How to make a cheap bee hive from a barrel (Honey Cow)

Discussion in 'Back to Basics' started by velacreations, Apr 4, 2011.

  1. velacreations

    velacreations Monkey+

    People keep bees in many different kinds of hives, but we will focus on a cheap and simple design, called the Honey Cow.

    55 gallon plastic barrel, preferably food grade (makes two hives)
    22 feet of 1”x2” nominal lumber
    46 feet of 1½”x1” lumber
    2 X 8 foot of 2”x4” nominal lumber
    A 3 feet by 4 feet piece of tin
    20 - 1½” wood screws
    10 - 2” wood screws
    8 - ½ “ screws
    Bungee Cord or tie wire
    45 feet thin moulding OR natural fiber string and beeswax

    circular or jig saw
    tin snips
    tape measure and marker

    The Barrel
    Cut the barrel in half lengthwise, making sure that there is a bung hole in each half.

    Clean it well. Choose a food-grade container to avoid potentially dangerous chemicals.

    Lay the barrel down like a canoe, so that it would catch water. This is the position it will be in from now on.

    On one end of the barrel (which used to be the top when it was whole) there is a rim of plastic that protrudes. Cut this away.

    Rub the interior with beeswax. This will remove any foreign smell that remains and make it more attractive to a hive. A drop or two of lemongrass oil is good as well.

    The Frame

    Measure the length and width of your barrel and cut the 1”x2” lumber to make a frame. For example, if your barrel is 36” by 24”, cut 2 lengths of 25” and 2 lengths of 37” (the extra inch allows you to screw one piece into the next).

    Glue and screw the frame together.

    Screw the barrel inside the frame.

    Cut the 2"X4" boards into 40" pieces.* These boards are now the legs.

    Screw the legs into each side of the barrel. Make sure you screw the frame to the leg and put several screws from the barrel into the leg for a good, sturdy fix.

    The Top Bars

    Cut 23 X 24” lengths out of the 1 ½”x1” lumber.

    These are the bars to which the bees will attach their honeycomb. However, you need to provide a guide so that they make straight combs.

    Screw a thin piece of moulding, 20” in length, centered on each top bar, with at least an inch on the ends of the top bar. This moulding will face down, into the barrel, when the bar sits on the frame. Rub some bee's wax on the molding.

    The Roof

    Using the 1”x2” lumber, make a frame that fits around the barrel frame, with a ¼” gap on all sides.

    If you cut 2 lengths of 25” and 2 lengths of 37” for the barrel frame, cut 2 lengths of 27 ½” and 2 lengths of 39 ½” for the roof frame.

    Take the piece of tin and screw it to the frame, leaving equal space on all sides. *

    Bend the extra bits of tin down and screw to the sides of the frame.

    Using the tin snips, cut any extra bits hanging below the frame.

    Put the roof on top of the barrel frame.

    Tie the roof down to the hive to prevent it from blowing off.

    Ready for the Bees

    You are now ready for the bees. You can buy a “package”, a queen and bees, however the most satisfying way to get into bee keeping is to capture a swarm.

    More information: Vela Creations - Beekeeping
    More photos: Top bar Beehive - a set on Flickr
    Ganado and skyking like this.
  2. melbo

    melbo Hunter Gatherer Administrator Founding Member

    This looks like a great idea.

    How do you do this:
    Brokor likes this.
  3. tulianr

    tulianr Don Quixote de la Monkey

    I've known my dad to capture swarms from his hives, though I've never done it myself.

    Whenever a new queen would come up in the hive, one of the queens, along with a large number of drones, would leave the hive. The queen would land on a fairly nearby branch of a tree, and most of her drones would gather around her, creating a ball of bees, about the size of a grapefruit.

    The queen, and her attendants, would stay on the branch a day or two, until scouts reported back that they had found a suitable location for a new home.

    When my dad would see (or usually hear first) a swarm on a tree branch, he'd wait until dark, and then hold a box under the branch, and strike the branch with a stick. The ball of bees would mostly fall into the box, and as long as you got the queen, the others would stay with her.

    Then, he'd open the top on a new hive, and dump them in. The size of the opening in the front of the hive would prevent the larger queen from getting out, so they'd all just start setting up house.

    He created several hives that way over the years.

    The above idea for a hive is certainly novel, but I don't understand how you get the honey out. I'm a visual sort of guy, and the description just isn't getting it done for me.
    Ganado and CATO like this.
  4. CATO

    CATO Monkey+++

    There are some YouTube videos on this subject and there's a link I posted in the past to a site that has videos (which I can't find at the moment). The guy was young, very nerdy, and wore a Tilley hat. He used one of those big plastic storage bins or maybe a trash can to collect the swarm. If I find it, I will post (I need to start using Evernote more diligently) - Catching Bees - By Will Dart

    Natural Beekeeping Forum - Top Bar Beekeeping Forum

    How to Catch a Swarm | Bee Thinking

    Backwards Beekeepers TV: Swarm Capture For Beginners - YouTube!
    tulianr likes this.
  5. -06

    -06 Monkey+++

    Modern hives and supers are not that expensive, last a lifetime, and are easy to harvest from. In the summer I like to place a sheet of tin to shade the hives. Seems to help--I know I like the shade on hot days.
    tulianr likes this.
  6. mongovb

    mongovb Monkey+

    tulianr likes this.
  7. ghrit

    ghrit Bad company Administrator Founding Member

    His are HUGE!!! I think I might have used the 60 mph method.
    Farmer12 likes this.
  8. Quigley_Sharps

    Quigley_Sharps The Badministrator Administrator Founding Member

    I wish I could get into this, but one sting and I'm a goner or close to it
  9. ghrit

    ghrit Bad company Administrator Founding Member

    Likewise. I have about three hours to get to an ER or I'm essentially done for. No, I don't have an epi pen, since there are two ERs within that time frame from here. But, yeah, I may wish I had one some time.
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