land as they can. Doctor Anna is a licensed acupuncturist and certified nutritional therapist. Her practice is called Pearl Acupuncture & Healing Center out in Sandy Oregon (503 668-7631) if there's anyone out that way that needs a health practitioner.

They are wonderful folks and I'm very grateful they spent their weekend with me, feeding me like a prince and helping me get these hives built.

Enjoy the bugs in your life,



Tate said...

i am so completely jealous of your bee hives... but also very excited for you, they look great

Bpaul said...

Yeah, I'm psyched. Been waiting patiently for years for this -- had to get the garden dialed, etc.

Trappin' Pat said...

Aurelia and I would like to come over on our way to canoe in the slough Saturday morning--gotta see the hives. I also have a coulple of presents for you. How does 10:30 sound?

Bpaul said...

Email incoming sir.