April 12, 2015

Getting Ready For My Bees

I've been amazed at the interest there has been in my "My First Beehive" post. I shouldn't be, really, because honeybees are a wonderful addition to any farm, garden, or homestead. I promised more information, so here are some details on preparations for my Warré hive.

Preparing the quilt

The quilt is placed on top of the hive boxes and is said to provide insulation. The quilt box consists of a 300mm x 300mm box and piece of cloth, commonly burlap (hessian).

The pieces of the quilt

The burlap is sized to stiffen it and then fastened to the bottom of the box.

Sizing was made of flour, water, and laundry starch. Recipe here. It
is said to help prevent the bees from chewing holes through the cloth.

I painted it on and let it dry in the sun until stiff.

Since I stiffened the burlap so well, no stretching was necessary.

The quilt box is filled with absorbent material such as straw,
wood shavings, dried leaves, or shredded paper. I read that
cedar shavings help deter ants, so that's what I'm using. 

An interesting alternative for the quilt can be found at the Milkwood blog, "Quilt box design mod for the Warré hives".

Preparing the top bars

In a traditional top bar hive, the bees draw their own comb from bars at the top of the hive boxes. Because they have the annoying habit of building their comb at angles rather than straight across the bars, the top bars are painted with a thin strip of melted beeswax as sort of a "start comb here" signal to the bees.

Kind of hard to see since the wax is the same color as the wood.

It is possible to get frames or modified frames for Warré hive, but I just started with the basic hive.

Installing the top bars

3/4 inch brads help hold the top bars in place. The spacer
(right) helps get the bars at the natural bee acceptable spacing.

Some Warré beekeepers prefer to attach the bars to the box, but my top bars came with notched ends. We used evenly spaced brads, setting each top bar over them. Once the first set of brads was measured and in place, the spacer made a quick job of getting the rest in proper placement.

Observation Hive Box

This did not come with my kit nor did I initially think about getting one.

A piece of plexiglass completes the observation window.

However, five boxes are recommended to have on hand, but the kit came with only four. While I contemplated that bit of advice, I got some bad news about my honeybee order.

I originally ordered my bees from BeeWeaver Apiaries in Texas. They raise naturally resistant, chemical free bees and that appealed to me tremendously. I bit the bullet and ordered a package. My delivery date was scheduled for April 20. I had a near panic attack when I received an email from them, advising me that there were problems: UPS had suddenly changed their policies so that shipping bees with syrup was no longer permissible. The bees would have to be shipped with solid food. Unfortunately UPS did not give BeeWeaver enough time to make new shipping boxes, so I had a choice of cancelling my order or risking USPS (known to be slower with such deliveries). I opted to receive a refund, but it left me frantically trying to find bees.

Happily the local beekeeping group still had packages available. Neither resistant nor chemical free, they are considered "hygenic" bees because of their tendency to monitor the brood comb and remove dead, diseased, or infested larvae and pupae.  At any rate, they were considerably cheaper, and would only require my picking up at a designated location rather than worrying about UPS or the mail.  I used the extra money from the refund to purchase the observation box and a top feeder.

I'll show you the feeder in an upcoming post. The nice thing about the observation window is that it's another way to check on the bees without opening the hive, plus it gives me an extra box for years of good honey flow.

Last but not least -


If you are interested in Warré beekeeping, I would recommend the following resources for more information.


Online resources:

Next - Beehive: Painting and Naming


Lynda said...

You're going to love keeping bees. I picked up another 2 packages today...I try to introduce new bees every 3 or 4 years. Good luck! And enjoy.

Farmer Barb said...

My husband has been talking about keeping bees. I think it is time for HIM to develop a hobby! I will have him follow along with your path of discovery.

Mark said...

I'm enjoying watching how your preparations are going. Bummer about the bees from Texas. Maybe when it's time to introduce new bees like Lynda does.

DFW said...

Leigh, So glad you are doing these posts. We hope to have bees one day & as usual, you are full of helpful information.

Leigh said...

Lynda, does that mean you are adding new hives? I hope to add new hives over the next several years as well.

Barb, honeybees are a perfect project for someone who isn't at home full time. And what a valuable addition!

Mark, yeah, it was too bad but I looked at it as Providential. I wouldn't have gotten the observation box nor feeder otherwise! Next year I hope to add two more hives. :)

Deb, they've been on our wish list for quite a few years. So glad we finally got to them. :)

Melanie said...

I love your bee posts! My brother-in-law is a bee keeper, he has hives all over and does swarm removal. I've always had one of his hives at my house, but he did all the work, and I got free honey for it.

Well, this past winter we lost all our bees - who knows where they went. My husband and I decided we wanted more control over the keeping of the bees; my BIL works on such a large scale he can't baby each hive, so we asked if we could learn and do it ourselves. So, he gave us a hive and all the equipment for free (we give him eggs). It's a Langstroth hive; I would love a Warre hive, but my budget really appreciates free. So I'll learn with what I have and hopefully move to a different method later on.

We purchased a pack of bees and we hived them yesterday afternoon. We also harvested 3 frames of honey before hiving the new pack of bees. So this week I embark on straining honey and rendering wax for the first time. I'm so excited! I feel very fortunate I have someone to mentor us as we learn.

I look forward to reading more about your bee adventures, I'm right there, too! Have a great day!

Renee Nefe said...

oooh that's great about the local bees.

and we've noticed a lot of changes with all the mailing services. :p not happy. I went to mail a package usps and they no longer offer parcel post. I was shocked because I never heard that announced. something about if you're mailing to any state that borders yours...well yes, if you're mailing to a bordering state Parcel Post would get it there the same time, but why should I have to pay the higher amount? I'm also not a fan of the Mailing Innovations through UPS... because once UPS delivers to your usps the package is no longer tracked.

Liz said...

I am looking forward to your posts on the new hive. We are in our 2nd year of bee keeping with a langstroth hive, but my husband is very interested in a Warre hive (maybe next year). We lost our bees over the winter and just installed a new hive yesterday. Good luck on your hive!

Wayne said...

Hi, Now this has always been a hidden away interest to me. I hope to enjoy the whole series you do on this subject from day 1 to completion. Keep up the great blog.



Sandy Livesay said...


I'm going to live through you vicariously for now on bee keeping. We planned on keeping bee's here when we were told by the county we needed an 8 foot fence all around this house to get the permit to keep bee's. Since the house were staying in is a rental, we will wait until we move to our own home out in the country before starting bee keeping.

Frugal in Derbyshire said...

I have to say, little of what you are doing is similar to "National" hive, which we have kept for over 40 years, so I am interested in your pictures and progress.
The best advice for any new beekeeper is to ensure you have a local ( as close as possible) beekeeper as a mentor. They may use a different type of hive and different aspirations for their bees, but an experienced beekeeper understands bees! So I am glad that you are in contact with your local beekeepers.
The very best of luck to you and your bees.

Unknown said...

We are preparing for bees too! But as we are opposite seasons, we have to wait 6 months for ours (more time to prepare!). Its interesting to see you using the Warre system. We are starting with Langstroth hives simply because we can't find a mentor who knows anything about top bar! We will teach ourselves eventually no doubt...

Bill said...

I'll be interested in following your experiences. Best of luck!

We've had ups and downs with beekeeping. After losing our remaining hive last winter I ordered two packages, set to arrive next week. Hoping for better results this time.

Mama Mess said...

How nice that you have the observation box! I'm very excited to "share" this beekeeping venture with you!

Anonymous said...

I'm getting ready to embark on my journey of bee keeping. My bees are scheduled to arrive May 5th. My boxes are set and ready so I just keep reading and studying.

Leigh said...

Melanie, how nice to have a beek in the family! Very interesting about the crushing and draining; that's the method I will use too. Looking forward to a post by you on rendering the wax.

Renee, it's a relief. I really don't like dealing with the post office anymore. Besides their prices being ludicrously high, I think they've gotten sneaky about it. Ours has a huge display for priority mail boxes, but they only put out the flat rate boxes. Flat rate is only useful for really heavy packages; for light weight packages it's way cheaper to use non-flat rate. I have to ask for those boxes but they say, "oh, we just don't have enough room for all of the." but who needs 50 bazillion flat rate boxes? I don't like that their self-serve kiosk only offers the highest rate option! Now see what you've done, you've got me off on a rant about the USPS. LOL This year I'm ordering our baby chicks from Tractor Supply instead of having them mailed. Thankful for another option there too.

Liz, thanks you and welcome! So many folk lost bees last winter. I hope this year's bees thrive and prosper.

Wayne, hello and thank you! Do you think you ever might take the beekeeping plunge? I looked for a blog to return a visit to, but you don't have one listed. Thank you for commenting!

Sandy, an 8 foot fence! Somebody in policy making is either terrified of or allergic to bees! You'd probably need a building permit to put up that tall of a fence as well. Here's hoping your bee dreams come true soon!

Gill, we're fortunate to have a county beekeeping group. I've looked at when and where they have their monthly meetings, but they aren't at a time possible for me to attend. Still, the resource is there.

Liz, how exciting! Actually, I don't have a top bar mentor either. In fact, when I asked a local beek about it I got a very negative reaction, so I didn't press the issue. Hopefully I will have success!

Bill, thanks!

the Goodwife, yes, I'm happy about that box and curious as to how it will go with it. :)

doublehomestead, hello and welcome! Thanks for taking the time to comment. It's exciting you are getting started with honeybees as well. I loved your purple bottom board!