Lockdown Pallet Beehive by Jonathan Powell

My side interest in bees brought this booklet to my attention where the author Jonathan Powell describes how he created a beehive from a couple of scrap wooden pallets.

Beehive made from scrap wooden pallets
The beehive mounted in a tree. Length is around 1m.

The hive is intended just for the bees with no intention of humans taking honey. It provides them with a tree like cavity to inhabit in keeping with a natural hole in a tree.  We humans seem to chop down our trees at an alarming rate and the potential for ancient trees with cavities suitable for wild bees diminishes by the day.

The hive has an inner core and an outer core with an insulation layer between the two using the sawdust created in cutting the pallet material.  My engineering brain kicked in and below is a spreadsheet that helps calculate the dimensions required for a multi-sided structure having the required 40 litres volume that bees appear to prefer.

Plenty of time is available to make one of these before the spring swarming period starts.

Pallet Hive Calculator

I do not claim to be an expert on bees but my interpretation is that such hives with high levels of insulation lead to less stress in the occupants.    This in turn means they are less prone to disease.   There is also much published information about the stress induced by having high density clusters of ‘domesticated’ bees leading again to disease.   Having simple well insulated hives for the wild bees to populate in relative isolation to each other must help these problems albeit at the expense of man being less able to raid honey. 

Here is an interesting link on the interaction of wild bees and domesticated bees.

For those wanting an interesting read I recommend ‘The Honeybee Democracy’ by Thomas Seeley.   Fascinating book.

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After 3 years of waiting I have finally got bees in my hive

Bees Down the Garden

This is something way left field to my usual stuff.

Three years ago almost to the day my wife bought me a beehive for my birthday.  This is not one of my normal activities and it was not a normal type of beehive.   The design is marketed and I believe manufactured in the UK by Gardeners Beehive and you can see from the picture below it is very unconventional.  It is meant to represent a hollow tree stump and is more in keeping with the natural home that bees would inhabit in the wild.

gardeners beehive
The unusual Gardener’s Beehive that has waited 3 years for some bees to arrive

The concept of the design is that once you have bees in residence you leave them alone.  No white suits, smokers etc that are the norm for conventional hives.   After the first year you can add honey boxes on the side of the hive. These act as additional storage for the bees over and above the bulk stored in the main section of the hive.  Taking honey from these additional storage boxes does not drain the bees main store which they need to survive the winter.   The hive does not deliver loads of honey in the way a conventional hive would but you get some busy pollinators buzzing round the garden.

So why has it taken three years to get bees in residence ?   To be honest I don’t know.   I followed all the instructions with the hive which detail the best location and the use of lure spray to attract the searcher bees but to no avail.    Perhaps it was because swarms are most common in June, July and August when we would normally spend time in France so we missed the opportunities.

This year, isolated at home, we have spent more time in the garden and we have now seen three swarms pass overhead.   It is quite an impressive sight if not a little intimidating. The third one took a fancy to a pear tree in our garden and this looked like a long awaited opportunity to get some residents.   

There is a couple we know in the village who are beekeepers and we quickly rang them and asked for their help. They climbed into the tree and managed to shake most of the swarm into a cardboard box and then drop the buzzing contents into the top of my peculiar hive.   It was then a matter of waiting to see if we had captured the queen and the swarm would like their new home.

Friendly local beekeepers transferring the swarm to my hive
Friendly local beekeepers transferring the swarm to my beehive

All seems well so far with lots of traffic to and from the hive so maybe the three year wait is finally over.

And if three swarms weren’t enough, next day I found a small one down in the vegetable plot clustered on one of the bed protection nets.  It seems it  is a good period for swarms.

Bee swarm in vegetable patch
Another smaller swarm the next day

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