My family has been keeping bees for quite awhile and I have seen almost all aspects of bees except one. The bees inside the hive. I have always wondered what happens inside. Do the bees actually do the dance to show each other where flowers are? I finally decided to find out.
If anyone is thinking about making an observation hive and your mom is unsure about having bees in the house start pushing it now instead of a couple days before you finish. It takes some convincing.
Step 1: Materials and Tools Needed
- 6 ft x 5in Poplar Board (any wood will work)
- 2 ft x 2 ft Piece of Lexan
- 1 1/4 in Floor Flange
- 1 1/4 (Outer Diameter) Clear Tubing
- Various Screws and Nails
- Metal Screen
- Non-corrugated Cardboard
- Wood Glue
- Two "L" Brackets
- Hand plane
- Glue Gun
- A Mill; kind of overkill but extremely useful.
For bees there are two main choices: nucs and boxes. Nucs are small hives (five frames) that usually have a couple frames of brood (larva) Boxes are usually 2-3 lbs of random bees with a queen that is a separate breed. I ended up getting an overwintered Carniolan nuc which was probably the best fit for me.
Step 2: Cutting the Pieces
It took a couple tries to get the pieces square and consistent so I don't have very many pictures. But first, I divided my piece of wood into 1 ft sections. Next, I used a miter saw to cut the pieces. Since the saw wasn't very accurate I used a vertical mill to make all 6 pieces the same length and make sure they were square
Step 3: Joining
First I clamped the 6 pieces together and made sure that they were all lined up. Next, I marked every half inch on both ends. Then I used a router with a guide to cut every other half inch on one side and the opposite half inches on the other side.
Step 4: Lexan
First I arranged the pieces that had just been routed into a hexagon (every angle has to be 120°) Then I used a marker and marked a little more than the inside edge. Next, I used a scroll saw and cut it out and used the router to smooth the edges.
Step 5: Gluing, Filler, and Stain
To hold the wood frame together I put wood glue on the finger joints and fit them together. Next, I put the plexiglass in and clamped it as shown in this picture
Once the glue was dry I mixed body filler with wood filler and filled the spaces where the joints didn't quite fit. After the body filler was dry I sanded it smooth. Next, I mixed some cooking oil with acetone, beeswax, and pine resin-I then used a paper towel to apply it to the outside of the soon to be hive.
Step 6: Back Cover
to make the back cover I traced the wood frame onto the uncorrugated cardboard and cut it out. Next, I drilled holes on all of the sides and countersank them. I then screwed six screws onto the back. There were a few gaps and cracks so I filled them in with some wood glue.
Step 7: Vents and Tubing
To create an entrance and ventilation I drilled two 1 1/4 inch holes on the two top sides. Next, I drilled six holes for the vent and four for the exit. After that, I cut out some screen and screwed it over one of the holes. Then I drilled a small hole through both sides of the metal flange and then screwed it to the other hole.
Step 8: Frame Guide
I needed a way to slide the frames in so I took two pieces of wood and used a handplane to angle the pieces like the frames. Then I drilled two pilot holes in them and affixed them to the empty hive. Next, I got two smaller pieces and screwed them onto the opposite sides. After that, I put the plexiglass on and drilled through it and the guides. I then screwed the plexiglass on.
Step 9: Drilling Outside
Our house has had a ton of leaking issues so my mom and dad said no to drilling anywhere that there might be water problems so I put the hole right beneath the soffit. To drill the hole I used a 1 1/4 inch hole saw to drill through the drywall. Next, I removed the insulation and drilled a pilot hole through the board below the soffit. Then I climbed a ladder and drilled the hole where I wanted it. To mount it I screwed two "L" brackets to the empty hive and then bolted it to a wall stud.
Step 10: Transferring Bees
To transfer the bees from the nuc box was pretty fun to do actually. I first closed the bee "door" on the nuc the night before. Then I took my empty hive down where the nuc was and smoked the bees. Next, I unscrewed the plexiglass and lifted the frames from the nuc and slid them onto the guides. Unfortunately I measured incorrectly and the fifth frame didn't fit. After I screwed the plexiglass on I took it up to my room and screwed it onto the wall.
Step 11: Enjoy Watching Your Bees!
My question was answered: bees do dance! on a few occasions I have seen them dance but they shake to communicate too. If you built this hive cover the plexiglass with a blanket or towel for the first few day as the bees don't know how to use the exit.
UPDATE 7/18/17: The bees swarmed!
After a couple weeks of the hive producing drones (a sign of a swarm) the bees started clumping on the outside of the house. After about 5-6 hours they took off and I was lucky enough to see them in flight (a very rare thing to see) The mass of bees was about 20-25 feet in diameter. Bees usually land on a tree and send out "scout" bees to find a new home but my bees went straight to an old dead tree where I think they are using as their home.