Beekeepers in Curry County were shown innovations in beehive construction when the Oregon South Coast Beekeepers Association met Thursday in Gold Beach.

Del Barber, association president, showed his innovations, which improve upon the single board used in top bar hives. He improved the sides and bottom to support the comb and he inserting a strip of comb at the top to get the bees started.

He showed the 20 people in attendance his latest version of a top bar hive constructed of cedar that included a corrugated plastic top plate, a telescoping lid with ventilation, an experimental "bee space"-sized slit for an entryway, and wood strips to serve as handles.

"Natural wood is preferred by the bees," Barber said. "Next best are the bright colors that are attractive to their vision."

Catching the swarm

Barber showed two bee traps - Swarm Catchers, a commercial cardboard tub - and one of his creations, a cedar box designed to fit the top bar-style comb frames that he uses. When he captures an escaping swarm, his bee trap simplifies the process of transferring the frames with the bees into a permanent hive box.

The top cover is corrugated plastic, which aids in reducing condensation in the hive and it is telescoping down over the sides. The entrance is exactly the size preferred by bees and is barricaded by two strong wires to keep out larger intruders, such as mice.

The trap has a block of wood that swivels over the entrance for transporting the bees and there are ventilation holes on the bottom and top of the sides.

Strips of wood are fastened at both ends to serve as handles. The wood is all natural, untreated and unfinished, similar to what bees prefer in the wild, which happens to be myrtle trees. However, cedar is a good weather-resistant wood for hive boxes, Barber said.

Feeding bees

Association member Jess Fletcher showed a commercially-produced top feeder among many of the accessories for beekeeper management. He also showedblack foundation comb starters in frames that he prefers because it is easier to see the brood in them than in the regular honey colored wax foundations.

He went on to point out the pitfalls of liquid feeders that don't provide bee ladders for the climb out.

When there isn't adequate nectar flow in the winter, beekeepers usually provide nourishment for the bees. This varies from collecting pollen every other day in order to make paddies, to buying expensive protein supplements. A simple feeding method involves pouring in sugar water.

Experimental hives

Carla Fletcher demonstrated her freshly-painted, brightly-colored Styrofoam horizontal beehive. The wheels on the front have screens for the various needs of limiting access, such as allowing only workers through, not the larger drone and the largest, the queen bee, or allowing the drones but not the queen, or excluding passage of all but air or allowing open access.

The colors of the round screens are the ones that the bee vision is able to perceive, with the order of preference being first for the magenta, then the blue, the green, the yellow, the orange and the brown.

The hive is horizontal to eliminate the kind of fall-out that can happen in a beehive, with problems at the top dropping down through lower layers and possibly increasing. The bees can expand horizontally, controlled by managed adding and removing of separators and can have one story of supers added on top for honey storage only, keeping all the brood in the base.

This experimental hive, constructed by Fletcher, applies the latest information about bee preferences, and has an added lower story that is the dead air space as observed in the natural setting when bees are living in trees.

The bottom of the brood chambers is all screen so that whatever falls down, falls out and does not continue to cause problems. Mites that fall to the bottom, for instance, are not likely to be able to get back up into the brood area, because of their limited mobility.

The Oregon South Coast Beekeepers Association meets on the third Thursday of the month at the Oregon State University Extension building on the Event Center on the Beach, 29392 Ellensburg Ave., Gold Beach.

For more information about the association, send an email to