Wednesday, 9 May 2012

How it all started

Back in the autumn of 2010 I happened upon an observation hive made by the USA company Bonterra Bees - watch this great video of the hive and you'll see why I got so excited. Having kept bees since 2009 my wife, Sarah, and I were immediately excited by the prospect of having a colony in our own house and watching and learning about bees so closely. I immediately began planning how I could make one myself.
One of my early Sketchup designs
trying to spread the load
***Click any photo to enlarge ***

Being a natural beekeeper, I wanted to make a top bar single comb version, rather than having bees live unnaturally on frames and foundation, so I contacted my good friend Gareth and we bounced ideas and adaptations off each other. Interestingly Gareth had housed a small colony that was dying in an observation hive the previous winter and said that he learned more about bees from that experience than all his years of beekeeping.

Meanwhile I got busy using the excellent Google Sketchup CAD programme putting some of our ideas into drawings and soon the natural version of this wonderful swing hive was born. I managed to procure some cheap laminated safety glass from a local double glazing manufacturer, had bought the Bonterra Bees DIY hive plans and was ready to rock!

Unfortunately, I then got a nasty hernia which had me incapacitated until well after the summer and put all my hive building plans on hold. During this enforced lay-off I worked out that my crude carpentry skills would not be up to making the joints sufficiently robust enough to hold the weight of 2 sheets of safety glass plus a full colony with bees, stores and all. I obviously needed professional help, at least for the frame, and getting that part alone priced by a local carpenter put it way beyond what I could readily afford, so despite returning health and a winter with time to work I was back to square one with no hive and no obvious way forward.
The proud parents - well the colony will be our new baby!

Then something happened.....
Sarah enjoys the new toy
In early March this year Quentin, one of the Gloucestershire members of YABeeP, the natural beekeeping group I organise, arranged for Gareth and I to meet Paul and Catherine Simpson in Sharpness.

Skilled boat builders by trade, Paul & Catherine had switched from boats to bee hive manufacture, now running Bees 'n Blossoms beehive builders in Sharpness. They had become interested in natural beekeeping, wanting to learn all they could about the hives and the philosophies behind them. We all hit it off splendidly and spent a great two or three hours talking bees - the three of us visitors freely passing on some considerable knowledge between us.

Of such meetings great friendships are forged and that's exactly what happened here. On departing this meeting I asked Paul for his advice as to how I could effectively make a joint of sufficient strength to hold my swing observation hive. Immediately, he was interested himself and, to cut a long story short, very kindly offered to 'knock one up for me' in return for the advice we had given and by way of learning how he could make them for him self and possibly others.
The outside entrance, but bee-ware the hen!

 Well, that was 9 weeks ago. Last Friday Sarah and I went up to see Paul & Catherine, who have since joined YABeeP themselves and become great friends, and collected our hive that Paul had so kindly made for us. Far from being 'knocked up' this creation has been expertly and lovingly made in the finest Sapele hard wood and looks absolutely magniricent.

Tonight I sit starting this blog having spent the last few days attaching it to our lounge wall, drilling an entrance hole in the side of our house and tweaking and polishing his excellent creation. It sits on the wall behind me in pride of place, causing a wide smile on our faces every time we pass by. All it needs now is a swarm of bees.

So watch this space and we'll record all our adventures and post all the photos and videos we plan to take showing this hive, the swarm that will hopefully soon be introduces to take up residence and their subsequent development. We are so excited!

Many, many thanks Paul & Catherine for helping to make our dream come true!

Robin & Sarah Morris
9th May 2012

***Click any photo to enlarge it***
The clever way bees enter or leave through the hinge
Showing the swing in action
Doesn't it look great?
The top hinge bolt takes some of the frame weight 
The floor debris scraper; closed......
.....and showing the debris exit hole.
Carved acorn hides the unsightly top hinge bolt
All looking good now