Building Our Hives - Part 2: Earth + Stone

Sunday, April 9th, 2017


Following up on Saturday's progress we had to really kick ourselves into gear.  I had only one more day left to help Kyle and we both woke up a bit later than we wanted.   The first thing we had to do was identify a spot for our apiary.  We had explored the backyard a few times and had some preliminary sites that had to get final sign off from our "landlords".  Let me tell you, you can't get one over on them!  There was a lot of bargaining, negotiating, and deals that were contingent on completely irrelevant work (i.e., clearing gardens on other parts of the property or mulching - a historic Maio past time). What can I say, when your parents are your bee's landlords, it's not like this is a business transaction, there are strings attached.   After a good 30 minutes of friendly untangling, we finally found our spot for our two hives. 

Now, what's all the fuss? Can't you just plop those hives down and call it a day? Bees have been around for a while and probably don't need much, right?  While bees can survive in all sorts of conditions, if you want your hives to be productive (they yield a lot of honey, and you yield a lot of money) you need to be strategic in where you place them. In general you have to think of a few stakeholders in this location decision:

  • For the hives: Hives should face towards the southeast, should have access to direct morning sunlight, be shaded towards the hottest part of the day, and have access to fresh water. You want your ladies up early and working all day.  They say 'the early bird that catches the worm' in this case, it's the 'early bee that keeps us happy'.
  • For the beekeepers: the hives should be easy to access and have enough cleared space for you to work. The last thing you need is to struggle find clear places to separate hives or do your inspections.  The location should be away from any trees that could come down in a storm.
  • For the landlords: (unique in our situation) Hives should be hidden from view from the kitchen, porch and office. They also should be generally hidden from the neighbors so as not to create a disturbance and to keep curious kids away. 

With the location, we had to do a good bit of work clearing it out.  This part of the yard was fairly untouched over the years and had lots of 'forest refuse' such as a thick covering of leaves and branches, etc.  There were also three dead trees that needed a good ol' fellin' and some overhead branches that would block out the southeastern morning light.  With rakes and axes, in hand we cleared, we chopped and we sawed our way to a backyard apiary.  



With the apiary cleared we needed to figure out the exact locations of our two hives.  You don't want them too close, you want a bit of distance for the bees, or too far, you want to be able to work them efficiently.  We also had to make sure that as they begin to get full of pollen, honey, nectar, brood and bees that they don't sink into the ground.  Medium Supers can weight up to 30 or so pounds when fully occupied and since we have 5 Medium Supers, that's about 150 pounds. So, we had to bed for these hives.  What we did was dig down about 4 inches in a footprint that was about 5" larger around than the hives.  We then filled that with chunked stone and then topped it off with a bag or two of pebbles (pea-stone). Upon this bed, the hives will sit on 4 similarly sized stones, raised above the ground to keep it away from rain, puddles, bugs etc. 

Laying the hive beds seemed straight forward but, being tired, we tried a short cut (not digging the footprint and just piling stone) and quickly found ourselves telling each other that this not only looked bad but wouldn't be stable. This was about the time Landlord Bob showed up and told us everything that we were doing wrong from the comfort of the shade of trees and his clean clothes.  For once in our lives, we didn't question his advice and redid the hive beds.  The result was excellent, we felt the hives would be stable even with it full of honey and bees (hopefully!).  

Taking out the level, we played around with the configuration to get the hives slanting forward a few degrees.  We wanted the hives forward slightly so that any water that got in would roll out the entrance.  This was annoying beyond all explanation and resulted in cussin' and drinkin'.  At one point, we had to do another supply run to get another bag of pea-stone to finish up the work and pavers for the hives to sit upon.

As quickly as it began, it was over!  Our hives were right in front of us, fully assembled, appropriately leveled, facing the right direction and in an apiary we cleared and designed for our bees.  It was a moment of complete happiness as we are starting to see the result of our planning and effort.  We are just one step away from being beekeepers and really kicking off Brothers In Bees.  That final step, is getting bees! 

Over the next few weeks we will do some posts to bring everyone up to speed on bees, starting a hive, and the experience of getting our new hive of lovely bees. 

Thanks for reading and we can't wait to show you what's next!

--Brothers In Bees