Man is a tool-using animal, Thomas Carlyle† (1795 – 1881) The Scottish philosopher wasn’t talking about beekeepers, but he might as well have been. The quotation goes on something like “Without tools he is nothing, with tools he is all”. Which pretty neatly sums up the beekeeper who has lost his hive tool in the long grass. Conducting…
Here are a few more pictures with dimensions for building the upper entrances previously blogged here. Based on the George Imirie idea that an upper entrance would increase honey production, this is a slight improvement in design with a reduction of spacing between boxes to 3/8″. The bees take to them readily after a short period of discovery. Other benefits may include increased ventilation, less brood box congestion, less travel stain, and increased hive efficiency at removing nectar moisture. Enjoy!
Good weather broke out, finally, in July. This is news at Brookfield Farm Bees And Honey here in Maple Falls Washington. The month of June gave us 5 days of sun, 5 days of overcast, and all the rest was rain. So when the sun started shining on July 4 (after 2 inches of rain on July 3) it was actually a cause for celebration – and the sign that I could return to painting bee boxes, tops, and bottom screens.
But that’s a bit dull to read about. Some musings, and studies, on what colors bee see would be a bit more interesting.
Honeybees Do Not See The Same Colors We Do
Bees get to see in the ultraviolet world. We can use photographic techniques to mimic that world, but all resulting colors are approximations of what a bee MIGHT see. (More photos by scientist-cameraman Bjorn Roslett can be found at his web site NaturFotograf.com (click on Infrared in the left side menu)
We can never see colors the way bees see them.
- Bees see “primary colors” as blue, green and ultraviolet
- They can distinguish yellow, orange, blue-green, violet, purple, as combinations of their three primary colors.
- Humans see “primary colors” as red, blue, and green
- We can distinguish about 60 other colors as combinations of our three primary colors.
Bear in mind that not all the studies agree on the exact colors or preferences bees see, but they all agree red is black
Some studies propose that honeybees see orange, yellow, and green as one color (green in that group surprised me). Blue, violet and purple are seen as a second color.
Ultraviolet being their third color.
Honeybees Do Not See Red
It’s not that they don’t get angry (as in “to see red”), but honeybees see the color red as black.
Honeybees Versus Humans : A Breakdown
(Courtesy of West Mountain Apiary, where a very good write-up about color can be found)
|Orange||Yellow – Green (darker perhaps than yellow)|
|Blue||Blue plus Ultraviolet blue|
|Violet||Blue plus Ultraviolet|
Their Favorite Colors?
Their favorites are said by some to be: purple, then violet, then blue (which all look different to them). I could not find the study that came to this conclusion, but I like it, as my favorite colors are purple, violet, and then blue.
How Do We Know All This?
We don’t know it all; studies vary. However:
Bee’s color sense was partially demonstrated by Karl von Frisch. In 1915, he showed that bees could discern green, yellow, orange, blue, violet, and purple. He did this by using colored cards and bee feed. He imprinted the bees with the idea that feed could be found on a blue card, but not the other colors. When he removed the feed, the bees still went to the blue card. He then tried this with green, yellow, orange, violet, purple and red. The only color it did NOT work with was red.
In 1927, Professor A. Kuhn took the study of honeybees’ color sense further. He tested bees using the visible spectrum for humans, but also used longer and shorter wavelengths : the ultraviolet and infrared. The infrared was black to the bees, but ultraviolet was a color.
You CAN Try This At Home
A very nice PowerPoint presentation at this Link from the University of Nebraska, will walk you though an experiment on which colors in our visible spectrum honeybees can see. Sorry, there’s no test for ultraviolet.
Back To Painting Bee Gear
As you can see over time I have used purple (ok blue to them, but I like purple), yellow, orange, blue and green. It turns out this is helpful to the bees as it distinguishes their hive from the others in the yard. I did it because I thought the bee yards looked prettier with all the colors and red has never been a particular favorite of mine.
My most current bee hive top color choices of mariposa lily orange and forest green (the husband says it’s British Racing Green) came from long, diligent thought (kind of). The green was in the hayloft, left over painting trim on my house. The orange was last year’s color, and I had a bit left. That paint ran out before I was done with the tops and the Stockton’s Paints, my favorite paint store is an hours drive away (one way).
That’s my one tip on painting: if you are going to take the time to paint your bee gear, use good quality paint. Primer and two coats of color, just like a house. I’ve bee gear that I painted over a decade ago and it is still just fine, even in our 8 month rains.
That’s the news from Brookfield Farm Bees And Honey in Maple Falls, Washington. It’s still bright and sunny, so I’m back to painting bee boxes…
What colors have you chosen for your hives? Why did you make those choices? I think the colors in a bee yard are one of the fun parts of beekeeping.
Sitting inside thinking about the recent rains beating down on the hives, it occurs to me that I’ve not written about my experience using markers for writing on and identifying hives.
This may appear as an advertisement of some sort but I assure you it’s simply a suggestion for those that are tired of marking and numbering hives only to realize weeks or months later that your notes or numbers have long since faded away. I tried everything to simply number my hives so I could match up my notes with the hives. I tried permanent markers, sign markers, and every marker I tried let me down. It seems the sun and the weather is a lot more brutal and persistent that I realized.
At first I tried to use permanent Sharpies for labeling hives. They make a clear and nice looking mark for stencils and labels but they faded in sunlight lasting only a couple months in daily direct sunlight, rain, etc. I moved on to their marker designed for Signs (also designated permanent) with disappointing, similar results. Then my friend showed me a really permanent marker he uses to label his hunting equipment and other outdoor property. The trick to finding a really permanent outdoor marking pen is in the name. If it says SOLID marker then you are getting real paint and not ink. I can’t remember the name of the one my friend originally showed me but since that first Solid Marker Pen I have started using Deco Color ID: Solid Stick. The ID Solid Stick is the perfect paint marker for most surfaces and is thermal resistant to extreme temperatures from -10°C to 200°C. This paint stick is opaque, water proof, fade resistant, dries in 5-7 minutes, and can be used indoors or outdoors. Use it outside on glass, tires, concrete, garbage cans, street address identifiers, PVC Pipes and plastic tubing/sheeting and much more! Indoor uses include sporting gear, toys, bicycles, boots, pots and pans, ect. Available in 5 colors: Red, Yellow, Blue, Black and White. They are available at Hobby Lobby for under $5 which is a little more expensive than I’ve found online but worth the price. They are truly permanent it seems. I started using them two years ago numbering hives. Last year I started using the hive tops as my notebook making notes, writing dates, hive status, etc. and so far the numbering and writing looks the same as the day I first wrote on the hive covers. In fact, the paint pen is so permanent the only way to remove the marking is to paint over older notes. Truly a product that works.
After reading about the Russian Scion last year I have been eager to make and employ one in my own bee yard. Having used swarm traps with great success I know that swarms can often be retrieved before flying off. However, sometimes issuing swarms choose high ranches or remain out of sight of the beekeeper. The scion adds another opportunity to the beekeeper prior to the swarm trap. Since I am home most days and walk my bee yard daily, hopefully I’ll be able to attract them to the easily retrievable scion, and hive them instead of relying on the traps which are also located on site. Below is a good post found on http://www.beesource.com posted by DocBB with some nice pictures:
I found a almost unknown device for us but which is of a common use in every Russian apiary is the “Scion” – (Привой и роевня)
It is a trap or a shelter to catch the swarm as early as possible without (may be) climbing trees.
Can you find it here on the plan?
There are many “designs” but it is commonly settled not far and in front of the hives entrances , one or several of them according to the size of the apiary
The traditional model is a 20-30 cm wide and 30-40 cm plank with one cleat fixed vertically in the middle , more or less rolled with burlap and coated with
alcoholic solution of propolis and flavoured with essential oils (lemongrass, etc.)
It seems to work !
and the use of one or more old frame is not forbidden
or an old propolised burlap
Before there were nail guns, powered screw drivers, exterior screws, star and hex bits, and more, there were specialized nails developed for a wide variety of applications.
Long ago, and remember when we talk about Langstroth hives we are talking mid 1800’s, there were multiple options in the ranks of the simple nail. Common nails and spikes, crate nails, cigar box nails, cooler nails, egg case nails, box nails, and more – all fine tuned by shank and head size for a particular job.
Box nails, which we use for hive bodies, are slimmer than common nails of the same penny size and have a slightly blunted point which helps avoid splitting. Along the way, a 7d box nail was deemed ideal for the material and dimensions of bee boxes. It may even have been sold as a bee-box nail. It’s probably still the best nail for the job, but newer fasteners and power-nailers have lessened the demand, making it harder to find.
If you order your hive bodies from one of the major bee supply companies they typically will not come with nails. However, you may be able to order them as a separate item along with your boxes. What you’ll get is the traditional 7d box nail used for ages before the advent of modern fasteners found in box stores.
However, what I most typically use is a substitute for tradition. Pictured are 6d, 2 inch, galvanized nails. The galvanization brings the shank size up and bit and provides a little protection from the elements. And they are easy to find in any hardware store. To pay homage to the 7d of yesterday, I usually take a few minutes to look for it on the shelves but I’m always disappointed.
Sometimes a board visually speaks to you and announces it is going to reject your attempts to apply a nail to it. I used to use soap on the nail to ease the boards objections, and the inevitable, but I now have a new helper – beeswax! Often we don’t know if our efforts help or not, but when a nail completes its task without incident we can assume credit with having eased the board’s objections to becoming a box.
I’ve noticed some prebuild boxes are now being assembled with staples. Perhaps in response to inquiries, we’re told the staples (or nails for that matter) are for holding things together until the glue dries. This may be true and I’ve started stapling the lighter, 5-frame nuc boxes but I’ll not risk my well being to a heavy, deep, 10-frame box joint coming undone sometime in the future while 30,000 bees are inside. So while I use a generous dab of waterproof Tightbond III on the hive body joints, I also appreciate the security and tradition of a nailed joint.