A neighbor who is retired and I started building bee hives last year from cheap lumber, so went over to build a few more bee hives with him like we did last year to harvest honey. The small orchard out behind his old rental house had a hive of bees that took off from somewhere with the queen bee and settled on a tree in the orchard just out his backdoor. We took a large plastic bag and were able to get most of the bees including the queen bee into the bag. After capturing most of the hive, we took the bees and placed what we think were around 2,000 to 3,000 bees into a box and sealed it until the bees calmed down. Not knowing if the bees would stick around long enough to make the box their hive, we were pleased to see the bees begin building wax combs attached to the inside roof of the box. We then made similar boxes and started raising bees in these boxes. I brought my power tools over which made for cutting the thin lumber straight for making tight joints.
In this image, the bees figured out how to enter the hive from the bottom of the box. There was probably a small knot in the wood when the box was built we didn’t notice. The knot fell out leaving a tiny hole in the bottom. The bees being pretty clever when returning to the hive, were flying in through the small entrance at the bottom and were leaving the hive through the entrance/exit which is about 3-5mm in height and 6cm long at the front of the hive. The narrow space prevents large insects from entering the hive. Last year, this hive was full of bees with probably around 10,000 to 12,000 bees. When we opened the hive large wax combs were attached to the top with very little honey so the combs were left intact.
Spring is here and with it warm weather, so went to work building more boxes for additional hives as the bees are getting ready to start leaving the hive to forage for pollen. Last year, the entire area around the hives, was saturated with bees flying in every direction. You can stand directly in their flight path by the entrance to the hive and the bees will simply fly around you. Compared to the insane pace of living and working in Tokyo, watching these bees over a few micro-brewed beers I brew on a warm spring afternoon in Tokyo is cathartic. Since the bees started hiving after building these boxes only recently, we weren’t able to harvest much honey last year, however, this year the hives are settled in so should be a better year for honey. The bees build their hives “naturally” as they would inside a hollow tree constructing combs from the top down inside the box attaching them to the inside roof of the box.
These are the boxes for hives just completed and secured to a steel frame with covers to prevent the hive boxes from blowing over in strong winds and getting wet from rain. We attached handles on both sides making transport easy if we need to move them for any reason without disturbing the bees. Our concern now is that some nosy neighbor will call the city hall and bitch and moan about “dangerous bees” flying around the neighborhood. When the boxes are built they have to be tightly assembled to prevent predatory insects from entering and destroying the hives. The bees protect the entrance from predators. Will leave that job up to them. There are a total of 8 hives with 7 more planned if we can get queens transplanted into the new boxes. This doesn’t always mean queens will be attracted to the boxes we built since we can’t control when or where the queen decides to hive.
Once the hive becomes over populated like the one in this image, the bees will hive and go look for a new location. When the bees gather like this it’s a sign they are getting ready to leave the hive because of overcrowding. We had to put tape around this box after we opened it up to check the health of the bees and their population. All 8 hives stayed around last year much to our delight, so we’re hoping for the same migration of hives this year for a total of 15 hives. Each of the 8 boxes with bee hives in them have between 5,000 and 10,000 bees. Once they go over about 15,000 bees the queen usually takes off with the hive to locate somewhere else. If anyone living in Tokyo knows how expensive honey is they will appreciate our efforts. With cheap lumber we were able to build these hive boxes, so with a little luck and a good harvest for spring, we should be deep in honey the end of June through November.