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02. The 'BRITISH NATIONAL' Beehive (Custom Tops).

To recap, this then is the layout of a typical hive:


      Crown Board

Some years ago I lost a colony through starvation in early spring, and I swore then that this would never happen again - and so a method was devised for supplying supplementary/emergency feed directly through the Crown Board, without requiring the hive to first be opened.

This is one of my wooden Crown Boards from yesteryear, showing the four 2" holes which still feature in all of my full-sized Crown Boards (Nuc Box Crown Boards having two holes), which allow me to supply large quantities of sugar syrup using inverted jam-jar feeders in the Autumn, as well as soft feed (fondant) or hard feed (candy or hard-set crystalline sugar) during winter.



That particular Crown Board was later sliced in two and is now used inverted (so that it's spacing battens are uppermost), as all hives have now been converted over to Top Bee Space.

Crown Boards have given me something of a headache over the years, as plywood can sometimes develop twist and thus create gaps exactly where they are NOT required. One solution I tried was that of 'soft' Crown Boards, where plastic sheeting is used thusly:



This technique works reasonably well, except when liquid feed is being delivered by an inverted jar feeder.
Now, inverted jar feeders rely on the meniscus which develops beneath the lid to hang there in position to prevent air from entering the jar and thus allowing more syrup to exit.
My concern has always been that - should this meniscus come into contact with the side of a frame top bar - syrup could then freely run off down the side of the top bar and thus allow the jar to progresively dump all of it's contents into the hive.

To prevent such contact, I made some plywood 'doughnuts' (as seen in the above photograph, albeit supporting a jar of solid feed), but these tended to skid across the plastic when changing jars. The next step was to secure the 'doughnuts' to the plastic sheet:



Now by this time the feeder problem was becoming too much of a hassle - but serendipity struck when I sourced some strange uPVC-like material at a local boot (bring and buy) sale ...



This material turned out to be 10mm 'Foamex', an expensive (by my standards) granular plastic sheet commonly used in the manufacture of signage and display stands. And so I duly glued some offcuts together with Plumber's PVC cement and subjected this method of gluing to a test:



For me, Foamex appears to be an ideal material for this purpose - it's both strong and rigid, and yet has enough flexibility to accomodate small irregularities in flatness of a millimetre or two. And so - this is an example of my new generation of Crown Boards:






Ok - moving upwards - onto the insulation above the Crown Board, which is installed for three reasons:
1. to reduce the heat from sunlight transmitted to the Crown Board via the roof during the height of summer.
2. to conserve heat especially during Autumn, when a jar feeder can be kept as warm as the hive environment directly below it. Bees will continue to consume warm syrup much later in the year than if it were provided cold.
3. most importantly - to maintain a temperature gradient, such that the walls are allowed to become colder, especially during winter nights, thus providing a convenient and appropriate surface for the condensing-out of excess moisture.

Ok - so translating this into pictures, we have ...

A typical National beehive with '4-hole' Crown Board, and an inverted jar feeder in place. (empty - this is just a mock-up for photographs)



This is the expanded polysytrene insulation I use, in place, and with the unused feeder holes filled.



Next, a 'tea-cosy' cover is placed over the feeder jar to keep it warm.



And finally, a feeder shell is place on top, with a telescopic roof over:



People often ask me how do I make such nice clean holes in polystyrene ?

This is the answer - a tin can of appropriate diameter, with serrations cut into the top:



A low technology, but very effective, solution.


      Feeder Shells

There's not a lot to be said about feeder shells - they can be made from unused brood boxes, pairs of nuc boxes, or can be custom-made for the job. As long as they have the same external dimensions as the brood boxes, and have sufficient internal height to accomodate jar feeders and their insulation - they'll be fine.



An admission: I have a 'thing' about beehive roofs. Within reason, I don't care too much if there's an odd gap between boxes, or something doesn't quite fit as well as it should ... as it always seems that the bees will sort out that kind of imperfection for themselves. But roofs are a different matter.

Bees don't really require so very much from a beehive - as they have the ability to adjust to almost any type of cavity - but what they DO want is to keep out of the weather - and for that reason alone, I insist that my roofs are as well made as possible.

And so, this is how I cover them ...

This is an example of an aluminium sheet (ex scrapped caravan) of which two sides have been cut - with garden secateurs - and those edges then flattened by GENTLY tapping them down with a club hammer over a thick stainless steel plate.



Before cutting, the wooden telescopic roof was placed onto the aluminium sheet and lines drawn around it. A border of 50-75mm (depending upon roof depth) was then added, and one side of the roof and the corresponding side of the aluminium sheet marked (in this case, with an 'A'), so that the wooden roof is always placed onto the aluminium sheet the same way each time it's moved.

In this next shot, the sheet has now been trimmed to size on all four sides, and it is at this point - if not before - that the sides, having been flattened with gentle hammer-tapping on a steel plate, have their edges smoothed by running an angle-grinder fitted with a flap disk along them. This is then followed by the running of a palm sander along the edges until any remaining roughness is removed. This step is essential to prevent cut fingers, as we will shortly be folding-up the edges using bare hands.



This is just a close-up of the 45 degree line which is formed by making a mark along the edge the same distance as the border is deep, and joining that mark to the centre of the crossed lines. NOTE how smooth the edge of the aluminium sheet is - there's nothing there to cut fingers.



In this next shot, narrow 'pie-slice' cuts have been made, and the flaps turned down and hammered flat.



I hope this picture makes this step a little clearer. The flaps are initially bent upwards using a pair of pliers, then bent further over and finally tapped down flat.



This is how I bend the aluminium. Place the aluminium sheet so that the border to be bent upwards protrudes over the workbench surface. Place a short length of angle iron as shown a millimetre or two behind the line, and whilst holding the angle iron down with your fingers, place your thumbs under the border edge and lift it upwards. If the border to be lifted is long, then lift (say) 4" at one end first - about 10 degrees - then 4" at the other end the same amount - then 4" in the centre. Repeat the sequence, raising the border flap (say) 10 degrees each time. Then - when the border flap is vertical - continue to bend it over another 10 or 20 degrees, and then pull it back to the vertical - it will now be upright with a nice tight radius bend.



Please note - the method I now use is slightly different, in that the 'wings' that stick out on either side of the vertical flap in the above photograph are flattened inwards (similar to the triangular flaps) before bending the border flap upwards. These wing flaps are then 'unflattened' after the roof cover has been finished and just prior to inserting the woodwork.

Hopefully this shot will make this clearer. Here, it is desirable to bend the side flap (marked 'A') upright, and past upright, in order to form a tight radius bend. This can only be done if the 'wing flaps' have previously been flattened, and are thus bent out of the way.



All that can be done in this instance is to bend the 'wing flaps' around the woodwork, and then pull the long side flap upwards, without going 'over-centre'.

This is what was done here:



And here we have some finished 5-frame nuc roofs. The bottom two were made using the method as shown, the top roof was made by bending-in the wings before pulling up the end flap. There is a very noticeable difference in the tightness of the radius bend along the long edges of lower two roofs and that of the upper roof.



In the next page I'll be looking at Open-Backed Ekes, OMF's and Stands ...


(continued on the next page ...)


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