Wayne Davids – My Apiary (Part II)
Welcome back, I’m Wayne Davids and this is the first step in my Beekeeping journey. My first problem I ran into was the extremely wet, low, area I wanted to place my hives. We have hard clay soil and it has very poor drainage, multiple rains would leave it a muddy mess for weeks at a time. I have very limited choices for my hive location since my wife is pathologically terrified of bees. Not allergic mind you, just terrified. We needed to come to an agreement on getting the bees and where they would be located. The back corner of the property was the spot, but it can be very muddy.
In March 2020 I began widening a small ditch (far left picture) that ran the length of the back property line to widen and deepen it so that it will hold more water. I then graded and smoothed the excavated dirt to raise the surrounding area in order to allow it to drain better. The final result was acceptable; a twenty foot by sixty foot enlarged ditch that is about a meter deep most of the way throughout (right hand picture). The dirt that came out was spread and smoothed to create several swales and fill in low areas so the water would drain into the newly expanded ditch “pond”.
I have included some pictures below, and you are free to chuckle at me getting the tractor stuck several times, once having to wait a day or two for the ground to firm up before being able to pull it out with a pick-up truck. Nevertheless the end result works for me and it provides a natural catch that the bees would need later in the season when the temperatures soared and the hive can be consuming a liter or more of water per day.
The second part of my site preparation involved having ‘stands’ or bases for the hives to sit on. Hives should ideally be around 18 inches off the ground. This elevates the hive entrance to reduce entry by mice or insects but also keeps the hive dry, makes an easy landing and take-off the bees, helps keep out larger predators like skunks, and finally is a good height for the poor beekeeper to be moving heavy boxes on and off the hive which can easily weigh fifty pounds or more.
For myself, I used cinderblocks as stands. One stand had 2 courses (16 inches) and one stand has 3 courses (24 inches) so I could get an idea of what worked best for me since I am 73″ tall (185.4 cm). What I found was, that at the beginning of the season, when I only had one brood box, the taller stand made for much easier work since I had far less bneding over. Now, however, I have two deep brood boxes and two honey supers. With a 24 inch stand the hive is getting tall, close to my shoulders. This becomes difficult to work with the boxes since they are almost at eye-level.
Next year I intend to doule stack cinder blocks (16 inches) and then lay 2 paralled 4×4 (actually 3.5″ square) posts across them as I have since seen done. This will put the hives 19.5 inches off the ground. High enough to keep out pests, but still low enough to manage.
Finally, I had several slabs that used to be walking stones on the side of our house when we bought it in 2009. I removed them, but being one of those people who hates to throw things away, I kept them stacked on the edge of the property. They paid off as bases to stack the cinderblocks on after I leveled them. It is important to keep the hives as level as possible since bees orient their comb vertically. Hives that are tilted or slanted can end up with a mess inside as the bees try to build their comb on the vertical inside a tilted box.
My next installment will talk about the arrival of the bees. Both my hives came from local beekeepers so I didn’t receive either through the mail.
Thanks for reading. I hope you are enjoying my journey.
All images © Wayne Davids