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  • Brood observation window

  • General Q&A, Bee chat and only Bee chat please
General Q&A, Bee chat and only Bee chat please
 #5404  by Neilkristopher
 08 Jan 2020, 18:31
Hi everyone. I’m completely new to beekeeping. In fact I haven’t started yet. I have an overwintered nuc reserved and I’m in the process of buying my first flat packed hive so I can start building it in time for April. I was just wondering if anyone has an observation window in their brood box? Thornes do a panel that can replace a brood box panel. It’s Perspex but you can essentially ‘close’ the window using the wooden block when not observing so it doesn’t get cold or let too much light in. I’ve read a few posts saying the bees may propolis it but some saying they don’t. Just thought it would be nice to take an easy peek inside, especially during the winter months when we can’t open it up. Any thoughts would be appreciated! Neil.
 #5406  by NigelP
 08 Jan 2020, 19:27
You would need to be sure your frames ran at 90 degrees to your window so you could see along all of the frames. Far better to go for a perspex crown board that you can pop insulation over during the winter months (bees like to be warm) but also remove for a quick peek down onto your bees.
 #5407  by AndrewLD
 08 Jan 2020, 22:10
The idea of having observation windows in brood boxes goes back to at least the beginning of the last century and H Storch (At the Hive Entrance) devotes a chapter to them. Try googling hive observation windows and you can see endless variations. I rather like the idea and might buy the Thorne option of just the window unit rather than a whole brood box so I can put one each side of a brood box. But I think glass is better than perspex because the bees may well build comb on it (see the photos on Google) and I think glass might take cleaning it off better.
I do have a glass cover board as Nigel suggests and it is invaluable on bait hives as you can check if its occupied without scaring off the scouts.
If you do go for glass just remember it has no thermal value so has to be insulated.
So go for it! Storch writes that those that have them would not be without.....
 #5408  by Neilkristopher
 08 Jan 2020, 22:41
Thanks for your help. I may go for the crown board then, or even both. I think Thorne sell a plastic one too but I’ll make sure it’s insulated too. Thanks again. Looking forward to starting. By the way, anyone bought a hive from Thorne? Are they good quality?
 #5410  by Patrick
 09 Jan 2020, 00:02
Simple answer Neil, is yes. I tend to use their seconds (in common with some other producers on sale currently) on cost grounds. Perfectly serviceable.

I recommend sticking with main suppliers certainly when starting out - you can know you will get sound kit that will last albeit cost a few quid more, but that is not so much an issue with just the one. There are a few cheaper beekeeping “bandwagon” outfits around selling either inferior, non standardised or just simply rubbish kit. Avoid until you can make a better informed judgment and maybe the economies of scaling up make looking elsewhere worthwhile. And don’t disregard the value in sensibly priced sound secondhand kit - it often gets dismissed irrationally.
 #5411  by Neilkristopher
 09 Jan 2020, 07:30
Hi Patrick. Thanks for that. I’m going to look at a second hand one next week actually as the starting up costs are huge since I have absolutely nothing apart from all my bee books! I’ve starting attending the meetings and one of the members has changed to commercial so has a surplus of old stock. If you could share one tip for a complete beginner what would it be? Cheers. Neil.
 #5412  by AndrewLD
 09 Jan 2020, 08:42
Neilkristopher wrote:
09 Jan 2020, 07:30
If you could share one tip for a complete beginner what would it be? Cheers. Neil.
Don't buy a cheap hive...... :)

You are going to get a stack of conflicting opinions on hives ranging from "only buy the best Western Red Cedar (WRC)" to "I make my hives from pallets off the local tip - and they are fine". Our association selected Thorne's budget hive for our beginners' try-a-hive scheme. You might just check if your course has a discount scheme of some sort. I buy Thorne's standard range WRC and am very happy with them. Bottom line is you get what you pay for.

But you said you were looking at buying a second hand hive. Be very careful :shock: I would not trust anyone elses frames and I would make sure I thoroughly sterilised the hive with a blow-lamp before I used it - enough to see the wood change colour slighly but not burn.

I would have suggested you wait until you have done some practical sessions with bees before buying your own but sounds like you have jumped in (as I did). Just be aware that you may get a call to pick up your NUC sooner than you think so you may need your kit as early as April......
 #5413  by Neilkristopher
 09 Jan 2020, 08:50
Hi Andrew. Thanks for the info. I secretly want my own sparkling brand new hive, all singing all dancing but my head is saying look at a second hand one. I think I will end up buying new to be honest. Are the seconds ok from Thorne? As in English cedar? I’m planning on buying this month so I can build it and be ready for April. I know a couple of people near me who have hives so when we get a couple of warm days (hopefully in March) I’m going to go and have a look. I live in Cornwall so it’s pretty mild. Walked past a couple of hives yesterday and there was activity outside the entrance which was surprising and exciting!
 #5414  by AdamD
 09 Jan 2020, 09:00
Thornes Bees on a Budget hives are OK, I have a few, and worth considering and I would also suggest sticking to the main retailers, at least initially. Our local association has an auction every other year and stuff is often quite cheap; your local association may do similar.
On the assumption that you are getting a wooden hive, I would suggest going for cedar - it will last longer than pine or plywood. Seconds from the main suppliers are also fine.
Second hand can be good although I would advise not to get second hand brood comb.

As a warning on eBay purchases, I bought a new brood box some years ago and it was hopeless. It wouldn't sit flat on a table and would rock; the box was also off square - a rhombus, and different 'pre-loved' screws of varying lengths had been used in it's construction! I had to dismantle and re-build. Suffice to say, the vendor didn't get a very good review!
Thornes and others also sell on eBay - check which is the cheaper option.

As another point about online sales, I wanted some porter bee escapes last year (and yes I know some people don't like them!) and know from experience that older translucent ones bend and don't seal as I have some of those and ones with plastic springs are not much good as I have some of those too, so I finished up buying from Thornes on eBay as they were the only ones I could find that definitely had metal springs. So you get what you pay for. (I think I've heard that before but sometimes forget!).
 #5416  by Patrick
 09 Jan 2020, 12:25
Completely agree with Andrew LD regarding secondhand brood frames and combs, should have clarified that. If they are present don't consider them part of the sale and either bin them or burn them (old beeswax comb makes great firelighters). Treat yourself to new frames (its a useful skill to acquire putting them together and fresh foundation. If you are buying a nuc they should come with 5 or 6 frames with drawn comb already

Sharing just one tip for a beginner s a nightmare suggestion - I have opinions on bloomin' everything! :D I think it would be by all means flick through brochures full of options and kit so you know what stuff is, but sit on your hands about buying such stuff until you are much clearer about what you actually need to keep bees. A lot of currently non beekeeping stuff you already have can be pressed into service once you understand what it is for.

A decent first full suit, smoker and hive tool will cover most of your first seasons kit needs and serve you well for years to come. Resist the temptation to buy the cheapest options available "in case you decide not to keep bees" - you will end up buying twice anyway after a frustrating and potentially painful first season. I personally think buying a smock top as a cheaper start up is a false economy tho many do it. Do not fall for the old beekeeping cant that less protection evidences you as a better or more empathetc beekeeper. Not wearing a seat belt doesn't make you a better car driver either.