Article by Corwin Bell

Installing Honey Bees into the new Cathedral Hive top bar
(Photo credit: Corwin Bell)
 
Simple techniques that will make installing bees in your Cathedral Hive a breeze.

One of the first things you will notice with your new Cathedral Hive is when you line up the hexagonal
top bars across the hive on the support ledge, they are delicately balanced. This will soon change after the bees
begin to draw out comb and 'glue' everything together with propolis making the bars sit firmly in place.
To make everything good and stable for installing the bees, you will want to make sure you have the front blank board
and the falseback in place. Use the falseback to keep the bars upright as you continually add more bars toward the back.

 

Important!
Secure Front Hive (Blank) Board
Although it is not in the plans yet, you will want to secure this board to the front of the hive.
Screw the Front Hive (Blank) Board in place from  the OUTSIDE of the hive.

Securing this Front Hive (Blank) Board will create a stable wall
for the hexagonal top bars to lean against
until comb is drawn out. Once the comb is hanging below the
hexagonal top bars they will be naturally very stable,
but in the beginning the top bars are quite unstable without the stabilizing
Front Hive (Blank) Board.

We have to ship the hive with the front blank not attached because it would stick up and possibly break off
in shipping. The hive plans do not as of yet show that this front blank should be attached in preparation
for installing the bees.

Cathedral Hive Details Fully Assembled Hive
(Photo credit: Corwin Bell) 
Close up of the Front of the hive, Bottom Section only with the Blank Board in place at the front of the hive.

You have to ask yourself what is the purpose of the Front Blank Board ? If you did not have this Board, when the top
of the Cathedral
is removed, all the bees and the combs would be exposed !




Cathedral Hive Fully Enclosed
(Photo credit: Valerie B.)


Fully enclosing the Top Bars:
A Front Hive (Blank) Board at the front of the hive
A Back Hive (Blank) Board  OR Falseback behind the last top bar



Installing Honey Bees into the new Cathedral Hive top bar
(Photo credit: Corwin Bell) 

• Note* the front blank in this shot is made of glass for experimental reasons. The front blank that
is in the plans is a solid hexagonal piece of wood.

Here the bars are ready to be removed to create the opening to install the bees.

• Note* That the swarm that was going to be installed in this hive was very large. For a smaller
swarm or package bring the falseback forward 2 or 3 bars.

Now that you have all the bars neatly arranged on the ledge, decide which bars you will remove to
create the opening that you will install the bees into. Think 5 or 8 bars for an opening depending on the
size of your swarm or package.

We always install the bees in the front of the hive, so that they will establish the broodnest toward the entrance.
I like to leave one or two bars in the front when installing the bees to create a little “cave” or “alcove” to give the
bees a sense of an enclosed space as they navigate their way into the new home.

Now move the false back forward, to the back of the opening. Then run a long stripe of tape along all
of the top of the bars from the last bar in the back, all the way up to where the false back is located.
This will keep the bars from tipping over if you accidentally bump them during the installation process.
Additionally you can add a strip of tape to the two bars at the front of the hive. Now you should have a
nice sturdy situation for the install.


Installing Honey Bees into the new Cathedral Hive top bar
(Photo credit: Corwin Bell) 

Bees are escaping through the slightly larger gap in the bar vent and congregating. The space was
closed up with a hive tool which stopped the bees from coming out.

After you put the bees into the hive, go along the hexagonal bars with a hive tool and gently close any
gaps that the bees could get through. In a couple of weeks when the bees have propolized the cracks
you will want to again close any gaps that the bees may be getting through. Because the bars are made
of wood and cant be absolutely perfect and the top vent slots are designed to a fine tolerance, there is
the possibility that a gap may need to be plugged with a thin stick. The bees should not be able to get
through any small gap, otherwise they will congregate at this opening and defend it.


(Photo credit: Corwin Bell) 

When this Cathedral Hive was opened after a couple of weeks the bees had found several
gaps that needed adjustment.

 

Installing Honey Bees into the new Cathedral Hive top bar

This is a shot from the back of the hive with lid removed. The bees are on the underside having
crept out through a couple of gaps. With a hive tool squeeze the gaps together. Because the bees
had started to propolize the bars, it was easy to close the gaps.

Another technique for keeping the bars upright when installing the bees is to slide a wooden dowel
down one of the top bar channels to where the opening has been established.


Installing Honey Bees into the new Cathedral Hive bees walk in
(Photo credit: Corwin Bell)
 

The "Walk-in" Method
Finally, one of my favorite techniques, which is a very old method, is to set the hive up the way you want it for the new bees, put the
top on and do what is called a “walk in”. With this technique the swarm of bees are gently dumped onto a ramp
leading to the entrance and the bees walk into the hive.

Installing Honey Bees into the new Cathedral Hive bees walk in
(Photo credit: Corwin Bell) 

Watch the videos to see this amazing install method!






The bees gently "poured" from the swarm box onto the ramp where they quickly find the entrance of the hive to walk in on their own.

We always joke that it looks like the bees are running into an arena for a rock concert as their speed quickens as they learn to follow
each other into the dark space of the hive where the queen is.

It looks like so many bees at first and you wonder how they will all go into the hive, but they quickly learn which direction to head.
Soon all the bees will be in the hive and happy with their new home!


Cathedral Hive Customers Built
(Photo credit: Judy H. Longmont, CO)

Freshly installed bees in the Cathedral Hive, looking in from the back.


 More Links to The Cathedral Hive:

The Cathedral Hive - Buy Fully Assembled
The Cathedral Hive - Buy The Kit
The Cathedral Hive - Buy Hive Plans and Cathedral Bars

The Cathedral Hive - Building Tips for The Plans
The Cathedral Hive - Building Tips for The Kit

The Cathedral Hive - The Gallery
The Cathedral Hive - The Design


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