By Jolly Gwari
At one time, honey bees were kept in a number of shelters. These included: Logs often called bee gums which were cut from trees and set upright on a base to which was added often a box on top to gather the honey. However, there is a modern beehive today and it the most used in many parts of the world. This new method is a new phenomenon in Uganda.
The bottom board
The bottom board supports the hive. It is the floor of the hive with a 3/4 inch rim around three sides to allow the bees to enter the hive. It also extends 2 inches in front of the boxes to provide a landing board for the bees. Here bees take off for the fields to gather nectar and return to be met by other bees, called guard bees who check to make sure the arriving bee belongs to the hive. Bottom boards must be strong to hold the weight of the hive.
They must also be well protected against rot. Because it is close to moisture in the soil, it is the first to show any sign of decay or rot. Another piece of equipment associated with the bottom board is a hive entrance reducer. The purpose of the reducer is to restrict the entrance so a weak hive can defend itself and is installed in the fall to reduce damage from mice and prevent drafts from blowing wind.
The wax foundation is held in the frame by fastening the wax sheet to the top bar with the removable wedge. The split bottom bar holds the wax sheet at the bottom of the frame. To hold the foundation straight in the frame, a beekeeper usually uses cross wires stretched from the end bars and embedded into the wax.
A big question often discussed at bee meetings is “Do you really need a queen excluder?” Again, you will find individual beekeepers who like or don’t like them. They are often called honey excluders because bees don’t like to go up into the supers above through the queen excluder.
The purpose of the queen excluder is to keep the queen in the brood chamber so the queen doesn’t lay eggs and thus have brood in the honey supers. It is almost mandatory to have queen excluders on bees when you are producing comb honey for sale. Queen excluders can be purchased with a wood rim around the metal excluder or one can buy all metal excluders. They even come in zinc and plastic.
These are the boxes with frames and foundation for the bees to store surplus honey. Once the frames in the first super have been drawn out and filled with brood, pollen and honey, you will need to increase the size of the brood nest by adding another super of frames and foundation. If you have started with undrawn frames of foundation, it will sometimes assist the bees in drawing the outside frame foundation by moving the frame over one place or so and replacing it with a drawn frame.
The top cover
This is a cover that fits on the top of the hive. Many commercial beekeepers use what is called a migratory cover. This cover is a solid cover that does not extend beyond the sides of a hive body. The reason for this is the beehives are usually on a pallet and the hives on the pallet are set against each other side to side. There is no space between the hives for a telescoping cover to fit down into.