A cheap (usually free) and easy swarm trap can be made using a copy paper box:
One or two standard deep frames will fit just perfectly into the box from corner to corner. Insert the frame(s), drop in a cotton swab with some lemon grass extract, and put the lid on. The lemon grass extract acts as a swarm attractant. If you ever come across a swarm, you’ll immediately notice a lemon smell. The lemongrass extract mimics that and attracts scout bees that are looking for a new home for their swarm. You can purchase lemongrass essential oil at Amazon.com for around $6. I usually run duct tape all the way around the lid to keep it from blowing off and to contain the bees when I move them. Pop in one of the handle holes for an entrance and you’re set to go. I usually put these under over hangs in old barns or on porches where they won’t get wet. If its someplace out in the open weather I’ll use a easy 5-frame nuc as a trap. I caught 2 swarms last year using one of these boxes on my front porch, and this was before I had bees so they weren’t from my hives! The video below shows me moving a swarm caught in the free box into an easy 5-frame nuc.
Another easy and cheap way to get into beekeeping is the topbar hive.
Mine was built from scrap wood laying around the house.
You can find many plans on the internet for a TBH.
As mentioned in our initial equipment post, a real cheap way to get started it so spend $12 on plywood and $20 or so on frames and build yourself some 5-frame nucs. Here is a video going over the assembly of the “Easy 5-frame Nuc”. Thanks to “D Cotes” on the besource.com forums for posting the plans. I’ll add the cutout design by Mike Tuggle under this video later:
Cut-out plans. If possible, have the store that you buy the plywood cut it into 22″ pieces. If you do that you’ll have 4 pieces that are 22″ each and then a strip that is about 6″ x 48″ left over as shown below.
I use a table saw to make the cuts. So I set my fence at 9″ and run my 4 pieces through to get my 4 tops. Then set the fence at 8 1/2″ and cut out the 4 bottoms, then 10 1/4″ for the sides and so on. After I’ve got all the widths cut I come back and trim them to the correct lengths and I’m done. You should be able to do it in about 30 minutes or so.
There are several pieces of equipment that you need to acquire before you even think about getting bees. You can’t put out a swarm trap, retrieve a swarm or buy a package without some place to put them and some gear to work them with. So in this post we’ll start to discuss some of the initial equipment you can buy cheap or build yourself to save some dough! From this post we’ll link off to other posts that go into detail on any of the items that warrant further discussion.
A home for your bees:
- Hive Body: Using 3 10 foot 2×12 boards and a table saw you can build 5 deep boxes! We don’t need no fancy finger joints! (costs = around $35)
- Bottom Board: A few 8 foot 2×4’s and some hardware cloth and you’ll have enough screened bottom boards for 6 hives. (costs = around $25 with enough hard ware cloth left over for all your future needs!)
- Outer Cover: If you’re really cheap and its summer you can use campaign signs cut to size (costs = Free!!!)
Or for a more permanent cover you’ll need 1 sheet of 3/4″ plywood and some left over pieces from your hive body work to make a telescoping outer cover (costs = around $40) Ouch! We need to come up with a cheaper alternative here!
- Inner Cover: Who needs them? But if you want one you can use a campaign sign and left over pieces from your hive body cuts (costs = Free!!!)
- Nucs: 1 sheet of 15/32″ plywood will make you 4 nice 5-frame nucs! (costs = $11)
Frames and Foundation:
- Frames: Here is where we bite the bullet and order something. Go ahead and buy in bulk. Make an order from Mannlake for over $100 and the shipping is free (http://www.mannlakeltd.com/ProductDetail.asp?idproduct=2111&idCategory=) If you buy them in packs of 10 they are $1.00 each so buy 70 for each of your 5 deeps and the 4 nucs (costs = $70)
- Foundation: We don’t need no stinking foundation! Going foundation-less is more work and it can be daunting for a new beekeeper. However, its a lot cheaper and some believe its better on the bees for mite control, though this isn’t proven.
So for under $200 you have enough equipment to for 5 full hives, 4 nucs, an extra bottom board and lots of #8 hardware cloth which comes in handy for most bee projects. If its fairly warm out you can hold off on the 3/4″ outer covers until later and that will drop your cost down by $40. You could probably paint up one of the hives and or a couple of the nucs and sell them on craigslist and recoup a big portion of your money!!! If you we’re really hurting for cash you could just do the 4 nucs and overwinter your bees in them while you save up dough and build your hives over the winter. Then your initial costs would only be around $35 for frames and the plywood for the nucs.
Top Bar Hive: (Coming Soon)
Protection and tools:
- Smoker: another item we have to give in a buy. Add this to your order of frames (costs = $30)
- Veil: Buy this as well. You can probably make one, but not for much less than what you’ll buy one for. I got the Alexander style because I’m chea… I’m mean frugal (cost = $16)
- Gloves: I bought theses as well just to push my total above $100 to qualify for free shipping (costs = $9)
- Hive Tool: If you’ve got a nice putty knife you can use that, if not they’re cheap (costs = $4)
- Lemon Grass Oil: you’ll need this to catch your bees later on. I got mine from amazon while I was ordering some coffee for my wife so shipping was free (costs = $3)
Total here is $60. So overall we’ve spent around $250, but if you bought everything in the list you’ve got enough equipment for a very big backyard apiary. You have the potential to overwinter 9 different colonies! Considering most kits with a single 2-deep hive are going to run you about the same amount, I’d say we’ve done pretty well.
Our world needs beekeepers! The decline of the honeybee in North America is a scary but undeniable phenomenon. And as the past generations of backyard bee keepers slowly die out, there is a desperate need for new “beeks” to come in and take their place. However, getting into beekeeping can be a daunting task. There is so much to learn and things that must be in place before you actually get any bees. In addition, the costs of the equipment alone can be hundreds of Dollars, and that’s not even counting the bees themselves which is normally the most expensive item you’ll purchase.
This blog is designed to show new and old beekeepers alike that keeping bees doesn’t have to be so expensive or complicated. For a small investment in money and time a new beekeeper can be up and going with at least a couple hives in their first year, and from there the possibilities are endless. Stick around and we’ll show you some tips we have picked up from others and even some we’ve come up with on our own to save you money in getting your apiary started.