Following on from my post about bamboo, I decided to try making this simple beehive, described in this PDF (you may need to copy and paste the URL in your browser to view it http://www.echotech.org/mambo/images/DocMan/BeehiveD.PDF)
I used a couple of segments from the base of big Moso culm.
Top bar hives are a kind of hive with bars across a box of some sort. The bars are fitted with either a strip of thin board hanging down, or a wood with a triangular section. This is so the bees can hang off it to start making their comb. With this in mind, I stuffed a bamboo twig in each segment hoping that the little hooked feet of the bees will eagerly cling to them without any special encouragement.
The front door ended up being a bit bigger than expected as the interior segments got damaged when I split the culm. So I shut up the hole a bit with some carefully fitted slats. I think it looks most welcoming - I'm hoping that I've achieved the bee equivalent of a nice carriage light.
The back door is just a ragged gaping hole, but I figure that's good for ventilation. I understand that bees have a gubbins called propolis which they use to fix up parts of their lodgings that aren't quite A1, so I expect to see lashings of propolis around that part soon.
I wired the finished 'hive' into our big tree. I chose wire instead of the rope apparently favoured by the Tanzanians because when it blows up here, everything that isn't fixed down flies about and I rather think that bees prefer things to be in Bristol fashion.
There are plenty of bees around, and I'm sure it's only a matter of time before one of them hooks it's little toes over the thoughtfully placed bamboo twigs inside. Realistically though, it seems unlikely that bees will take up residence in a roughly split piece of bamboo, wired into a tree, but if it works in Tanzania, it seems worth trying here. The bamboo 'hive' replaces the bird house we made. No birds ever went near it, but when we took it down, we found a gecko living very comfortably inside it. I wonder what will set up house in our hive...
In the meantime, I'm going to be looking out for a box suitable for a top bar hive, and will go and talk to the bee keepers in the district.