Supers, brood chambers, frames, foundations, no foundations, covers, bottom boards, 8-frame or 10-frame, smokers, feeders, etc., etc.,. All simple things to the experienced, but to a newbie, something as seemingly simple as a 90-cent frame can be downright intimidating!!!! :-\
Ok, this is gonna be kinda long and part of it is a paraphrase from my original introduction (so it might at first sound familiar to a few of you). :)
We finally decided this past weekend after I attended a meeting at OJ and Lucy Blount's honey farm to commit to starting a couple of hives. I had a fantastic time meeting with them and experiencing their operation and walked away with a bit more understanding of things. I had been reading and researching extensively prior to the meeting and I'm now confident that I know just enough to be dangerous. I'm still trying to get a grip on the general needs and concepts of beekeeping. ;) We have no previous background with bees. I will say that it has been a *long* time since I've seen a honeybee around here...bumblebees, carpenter bees, yes, honeybees...no. :(
We're located in a rural area in Crenshaw County, Alabama...lot's of pine forest with some oak thrown in, 2-3 small ponds/lakes within a mile or so of our house, english privet (maybe finally get a use out of it!), a yard full of crape myrtle trees, bahia hayfields, honeysuckle vines, mimosa trees, wild blackberries, miscellaneous flowers around the yard, etc.,. Mr. Blount gave me some vitex plants and I've got them planted in four hills. There is probably 50 acres of overgrown fields with dog fennel, golden rod, you name it in it across the road from us. I will being planting some other bee friendly plants.
Our plans are to start out with two hives of Italian bees (or ferals if we can get a swarm or two) but right now I'm trying to get all of my ducks, er, bees in a row in regards to equipment and structures. I tend to over-research things when I get interested in them and this appears to be no different.
My plan (unless I opt to purchase some existing hives that are available) is to go with all medium sized boxes. I like the idea of being able to easily swap out same sized equipment and also of the lighter weight (I aint' gettin' any younger!). I haven't decided yet whether to go with an 8 or 10 frame system, though...the lighter weight of the 8-frame system is appealing but so is the extra two frames of HONEY (hopefully). I'll have to read more on Michael Bush's website. ;) Even if I purchase the established hives that I mentioned (they are 10-frame) I can always drop back down to an 8-frame by using the follower boards.
It seems like a lot of stuff to assimilate....housing, feeding, health issues, sourcing bees, learning the bees, honey harvesting, Going into this I know two hives isn't a giant endeavor (but it is to us!) but we want to do it right and be responsible beekeepers with healthy hives. I've got enough property here to expand from the two hives and some property over along a river/swamp bottom that I could even further expand to in the future if things get out of hand. :-D But for now, having two hives is our goal.
I'm not sure there's still time to get a couple of colonies going this summer or not...it would be nice to get them going this year so we could harvest some honey next spring. But either way, we'll be patient.
I'm planning on odering 10 cypress medium supers from Rossman, along with 2 cypress 9-5/8" hive bodies. I will use up to three of the mediums for the brood chambers which will leave me enough mediums to go up two honey supers on each hive. The 9-5/6" hive bodies will be used as a top cover for bottle feeders.
I'm hoping to build my bottom boards and ventilated top feeder designed after OJ Blount's....the designs can be see here: (I'll post the link later when my post count is hgher and allows it. :) ) Additionally a standard telescoping cover will go on top.
Having the above somewhat figured out I still am struggling with the frames. I know I won't be purchasing a ready-made extractor for my two hives, but I may try to rig something up using a drill and some wire mesh framing. I like the idea of foundationless frames for the brood chamber...small cell sizes that the bees prefer and good for mite suppression.
But, what about the honey supers? Seems it would be a bit tricky in regards to using an extractor and foundationless frames. If I build a small DIY tangential extractor where one large surface of each frame faces outward toward the vat/bucket (I will have to turn the frames around for each side to be extracted) will the foundationless combs hold together in this position if well supported by a mesh screen? I've see where Michael Bush stated that he uses a radial extractor on foundationless frames and it works fine. ???
I've pretty much decided to go with the grooved top bar frames with popsicle sticks for the brood chamber but would love to hear some thoughts on what to use in the honey supers.
Queen excluders... It seems that these are frowned upon by some folks...I've even seen them called "honey excluders". It seems it would be good to exclude the queen from those supers but apparently there is a large negative impact to the hive from the use of the excluders. What is so bad about using the queen excluders and how is the hive managed to keep the queen from laying eggs in the honey supers without using an excluder?
Sorry for all the questions. I should be able to figure all this simple stuff out being how simple-minded I am. :-P Anyhow, I'm trying to work up an order and I would like to get all that I can in a single order to help on shipping costs...figuring out the frame and foundation issues would help a bunch!!
Thanks for your help and thanks for taking the time to read through this long, rambling newbie message!!!!