Monday, February 29, 2016

Setting Up a Hive: 8 Frame or 10 Frame

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There are several things to consider when planning to begin beekeeping, such as, the size hive you will want to use. The size you choose is directly relates to the number of frames each box holds. The two sizes to choose from are: 8 Frame or 10 Frame. There are pros and cons to each hive sizes and it will benefit you to understand them before making the investment.

10 Frame:

Generations of beekeepers have considered 10 frame hives the "traditional" hive. The biggest advantage of 10 frame hives is that each hive box can hold larger quantities of honey and bees per box. This is not to say the size of your colony will be larger or that you will be able to harvest more honey, rather, each box will be able to hold more. This can be beneficial as your colony grows in population. You are not continuously adding The downside is when your honey super is full of honey they can weigh up to 80 lbs. This is very strenuous work and if you have trouble lifting heavy items you may have trouble managing a 10 frame hives.

Have you ever noticed feral honey bees? They tend to build their hives in tall narrow locations such as hollowed tree trunks. They follow this same mindset when working in a hive; build up rather than build out. With the 10 frame hive, just before you place another hive body/super onto the hive, you may need to rotate the outside frames in so the bees will build on all the frames.

8 Frame:

8 frame hives have been used for over 100 years and have started to grow in popularity in recent years because of their efficiency. We use 8 frame equipment for our hives at Brushy Mountain Bee Farm. A full 8 Frame honey super can still weigh up to 60 lbs, but the hive boxes are much easier to manage. The center of gravity is closer to the body with 8 Frame hives and that makes them easier to maneuver. 8 frame hives mirrors a honey bee colony's natural building style with its narrow chamber. The colony can easily outgrow the box and requires close observation to know when to add the next super for them to move in to.

Even though 8 and 10 Frame hives have their differences, in the end they both do the exact same thing. It all comes down to whatever size you feel most comfortable using. The hive size doesn't make a significance in the size of the colony or the amount of honey it will store. 10 frame hives have been a tried-and-true size used by countless beekeepers throughout the years, but 8 frame equipment has become a more economical and can be easier to manage. Just know that you cannot use 8 and 10 frame hive components on the same hive. You can have multiple hives each their own size, but you can not mix sizes on one hive.

For more information about size variations, you can visit

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Honey Bees vs. Orchard Mason Bees

A Honey Bee & Orchard Mason Bee
Many beekeepers know the benefit their girls play in pollinating their gardens,but your foraging bees are not the only bees that are there to collect pollen. There are a range of native, solitary bees that are just as important as honey bees when it comes to pollination, plus, they require less maintenance and are not as aggressive. So, if you want to invest solely into pollinating your gardens, is it better to keep honey bees or should you rely on the native bee for pollination? Each has their own benefits.

The solitary bees, such as the Mason, are more efficient pollinators than the honey bee if you are comparing bee to bee. Honey bees are attracted to nectar producing flowers and as they travel from flower to flower they indirectly help in pollination. Their main interest is harvesting the sweet nectar these flowers produce. Mason bees on the other hand are pollen collectors. They will gather pollen to take back to their nests. Once the female Mason bee is released she will begin building her nest and collecting pollen to lay with each egg for the duration of her four to six week life span.

Mason bees are solitary and do not require any management until the eggs are harvested, whereas, Honey bee hives require close inspection and monitoring. Mason bees are less aggressive and the startup cost is very minimal. They live independently and are less susceptible to diseases and pests.

Image by John Edwards
The benefit of honey bees are their numbers. Honey bee colonies will consist of tens of thousands of bees and in turn they have a larger field force to help with pollination, making them better pollinators overall. As soon as they are finished with one crop, they can be transported to the next, impacting a larger demographic of pollinating plants. Mason bees will transition to where pollen exists if their current location lacks what is needed, whereas, honey bee's foraging range is larger so they can bring in the resources the colony needs. There is no guarantee the Mason Bee will return to the nesting site to lay for the following year.
Honey bees will forage for nectar and pollen after breaking cluster in spring and will continue until temperatures return to the 50s in the fall. Mason bees have a 4-6 week window for pollinating, after which, the female will seal in the cocoons to develop over winter.

While honey bees continue to play a major role in commercial pollination, both honey bees and mason bees are perfect for backyard gardeners. The importance of bees goes beyond our own farms and gardens. Their reach helps maintain a diversity of ecosystems with many wild plants relying on their pollination to produce seeds, fruits or nuts. These plants form the foundation of the food chain for many birds and other wildlife. Bees are a necessity that we cannot live without.

If you are after pollination in your garden, the answer is to utilize both Mason and Honey Bees.