Octagonal Hive Preparation Instructions

Comb Guide Installation

To help ensure that your bees will build their combs where it will make beekeeping easier for you, the top bars should have comb guides added to the grooves, and then those guides should be waxed. The guides are the long, thin strips included with the top bars. They’re not quite as long as the longest (center, 4 per hive body) top bars, so leave an equal length of space at the end of each guide (about 3/8”). The shorter top bars will require shorter guides, so use heavy shears, snips or diagonal cutters to cut the guides to the proper length, remembering to leave a 3/8” space between the ends of the guides and the ends of the grooves in the top bars. Place a few dabs of Titebond II or III wood glue into the groove of each top bar to secure each guide in place. Gluing the guides in place (as opposed to simply securing them with beeswax) strengthens the top bars and prevents the guides from coming loose during honey harvest.

Applying Wax to Wooden Comb Guides

Please read all of these instructions thoroughly before you proceed.

To help ensure that your bees will build their combs where it will make beekeeping easier for you, a narrow bead of beeswax should be applied to each comb guide.

CAUTION: Bad things can happen if instructions are not followed exactly! Teakwood Organics L.L.C. is not responsible for any injury, death or damage to person or property when you are working with beeswax, as we cannot be present to oversee and/or control the processes used.

· Never leave beeswax unattended when it’s on a heat source that is turned on-not even for a minute!

· Always use only the lowest possible temperature setting on your hotplate when melting beeswax. If you ever hear popping or see smoke, you have the heat too high!

· Use a quality sauce pan that has a thick bottom. The thick bottom will help to prevent overheating of the wax and will keep the wax temperature stable longer, giving you a longer working time without having to reheat. We use a 1 qt. sauce pan that has pour spouts on each side (priced between 25 and 40 dollars). This is a nice pan to own because if you decide to use your own beeswax later on for making candles or other crafts, you will be able to use this same pan to melt the wax and pour it into the molds. The pan will be difficult to clean after you have used it to melt wax. The easiest thing to do is allow it to cool completely and then put it away somewhere, hardened wax and all, ready for use the next time you melt wax.

· Give yourself plenty of space and time to work. Don’t be in a hurry.

· Keep small children away from your work area.

 Follow these steps to apply beeswax to each top bar’s comb guide.

1. Select your work area. Ideally you will be working on a work bench and using an electric hotplate for melting the wax.

2. Put all of your beeswax (one bar per hive body) into the sauce pan and place the pan on the hotplate. Use the very lowest setting to melt the wax very slowly. Be patient and do not leave it unattended.

3. Once most of the wax has melted and there is just a small portion of unmelted wax remaining, turn off the heat. The remainder of the wax will melt in the next few minutes.

4. Using a 3/8” flat artist’s brush, apply a small amount of wax onto the side of one comb guide. The wax should harden almost immediately. If it doesn’t it’s too hot. Stop and let the wax cool for a few minutes if necessary.

5. Once your wax is at a temperature that you can brush it on and it hardens quickly, get to work putting a coat of wax along one side of each comb guide. Do not coat the entire bottom of the bar with wax. This will cause the comb-to-bar connection to be weak. Apply wax to one side of the guide only.

6. If the wax becomes difficult to work with because it’s hardening too fast, turn the heat on to the lowest setting once again until it’s back up to a good working temperature, and then turn the heat back off. 

Top Bar Installation

Once you’ve finished applying wax to the top bars, you’re ready to install them in the hive bodies. Place one hive body in front of you with the handles on the left and right sides. The side farthest away from you will be referred to as the “top” and the one closest to you is the “bottom”. You will see on each, the top and bottom, a pencil mark with an arrow on one side. Using a brad driver and the included 3/4” brads, fasten the first top bar in place on the side of the lines that have the arrows, with its edge lining up with the pencil marks. One brad at each end will suffice. Next, use one of the top bars (on its side) as a spacer in order to correctly space the remaining top bars 1cm apart, fastening each bar in place as you go. When you have only one top bar left, and then use a ruler to space the last top bar 1cm from the one next to it. Repeat this procedure for the remaining bars and hive bodies.

NOTE: It’s important that you use the brads to secure the top bars in place. Because bees “glue” hive parts together with propolis, the top bars can get stuck very hard to the box above or, for the bars in the top box, to the quilt material. If the bars are not secured with brads, they can pull loose from their combs when you remove the quilt box or separate the boxes for any reason. At that point you will have a real mess on your hands. Also, your octagonal hive is not designed to be inspected in the same way that framed hives are, so there is no good reason to leave the bars unsecured. If you want to be able to do some close inspecting of your octagonal hive, simply use one or two frames in the center of each hive body and use top bars in all of the other positions. You can also inspect by doing a Warré hive quick check instead of removing bars.

Applying Tung Oil (optional)

Because octagonal hives do not have frames, and therefore have no bottom bars to which the bees can attach the bottoms of their combs, box-to-box attachments occur fairly frequently. This means that bees will sometimes attach the combs from an upper box to the tops of the top bars in the box below, which actually has one big advantage. These attachments allow the bees to easily move from a lower hive body to an upper hive body during the winter months, often preventing them from starving to death in a lower hive body as they might when the distance from the combs below to the combs above is too great. When box-to-box attachments exist, the distance from the combs below to the combs above is only about one centimeter, which allows the bees to migrate easily. But for this advantage there is a trade-off. Box-to-box attachments can cause the beekeeper some headaches when it’s necessary to separate hive bodies, such as when harvesting honey. All of this is discussed in great detail here. After doing some brainstorming in early 2017, I experimented with using tung oil in order to prevent this strong bond to the tops of the top bars, and it worked fabulously. I then used top bars with the tops finished with tung oil in actual hives and found that this definitely makes separating boxes much easier and more predictable, so I highly recommend it. Once all of your top bars are installed in the hive bodies, all you have to do is simply use a 3/4” wide foam brush to apply a thin layer tung oil to the top side of each top bar, and then apply a second coat 24 hours later. Be very careful that you don’t apply too much, so as not to cause any runs down the sides of the bars. You definitely don’t want any oil on any part of the top bar except the very top. Buff lightly with a cotton cloth, along each top bar 30 minutes after applying the second coat.

Feel free to call us with any questions you may have. Be careful and have fun.