What's on this page?
I do a lot of things, some of them weird, some
them off the beaten path, some of them out of the
ordinary, and the rest are too boring to talk
about. I do a lot of experiments. I
experiment in all sorts of ways, whether itís
adjusting volumes and brands of dish detergents to
get a clean load or buying multiple samples of competing
brands of a product to figure out which is best
before buying a bulk quantity.
Beekeeping is no different. One of the main
reasons for me keeping bees is to learn new things
and Iím not going to learn as many new things if I
donít cover new ground every year.
So this is the experiments page. This is the
page where I talk about the new things or the odd
or weird things Iím trying or doing. If this
were my first year, everything would be on this
page. But if this were my first year, youíd
have little reason to be reading it. On this
page I will discuss things Iím doing new this year
or ongoing experiments which have not yet yielded
significant results. After a while, once the
new things are no longer new, they should move to
another page. Some will move the Equipment page, some
to the Queens page,
some to the Wintering
page, and probably quite a few to the Unnecessary Stuff
page. There may end up being a junk page as
well. We shall see.
If thereís anything you think I should try, go
ahead and send me an email via the Contact page,
and Iíll see if I can work it in.
Here we go.
In 2011, I was made painfully aware of how
efficient walkaway splits are. Thatís not to
say that they are not a good idea or shouldnít be
used, itís to say that for a month of low
productivity, all you get is one queen. As
many as a dozen queens are killed and ejected from
the hive. Hereís a picture for an example.
So thatís why in 2012, I decided to switch to
grafting and queen castles. The queen castle
will allow me to use frames and comb I already
have for a mating nuc. After the queen is
mated and laying, I can roll that nuc into a
bigger nuc and eventually into a full sized
hive. The goal is to wring the value out of
that unproductive time in the hive. Another
hopefully efficient queen rearing method is Ben
Harden Method which is included below.
The queen castles I built are made in the form of
a regular deep with rabbet joints. Itís a
little taller though to allow bee space below the
frames. It should have been made with a full
3/8Ē above the frames as well, but that will be
for next time. Also for next time, I should
use cutout hand holds rather than cleats.
Deep queen castles are usually configured with
four nucs of two frames each. Since I am
moving to mediums, I made them with three of three
frames. I also made the bottoms removable so
I could cut them down to medium size later.
Update: After using these for two years, I am extremely happy with them. You can find deeper information on the Queens page. If you have bought nucs from me, they were raised in these.
Long Combo Hives (2008)
I got the idea of the long combo hive from the Dennis
Murrell. Well, not exactly, but he had
the plans. The idea is basically a double
wide hive as a brood chamber. Iím not sure
what I was thinking originally, but you can
probably pick up some of it from the archives of the blog.
The jury is still out because the first year I
tried them, both hives failed to survive the
winter. I have a queen from Zia
Queenbees in there right now and that hive
survived the winter quite well with a very large
cluster. However, it was a mild winter and
this hive is very mean. I was considering
today whether or not to kill her or tough it out
until after the honey flow.
One thing I dislike about the long hives is that
you have to take the frames out sideways.
Itís not like a normal box where you can stand to
one side and grasp the frame by the ears.
You have to pick it up with one arm way out and
one close in. Itís not as intuitive or
efficient. It does limit lifting, but a
longer hive like Michael
Bush's horizontal hives could eliminate
it. All my hives are set low, so it actually
means more bending over.
Update: As of 2013 I don't use these anymore for the reasons
above. They're frustrating when getting down deep in the hive and
the bees don't always keep the broodnest in the most convenient place.
Cube Hives (2012)
The Parker Cube Hive is my idea for a square hive
which would contain 12-14 frames and be made all
of mediums. Coincidentally, three mediums
high is about the same as a Langstroth is long,
and add the square component and you have a
cube. So excluding the top and bottom, you have basically a 20"
cube, thus, a cube hive.
The concept of the cube was mainly driven by my
wonderment at what would happen if the frames in a
box could be turned perpendicular to the level
below. I also wondered if a square hive
would allow the cluster to be larger as some say
an 8-frame hive is the perfect size. Now
that I have an 8-frame
hive, I can make a good comparison. I
also discovered that many hives around the world
are square in design and Iím not even the first
one to try the idea with modern ĎLangstrothí sized
One definite benefit I have noticed is in
construction. There is very little waste
when cutting parts from ten foot long
boards. It makes 1.5 boxes almost
exactly. I cut three of each length from
Update, as of winter 2014 I'm still using these and don't plan to
quit. You can see them in the picture on the front page. The
idea of placing the frames perpendicular is kaput. The bees want
to continue building comb up in the same direction and it makes a mess,
so I abandoned that. Some observations, with these hives, the bees
seem to build up less, which is to be expected if they are filling the
space available which they are. The hive as a whole seems to be
configured in a more or less contiguous sphere. We'll see how it
goes in the next few years as they are able to fill up more empty frames
up higher in the hive.
I have been planning on trying out a couple topbar
hives for a long time now. Iím interested in
gaining the experience of working with one.
I have plenty on my plate now, topbar hives can
As I mentioned above, walkaway splits are
inherently inefficient in the number of queens
they produce for the unproductive time
sacrificed. So I'm switching to
grafting. At one time, I was hesitant to
graft because I like many other newbees had beent
told it was hard and it could be avoided.
But what's the point of learning if not to learn
how easy to do things are you were once told were
hard? I had considered graftless techniques,
but they seemed overly complicated and a more
expensive. Additionally, graftless methods
make a certain number of queens and while it's
easy to waste some, I don't like waste. With
grafting, you can make as many queens as you want
with as few or as many mothers as you want in a
Update 2014: As you have no doubt seen on the Queens and Queen Rearing pages, this has succeeded. Still learning and refining though.
Ben Harden Method (Queenright Starting and
You can read about the Ben Harden Method here.
Itís essentially using a queenright hive to raise
queens by treating them like a supersedure.
You place the queen below an excluder and place a
frame of young brood above to draw nurse
bees. Dummy frames concentrate the traffic
through the queen rearing section of the
hive. The benefits are not limiting the
production value of the hive as much, and not
worrying about queenlessness and its associated
Queenless Cell Starting and Finishing
Since I donít want to bother with separate hives
for queen starting and finishing (and don't have
as many as I'd like to work with right now) and I
donít feel like buying or building a Cloake
board, the plan was just to use a queenless
hive all the way. You canít do as many
queens this way and queenlessness has its
problems, but itís fairly simple and that is one
of my main motivations. Perhaps I'll get
around to trying those methods next year or the
following one. I need to pace myself.
Update: I have tried queenless cell starting and finishing and
don't find it to be as reliable, in fact, if you don't need many queens,
you might as well just do walkaway splits.
8-Frame Hive (2012)
A friend who was getting out of beekeeping gave me
an 8-frame hive. Since I have never used one
before, I cannot respectably comment on their
usage. Now that I have one, I can comment on
them and advise people whether or not they should
use them when they ask. Itís a really nice
hive too, with one of those copper roofs.
Weíll see how it goes. I donít expect any
Update: The 8-Frame died out this past year so I left it vacant
and it's now in storage. No problems with the hive itself except
perhaps not being big enough. I only have three deeps and two
mediums for it, so that's all it gets. Nice hive, just not using
it right now. Maybe I'll donate it to something.
I have been planning on overwintering nucs like
Michael Palmer for a while now, but I have not had
the excess of bees to want to risk many to the
cause. If I have the equipment and the
resources, thereís no reason not to overwinter
hives normally. I will try it eventually
Iím currently in the midst of a project to move to
all medium frames and boxes. Iíve only just
started my first box of mediums, and itís on a
cube hive. The next batch will be on the
8-frame hive because it happens to have medium
supers. I may not have a single hive with
all mediums by the end of this year, but I should
have several hives that contain mediums. I
have built a 6-frame medium nuc to try to catch
swarms with. Failing that, it could be used
to start new hives with queen cells.
The possible benefits of this include lighter
boxes, better distributed broodnest, stable comb
for extracting, and being able to fit twice as
many frames into the extractor.
Update 2014: Extracted my first batch of mediums this past
year. Went swimmingly. Uncapping was fine, though with the
narrower top and bottom bars, you tend to take off more wax than you
intend to, may take some practice. I now have four hives solely on
mediums and am planning to add a couple more this year. I'm not
going to move to only mediums quite yet, there is still a market for
New Lid Design (2014)
I am searching for a new lid design. My existing lids are
disappointing me. The current design I'm using is good and solid,
but takes extra work to build and can warp at the end clete. Add
to that, my Parker Shim is providing a much larger entrance at the top
than I'm finding useful. The bees are mixing brood and
honey. I need a durable lid that is super quick to make (as in can
be cut out of a sheet), lasts a long time, as a small built in
entrance, and some insulating value would be nice too. So I think
the next thing I'm going to look at is using extruded polystyrene and
painting it to stop UV damage. Hopefully I get to try it this