Experiments


What's on this page?




Introduction
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.


Queen Castles  (2012)
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.

Dead Virgin Queens

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.

Sketchup design of medium mating nuc

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.

Long Combo Hive

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 frames.

Parker
                            Cube Hive

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 each board.

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.


Topbar Hives (Future)
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 wait.


Grafting  (2012)
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 single batch.

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 Finishing)  (2012)

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 problems.

Ben's Layout

Update 2014:  Same as grafting above, also to be found on the Queens and Queen Rearing pages.


Queenless Cell Starting and Finishing  (2012)

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 difficulties.

[my 8-frame]

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.


Overwintering Nucs  (Future)
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 though.


Mediums  (2012)
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 deep nucs.


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 year.