Monthly Archives: October 2017

My old comb building experiment

A few years ago I was intrigued by much of the chatter online regarding various ways and means of co-ercing the bees to build more comb, faster. One premise that I read over and over, bees will build foundationless faster than building on foundation, and they will only build comb on plastic if absolutely forced. I did a very crude little experiment to test this hypothesis for myself. Granted, my experiment was not statistically significant, N=1 is not a valid statistical set, but, this was rather enlightening for me. My method was simple, very simple, present the bees with the foundationless, and plastic foundation, on the same frame. The test setup


Some time later, we removed the frame from the hive and took a photo.


A quick measurement of how much comb we found in the empty space, and how much was on the plastic foundation gave me the answer I was looking for, and that answer was, no appreciable difference between the two halves of this frame, placed in this hive.

This last weekend we attended the BCHPA annual meeting and the associated education days. One of the sessions I sat in on was a presentation by Randy Oliver describing the correct way to go about a real ‘experiment’ and produce acceptable valid conclusions. My simple comb building experiment was essentially ‘all wrong’, about the only thing right with this one, indeed there was a test case, and a control, subject to identical conditions. That part was easy, the test and control were both on the same frame, placed in the same hive. the result isn’t truely valid because we had only one frame in one hive, so, no other hives replicating this result, and N=1 is not a valid statistical answer. But I also learned, this would be a relatively strait forward experiment to repeat, but, in a more formal manner to produce a result that would be accepted as a real ‘practical research result’.

For those that know me, they know I am big on doing applied research to get practical results that have implications for our business. Next season, during the main flow, we will have more than enough colonies building in 4 over 4 nucleus configurations to repeat this experiment in a manner that can generate a statistically significant result.

The question we asked before, will bees build more comb in a foundationless frame than on a frame with plastic foundation? Randy would say, the correct answer is ‘I dont know’, because we dont have data to show a definitive answer. I have _some_ data, but not enough to be definitive, so I’ll qualify my answer as ‘I dont think so’, but now I’m a bit inspired to produce a real answer, and this is a real answer that’s easily within reach. I’ve got 6 months to write up a proper experiment protocol which can be executed next season during our spring flow, and produce a real answer to this question.

This is going to be fun….

The Honey House

When we bought this property in 2013, we set out a fairly extensive list of improvements to add over time. One of the larger items, and the last item on that list, was building a place to process honey and store bee equipment, we want to free up the garage for use as a garage.

Over the last two weeks, the project has been underway, and is now complete. The structure is 12×20 with a 4×12 section on one end carved out by an interior partition to be used as a warm room during the honey extraction process. The work area is 12×15 and will have the extractor permanently mounted, along with the bottling table and storage for all the relevant equipment. The building is finished, and over the next couple of weeks we will tackle the job of moving all the bee equipment from the garage into the honey house.


It was raining on Saturday, so we did spend most of the day on ‘inside work’, one of those tasks was to insulate the warm room (closet) in the honey house. The building is 2×4 framing, so we put fiberglass insulation between the studs, then stapled reflectex over that to contain the fiberglass and add another R3 of insulation value to the room as a whole. Based on how well the room heated up with two of us working in there after the fiberglass was in, and we were busy putting on the reflectex, it wont take much heat to keep it at a temperature suitable for storing honey boxes waiting on extraction.


The whole build was sized around a ‘serious sideline’ bee endeavor. The warm room can hold 50 medium supers stacked 5 high, which means no lifting of heavy supers up over shoulder height. With the Mann Lake 9/18 extractor, 50 supers is 25 loads in the extractor, so roughly 5 to 6 hours of extracting. A honey pull from 25 hives with 2 supers on each turns into a weekend project, extract on Saturday and we can bottle on Sunday, with an expected yield of between 1000 and 1500 pounds of honey in bottles after weekend of processing. We usually have two of us working when extracting honey, but the setup in this facility will be laid out so it can be a one person job, uncapping the next load of frames while a load spins in the extractor. No more storing honey in 5 gallon buckets till we can get around to setting up for bottling, it’ll always be ready.

For winter storage, the warm closet has enough room to squeeze in 150 supers stacked floor to ceiling. This will be sufficient for us for the next few years.

The interior of the main work room is set up with the washtub, extractor permanently mounted, the bottling table set up under the window, and shelving for equipment storage on the other walls.