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Author Topic: Observation Hives  (Read 4213 times)

Offline willebanks

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Observation Hives
« on: April 05, 2005, 08:55:12 PM »
Greetings all,

  For over 3 years now I have wanted to get and maintain an observation hive. I have 2 regular hives and will be adding a third this year. I work in a local school system and I wish to bring the joys of bee keeping to students and teachers alike. I have already enjoyed spreading the "bee" gospel with a class of "advanced" seniors at one of the High schools where I work. An observation hive would do wonders for my presentation. Plus I love watching the little buggers....lol.

I guess I want to know what differences there are with an observation hive...Sadly there is a limit to the number of hives I can have at my residence so I don't want to deal with recurring swarms and such...Plus I'd like to be able to bring the observation hive to show any classes that might be interested...

Anyone with experience in dealing with observation hives please fill me in...



Offline thegolfpsycho

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Observation Hives
« Reply #1 on: April 05, 2005, 09:01:49 PM »
Alot depends on what you want the main function to be.  You can put one together that just holds a couple frames, and load it as needed for demos.  You can make a much larger one and try to maintain a colony in it year round.  It really depends what you are shooting for.  Just remember, the larger it is, the more frames, the less likely you will be to observe the queen and her activities.

Offline leominsterbeeman

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Observation Hives
« Reply #2 on: April 06, 2005, 11:25:52 AM »
Willie -  

I use my for the same reason,  school presentations.

I have an Observation hive. (2 deep frame).  It has overwintered well, but I still don't see it building up as I would expect so this year for a number of reasons.  

There are pics at my website.  A elder beekeeper in CT made the hive.  I bought it  for $69.00. PM me if you want his contact info, or I will give you my phone # and we can talk directly.

I have had it for a year, and mine did swarm in August, but that was my fault.   To prevent the swarming, you will need to be able to take the bees from the observation hive to give a boost to one of your hives.     but leave the queen behind.  

They need to have access to outsite at all times, even in winter.  the best position would be where they can get the warmth of the sun most of the time.  Mine is on the north side of the house and it gets little sun, and the bees get a late start getting going in the AM to get nectar and pollen.

They will propolize all the vent holes,  I'd let them do this and then you can  clean them out in the spring.    It should get a through cleaning every year especially hf there is a lot of burr/brace comb on the glass.  The glass can get dirty.    So to clean it, you want a place for the bees to go, so I use a nuc.

Offline Michael Bush

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Observation Hives
« Reply #3 on: April 06, 2005, 07:16:49 PM »
Observation hive issues:

Frame size:
Brushy Mt. seems to be the only one who understands that in order to maintain an observation hive, it should be one size frame and that size should match the brood chambers of your other hives.  They offer one that is all deeps (Huber hive) and one that is all mediums (Von Frisch).  I reworked the Draper hive to take four mediums and a homade glass sided feeder to fill in the difference at the top.

Overall size:
I have never had much luck with the small Tew hive, even though I reworked it extensively (and will talk more about that later).  The bees have never thrived in it.  It's just too small.  I think the minimum size for a sustainable observation hive is three mediums or two deeps, but four mediums or three deeps is better.  Since you have to carry it outside to work it (at least if you keep it in your living room as I do) you want it light enough you can move it.  I find the four medium frame ones are about as large as I can easily manage.  So I would say that is the ideal size.  Four mediums or three deeps (depending on what you use for brood in your hives).  You can rework them by changing the rests to take different size frames you can make up the odd left over amounts by making feeders or just putting in a top bar to fill the gap with a beespace above and below.

Space between the glass:
For reasons unknown to me, no one seems to get this right.  The draper has about 2 1/4" between the glass and the bees burr the glass up a lot.  The Brushy Mt. hives have 1 1/2" between the glass and when I put in frames of brood from a hive it was too tight a fit and the brood could not emerge and the bees absconded.  I reworked the Brushy Mt. hives by adding a screen molding (available at the hardware store) which is 1/4" thick.  I put it behind the hinges on the hinge side and behind the door as a stop on the opposite side and added one next to the door just to match the other side.  This has worked perfectly and it is my most thriving hive now.  1 3/4" is just the right amount of space between the glass for an observation hive.  1 7/8" is ok.

An observation hive is in the house (usually) and therefore you need to be able to feed it without taking it outside.  The Van Frisch has a screened in feeder station on it where you put a quart jar with holes in the lid to feed it.  It works well.  The Draper had not feeder so I made a frame feeder with glass sides and put it on top with a hole to fill it on top covered with #7 hardware cloth.  I can also dump in some pollen if I want since it will go through the #7 just fine.

Ventilation seems to be more difficult to get just right for both you and the bees.  The long tube going out the window makes it difficult for them to ventilate the hive through the entrance.  I reworked the Tew hive several times before I REDUCED the ventilation enough that they could raise any brood at all.  I had to increase the ventilation in the Draper hive so the condensation on the glass would go away and the chaulk brood would clear up.  You need to pay attention to the bees needs.  If there is condensation on the glass there is not enough ventilation.  If there is chaulk brood in the hive, there is not enough.  If they are having a lot of trouble raising any brood, there is probably too much.

An observation hive is by definition a small hive and is prone to robbing by the stronger hives in the yard.  Again the Von Frisch has a piece of plexiglass that drops into the part where the tube going outside is that reduces the entrance.  You flip it over and drop it in and it blocks the ext altogheter.  The Draper does not and that has been a problem from time to time.

I've tried a variety of fancy gadgets to disconnect the hive to take it outside and block the incoming bees and the outgoing bees.  None have worked that well.  What I end up doing is taking three pieces of cloth large enough to cover the tube and three rubber band hair ties and disconnecting the tube and quickly cover the ends with cloth and hair ties.  I do just seperate them enough to slip in the cloth first.  If someone is available to help I have them hold the cloth on one end while I rubber band the other.  After the tube going out is blocked and the hookeup for the tube on the hive is blocked I go outside and do the tube out there so there won't be a traffic jam inside the tube when I'm trying to connect it back up.  Then I haul the hive ouside, do my manipulations and bring it back in.

Working the hive:
It seems as soon as you open the observation hive the bees start overflowing out onto the hive.  You will need a smoker and a brush to get the door closed again.  Try to smoke them back into the hive and then brush as many as you can out of the way of closing the door.  Another advantage to the Von Frisch AFTER I put in the extra spacer is that the bees don't get crushed so much in the hinge or the door side because there is a 1/4 gap all the way around.
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Offline leominsterbeeman

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Observation Hives
« Reply #4 on: April 07, 2005, 05:00:14 PM »
Saw the bees bringing in pollen to the observation hive today.  Finally!

It's amazing, the entire temperment and activity level of the hive has changed in the last few days.  It must be so refreshingto the bees to have something to do now, after just hanging out all winter long.

Offline Agility Mom

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Observation Hives
« Reply #5 on: April 07, 2005, 10:23:41 PM »
A very informative post on observation hives, Michael. I'd like to have one someday. I'm printing your post for future reference. Thanks!