Playing Catch-Up : Making Bee Boxes & Frames On A Deadline

All beekeepers should be prepared for an increased honey flow or new splits.  Boxes should be standing by:  built and painted.  Frames assembled, wired, and hung with wax.  All gathered in an easily accessible place.  “Should” : such a marvelous word.  Someday I’ll get around to doing my “should”s.

This has been a great year for bees around here.  A wet spring followed by sun.  All the flowers have plenty of nectar and the bees are hauling it in rapidly.  So, I turned around the other day and realized that I just did not have enough boxes built, much less painted.  And frames?  Well, like the boxes, they were sitting in my workroom

Brookfield Farm bee box assemby area : living room

Not all beekeepers build boxes in the living room

unassembled, rolls of wire standing by with boxes of wax foundation neatly packaged from the supplier.  Which does not mean much to the bees.

The scramble began.  For three days I disturbed the mountain calm with the “lilting” sound of an air compressor and staple gun.  Which resulted in boxes and assembled frames.  Then on to the wiring of the frames.

I used to nail the wire in, as prescribed by all the books and literature.  Then one day I came across a forum where people were simply running the wire through and twisting it around itself.  Having run fencing for sheep and goats for years, this sounded good to me.

Pulling wire to prepare to wire bee frames

Wire spool and bee frames waiting to be wired

(An aside: the wire does not hold the frames together.  The wire is there to keep the wax from sagging and bending.)

Bee box wax frame's wires twisted rather than nailed

The twistedend of the wires

These days I run the wire through, twist the ends where they meet, then give a tweak to the other side of the wire to take up the slack.  This holds up in centrifugal

Bee hive frame opposite end from wire twist

Other side of the same frame

extractors, so it works for me.  This makes my frame wiring very portable.  I can be in the pasture, with great views and the company of my dogs, cats, goats, and llama, or in the middle of a market, which always gets people interested.  Also, it’s much more relaxing that banging nails.

Wiring bee frames In the pasture at Brookfield Farm

Wiring "workshop" in a pasture

Wire on, I lay in the wax foundation and zap it with my Kelly’s wax zapper – I’m sure they have a much nicer name for it.  It’s a little tool that passes a current from 5 metal bits onto the wire that’s next to the wax foundation. This heats up the wire and melts the wax in place.

Ah, but the boxes still weren’t painted.  This is not so bad, because at this time of year any box going on will be coming off at extraction and can be painted later.  But sometimes I actually get things done on time – probably the reason for some minor earthquakes around here at those moments.

I paint boxes like I’d paint a house: Primer and two coats of paint.  I don’t like to paint.  I don’t want to do this for another 10-15 years. As I exhaust one bucket of paint, I choose a

Brookfield Farm Bee Boxes : Purple for 2010

Bee boxes in drying stack

new, different color for the boxes.  Of course I do this so the boxes all have unique color patterns when they are stacked: very helpful to the bees because it makes their hive easy to spot in a busy bee yard.  That’s one reason.  The other reason is that I like lots of colors.  This year I went for Statice Purple.  I do like this color.  It goes well yellow, blue, green and softer purple boxes that are already working.   It’s nice knowing that the bees can see these colors, but I always wonder what they really see.  As they don’t see red, I figure some of the purple just looking like different shades of blue.  I’ll never know, but it seems to work for the bees, and it makes the yards look like a party.

The boxes are done, but if you stop by the Bellingham Farmer’s Market, where I sell my husbands furniture on the first and third Sundays of the month, you may still find me playing catch up as I wire more frames and hang more wax.  After all, I’m going hiking tomorrow.  There are priorities.

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