Build Our Beehive


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Produce DIY Custom 8 Frame Cedar beehives just like Sweet Mountain Farm!

Northern White Cedar Beehive with slide out Varroa Screen

Sweet Mountain Farm harvests eastern white cedar from our abundant natural and renewable resources that are located on our Washington Island farm as well as cedar harvested from the upper peninsula.

Why use cedar? Why build an 8 frame versus a 10 frame beehive? The following describes each component, its use, and the dimensions for each part so that you too can build your own beehives.

Sign up for our product updates and you will be the first to know when our YouTube video is posted. We will take you step-by-step through the construction process that includes setting up a jig, cutting box joints and recessing a hand hold.

Why Cedar Beehives?

All of the qualities inherent in cedar make it an ideal match for bee hive construction. Check out True North Cedar, a lumber yard in Minnesota that compares northern white cedar to other wood species.

  • Cedar is stable and less prone to warp when subjected to harsh weather.
  • Cedar is less susceptible to bug infiltration and rot, outlasts other woods, and requires little to no maintenance.
  • Cedar has the highest insulation value of local tree species, making it more desirable for northern beekeepers.
  • The wood will weather to a grey patina that does not require paint or stain–a desirable feature for organic beekeepers.

Other Cedar Considerations:

There are some common sense objections from the old time beekeeper about the honeybees not taking kindly to the cedar smell. The thinking goes something like this, “if an insect is repelled by the smell of cedar then the honeybee will be repelled.” The second objection is that honey being hygroscopic will absorb the cedar odor.

At SMF we keep the cedar on the inside of the hive rough sawn. It is our experience that our Russian honeybees heavily propolize the interior of the hive, smoothing out the rough sawn interior. The propolis seals off any outgassed cedar odor and creates an anti-viral and naturally antiseptic hive.

Why 8 Frame Medium?

Generally, the smaller the space inside the hive the less thermal transfer occurs. Since Russian bees have a smaller cluster size over winter, the 8 frame hive is the best pairing. Bees are inclined to build vertically, thus minimizing the incidence of empty frames that are sometimes found on the outside of a 10 frame hive. An 8 frame medium is the ideal weight for all beekeepers to lift, weighing in at about 40 pounds when full. A standard 6 5/8″ medium size super makes the hive totally interchangeable. There is no mistake about which components to take out to the bee yard.

Our goal at Sweet Mountain Farm is to radically change the industry by providing an equally priced but superior product using cedar grown on our Washington Island farm. Let Sweet Mountain Farm custom produce your next cedar beehives.

Telescoping Cover

8 Frame Telescoping Cover

The 8 frame telescoping cover is sometimes called an outer cover and is designed to protect the hive from weather damage, it is waterproof, and covered in sheet metal.

Assembled dimension is 16″ x 22”. Below is a material list for the 8 Frame telescoping cover.

MATERIALS LIST:

Premium Grade, very occasional soft knots (repaired), no wane
Surfaced 1 side 2 Edges
2 .875 x 1.75 x 22” rabbet ends .625″
2 .875 x 1.75 x 14.75”
.75″ flat cedar stock 1 16 x 22”
Aluminum Trim Stock pre-cut 1 18″ x 24”

* 4 x 8 x 3/4” cedar sheet will yield 12 covers

Inner Cover

 Inner Cover

It helps to keep the bees from gluing the outer cover to the hive body as well as from gluing the outer cover to the top of the frames. Some beekeepers will substitute a heavy canvas cloth. The inner cover is more gentle to the bees by creating a 1/4″ bee space between the frames and the inner cover.

An inner cover has many purposes. It will help to insulate the hive creating a 1/4″ dead air space between the outer cover and the hive. SMF does not notch the inner cover for ventilation. A Popsicle stick or small stone can be used to prop the inner cover open for ventilation if needed. This way, if the hive needs to be moved, we simply staple a screen over the oval hole and screw it down onto a super at the four corners.

The oval hole in the inner cover can be used for feeding or it can be used in combination with a bee escape when bees need to be evacuated from a super. Never worry about the inner cover placement on the hive since our inner covers are identical on both surfaces.

Materials List

Premium Grade, very occasional soft knots (repaired), no waneSurfaced 1 side 2 Edges 2 .875 x.8125* x 14″
2 .875 x.8125* x 20″
1/4″ cedar flat stock 1 14″ x 20”

*Sweet Mountain Farm uses the scrap from the hive body to produce the frame for the inner cover. This dimension can be varied based upon available stock.

Hive Body

8 Frame Super

A colony uses the first hive body to raise brood. This is the component used by the queen to lay eggs and where the young larvae are raised. Each additional body is called a honey super and is used to store pollen and nectar.

Hive bodies take a lot of abuse in the field. The beekeeper uses a hive tool to pry hive bodies apart that are glued together by propolis. Propolis is a resinous substance collected by honey bees from tree buds. It is used to fill crevices. There are many sizes available in the industry although sticking to one size is recommended. The uniformity of one size makes the bee operation completely interchangeable and it is by far the most flexible configuration. An 8 frame medium hive body, when full of wax and honey, can weigh up to 40 lbs.

The hive should be tough for the field, not prone to warp, rot resistant, insect resistant, and as lightweight as possible. It should reduce thermal transfer yet dissipate excessive moisture inside the hive as well as be waterproof.

Hive Body Plan

Materials List

Premium Grade, very occasional soft knots (repaired), no wane
Surfaced 1 side 2 Edges

2

.875 x 6.625 x 20″

2

.875 x 6.625″ x 14″
Stainless Steel Trim Screws

8

#7 x 2 1/4″
Titebond III Wood Glue

Screened Bottom Board

Screened Bottom Board with Slide out Varroa Tray

Rear view with Slide out Varroa Tray

MATERIALS LIST for 8 Frame Screened Bottom Board Plan:

Description Part Qty Dimension
Premium Grade, very occasional soft knots (repaired), no wane working with 1″ stock 7/8″ – .875 A. Front Panel 1 3 1/2″ x 13 1/4″
B. Back Panel 1 1 3/4″ x 13 1/4″
C. & D. Frame Sides 2 1 3/4″ x 15 3/4″
E. & F. Exterior Grooved Sides 2 3 1/2″ x 21″
G. Back Panel 1 1 1/2″ x 12 1/4″
H. Front Exterior Panel 1 2 1/2″ x 14″
I. Brace 1 3 1/2″ x 12 1/2″
Flat stock J. Tray 1 1/4″ x 13 1/2″ x 20″
23 ga – 1/8″ – #8 K. Hardware Cloth 1 12″ x 18″
Finishing nails 16 ga 2″
Staples 18 ga 1″ hand staple to prevent damage to screen
Titebond III wood glue

Basic Bottom Board Instructions:

  • Build a frame with parts A-D
  • Saw grooves into exterior sides , parts E & F, 7/8″ & 1/4″
  • slide the frame into the grooved exterior sides, parts E & F
  • staple the back board to the frame, part G
  • attach front board, part H
  • hand staple the 1/8″ hardware screen, part K
  • install the brace, part I
  • cut and install the tray, part J

Winter Bee Feeder

At Sweet Mountain Farm a winter bee feeder is used on first year splits or when honey reserves are low. A strong and healthy colony should not need to be supplemented by winter feeding. Colonies in the north need at least 60 lbs. of honey going into winter. That is equal to 12 – medium full frames of capped honey or approximately 10 deep frames.

It seems counter-intuitive that prolonged warmer temperature rather than colder temperature indicates a hive may need additional resources. When temperatures reach 40 degrees a colony will break cluster and begin to consume more food. A winter season with unusually warm temperatures will be more stressful for the bees than consistently colder temperatures. The bees will break cluster, take cleansing flights and require more food to expend energy during warmer winters.

Resources become depleted in the spring and therefore colonies most often starve out before nectar and pollen are available. If the population of a hive is high going into winter and and the temperatures are above average, this is the time to place a winter bee feeder on the hive.

 Winter Feeder

Build your own 8 frame feeder

1x4x8 lumber is used to make a frame that is 14″ x 20″. Use ¼” hardware cloth. Drill ¾” ventilation hole into the face of the frame. Position the hole just under the telescoping cover so that the outer cover will close the hole if needed. Shape the hardware cloth into the frame and staple it to the frame. The frame will hold up to 15 pounds of fondant although 5 pounds is sufficient.

Fondant Recipe

The basic fondant recipe is 1 pint water to 5 lbs. sugar. Boil water and sugar to soft ball stage which is 242 degrees Fahrenheit. Line the mesh hardware with newspaper or wax paper and pour the hot syrup onto the paper. Once set, it is placed on the hive as a top feeder. Dry bee pollen can be scattered on the top of the fondant. Place the hive at the Winter Solstice when daylight time begins to increase.

Tips

Watch the syrup carefully. At approximately 210 degrees the liquid starts to boil and the temperature climbs fast. Do not feed your bees fondant that has been over cooked. The liquid will turn slightly brown and the bees cannot digest the over processed fondant. Discard it and start over.

If you do not have a candy thermometer you can use the ice water method. Drop a teaspoon of boiling liquid into the ice water. If a small ball can be formed with the liquid the mixture is ready to pour.