Beekeeper’s Corner December 2017

By Gerald Przybylski

Jerry has been an East-Oakland beekeeper since 2011; local bees preferred.

The commercial pollination beekeepers are preparing their hives now for the almond pollination. Most of them live in colder zones than we do. Yet they’re popping the covers off for a quick look and to fill feeders to encourage their colonies to build up population for February. Two months give the bees about three cycles of reproduction. Three cycles of doubling may produce eight or nine or ten frames of bees to meet customer requirements.

We can be pickier about our inspections. We look for a nice warm day with little or no wind. In this weather, our bees may not be very patient with us poking around. Be prepared to wear the jacket and gloves. Be extra prepared with an extra box, and frames in case you discover a crisis.

Are there bees at the entrance? Are they coming and going or just guarding? Engaged is good. Lethargy suggests there might be problems to look at.

Are some bees returning with pollen? That means they are raising brood.

Is the hive heavy enough?

– If it’s too light, they may need to be fed. You could discover they’ve been robbed out!

– If the hive is too heavy, perhaps they’re getting honey-bound, and need a super!

Does the hive smell sweet? Floral? Does it smell bad? That needs to be investigated.

In the last couple of weeks, some of us discovered hives in need of more space! The Eucalyptus trees are being generous.

Assemble your new boxes this month.

One of Marla Spivak’s students at U of Minnesota suggests using a very course sandpaper, and elbow grease, to “rough up” the inside surfaces of the box panels before assembling the box. Deep scratches are better than smooth. The rough surface induces the bees to fill the scratches with propolis like they would the inside of a tree cavity. The propolis inhibits the growth of pathogens in the hive. It’s a zero-labor alternative to painting the inside of hive boxes with a homemade propolis varnish.

Glue the box corners (all horizontal and vertical mating surfaces) with exterior-grade/water-proof wood glue.
Paint the outside of the boxes with an exterior primer, and finish with a coat of house paint.

To facilitate frames assembly, use a gluing-jig like this one:

10 Frame Assembly Jig

Follow an assembly example like this one

Use a carpenters glue or waterproof wood glue on all mating surfaces of the frame parts.

The jig holds the frames square while assembling and nailing.

If using an impact nailer or pneumatic stapler, use the thinnest gauge fasteners to avoid splitting the wood.
If nailing by hand… use the frame nails from the beekeeping supply house because they’re skinnier than the ones from the local builder supply store.

Nailing, or stapling through from the top and bottom doesn’t make for a particularly strong frame; it’s scant insurance if the glue lets go. Major Brenzel recommends nailing through the frame side into the top-bar at a shallow angle so the nail is in sheer; it makes the top-bar to end-piece joint stronger.

Read another bee book or two. Read some articles in the bee magazines. Snoop among the discussion threads at The commercial pollination beekeepers are preparing their hives now for the almond pollination. Most of them live in colder zones than we do. Yet they’re popping the covers off for a quick look and to fill feeders to encourage their colonies to build up population for February. Two months give the bees about three cycles of reproduction. Three cycles of doubling may produce eight or nine or ten frames of bees to meet customer requirements.

We can be pickier about our inspections. We look for a nice warm day with little or no wind. In this weather, our bees may not be very patient with us poking around. Be prepared to wear the jacket and gloves. Be extra prepared with an extra box, and frames in case you discover a crisis.

Are there bees at the entrance? Are they coming and going or just guarding? Engaged is good. Lethargy suggests there might be problems to look at.
Are some bees returning with pollen? That means they are raising brood.
Is the hive heavy enough?
– If it’s too light, they may need to be fed. You could discover they’ve been robbed out!
– If the hive is too heavy, perhaps they’re getting honey-bound, and need a super!
Does the hive smell sweet? Floral? Does it smell bad? That needs to be investigated.

In the last couple of weeks, some of us discovered hives in need of more space! The Eucalyptus trees are being generous.

Assemble your new boxes this month.
One of Marla Spivak’s students at U of Minnesota suggests using a very course sandpaper, and elbow grease, to “rough up” the inside surfaces of the box panels before assembling the box. Deep scratches are better than smooth. The rough surface induces the bees to fill the scratches with propolis like they would the inside of a tree cavity. The propolis inhibits the growth of pathogens in the hive. It’s a zero-labor alternative to painting the inside of hive boxes with a homemade propolis varnish.
Glue the box corners (all horizontal and vertical mating surfaces) with exterior-grade/water-proof wood glue.
Paint the outside of the boxes with an exterior primer, and finish with a coat of house paint.

To facilitate frames assembly, use a gluing-jig like this one:

10 Frame Assembly Jig


Follow an assembly example like this one

Use a carpenters glue or waterproof wood glue on all mating surfaces of the frame parts.
The jig holds the frames square while assembling and nailing.
If using an impact nailer or pneumatic stapler, use the thinnest gauge fasteners to avoid splitting the wood.
If nailing by hand… use the frame nails from the beekeeping supply house because they’re skinnier than the ones from the local builder supply store.

Nailing, or stapling through from the top and bottom doesn’t make for a particularly strong frame; it’s scant insurance if the glue lets go. Major Brenzel recommends nailing through the frame side into the top-bar at a shallow angle so the nail is in sheer; it makes the top-bar to end-piece joint stronger.

Read another bee book or two. Read some articles in the bee magazines. Snoop among the discussion threads at http://beesource.com/ where smart beeks from all around the country weigh in. (Free to read from… worth donating to… Join if you need to ask a question; that’s free too) at
Bee Source where smart beeks from all around the country weigh in. (Free to read from… worth donating to… Join if you need to ask a question; that’s free too.)