Three big boxes from Betterbee have arrived! All my hive components are now sitting in our living room. I took a few minutes to pull everything out to take a look at what I bought and to see if I could fit the pieces together before actually nailing them together.
First up are the “hive bodies” (or deeps/brood chambers) and “supers.” These are really just boxes. Both hold frames onto which the bees build their comb. The hive bodies are essentially where the bees “live.” This is where the queen lays her eggs. They’re roughly 9.5″ deep.
The supers are where the bees will store most of their honey. These will hold the frames I’ll eventually be collecting my honey from. (Note: I won’t actually get any honey for myself until sometime in 2013. With new hives, you need to leave the bees all of their honey to make sure they can make it through the winter.) At 6.5″, they’re a bit shallower than the hive bodies (and you get can even shallower ones). As far as I can tell, this is just for ease of use: Honey is heavy. A super this size full of honey will weigh 55 lbs. So if it were any deeper, it’d be really difficult to lift. I’m going to have to step up my weight-lifting regimen, as it is.
Next are the frames. These are the vertical slats onto which the bees will build their comb. They hold beeswax foundation imprinted with hexagons, which gives the bees a head start and helps ensure a nice, even comb.
Each hive body and super of my hive will hold ten frames. You can get other sizes, like 8-frame, but 10-frame seems to be the standard size. An 8-frame hive would be a bit easier to handle simply because it’s smaller.
Then there’s a bunch of other stuff. From left to right in the photo:
Screened bottom board — goes on the bottom, helps with ventilation and mite control
Inner cover — goes near the top, keeps the bees from gluing the outer cover to the frames below, helps with ventilation, helps with insulation
Queen excluder — placed between the hive bodies and the supers to keep the queen from laying eggs in the honey frames; the workers can fit through the holes, but the queen can’t
Slatted rack — goes below the hive bodies, helps with insulation, reduces swarming (provides space for the bees to congregate, reducing congestion in the hive)
Bag o’ nails — for nailing
Varroa monitoring tray — goes under the screened bottom board; mites fall through the screen onto the tray, so I can tell how infested the hive is
Bottom board — the bottom of the hive
Entrance reducer — gets placed over the hive entrance, letting fewer bees in and out at a time; keeps mice out, helps with other bees trying to rob my hive’s honey by making the entrance easier to defend
Hivetop feeder — Goes on top of the supers when you need to feed sugar water to the bees (early spring, fall, winter); this one’s made of styrofoam, which will help with insulation in the winter
Outer cover — goes on the very top; fits down over whatever component is beneath it, keeping out rain and wind; again, this one’s made of foam
Voila! The pieces fit! This is generally what it will look like once it’s assembled.
And finally, some tools of the trade. Gloves and veiled helmet, of course. Smoker to calm the bees when I need to work the hive. Hive tool, to pry frames apart. Bee brush, to get the bees of the equipment (and me).
Hopefully I’ll be able to assemble it for real, soon!