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Thursday, April 28, 2016

Quality of Commercial Queens -- Dr. David Tarpy

Lately, I keep having that feeling that my bread is getting bigger, but I'm not getting anymore butter. It's a shame really because I've been wanting to look up some of Dr. Tarpy's work, and just haven't had the chance. However, while washing dishes last night, I did get to watch some of this talk on YouTube. It's about his research trying to figure out what makes a good queen and why commercial queens fail so often.

Anyway, I found it extremely interesting. One point that caught my interest is a note around 22:00 where he says that if you're grafting, bees won't even use larvae more than 3.5 days old. (He can force the bees to use them because he's in a lab, but the resulting specimen is an intercaste creature that is neither queen nor worker.) However, inferring from other remarks in the presentation, the bees preference seems to be for larvae no more than 2 days old. 

It's common knowledge that the best queens are made from 0-day old larvae. The older the larvae, the lower the quality queen. Swarm queens are raised from 0-day old larvae that are swimming in royal jelly from the moment of birth. Emergency queens are usually made from older larvae. However, I love this passage from Jay Smith's book Better Queens that explains how important that early feeding is:

The importance of food for the young applies especially to the queen larva as it grow at such an amazing speed. It grows as much in proportion to its size in one day as a calf does in a year. At this rate if we keep the young larva away from food while grafting for 20 minutes it is the equivalent to keeping a calf away from its mother for a week.

Although this passage is about the interruption of food supply caused by the grafting process, the same can be applied to 1-2 day old larvae that are used for queens. Though they might never leave the hive, they don't get the same amount of royal jelly, so in that sense, their food supply is interrupted as well. I like Jay's analogy because it really helps me envision just how much food a developing queen needs.

Anyway, I found the talk extremely interesting, particularly the section on the practical application of his research. Hope you enjoy it, too.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

First Split of the Season

We had a bit of fine weather last Thursday (4/21), lots of drones are out now, and people are starting to report swarms, so it seemed a good time to start making splits.

Elsa

With that purpose in mind, a quick look at Elsa revealed that she certainly had enough bees, so I popped a few bars over to a nuc built by my friend John. Happily, although the interior size of his hive is larger than mine, his bars are the same length, so it was a really easy split to make. Unhappily, Elsa's black queen is super hard to see, so hopefully I didn't move her over as well.

So here's what I'm hoping to see by the following dates:

  • May 7 -- The new queen should have emerged
  • May 17 (+/- 5 days) -- The new queen should be mated and laying

John's nuc
Peach

I'd like to split this one to make another nuc for someone else, but the dimensions of his nuc are much smaller than mine. Because most of my bars are wedged, I can't simply trim them and move them over to his nuc. Instead, I've ended up retrofitting some bars that I'm phasing out of my hives. But I have to wait for bees to build the right kind of comb on them (i.e., worker comb in the right shape and size) before I can move them over. If that doesn't happen, I'll probably end up doing a chop and crop and attaching the combs with ribbon to his bars. Ugh. This is turning out to be a pain in the rear, and I will never agree to start a nuc in a smaller hive again.

Anyway, of the various retrofitted bars that I was hoping to transfer, she made one full of drones, one with workers, and one wasn't started. But she had plenty of stores, so I removed some of them to encourage her to make more workers. Of course, I had to give her a few more of those retrofitted bars, too.

Austeja, Buttercup, Persephone

These are the colonies that just seemed to be lagging a little, so I'd given them 1-2 bars of brood each in the past couple of weeks just to jump start them.

Buttercup and Persephone got a bar of brood only a week ago, so it's a bit early to see much of a difference. However, Austeja got 2 bars of brood 2 or 3 weeks ago, and it's made an enormous difference to her. I'm seeing lots of new eggs & larvae, capped brood, and the beginnings of some honey stores.

Austeja has quite a nice pattern, so I'm glad that she's pulled out of her funk.

Some queen spotting practice

Austeja finally has enough workers to start storing excess honey.
Not much yet, but it's a start.

Watching bees emerge never gets old
Hippolyte

Last week, this one got about 5 empty bars in and around the brood nest. Within 6 days, they'd filled them all, so I gave them a few more bars for brood and added empty bars between all the honey combs. Right now, they brood nest occupies about 1/2 to 2/3 of the hive. The checkered bars of honey and empties extends pretty much all the way to the end of the hive. I even removed the divider board just to get a smidge more room.

Of course, the one hive that I had no plans to sell splits from (because of her temperament) is the one that's booming. Urgh. Bees!

Hippolyte with divider removed

So the bees are looking to be on track for this time of year. The dandelions, magnolias and crabapples are all blooming. I saw some white clover in Hartford a few days ago, which means that ours won't be too far behind.

One thing, though, that has been quite different from years past is the testiness of my bees this spring.  During early spring, when the weather is still cold and there aren't too many things blooming, I expect some ill-tempered behavior. But we're starting to get some lovely, sunny days. Wednesday - Friday last week were in the mid-70s F to 80 F.

When I'm out and about in the yard, not even terribly close to the hives, these women warriors buzz around my head, which isn't terribly fun for me, but they actually force my kids inside, which doesn't work at all. Most of the hives are fairly laid-back since I can inspect them without gloves. Instead, I suspect Hippolyte's furies are behind these attacks, and I'm hoping that being split will produce some calmer daughters. If not, they'll have to be requeened. As much as I try to make allowances for her, the kids have to go outside so they can't make a mess inside. Yep, that's practical beekeeping at its finest.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Scout Bees

Confession: The title is misleading because this post has absolutely nothing to do with scout bees. I was just looking for something snappy.

This evening, I was invited to talk to the local STEM scouts about bees/beekeeping. (Hey, Bee Scouts would have been a totally "punny," title, too, but since the STEM scouts are co-ed, my literal brain just couldn't process that). It was a blast! If you're a beekeeper and ever have a chance to talk about bees with kids, I highly recommend jumping at the chance. Kids are so much fun, and they have the best questions. Besides, if you can get a kid interested in bees or the environment, you'll have improved the world because they will become adults who plant flowers and help things grow.

Anyhow, they asked questions a mile a minute, which was awesome because it meant that they were engaged and thinking, and in the end, exploratory learning tends to be much more effective than having an agenda pushed on you. The only downside of the interruptions was that I went way over my allotted time and had to rush through most of the activities I had planned. However, the kids still got a chance to learn some basic beekeeping vocab, handle actual comb, learn about the life cycle of bees/processes in the hive, do two activities that demonstrate the importance of all pollinators (not just bees), learn about harvesting honey & wax, and taste some honey. Whew! That was a lot!

Inspecting some brood comb
Judging from my audience's enthusiasm about the honey, that was probably their favorite part of the night. BTW, if I may toot my own horn a bit, I gave them borage honey, neem honey, and my own honey to compare flavors. The universal favorite was my honey -- at least nobody dared disagree, hee hee. ;-) Seriously, though, people laugh when I tell them that even though my DH has brought me gourmet honey from all over the world including from hoity-toity Fortnum & Mason, mine is still the best. Now I can tell them that 12 out of 12 10-year olds back me up. LOL! Probably the sweetest part of the evening (no pun intended) was when a little girl asked me if I sold honey, and how much did it cost because she had $5. Too precious!

Anyway, as much as I love talking about how cool honey bees are, the real message I want to get across is how important bees and other pollinators are, so running over time was useful in the sense that it has got me thinking about how to make it better for kids. Adults tend to save their questions until the end, which keeps things running smoothly. I'll have to figure out how to control the wildy wonderful chaos that children wreak on my agenda, which will probably mean paring the honey bee info down so that there is more time for the main message of "Protect our pollinators!"

Aren't they the cutest?

In any case, I have an advantage pulling together informational talks since my background is in instructional design (basically I design training for organizations). My personal approach to training  tends to be highly interactive because to me nothing is worse than a page turner or a straight-up lecture with some head honking "wah wah wah" like in the Peanuts cartoons. Instead, I encourage activities that get people (young or old) thinking about the information being presented. In a lecture, that might translate into a lot of dialogue or posing questions so the audience can figure things out for themselves. I'm keen on activities, too, and I thought I'd share a couple that I used tonight in case you wanted to incorporate them into your own presentations.
[Author's note: Please, don't judge the looks of my materials too harshly. For the past month, I've been really pressed between work, vacation (oh the irony!), bees, garden, house, sickness, helping my kids with their projects, etc. that I didn't have as much time as I'd like to work on "packaging" my presentation materials. Also, my printer conked out on me at the last minute. I mean, I felt like the activities were solid, but visually, my materials looked pretty rough. Fortunately, good activities trump ugly boards. Next time, though, they'll look better.]
The first activity was pretty simple. For 30 seconds, the kids shouted out their favorite plant foods as I wrote them down. (Ideally, I would've like 90 seconds, but we were out of time, and desperate times call for desperate measures.) Afterwards, we went through the list, and I crossed off every single one that needed a pollinator (any pollinator, not just honey bees). As you can see, there wasn't much left. If you look at the photo, alfalfa is a different color because I added it after we finished crossing-out everything else. I wanted to point out that alfalfa is big business as a bee-pollinated crop that is used to feed dairy cows. No alfalfa = no dairy. Those whip-smart kids quickly made the jump on their own to realizing that no milk meant no ice cream, no yogurt, no chocolate bars, no cheesy pizza... Hopefully, this will provide them with personal motivation for keeping pollinators healthy.

Here's our 30-second list of favorite foods

We also quickly studied and discussed a food web showing the connections between various pollinators, types of plants, and animals. (Push pins & and string show connections between the photos.) One bright girl said, "All those animals need plants and fruit, and without pollinators there aren't any!" At that moment, I knew it was time to pull the pollinator push pin/strings out and let them see how all the other strings started coming off, too.

Food web. For simplicity, I put a bunch of insect pollinators under one pin at the bottom of the chart.
Bird and bat pollinators have been left out because the chart would have become too crazy.

I used a lot of animals as representatives of groups. E.g., Coyotes represent all the apex carnivores like wolves, foxes, mountain lions, etc. Squirrels represent all the rodents. Etc.

We did some other stuff, too, but those were my two favorite activities. If you do general talks like this, do you have a favorite activity or presentation method that you'd like to share?

Friday, April 15, 2016

Inspection

Two weeks ago, the bees were booming, and the weather was reasonably warm. Magnolias were starting to bloom, and the bees seemed to be interested in building nothing but drone comb. To delay swarming, I added some empty bars on either end of the nest. The strongest colonies even got a couple of empty bars in the brood nest.

Then we got snow and cold and rain. All the maple and magnolia blossoms withered, and I worried that any closed buds might be killed, too. Other local beekeepers were sharing posts about all the peach buds dying in the last Feb cold snap and how all the forage was being frozen by the current one. Everyone was expecting a two-week interruption in pollen and lots of chilled brood. I thought about giving them some combs of pollen I'd saved, but it was too cold to open the hives, and I was going out of town anyway. Mentally, I kicked myself repeatedly for giving the colonies so much room. I feel like I owe the girls some some of confession. "Bees, forgive me for I have been careless and negligent. It's been 13 days since my last inspection."

This is exactly how I feel right now.

Anyway, when I came back from New Hampshire, the magnolias were in bloom again. They weren't loaded with flowers, but at least the snow hadn't killed all the buds. Purple deadnettle and creeping Charlie (or maybe it's henbit, I have trouble remembering which is which) were turning my lawn purple.

Creeping Charlie (I think)

Purple deadnettle

Before beginning today's inspection, I observed lots of bees coming and going at the entrance with plenty of pollen. Drones were flying about, too, it seems my incompetence had not killed them.


Austeja

During the last inspection, Austeja had a good brood pattern, but just didn't have a lot of brood overall. The two capped bars she got from Hippolyte have made an enormous difference. She was positively bustling today. The donated bars from Hippolyte even had capped brood and larvae in them, which means all the capped brood emerged, and a new round of brood is being raised.

Weird puddles of water on bars. Don't know where this moisture is from.
Looks like some more renovation is in my future. 


Peach, Elsa, Hippolyte

During the last inspection, these colonies were the strongest, so in addition to empty bars on either end of the nest, I'd also inserted some empties directly in the brood nest, all of which were being drawn out and filled with brood.

Elsa had three queen cups. I don't think she's close to swarming yet, but it looks like she's warming up. In addition to opening the brood nest some more, I also donated a bar of brood from her to Buttercup.

Empty queen cups from Elsa

Hard to see in this photo, but there is a teeny-weeny acorn cap incorporated into this comb.
So weird.
First mite I've seen this season
Almost didn't see Elsa's queen because she was hiding out under a pile of bees.
She kept running around, so this is the best picture I could get.
Hippolyte is booming, and it just kills me that she's so mean. Why couldn't she be productive and sweet? No stings today -- at least none that penetrated my gloves -- but I just can't make up my mind about her. I'll definitely split her, but I can't decide if I should take my chances and see if her daughters are more even-tempered or if I should just give the splits new, gentle queens off the bat. A third option is to just see what happens if she raises her own queens, and then requeen her if it doesn't work out. Hippolyte also donated a bar to Persephone.

Peach looks amazing. This one will get split soon, too, I think.

Peach's queen


Buttercup & Persephone

Both of these colonies are doing so-so. Although everything is in order, they aren't exhibiting the same sort of growth as the other colonies. Persephone (nee Bubblegum) is a surprise because she was incredibly productive last year. Figuring that what worked for Austeja should work for them, they each got a bar of brood.

Overall, I didn't see as much capped brood in any of the hives as I would have expected. I don't know if this is because they got a lot of chilled brood and cleaned house, or if it's because they're just keeping the brakes on until spring is truly here, or if it's something to do with the queens. In any case, I'm just glad they're all still alive.


Sunday, April 10, 2016

The Bee Stylist

Recently, a friend an fellow beekeeper sent me an article entitled "Bee's Knees," which was published this past March in The New Yorker. It was about a woman whose sole job is to style hymenoptera.
From http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/03/21/beautifying-century-old-bees


I vividly remember the first time I ever saw an insect collection -- It was the insect collection at the Peabody Natural History museum at Harvard. The endless variety of colors, shapes, sizes, species... I must have spent a couple of hours just looking at bugs, but I never considered the kind of work that goes into preparing them for mounting. It was kind of amazing to me really. I can barely get my daughter's hair into a decent ponytail, and she's shampooing and brushing bees.

This article makes me recall my mom when saw a guy covered head-to-toe in gold paint standing around Best Buy like a statue. She remarked, "There really is a job for everyone."

Anyway, I found this story rather interesting, and hope that you will, too.


Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Tips to Prevent Absconding

It's that time of year! Pretty soon, folks will start installing packages, and 2 of the most frequently asked questions are going to be:
  1. How do I prevent my bees from absconding?
  2. Why did my bees abscond?
Package of bees
In a post last year, I shared some tips that have helped me with installs, but today, I want to focus more on keeping bees in the hive rather than on putting them there. As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. So hopefully by answering the first question listed above, you'll never have to answer that second one (fingers crossed because you still never can tell what bees are going to do).


Tip 1: Make the hive a home.

You know how realtors always tell you to bake cookies right before a showing because the smell is attractive to potential buyers? It turns out bees like cavities that smell "homey," too. 

In the wild, bees prefer cavities that other colonies have occupied. I have no proof, but I think it's a survival instinct. According to Tom Seeley, something like 75%-80% of swarms die their first year. For a long time, I wondered why bees would swarm when it meant almost certain death for them. Then I figured out that when bees swarm, they build comb and collect resources. When they die, they leave those resources behind so that next year's swarm can find them. As a result, the future generation's odds of success are greatly increased.

If you want your bees to stay, try giving them a house with a "used home" smell. You can try any or all of the following:
  • Rub the interior hive walls and/or bars with beeswax
  • Hang some old comb in the hive (If you're a first year beek, it helps to have a friend who can give some to you.)
  • If you have a friend who can give you some capped brood comb, that's even better. Bees love babies. As an added bonus, capped brood requires very little care and will quickly jumpstart the colony.
  • Add 2-3 drops of lemongrass oil, which smells like Nasonov pheromone. Actually, Nasonov pheromone also contains a number of other odors, including geraniol, so if you want it to really smell like bees, you could use a combination of lemongrass & geranium oils. (I think the mixture is 4 lemongrass:1 geranium.)
  • To increase hive hygiene, I stain the interiors of my hives with propolis dissolved in 70% isopropyl alcohol. The ratio of propolis to alcohol is approximately 1:1. I do it for hygiene, but no doubt the bees love it, too.

Tip 2: Install close to sundown.

In all likelihood, a package of bees has had a really rough week. All they want is to get on with things again by finding a new home.

If one installs bees early in the day, they may accept the hive, but they might also want to take a look around for better digs. The longer the bees stay in the hive, though, hopefully putting more time and energy into making it their own, the better the chances become that they'll stay put.

Installing an hour or so before sundown is a good tactic because bees don't fly around at night. That means that they'll cluster up in the hive for roughly 8-12 hours (depending on how many hours of darkness you get), which will make that hive seem cozier and cozier to them.

Tip 3: Keep the hive completely closed for 5-6 days. Afterward, minimize disturbances.

Hives in the wild are dark, enclosed spaces with small cracks for entrances. To make the girls feel at home in a man-made hive, keep it dark and leave them alone for about 5-6 days. For first-time beeks, that first week is an eternity, but be strong! Resist the urge to peer through observation windows. Feeding can be accomplished behind the follower board (if your board has gaps/holes that let the bees pass), which doesn't disturb the girls at all. Also, keep screened bottom boards closed. 

The first couple of weeks are a really important time because the bees have to settle in, release the queen, and start raising brood. If they're constantly disturbed, they may feel unsafe and take off.

5-6 days after installation, make sure the queen is out and comb is being built straight, but keep disturbances to a minimum for awhile. You can take quick peeks through an observation window, but unless you have some issue that needs to be addressed (e.g., crooked comb is something I'd deal with immediately) try to limit inspections to once every 7-10 days. Until the colony population is increasing rather than declining, try to leave them alone. Every time the hive is opened, it changes the temperature/humidity inside, and the bees have to work hard to restore optimal conditions.

Tip 4: Keep any screened bottom boards closed.

This sounds like a reiteration the previous tip, but it's really, really important, so it bears repeating, nagging, harassing, haranguing, badgering... If there is one thing I could convince new beeks to do, this would be it. If I weren't too lazy to reorder my list, I might bump this tip to #1. ;-)

I've heard so many cases of bees absconding within a month after install, and in every single case, the bees left because the screened bottom board was open.

If you want to do mite counts, SBBs are helpful, but they just seem to make it way too difficult for a brand new colony to control its environment. In TBHs occupied by weak colonies, SBBs provide too much fluctuation in temperature and humidity, allow pests in, and -- if feeding -- attract ants.

Remember that package bees are dying off and not being replaced until the first brood cycle emerges about 3 weeks after install. (3-5 days to release queen + 20 days until adult workers emerge) They're not going to generate much heat for awhile, so minimize stresses and leave the SBB closed until the colony has had a chance to build up. Even if the weather gets hot, the girls can manage, so keep the SBB closed.

Tip 5: Give the bees an appropriate amount of space

Remember that a swarm looks for a hive that is an appropriate size -- about 40 L in volume. If the space you give your bees is too small or too large, the hive will be that much less attractive to them. This is a good time to use your follower board to set the boundaries of the space that your bees can inhabit.

Depending on the dimensions of your hive, your total hive volume will vary. (There is a link on this page for calculating the volume of a trapezoidal object if you'd like to check it out.) However, for most TBHs, 12-15 bars is an appropriate amount of space for a new package.

Tip 6: Reduce entrances

A package just doesn't have enough bees to defend itself properly right away, so help them out by minimizing entrances. If you have an entrance slot, reduce it. If you have multiple holes for entrances, open just one of them. Leave them reduced until you see the entrance becoming a bottleneck for bees entering/exiting the hive.

Tip 7: Use a "queen excluder"(optional)

True confessions -- Even though I've never used a queen excluder, I've never experienced a package absconding.  However, I do hear quite a few success stories involving excluders, so if that's a tool that works, then why not make use of it?  It's better than ordering new bees.

Some people make their own excluders by repurposing/redesigning Lang excluders. However, it should be possible to just staple a piece of 1/4" hardware mesh over the entrance. The holes are large enough for worker bees to pass, but they should be too small for the queen's poochy tummy to squeeze through. Again, I've never tried this myself, but it seems a viable approach.



So those are my tips for preventing bees from absconding. Do any of you experienced beeks have your own stories or tips to share?

Monday, April 4, 2016

Foam, Begone!

At our last bee club meeting, our speaker talked about beekeeping as a sideline. Anyway, one of the tips he gave related to how to get rid of the foam that rises after you've strained your honey harvest. You know what I'm talking about. It looks like the head on a pint of Guinness, but it doesn't have quite the same pleasant mouth-feel.

So here is his advice. Instead of spending a bunch of time trying to scrape or scoop that foam out, lay a piece of cling-wrap over the foam and just lift it off. 

I can't tell you how long I've been dying to try this out, but I finally got my chance. I'd recommend preparing a bowl or something to put the cling film in as soon as you pull it off so that it doesn't drip back into the honey, but other than that, it really is so easy!

Before -- Honey with a layer of foam
After -- Foam is gone!

There were a few spots where I got a bit of air between the Saran Wrap and honey, so that accounts for the bit of foam that got left behind, but I'm otherwise quite pleased with the results. What do you think? Pretty clean, yeah? 

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Chugging Along

This past Wednesday was 60 and sunny, and the bees were pretty mellow. A quick inspection of all the hives revealed that things look decent for everyone but Austeja. I'd go so far as to say that Hippolyte, Elsa, and Peach even look phenomenal. Everyone has brood -- including some drone comb -- and good stores of honey.

New drone comb. It just looks so pretty!

Austeja, the exception, is a disappointment. She was mated late last year (around Aug or Sept, I think), so maybe there weren't enough drones for her. Or maybe, she just came through winter with such a small cluster that it's taking longer for her to catch up. The queen is definitely in the hive, but I'm shocked by how little brood she has -- 2, maybe 2 1/2 bars. Though her numbers are not the greatest, at least the pattern is decent. In other words, if I look at an area, I see ever-widening circles of brood, and brood in the various "rings" are all the same age. My best guess is that she simply doesn't have the workers she needs to care for babies.

The queen is definitely in the house.

This is actually a nice brood pattern. There just aren't enough bees in the hive.

I ended up giving her two bars of 98% capped workers from Hippolyte. Since capped brood don't require much care, they shouldn't tax Austeja's limited workforce too severely. When they emerge, these extra workers should also improve her ability to rear more brood and forage. As an added precaution, I also marked the bars from Hippolyte. Although there is no reason for the bees to try and raise a queen from one of the few eggs/larvae on that bar, if they even try, I'll cut them out in a heartbeat.

Bubblegum got some new digs inside the newly refurbished Persephone.

Persephone, nee Bubblegum

Finally, I reorganized the hives for spring and removed some capped honey left over from winter to make room in the hives. Some bars were harvested, but others were reserved for splits.

My hives are running out of room, but so is my freezer. Will have to harvest some of these.


In the interest of time (because I have a few weeks from hell until the middle of April), I let my six-year-old do the harvesting. Instead of using my cider press (which is hard for a little one to turn), she did it old school with a bowl, potato masher, bucket, and strainer. I've never seen a kid so happy to do chore.

Filtering honey. Will have to melt some wax soon, too.

It turns out, that one of the bars was spring honey from this year. If I had caught it in time, I would've separated it out for my son who prefers the lighter flavor of springtime honey. Hopefully, there will be plenty more where that came from this year.

We're supposed to get rain and snow for the next week. Although it looks like I took a ton of honey, there is still plenty left in the hives to tide them over until things bloom in real earnestness. Actually, The magnolia has already started to bloom, so the honey will be rolling in any day now.

Magnolia down the street. The flowers are just starting to pop open.


Friday, April 1, 2016

Persephone Gets a Facelift

Persephone is the Greek goddess of the underworld, but she's also associated with spring and renewal. Therefore, it seems appropriate that my Persephone got a makeover these past few days.

I'm all over building insulated hives these days since Elsa, my original insulated hive, has been doing so brilliantly. Because Persephone's bees absconded this past winter, an opportunity for retrofitting her with insulated walls & roof presented itself.

Honestly, I found the process of retrofitting her much easier than the process I used to build Elsa.  There were two big obstacles in putting Elsa together.

  1. I built the walls -- in all their crazy, heavy, insulated glory - first. Trying to attach these monster walls to the hive ends was a Herculean task. It took all my strength and skill to keep them in place long enough to screw in the boards.
  2. It was a puzzle figuring out how to get the bottom of the hive in place.
By comparison, adding insulation to Persephone was a breeze. Putting a basic TBH together is a snap, and that was already done. To retrofit her, I only had to build onto her already existing frame.

Step 1: Make frame to hold insulation.


Step 2: Add insulation.

One thing I did differently this time around was using 3/4" thick insulation board with and R-4 rating. Last time I used 1 1/2" thick R-7.5 insulation board. The thinner board is a bit less warm, but it allowed me to use scrap wood to build the frame from Step 1. Also, the finished wall will still have a rating of R-7-ish, which is way warmer than 2" thick wood.


Step 3:  Attach exterior wall.


Step 4: Insulate roof.

I actually prefer how I made Elsa's roof, but I didn't want to start all over with this one. I was also trying to use what I had on hand, so I first lined it with some scraps of roofing felt. 

Inside of roof. 

Lined with roofing felt

I had to make a bar that fit lengthwise between ends of roof.
Stapled paper to bar.
Insulation got added next, and another layer of roofing felt went over it all. I don't know what happened to the rest of my photos of this process, but it's similar to Elsa's roof.

Step 5: Attach roof to hive with hinges.

I would have liked to use the some process that I used before, but I didn't have the right pieces of wood. I ended up cobbling together something instead. Scrap pieces of wood extend the ends. A bar runs between them. Another chunk of wood in the center of the bar provides extra attachment. Not pretty, but functional and surprisingly sturdy.

A cobbled together attachment that will let me attach hinges.

In the future, I'll probably attach a horizontal piece on the ends near the top. Then I can attach an apron like I did for the retrofit along the sides. This will save me from having to figure out too many angles. Ok, this description is rubbish, so an only slightly less rubbish sketch is below to illustrate.

Idea for how to create a surface to which I can attach a hinge.

Step 7: Replace shingles

This actually was not part of my original plan, but I noticed that the crummy cedar shingles had separated, and there were huge gaps in the roof near the bottom edge. Though I've never seen water on the bars, I didn't want that to become a future issue. Some more overhang all around the edges (and thinner plywood) would have been preferable, but again... using what I had.

Step 8: Add finishing touches.

I added some rope to keep the hinges from overextending. Some copper keeps rain from penetrating that seam in the roof.



Well, she's not the prettiest thing on four legs, but she's ready for bees!