Here's how I made a shelter for our forthcoming Koppert Bumble Beehive box.
For farmers Koppert recommend a simple sheet of polystyrene foam with a brick on top to hold it down - but to me this seems a bit cheap and cheerful and not necessarily well engineered against bad wind and rain. So, I wanted to do something a bit more creative and potentially robust.
Having quite successfully made my fake "grass hummock" last week out of expanding foam I decided I could use a similar system to create a protective cover for the new beebox nest. I've been thinking about the design for quite a number of days and it seemed this would be simple and fairly cheap to do. I don't have any wood-working or metal-working equipment (or skills!), so this is a simple solution; even a child could do it.
However, the structure needs to be more robust than the pure foam structure I created for the "hummock" - as it pretty much rests directly on top of the existing box. However, this structure cannot rest on the box; but more importantly, it must be very resistant to weather - especially the wind which can be very strong here. It would be a complete disaster if it was able to blow over. So, some requirements for this:
- enough strength to support being weighted down - e.g. with bricks
- ability to mount some brackets, which is necessary can be fixed to the garage wall
- overall enough structural strength to hold together even if flexed and blow about
My solution is actually to build a skeleton within the structure with some chicken wire; line this with plastic to ensure excellent waterprooofing; and then apply the foam to this structure to create the overall shelter.
The steps are outlined below.
Then folded the wire with some heavy duty plastic (you could cut up a bin bag) sandwiched between.
Then I folded this over a box that I had checked, double-checked and triple-checked was big enough to cover for the size of the beebox PLUS the bricks it will sit on PLUS room to open/shut the bee entrance control PLUS an overhang to provide shade over the front of the box. It pays to do the arithmetic up front!
This actually took two large cans of expanding foam. It's quite tricky to do the sides as it can drop off - so you have to be patient and work in small blobs. That's why the surface looks the way it does.
Notice also the brackets that are wound into the chicken wire. These provide a future option to tether the shelter to the garage wall if needed.
Then I painted the shelter with some cans of plastic spray paint. Really quick and easy to do. We chose quite a light stone colour which blends against the garage fairly well.
The greased bricks are to keep the beebox off the ground and prevent ants and insects from being able to crawl up into it. For this reason the beebox should touch any plants or other objects. We also have an ant-trap right next to it.
I'm testing the shelter for a few days with an empty box inside. If it remains there safely through any blustery weather, I'll be happy. So far so good. For now the shelter is held down with two bricks on the purpose designed "feet". It's actually very stable like that.
I've also mounted a video camera over the box. At this stage I don't know if it will be possible to get a camera inside the koppert box, so we've put a camera over it. We'll put plants and pollen on top of the shelter that will attract the bees and we'll be able to see them going in and out of the entrance. The camera is all set up and tested and we can view it on the main TV in the house.