You’re probably wondering: now that I have the b-box, where do I begin?
Don’t worry, here you can find a little tutorial regarding the b-box. Feel free to send us an email at [email protected] if something is not clear, we are happy to guide you in the right direction
1. GETTING TO KNOW THE BEES
Before you start, we suggest enrolling in a beekeeping course, reading up on beekeeping or joining your local beekeeping association for extra knowledge. It is very important to understand the bees and have an idea what it is like taking care of them. Our b-box does simplify the process quite a bit, but you would still have to know the basics! There are many courses out there that you can pick from, either online or in your neighborhood. Ask your local beekeeping association where you can join – it should be fairly easy to find.
Here are some links to beekeeping courses:
We also really like this channel on youtube:
2. CHECKING YOUR LOCAL REGULATIONS:
Each county has their own laws and regulations on beekeeping. Normally, keeping bees in a garden of a private house, far form neighbors is allowed. However, if you plan to keep bees in your apartment building, either in the balcony or on a rooftop, you would definitely have to check your local laws.
3. PROTECTING AND POSITIONING
Before you assemble the hive, we suggest giving a non toxic layer of paint/sealer for all the wooden hive pieces. Let the pieces dry in the sun for a day or two. Water based sealers normally have the least toxins, so that should be something to go for. The hives that we ship out have a thin layer of water based sealer. This step is not mandatory, but it would be useful if you live in a really humid area.
4. ASSEMBLING AND PAINTING THE HIVE
Now you would have to set up the hive. You can find the assembly instructions here: https://youtu.be/Xw8YS91itpM
Once you have assembled the hive, give it a couple layers of non-toxic or low VOCs paint/sealer to protect it from the weather. It doesn’t really matter which type of paint you use for your b-box; use any type you would use for a regular beehive. It can be water based, oil based etc. The most important part is that it has low VOCs or is non toxic, so we do not harm the bees.
5. POSITIONING THE HIVE
You can position your hive any way you like. We suggest the “chimney” to face the sun, but it’s better if you put the b-box in a half shaded area so it doesn’t get too hot in really hot places. However if the area in which you live in is cold, it’s best to place it in a sunny area. It’s also best to place it under a roof to protect it from rain/snow etc. Since the materials are made from wood, it’s always beneficial to protect it from the weather.
In areas with prevalent high winds, you can also secure the top part of the “chimney” to the lower part to stabilize it more, and put a weight on the bottom of the hive for even more protection.
If your goal is to produce honey, you can take the chimney off, it will be a little easier for the bees to produce honey. You can still come close to it to observe the bees, just make sure you don’t agitate them. The chances of getting stung increase a little bit, but still, it is possible to observe them if you’re careful.
Once you have introduced the bees, you should not move your hive around, but if you want to change the direction of the “chimney”, change it very slowly so the bees can understand where the new entrance is. The reason why is because bees are very sensitive when it comes to their location. Their inner GPS is very accurate, so a slight movement of the hive will affect them.
6. INTRODUCING AND FEEDING THE BEES
- The best time to start your hive is when it’s warm, but bees can be available for purchase well into mid summer. It depends where you live though – some places are warm all year round, some not – so it really depends. When you get your bees, they have to forage enough food and grow to put themselves through the winter, so usually at the start of spring, or when it’s warm and the flowers bloom, you can get a small swarm. If you live in a climate with four seasons and you decide to get bees in the middle of the bee season, it’s best to get a bigger swarm to give them a head start. If you get bees during the cold months, they will get cold and this will stress them out. They won’t go outside to find pollen, nectar, etc which they need to finish the new hive, and therefore won’t grow. So you have to move them when it’s “bee season” in your area.
- When you introduce the bees, it is best to put the nuc on top of the b-box for a three or four days. This is because bees have a very sensitive sense of orientation, and this way the entrance levels will be more or less similar. Moving for them means they have to get adjusted to their new location, new flowers, new house. Letting them sit in a new location in their old house makes it a little easier on them, so when we place the b-box in the place of their old hive, they will think that that is their home. The beekeeper would normally bring you bees on around 4/5 already populated frames. The hive fits up to 10 frames, both Dadant and Langstroth sizes, so you can get whichever you prefer or whichever is available in your region. We suggest putting frames with a wax foundation; this way the bees will have a head start and can produce honey and grow faster. The top bar of the frame can be a maximum of 48.5 cm and a minimum of 45.5 cm.
- When you first introduce the bees into the hive, you can put a feeder on top of the metal net in the upper part instead of the white honeycombs. Or you can put the feeder on top of the little holes of the bee escape. We advise you to remove the white honey comb frames at the start because the bees are not going to build up if they haven’t finished building their nest. It’s just like in a regular hive, the bees will first finishing building the brood box and then move up to the super. The feeder can both be sugar water or sugar plates, which ever you prefer. If there are no flowers around at the moment, or it’s raining consecutively for a week, the feeder will be really helpful. Once you see that the swarm is growing and the bees are gathering a lot of honey, you can remove the feeder. Sometimes you would not need to put the feeder at all, it depends on how much honey they have and on the availability of flowers, pollen etc…
- Once the swarm grows and the bees finish up building their brood, you can open up the upper part of the hive and instal the white honeycombs so they can start building up. You will be able to tell when the swarm grows by either opening up the hive and seeing if almost all frames are occupied, or by looking through the plexiglass covers to see if they have expanded all the way to the other side. That should be a good indication that they are ready for more space. The reason why we suggest removing these white honey combs is so you can avoid condensation and it is easier to give the hive inspections. Remember to keep the top wooden cover on though – to protect the bees from the sun, rain, wind etc. Or else they will start closing the metal screen on the top with their wax cells. Before placing the white honeycomb frames, we suggest placing wax foundations between the frames. This was the bees will have a much easier time building their honeycombs. Bees require a lot of resources to build wax – more than they need to produce honey! So keep that in mind. You can insert the wax foundations like this:
7. CHECKING THE HEALTH OF YOUR BEES
- One way you can check on the health of your bees is by looking through the plexiglass covers. From here you can tell simple things like if the bees are expanding, whether or not they are making honey and building new brood. You will only be able to see the frames from the sides and you will be able to see the first and last frames to see how much the bees have expanded. You can also check the screen to find dead bees. Around 20 is totally okay, but if you start seeing around a 100, there could be a problem. You can also check the wooden board on the bottom to find varroa, pollen etc. It is not 100% accurate because the wind could be blowing some away, so you can also get a board to attach to the bottom (image 2 below)
- The best way to give your bees a thorough checkup is by opening up the hive by lifting the upper part of the hive that’s attached to the bottom with wooden pegs. Then taking out the frames and going through them one by one. You would have to check for things such as if the queen is laying enough eggs, signs of parasites, how much honey they are making etc. Just like you would with a regular hive. Remember to use protective clothing for this.
8. COLLECTING HONEY AND INSERTING WAX FOUNDATIONS
- We suggest inserting wax foundations into the white honeycombs because it would be easier for the bees to build their comb. To give you an idea how much work it takes for the bees – to produce one kilo of wax the bees use the same amount of material that they need to produce 10 kg of honey. We suggest you use real wax instead of food grade plastic, because they might eat it as well. You would have to get a few sheets of wax foundations and place them in your white honey combs like this shown above.
- Once your bees have finished building their nest, you should have opened the upper area back up and put the white honeycombs in. After a while, the combs should be full, and you will be able to harvest the honey by pushing the lever with the bee escape in. (find photos below for more info) We suggest you push the lever in for the night, so the bees have quite some time to leave the upper area. In the morning the upper area would be free of bees.
- The way to harvest the honey is to cut out the comb entirely form the white frames and squeeze out the honey with a fork. You can also get a honey extractor to help you get the honey out. You can get creative with the process. Uncapped cells with honey are good to eat too, but they have high humidity which is why they should be eaten ASAP or else the honey will go bad. So in this case you can just let the honey drip out. Once the humidity of the honey is lower than 16%, the bees will close the cell. This type of honey can be stored for very long periods.
- Once you have taken out the honey, you should place the white combs back so the bees can build more. Do not throw them away! Also if you can, do not throw away the foundation – you can reuse it and it will be okay. again will be easier for them to build.
Winterizing the hive
These steps are optional, it really depends on where you live and how cold the winter gets. Every case is different and you should double check with your local beekeepers or beekeeping organization on how they do it and whether or not they winterize their hive. These are our suggestions, but you can get creative when it comes to beekeeping. Everyone has a different way of winterizing their hives. The main things to keep in mind is an abundance of food, a little bit of ventilation, insulation and an exit.
1. Feeding the bees
The first thing you should do is make sure the bees have plenty of food in their nest, are healthy and have a good swarm size. They should have grown during the spring and this would be the main determinant on whether or not your bees will survive the cold winter.
If the little hole that allows bees to enter the upper area of the hive is open, and there are bees up top, you should allow them to exit that area by placing the lever with the bee escape instead. Give them a few hours to leave the upper area entirely.
Once the bees have left the honeycomb area, you can close off the access by placing the levers without any opening. This way, the bees have no access to the honeycomb area. Remember to take out the white frames!
Now that there are no bees, you can open up the covers and place a feed of your choice in the net area. You can use sugar feed, protein patties or whatever else you prefer.
Place the solid feed on top of the metal net, the bees will be able to eat through it by accessing it through the main brood box.
(Place the feed without the plastic packaging)
Close the entire area with the plexiglass covers. In the photo you can see that the entrance is closed off entirely with the lever.
Another option is to open the honeycomb area back up, so they can come up directly to have access to the feed. Then you can close the entire upper area with the wooden cover. This option is okay for a short period of time, since hot air will leave the main hive to the upper area.
2. Closing off the honeycomb area
You would need to do this in order to keep as much warm air inside as possible.
Once the bees have finished the feed, close off the mesh with a piece of wood or styrofoam. This will help keep the hot air inside the hive.
Do this for both sides. For extra protection, add a layer of styrofoam on top. You can get creative here. As long as you prevent hot air from escaping the hive, it will be helpful.
To keep everything in place, stack a piece of wood, or any other heavier material on top of the structure. The pace the wooden cover on top.
3. Insulating the sides
When it comes to winterizing the hive, you should take styrofoam boards and place them in between the walls and covers of the hive. You can help them stay in place by attaching little latches on the side so it holds all together.
Cover the plexiglass walls with a piece of styrofoam. This will help insulate the walls of the hive. Do this for all sides
Then take the wooden covers and place them over the walls to keep everything together.
It should look like something like this. Repeat this step for every wall.
4. Covering up the bottom
You should also close off (but not completely, make sure a little bit of air comes in still) the metal net on the bottom that is meant for ventilation. You can do this by attaching two wooden bars at the bottom of the hive, just below the metal screen.
Take 4 piece of wood and screw them in place on each hive leg. They will serve as holders for the bottom board.
Place a wooden board just long enough to cover the bottom of the hive. This will keep the warm air inside.
It should look like something like this. Make sure to leave a tiny space between to allow a little bit of air to pass through.
5. The chimney
As for the chimney, you can either take it off or leave it on – whichever you prefer. Bees can fly up the “chimney” during the winter to do their business outside, but they can also use the exit without the “chimney”.
You could take off the chimney if you’d like. If you do, you can see that there is a hole for ventilation on top.
Make sure to cover up that hole, in order to keep the hot air inside the hive. You can even use beeswax to cover it up.
If you would like to use the chimney throughout the winter, you can leave the hive as it is.
OTHER IMPORTANT TIPS
- Moisture Control– When the colony is very little, moisture can take over in the form of condensation and mold. This happens in regular hives as well, just that you cannot see it very clearly on wood. Make sure you protect all the wooden pieces with paint, even the parts inside, with non toxic paint. When the colony is still little, they do not have enough bees to properly ventilate the hive, that is why there might be this problem. So at the start this is normal. If you see that suddenly in the middle of summer your hive starts to have condensation, this could be a bad sign pointing to population decline caused by other problems in the hive such as potential mites, ants, beetles etc… It’s best to inspect the hive thoroughly to understand the underlying cause.
- Ants – in some areas there is a high chance that ants will get to your hive, and there are many ways you can deal with these pests. One of the ways is that you can put cinnamon to create powder barriers around the legs. Find a useful link at the bottom of the page.
- Queen Excluder – since the nest is in the lower area, the queen would be there most of the time. You can get a queen excluder if you want, but since the chances of the queen going up there are so low, this part is not necessary.
- Swarming – you can open up the hive to check on this like you would in a regular hive. Once the colony grows, it might swarm because that is their way of reproducing on a colony level. You can let them swarm, and half of your colony will leave in search of a new home, which is totally okay, or you can prevent it. There are two main ways you can prevent your bees from swarming. One method is by opening up the brood box and looking for queen cells and taking them off. This will prevent the hive from creating another queen with which half of the bees will swarm. You can also create more space in the hive by placing a super in between the honey harvesting system and the brood box.
- Screen covers – you can install a screen cover if you want by attaching two wooden bars at the bottom of the hive in order to place a varroa board. This would also be helpful in the winter – to cover up the screen at the bottom.
- Protecting from wind – by attaching two parts of the “chimney” together, it could be helpful if you live in an area with strong winds.
- Varroa – The b-box can be treated for varroa just like any other hive. For our hives, we use varroa strips and it works for us. However since everyone has their own special method, you are free to explore them.
Thank you for supporting us! We are very happy to add to this tutorial, so your suggestions are very welcome.
All the best,