How to Make a Simple Robber Screen

As the nectar flows taper off at this time of year robbing sets in.   If you only have one hive and you know that there are no others nearby then you don’t need to worry about robbing – but the rest of us do.  Robbing is especially a problem when you have strong hives near small, weak or queenless hives – such as splits or mating nucs.  Especially if you are feeding those weaker hives.  There are lots of ways to manage robbing, but in my opinion, except for robber screens they all just nibble around the edges of the problem.  Robber screens work when nothing else will.  Even so, robber screens work much better if deployed before robbing sets in, so don’t wait.  BTW, if you want to you can leave robber screens on all year long – they won’t hinder a strong hive from making a honey crop, and they make excellent mouse guards in winter.

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Syrup Delivery: an overview of honey bee feeders

So let's say that you're now convinced that you do need to feed your honey bees. You go buy some sugar, mix it with some water, and you want to feed it to your bees. But how do you get it to them? That's actually a slightly more complex question than you might think. Let's take a look at some of your options (listed in no particular order) for delivering liquid syrup to your bees along with the pros and cons of each.

So let's say that you're now convinced that you do need to feed your honey bees. You go buy some sugar, mix it with some water, and you want to feed it to your bees. But how do you get it to them? That's actually a slightly more complex question than you might think. Let's take a look at some of your options (listed in no particular order) for delivering liquid syrup to your bees along with the pros and cons of each.

Be Careful with your Queen Excluder

Almost every beginning beekeeper has a queen excluder that came with a kit - and almost everyone is anxious to deploy it so that they can get a super or two of nice pristine honey without any brood to worry about. To everything there is a season, and your first year with bees is not the time to use your excluder - at least not like that.

Every year I get a question or run across someone who is wondering why their bees won't go through their queen excluder - to get to the super of bare foundation sitting on top. Well the short answer is that they probably never will.

Almost every beginning beekeeper has a queen excluder that came with a kit - and almost everyone is anxious to deploy it so that they can get a super or two of nice pristine honey without any brood to worry about. To everything there is a season, and your first year with bees is not the time to use your excluder - at least not like that.

Every year I get a question or run across someone who is wondering why their bees won't go through their queen excluder - to get to the super of bare foundation sitting on top. Well the short answer is that they probably never will.

You Need a Nuc!

This article was previously published in May 2011 but contains seasonally relevant information.   Winter is a great time to repair or build equipment.  While you are in the shop you really should consider building a couple of nucleus hives to prepare for the upcoming season.

For plans and instructions on building an Easy Nuc click here.

A nucleus hive is a complete colony in a small box – and is extremely useful for many purposes. If you are at all handy with tools a nuc is easy to build yourself.

If you have a hive of bees you really need a nucleus hive – a small hive that contains 5 or fewer frames.What you can do with a Nucleus Hive:

Housing a backup queen – If you only have one hive you’re working without a net.  If you have a nuc with an extra queen in it you have the ability to recover gracefully from a mishap.  This is the main thing you want a nuc for –  Keep another one for catching swarms and all that.

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Things to Do with a Queen Excluder – Harvesting Nurse Bees

There are several reasons why you might want to separate the queen or move brood or nurse bees from one hive to another:

  • To strengthen a weak hive
  • To weaken a hive to try to keep it from swarming
  • To make up nucleus hives – either for direct increase or as mating nucs
  • To make a cell builder for queen rearing
  • Making queenless packages of bulk bees

The thing is, when you move a frame covered with bees there is always the chance that the queen is hiding among them – unless you find her first  it’s really hard to be 100% sure.  But finding the queen when you want to is often very time consuming – when you are not looking for her she often comes out and poses for a picture, but when you really want to find her it seems she is having a shy day.

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Build your own Screened Bottom Board

If you are handy with woodworking I found this site to make screened bottom boards. I went to Highland hardware and got a roll of screen for about $20. This roll looks like it will make 100 screened bottom boards. Using scrap wood these were easy to make. Other than the screen, there was not cost. You will need 2 scrap 2 ft. 2×4’s . On cold snowy days this was easy breezy. the web site is
http://www.myoldtools.com/Bees/bottomboard/bottomboard.htm

Simple way to Tie in Comb

Bees are very adaptable about working around things that we do. See the queen?
A scrap of 1/2" x 1" mesh hardware cloth can be used as a very easy way to hang broken comb in frames - or as in these pictures from top bars.

If you ever do bee removals you might have to attach natural comb into a hive setup.  This is just one of many ways.  Probably one of the easier ways for top bar hives.

Don’t Forget – We will not be having a “regular” meeting for the month of May – instead  on Saturday May 5 at 2:30 in the afternoon we will be having a field day where we will actually get to work with bees.   This will happen at the TTU apiary which is located across the road (Old Gainesboro Grade / 12th street / TN state Rt 290) from the Hyder-Burks Agriculture Pavilion.

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Easy Nuc

A nucleus hive like this is an invaluable piece of bee keeping equipment.

If you have bees you need a nucleus hive, but we’ve already talked about that.  This is about how you can build a nucleus hive easily and economically – for about $15.   This is a 5 frame medium nuc, which I made from one 10′ 1×10 plank – bought at Lowe’s for about $12.50 – and which you can build with only a circular saw, hammer, nails, glue, tape measure, square, screw driver, and a pencil.  BTW, you can hurt your self with any of those tools – even a pencil can put an eye out, so follow all safety rules. Especially wear safety glasses when using a Skil saw.

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