Category Archives: equipment

Best Hive for a New Beekeeper?

At the Austin Urban Beekeeping Meetup this past weekend, there were a lot of interested folks wanting to start beekeeping, and had a lot of questions on what equipment they should buy. One participant spoke in great detail about all the benefits of using a top bar hive which I don’t disagree with, but with everything else a new beek has to learn, is the top bar hive adding another layer of complexity that someone who is just starting out may not want to deal with?

When I knew I was committed to becoming a beekeeper, I researched both the top bar hive as well as the Langstroth hive. After reading up on both, I felt that a Langstroth hive was more suited to someone starting off because there were a lot more resources and equipment readily available for the Langstroth.

I’d certainly welcome feedback from any beekeepers out there who have used one or both of these hive types. I do think there are pros and cons for each , but from a beginner’s perspective, is one easier than the other?

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Solar Wax Melter

One thing we have an abundance of here in Austin in the summer is plenty of sunshine and hot days. After my two honey harvests, I had a bunch of unprocessed wax sitting in the freezer, and what better way to get it melted down than to use the power of the Texas sun (which is actually bigger than anywhere else in the world). There are plenty of plans on making a solar wax melter out on the internets, but they seemed a lot more complicated than I wanted to deal with. Luckily, Linda’s Bee Blog had a suggestion for those living in the hot southern climates of the U.S. which is to simply use a cheap styrofoam cooler with a piece of clear glass on top to melt your wax. Beeswax melts at around 145 degrees and with average daily temps between 95 and 100, it doesn’t take a lot to get an enclosed space hot enough to melt your wax. So here is a quick video I put together today to walk you through the process.

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How to Light a Smoker (with Neil Gaiman)

Via BirdChick:

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Artistic Beehives

I thought my nuclear hive was pretty good, but some of these hives are practically works of art.

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I think I need a bigger boat…

Sunday afternoon I checked on the hive to see how the bee escape was working. After 36 hours, almost all the bees were out of the 4th super which let me easily harvest 3 full frames of honey. For some reason, I thought there were at least 5 frames ready in the 4th super, but I was mistaken. That will teach me to take better notes next time I inspect my hive.

I replaced the frames I removed and then took off the bee escape. The girls looked super crowded being forced back into just 3 supers so I’m sure they were happy to get back in the 4th again.

I setup my harvesting station in the kitchen. I have a two 5 gallon bucket system that I purchased from Brushy Mountain that strains your honey as well as having a honey gate to allow you to bottle.

Extracting Setup

For this type of extraction, you scape off the comb and honey into the first bucket.

Scraping off the honey

Here’s a closer shot of the sweet sweet honey on the frame.

Taking honey off the frame

The top bucket has a sieve that catches the wax cappings. I saved those to be melted at a later date to get some beeswax. I put it in a baggie and stuck it in the freezer.

Wax cappings

The honey goes through the sieve and then through a nylon mesh bag for further straining. After that it ends up in the bottom bucket ready to be bottled.

Honey in bucket

After that you can bottle the honey. Three full frames got me 21 8 oz. bottles of honey. Considering the 3rd super is all honey and the 4th is well on its way as well, I need to get a lot more bottles here quickly.

Bottled Honey

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Still Life with Smoker and Frame Perch

I was able to use my new frame perch this past weekend, and it has really helped with getting better photos of the bees. Before I had to try and hold the frame still while someone took the shot which is very difficult to do especially with a macro lens where the depth of field is limited. Now photos can be taken of the frame in the perch while I continue inspecting the hive.  This helps reduce the amount of time I have the hive open plus the photos come out better.

Smoker, frame holder

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