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This is the official website for the Los Angeles County Beekeepers Association established in 1873.





Newsletter of the Los Angeles County Beekeepers Association
March 6, 2012  Volume XII, Issue 3

Next Meeting:   April 2, 2012, 7:00 pm
Mt. Olive Lutheran Church, 3561 Foothill Boulevard, La Crescenta, CA  91214


Topic for March Meeting:

Uses for bee products

Minutes from the March Meeting: Attendance:60, 57 members, 3 guests

Contents in Brief:


Newsie bits



Beekeeping 101 – assembling woodenware


  • Beekeeping 101 classes are scheduled 9am first Sunday of the month from April-October (except September) at Bill’s yard located at 12640 N Little Tujunga Road, Lake View Terrace – free for members
  • American Bee Journal –subscription discount – grab a voucher from Stacy or contact them at 1-888-922-1293 and tell them you’re a LACBA member to get 25% off
  • Bee Culture subscription discounts – simply contact them at 1-800-289-7668 and let them know you’re a LACBA member to get a discounted subscription
  • Buzzings – if you’re not getting a copy, let Stacy McKenna know ( so we can update your information
  • Don’t forget to grab your nametag and keep it in your glove compartment or such so you have it handy for meetings.

New Business:

Newsie bits – there were no big issues under New Business this month, so here come a bunch of quick little things:

  • Kodua is home sick after taking several thousand pictures during her whirlwind tour with Kim Flottum from Bee Culture. She traveled 2,700 miles in 3 weeks in her new truck, and hopes to wind up with a coffee table book for the effort. Check out details at
  • A Google search for our club brings up a listing of Don Null in Glendora with the Secretary of State records. We’re trying to figure out who to contact to get that record purged.
  • This year is going to be challenging for honey – we’re 6” short on rainfall already.
  • Website – there is lots of info on the homepage that changes almost daily. It includes things like Dr. Mussen’s newsletter, news articles, etc. Eva wants to do a pollination page, a kids page, and an Ask the Experts page – if you would like to help out, or have suggestions, please contact her at
  • AGdayLA will be held on May 17th this year at the Big Red Barn at the Pomona Fairplex. Funding has been cut so it’s been chopped down to only a single day.
  • Bill Lewis will have nucs this spring – if you’re interested, come get on his list for the first batch to be delivered on 5/5 (the same day as the beekeeping class). You can also sign up during the beekeeping class on 4/1.
  • Russ Levine will be ordering packages from Koehnen to be delivered on 4/21. They are $65/ea – contact him if you’re interested in getting in on that order.


We had quite the selection this week –

a grab bag with a bee logo on the outside and a Swiss army knife on the inside,

a Flipper drill/screwdriver tool,

a 2012 Calendar by Kodua 

Ticket sales raised $86 – thanks to all and congratulations to our winners!

Beekeeping 101 – Assembling Woodenware– Walt McBride

Generally speaking, you can keep bees using any size/shape equipment you want, but using standardized sizes makes buying and trading bees easier. Typically, making your own will be more expensive than buying them pre-milled. Assembly, though (especially when you factor in shipping) can be more economically done by the beekeeper.

Each box is a bit different based on the wood quality, manufacturer, etc. When you get your equipment, dry fit the pieces first to make sure you have a good fit. If you want your equipment to last, assemble them carefully. Basic wood glue should be used on all joints/contact surfaces, including every finger of the joints. It’s easiest to apply  using a small metal acid brush, and then nail the joints together with one nail per finger.

The nails typically supplied with hive boxes are 7d. 8d nails tend to be a bit longer, but the 7d will do just as well as long as you don’t bend them over. Make sure you use galvanized nails. It will take 48 nails to completely assemble a deep box. To make it easiest, use a good sized hammer (12-16 oz) so the nails drive efficiently – smaller hammers will make the work go much slower and is needlessly tiring.

Rabbets – be careful about the depth of your rabbets when you start pairing them with frame guides. Thin rail guides provide less area for bees to propolis, but it changes how high the frames sit. Make sure your lid fits all the way down with clear space above the frames when frames are installed BEFORE you put bees in your box – lack of clear space means squashed, dead bees.

During box assembly, bar clamps can help hold your pieces together while nailing. A framing square will help insure the boxes are square (or check by measuring the diagonals to make sure they’re the same length). Non-square boxes will not line up properly when stacked and create problems with gaps or excess propolis production.

Pneumatic staples can work instead – Walt doesn’t use them much as they require so much capital outlay, but they can speed up assembly.

Extra cleats – some beekeepers add an extra cleat on the ends of their boxes to add extra grip for lifting. Back sure if you install extra cleats, that you position them lower than the lid will sit, especially if your lids have any sort of lip on them. Also, when nailing on your cleats, make sure your nails clear the rabbet space on the inside.

Bottom boards can be left free or attached to the bottom of your brood box. Attachments can be done from the bottom using screws or nails, but Walt usually uses plumbers tape applied on diagonals along the side, one strip leaning right, the other leaning left, affixed with screws or nails. Putting them on the side allows for removal if needed without having to turn the box upside-down. You can also use large (say 1.5”) staples in a similar fashion. If you plan to move your hives frequently, affixing the bottom can be more convenient than trying to strap it together for moving. If you find you swap bottom and top brood boxes regularly, leaving them separate might be more convenient. Perhaps a swing/eye hook latch might be called for in some cases?

Walt has many bottom boards he built himself. Plywood delaminates unless it’s marine grade. You can use solid woods to seal the edges of plywood and create the ridges that support the box and create the entrance gap, if you choose, and if you make the front 6” or so of the board solid wood as well. Cypress is good but hard to find, cedar is ok, redwood is good but hard to find.

Painting – paint all exterior surfaces AND contact surfaces (edges of your boxes, etc) to prevent water intrusion or rot. If your bees can reach it, leave it unpainted. Paint the bottoms of your bottom boards and keep them raised off the ground. Walt uses 1 coat latex primer and 2 coats latex paint. Use light color to help with heat regulation (“oops” gallons at the local hardware store are fine). A 2.5” brush is a good size to get into all the spots you need to and work fairly quickly. Hanging the box off a cantilevered plank/hook makes all of the painting surfaces accessible at once. You can also spray them if you like, but Walt finds that too messy.

Cleat location – commercial boxes with migratory lids have no lip, so the cleats can go right up to the top edge of the box. In this case, the cleat also acts as protection for the top rim of the box, and provides space to tilt upper boxes. The key to location is doing what works for YOU and how you work your hives.

Walt separates his boxes by inserting a hive tool between them from either side, and lifting.

What about telescoping tops? They’re great for cold, wet weather, but they’re harder to transport for pollination (they don’t fit on pallets as well), they’re trickier to build, and they’re more expensive. Also, they require use of an inner cover so the bees don’t propolis them to the box. Locally, most inner covers get used purely with bee escape gates to remove bees before harvesting honey supers.

Ventilation gaps between the boxes in the summer? Walt has found the bees will gnaw on the edges of those gaps and round them so they never seal straight again, or they will alternately propolis them shut. Try drilling a 1” hole in the front of a higher box to provide ventilation. It can be sealed with a cork during cold weather. Be careful – extra holes are an invitation for robbing. Robbing looks like lots of confrontational bee meetings on the landing board, with a lot of dead bees as a result.

Walt doesn’t bother repairing rotting boxes because they’ll just rot again. Tops can be repaired with putty for indoor use in the honey house, etc.

Hive location – point your entrance W or S, and don’t place it in a cold spot/gully. Don’t put it on a roof unless you’ve got a good staircase to access it. Hauling full boxes of honey down a ladder is DANGEROUS, and not fun.

Ant proofing – Walt smears some chassis grease on his hive stand legs every 2-3 months.

Walt only works with medium supers for honey due to weight. He also likes using queen excluders to keep his honey clean. A “natural” queen excluder is a full capped box of honey, but most beekeepers don’t have those lying around handy…

Frames – Just like the boxes, dry fit everything first! Use a lighter hammer than you did for the boxes. The top bar is nailed to the side rails using 4d nails (1.25” long), 2 per end from the top down. Then drive one nail from the side up through the top bar – this prevents you from popping the top bar off when prying it up with a hive tool. Be careful about the angle so you don’t wind up with sharp nail points on the top surfaces of your frames – you will catch your hands on them. The bottom bar is attached using 1 or 2 nails per side driven from the bottom up. Brass eyelets in the holes on the sides are optional, but help with wiring because a taut wire will cut into your side bars and then go slack. An eyelet punch helps set them. Using thinner “box” nails means less likelihood of splitting the bars than if you use “common” nails.

Wiring is easiest if you’ve got a jig. Descriptions (as well as frame dimensions) can be found in Beekeeping in California published by the CA Extension program and available on the book page of our website via a link to the Santa Clara County Beekeepers Guild

Use a #18 gauge galvanized tacks 5/8” long to fix your wire on the frames. Walt puts them on the edge of the side bars rather than the face. Lace the wire through all of the holes in a zig-zag pattern. Fix the far end. Tension the wire. Pull the wire off the first pulley, tension again, etc, finally fix wire on the spool end of the frame, and then cut the wire. Walt’s built himself a bench seat so he can sit and wire frames while he watches TV during the colder months. If you want to buy a wiring board, Walt has a contact who might still be making them.

Foundation – this fits in the kerf groove in the top bar, or along the wedge bar cleat on the top bar. Press the top cleat nails into place with a pair of pliers. An electrified 2amp transformer to heat the wire will let the foundation settle onto the wire and thereby trap the wire, providing support for the wax sheet. This is NOT a long process. You can also do it using a spurred wheel heated over a candle/Bunsen burner, but it’s fiddlier and less reliable. Warped foundation – how do you unwrap it? Leave it in the sun under CAREFUL supervision until it lays flat. Don’t put foundation in your frames until you’re ready to use them. Store them somewhere cool. If it warps in the frames, build supports that fit into the frame space for that time in the sun.

Frames can be purchased for about $2/ea fully assembled with foundation. You can also buy plastic frames which work comparably. Walt hasn’t switched over due to the sunk costs in his existing equipment, but it is harder to get blowouts using plastic frames. The best of both worlds seems to be wooden frames with plastic foundation. Regardless of your type of frame, bees will draw comb best during a heavy nectar flow. When choosing equipment, keep an eye on your weight numbers – once you multiply out 10 frames per box, it can add up. Walt tends to see more burr comb on plastic frames, but they don’t need any wiring.

Frame jig – nail 10 frames at once. Plans can easily be found at BeeSource.

Travel screen – provides a top for hives during long, hot transport conditions. Screened sides mean you can flip it so the bees have shade, but plenty of air space. Travel screens for the front entrance offer room on the porch for “bearding” numbers of bees out front that can’t happen if you simply press some screen into the front entrance.

When you see wax rivulets on the top bars of your frames, the bees need more foundation to draw. Otherwise, bees will chew holes in any foundation you provide. Wax moth control, try freezer storage, or Certan, or Xentari.