Preparing Bee Yards

It’s been a busy time, so I’m a wee bit late in writing this post.  But I’ll be doing the same actions in a few weeks, so it’s all “current”.

Three hives in a rural Washington beeyard

Set Up And Flying

In June I started 20 new hives.  All of the bees, except the queens, came from splits off of strong hives in my bee yards.  Ten of the queens were raised and bred at my farm – where the ladies have access to drones with mixed heritage:  Russian, New World Carniolan, and Feral (the University of Arkansas a nice breakdown of honey bee types).  The other ten queens came from Strachan Apiaries in California.  This apiary supplies New World Carniolans that have some Caucasian genetics, thanks to the work of Sue Cobey, who bred the first New World Carniolan bees.Before these queens could be placed, their hives had to be prepared:



Bee yard areas expanded
New bee yards prepared
Put everything in except the splits
Then the splits brought in, and everything set.

I like to have the splits be queenless for three days before queen introduction.  I figure it gives the girls time to realize they don’t have a queen, and then be ready to accept the queen when she’s introduced.

Start Small

ear waiting for three beehives

Set And Waiting

My new bee yards only get two or three hives.  This way I can figure if everyone is happy.  The landowner gets to see me come and go when I tend the hives. The bees get to see if they can find ample forage in the location.  I get to see if there are any problems.  I’ve encountered pesticide issues and water issues (I get clarification now if a farmer says “oh it can get a little wet in that field” – beekeeping in a seasonal lake is not fun).


Two or three hives are easy to move.  Ten or more would be a pain.
Once a year passes and all parties are happy, I add more hives.

Step One: Expand Bee Yards or Prep New Ones

Although my bee yards are all within 45 minutes of my farm, the landscape can be very different: from mountains to flat agricultural lands.

a Brookfield Farm Bee Yard in Maple Falls, Washington

Mountain Beeyard










Agricultural area of one of Brookfield Farm's bee yards, Washington

Agricultural bee yard area








But no matter where they are, there is always tall grass.

Tall grass and flowers near a Brookfield Farm Bee yard (WA)

Grasses & Flowers Grow Tall Here

So my first chore is to cut the the grass. My area is fairly lush at this time of year.  Things grow fast in these long days, and ample rain.  I love my new power scythe.  I have a hand scythe and always carry lawn clippers for quick fixes, but life is so much easier with power.




Step Two :  Put everything in except the splits

I keep my hives on concrete blocks.  I don’t need a forklift to move concrete blocks.
My hives are placed with two hives side by side.
Each pair needs three concrete blocks.
Then, the bottom screens sit on these blocks.

Each hive is left:

A “collar”.  This is a 2-inch high “box” that sits on top of my hives.  This is where they have a top entrance, and where I can put feeders, if needed, and insulation in the winter.

A piece of burlap.

Burlap, which will cover top bars, being cut for a bee hive

Cutting the Burlap

This covers the top bars.  It seems to stop down comb building in the collar.  The bees most often cover this in propolis.  Sometimes they remove it.






Two entrance reducers.

Beehive Bee hive entrance reducer screens

Entrance Reducer Screens

These are 1/8th inch hardware cloth folded in half and shoved on each side of the entrance.  The resulting opening is about an inch or two.  The wire allows for ventilation, plus the bees can still land at the entrance and walk over to the opening.




I would leave mouse guards, but I’ve not had time to build all that I need this year.  That will happen before fall.

Bringing In The Splits

Three days before I plan to introduce the queens, I make overnight splits and move them into place.

Bee hives being placed in a Brookfield Farm Bee yard

Bringing In the Bees







Then I wait, somewhat relaxed knowing everything the new queens and I need are in place.   On day three I introduce the queens.  I’ll go on about that in another blog.

That’s the news for the moment from Brookfield Farm Bees And Honey, in Maple Falls, Washington.  I’m spending my time now making more frames, wiring them, and hanging wax.  We seem to be having a very good honey year here (about time), and the girls are filling their boxes quite quickly.  Hopefully this will continue until the fall.  How are things going in your area this year?  The weather is so changeable these days.


About brookfieldfarmhoney

Brookfield Farm, a small off-grid apiary in Maple Falls, WA focuses on the beauty and bounties of Washington’s wilderness. I sell honey from our bees, whose naturally-treated, antibiotic-free hives are home to bees who fly Washington’s mountains and farmlands. Herbal salves and lip balms from Brookfield beeswax. Delicately infused honeys and vinegars. Varietal honeys from independent Washington beekeepers. Karen Edmundson Bean: beekeeper, photographer. Her love of the wilderness inspires her to discover new ways of bringing the wonders of nature to others. Brookfield Farm : the tastes, textures, sounds, and images of nature.
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9 Responses to Preparing Bee Yards

  1. Jeremy says:

    Where can I find more information about these ‘collars’? Do you have better/larger pictures?

    I’m struggling in NE washington with top entrances (new to me this year) and am looking for ways to deal with feeders (used to just put extra boxes on top of the inner cover to house top feeders)

    • Hi Jeremy – I meant to take a photo but forgot… I’ll try to remember and put it on my facebook page. But for the record. They are the same width and length as a box – they sit on top of the top box. They are only 2-inches tall. Could be taller, but that fits everything I ever put in them, and my husband, the furniture maker, says the 2-inches is the best use of wood. Basically a 2-inch tall hive box. In the front of these I put two 7/16inch holes side by side. I find that young mice can get though 1/4 inch, but not 7/16 (we have very assertive mice here), and the bees do fine on 7/16. The important bit is that I lay a piece of burlap over the top bars – the burlap does not cover the whole area, but leaves anywhere from a one-inch gap all the way around to a 4-inch gap all the way around (1 inch better, 4 inch is a “ahhhh! I forgot the top bar burlap. Here’s a piece I can use that I cut for the smoker” configuration). This slows the bees down on building comb in the collar – even a small one works as long as it’s over the brood nest. I found an image: scroll down and you’ll see one (the cork is because it’s an older design with a larger top entrance – the cork with a hole made it smaller.) Hope that helps.

  2. Bees in Idaho Falls are doing great! Started last year with one hive, bought 4 nucs this spring, and caught, really “gathered”, a swarm late spring. Doing well with 6 hives. All are building well and the town hive, my first, has filles one supper and just starting to draw out comb on the second. The two north of town a few miles have been supered but still have a bit to fill in the 2 deeps for their own. Linden trees in town starting to bloom and the alfalfa has been cut for the first time this year. I have mentored three persons in beekeeping; all have new hives, one being a top bar hive. I love beekeeping.

    • That’s fabulous sounds like a great bee year in Idaho Falls. And good on you for mentoring new beekeepers – that’s the best way to learn (for both the mentor and the mentee – if there is such a word as mentee).

  3. I like to use both entrances. Top: a 3/4 inch hole just above the inset handhold. bottom: the standard full width entrance on the screened bottom board. This way the girls can use whichever they like, though they seem to use both equally. I have used a homemade collar, about 1-1/2 inches deep, used only during the winter for feeding grease patties. Worked well, you don’t have to worry much about comb build up in the winter though. That is my 2 cents worth.
    Happy beekeeping.

    • Thank you for sharing what you do. I’m interested in your 3/4 inch entrance. Don’t mice ever crawl into the 3/4 inch opening? Perhaps we have assertive mice here.

      • willowcreekhoney says:

        Living in town with 2 cat in the yard, life used to be so hard… Oh, sorry, got sidetracked. Really, 2 cats; mice haven’t been a problem. The hole was actually bored with a 11/16 bit. It is really easy to reduce the hole or screen it for the fall/ winter. I hadn’t thought of the size to much until now. Maybe for the country mice I will reduce the size of the hole. A wine cork fits it nicely.

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