Friday, 5 May 2017

How to preserve Hive Boxes

When you think of beehives, I bet you think of rows of lurid pink and rusty red and hospital green boxes, all stacked on top of each other. I haven't quite got to the bottom of these colour combinations. Are bees attracted to such mishmash colours? Bees like blue flowers apparently, but pretty-flower-blue is not a beehive colour that springs to my mind. Are beekeepers colour blind? Is the paint used to do the boxes the returns to the paint shop - you know, that colour you brought home but the family said "No, never, what were you thinking?".

Whatever, bee boxes do need to be preserved. The wood is untreated, so the bees are not poisoned, so it needs some weather proofing. Our beekeepers Will and David, here, have come up with an ingenious method of dipping them in linseed oil.

So, a pictorial step-by-step of dipping bee boxes:

The oil comes in huge and heavy drums, premixed with turps, and is poured into the heating vat.

Bee boxes arrive as flat slabs. They are all screwed together first, hundreds and hundreds of them.

Once the oil is hot, in go the boxes.

Soaking away, like a good spa. The longer the better, it's a trade off between ages and only getting a few done in a day, and too short and not soaking in enough.

Hauling them out. Looks easy, but they are really heavy once they are in the oil. Needs a good strong arm.

 Dripping on the side for a while.

Out on the drying rack for a few days to let the oil soak in properly, and become un-sticky.
Now isn't this so much more beautiful than hospital green?

We've adapted this a bit too, by standing them to dry on their bottoms. Otherwise the flat sides against each other don't dry properly, and are prone to damp damage.

And the boxes that are coming in now from the hives get scrapped down and redipped. Longer is better here too, gives them a chance of some sort of sterilisation. The oil doesn't get much above 60 deg C, so not exactly boiling them, but hopefully will do something useful in killing pathogens. Or this is the unscientific version.

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