The new bees will be here on the 5th of April, so this weekend getting the old hive in shape was imperative. Except that there was no getting the old hive in shape. The mold inside was terrible, and I decided that I just couldn't reuse it.
It was obviously a very bad design on my part. From the appearance of the top bars, it looked as though bad ventilation was the culprit. I learned a lot from the video seen here on top bar hives and being a bee guardian, even though it's merely an excerpt of their full length DVD (which I am going to buy). Last year, I fretted every time I got into the hive because try as I might, I could not avoid crushing bees. It was also really hard to get into the hive; I had it up on a high stand in case of skunks, who are notorious bee eaters and who have also been known to traverse the yard. This necessitated climbing up on a step ladder, which made getting into the hive a little precarious, which only added to my stress levels.
This year will be different: I put a solid bottom in the new hive, with a large entrance at the bottom, and a very large landing board. I plan on feeding them on the landing board, which I've seen done in videos with conventional Langstroth hives. It also looked like they did that in the Backyardhives.com video.
I'm also putting in a window, so I can see what's going on in the hive without opening it up. I got really lucky in this department because I had leftover plexiglass from making chicken coop windows, and I found some channeled wood from a previous owner in the garage, which I used for the frame. I'll still need to get into the hive to check on the queen periodically, but I'll be able to see the bees' progress without disturbing them. The new hive body is nearly done- I just need to cut some ventilation in the sides near the top. I also plan on coating both the inside and the outside with melted beeswax- the outside will have some raw linseed oil or salad oil mixed in it.
Next weekend I make the top bars and affix the last corrugated panel I have to the roof of the old hive, which I'm reusing. Then the hive can go on some stacked up concrete pavers in the back yard where I can keep the girls a little cooler during the summer and I'll keep it low enough that I can check it out sitting down.
It's too bad that the first colony had to die to teach me all this. Hopefully, this year things will be different and they'll do a LOT better.