Have you ever thought much about the hive stands you use? On today’s episode, Jim and Kim take a long look at the hive stands they use and why they favor them. They also look at a lot of other choices available to beekeepers – all based upon...
Have you ever thought much about the hive stands you use? On today’s episode, Jim and Kim take a long look at the hive stands they use and why they favor them. They also look at a lot of other choices available to beekeepers – all based upon personal preferences, terrain, individual strength and even weather!
Are some better than others? Absolutely! Are some expensive, while others free? Absolutely! Do you get what you pay for? Most of the time.
Your hive stand can tall a lot about how you keep bees, you know. Old, sloppy, ugly, uneven and too crowded is one extreme (We’re talking stands here, not beekeepers). At the other end of the spectrum is, new, painted, just the right height, and perfectly level with enough room to work bees with ease.
How do your hive stands look?
Learn more about hive stands right here, with Kim and Jim.
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Honey Bee Obscura is brought to you by Growing Planet Media, LLC, the home of Beekeeping Today Podcast.
Music: Heart & Soul by Gyom, Walking in Paris by Studio Le Bus, original guitar music by Jeffrey Ott
Copyright © 2022 by Growing Planet Media, LLC
Kim: Jim, I was cleaning up my garage yesterday. I know it's only August, early August, but it's going to take me until the snow falls to get my garage clean enough to get my car in there. At the bottom of one of the 24 piles I've got in there, was a hive stand that I haven't been using. It got me to thinking. I haven't used it, and it's been in the garage since last summer. I wonder what kind of hive stands do you use? What do you have? I haven't spent a long time in your bee yard, and I don't remember.
Jim: I basically try everything, Kim. As the years have passed in my bee life, I have put bees on everything. I'd be happy to talk to you about it for a few minutes.
Kim: There's a couple of ways to look at this. I think what you make them out of and how they look might be important if you've got one in an urban area. Hi, I'm Kim Flottum.
Jim: I'm Jim Tew.
Kim: Today on Honey Bee Obscura we're going to be talking about hive stands.
Introduction: You are listening to Honey Bee Obscura brought to you by Growing Planet Media, the folks behind Beekeeping Today Podcast. Each week on Honey Bee Obscura, hosts Kim Flottum and Jim Tew explore the complexities, the beauty, the fun, and the challenges of managing honey bees in today's world. Get ready for an engaging discussion to delight and inform all beekeepers. If you're a long-timer or just starting out, sit back and enjoy the next several minutes as Kim and Jim explore all things honey bees.
Kim: You can use almost everything, Jim, for a hive stand. This hive stand I found yesterday is one of Bee Smart single hive stands, and it fits a 10-frame box, which is why I'm not using it at the moment because I don't have a board to reduce the size on there. My eight frames need a little adjustment. You said you use almost everything. What do you use for a hive stand? Are they all the same?
Jim: Yes. Before you get away from this, I'm willing to make you an attractive offer on that 10-frame hive stand you're not using, because I've got 10-frame colonies right now. If you want to give a home to that hive stand, just let me know.
Kim: Well, it'll get out of my garage. You got a deal.
Jim: Don't let my wife hear that you're cleaning out the garage in preparation for winter, or I know what I'll be doing for the next two weeks. Kim, through the years, beekeepers listening to us on this hive stand thing, if you have a lot of options, let's say-- I want any beekeeping topic. If you have a lot of options, that means that the best option has not risen to the top of the pile and, oh my stars, does hive stands fit that bill. Everybody and their brother has used one thing or another for hive stands, cart rims, tire rims, of course, cement blocks, tree stumps.
In fact, I knew a beekeeper once who gave a very humorous presentation on the odd places as a bee inspector that he had seen people put beehives on what they would set those things on. Yes, you asked me a legitimate question, and let me give you a legitimate answer of where I am right now. Number one, at this point, is age. As I have aged, the kind of hive stands I want has changed. Kim, they've gotten higher because I don't want to bend over and stoop anymore.
Right now, I'm using the same ones you're using. I'm using some of those-- This is not a commercial, but I'll mention the name. I use the Bee Smart hive stand primarily. Then I've also got some other commercial hive stands that I purchased that I'll talk about in a bit. At this point, I'm not improvising. I'm using hive stands that I've purchased. In the past, I did improvise. I used pressure-treated four by four posts or six by six posts. I used cement blocks. I had some paver bricks that I improvised hive stands from, but as I've gotten older and my back's gotten angrier, I don't use those kind of improvised things anymore.
Kim: Well, I do. I still use improvised. I mentioned the Bee Smart hive stand and I've got one in my bee yard that I use, but not exactly as a hive stand, but an extra box holder. Long ago, USDA taught me that you don't put a super full of bees on the ground, either sideways or bottom and top up or whatever. What you do is you put it on something. Every bee yard-- the USDA bee yard that I worked in back in the day was a treated four x four sitting two cement blocks high, big enough to hold three or four hives and only two or three hives on it, so there was always an empty space.
When I took that top box off, I had some place to put it besides the ground. I could put it in that empty space on that hive stand. That has not changed in the 30-plus years I've been keeping bees. My hive stand is big enough to hold one more box. I've got a box right next to it that will hold one more box, so I'm not putting a box full of bees on the ground.
Jim: That's absolutely perfect! As you take off that heavy honey box, instead of stooping to the ground, or trying to stand it on the end, and then pick it up later, you just move to one side of the hive and put it right there in the space. That's probably pretty much on both sides of the hive that you're describing on that stand.
Kim: Exactly. The one thing that's changed over the years is the same thing that's changed for you. It's gotten higher.
Jim: Oh, yes. Okay. I understand that.
Kim: [laughs] The other thing is, it gives you a place. A lot of people take the cover off and put the cover down and then put their box on the cover.
Jim: Yes, I've done that.
Kim: I got a space to put that cover on that hive stand. I can just put that, and then I can put the inner cover right in the bottom. Then my first box of bees goes right on top of the inner cover. I don't lose bees and I don't hurt my back. It works pretty well. Now, here's something to think about. I've had people over the years when I was editor, call me up and say, "My wife doesn't like the way my bees look in the backyard. People drive by and they point, and they laugh, and it is because I got them on a crooked stump." One of the things to consider is, how does your hive stand look? Does it fit your neighborhood?
Jim: Whoa, give a minute to get my arms around that. I found it a lot easier to build fences, Kim, than to choose hive stands
Jim: That's actually the truth. I'll just fence mine off, so you can't see anything back there. No, I agree completely. The thing that I found to be important as my hives would get taller and taller is that I need to start with the hive stand sitting dead level. If my hive stand started leaning to the left front corner, I'll say, that lean only got worse as I stacked two or three deeps and a couple of supers on top.
Then when you add 200 pounds of honey, as though I'm a big honey producer, then I had this heavy hive leaning off-center, like some leaning building in some battalion city somewhere. I began to spend more time trying to start level and then stay level because once that colony gains weight on soft soil, some of those legs would sink.
Kim: I've never paid too much attention to that on a hive stand being level. Rather, I look at the hive being level. If the hive stand's not level, this is something that you're going to think is really weird, but I probably own 25 hive tools. People have given it to me over the years and I've picked up here and there. Once I get my hive stand where I want it and I get a hive on it, I'll put a level beam on top of the hive, and then I'll use one of those hive tools to level it off. It just stays there all summer, and because you don't move the bottom board on your hive stand very often, it usually keeps the hive pretty level.
Right about now, actually getting ready to go in the winter, I'll check them again for being level, just what you said, and it'll sink in soft soil or something. I'll level them up, so going in the winter, they're pretty level. I got to think that being just a little bit off-center or uneven, isn't going to bother the hive that much, does it? Is your experience that a hive that isn't perfectly level gets messed up?
Jim: No, it doesn't. I don't think it bothers the colony. What I don't want to happen is that thing to topple over.
Kim: Oh, okay.
Jim: As far as the bee functions-- as far as the colony functioning inside, no, no, no. Not at all. I was trying to think, "Is it just me being paranoid? Have I actually had a hive fall over?" I have had hives topple, especially when I was working for a university, but that's because they got hit with mowers or whatever. The thing that happens is that I didn't want that heavy hive leaning to one side with that honey on the top. It's top-heavy already, but it doesn't affect the bees. Good heaven, the bees made all that honey anyway. Go back just a minute. You level the hives on the hive-
Kim: Front, back, and sideways.
Jim: All right.
Kim: I got a three-foot level and I'll just put it on top of the hive both ways and see where it goes and shove a hive tool under it with the hook side down so I can shove it. If it's really uneven, I can put it all the way up to the hook and if it's hardly level, I can just a little bit and it just sits there, lives there all summer.
Jim: In just a bit, I want to talk about a hive stand that I've got from our sponsor, but it's a good time to hear from our sponsor.
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Jim: That leveling idea is a good idea, Kim. I actually have a level too, but I'm ashamed to tell you-- we're dragging this out too long. Kim, you know those plastic platforms that goes underneath an outdoor air conditioner unit? Have you ever seen those?
Kim: I got one underneath my air conditioner.
Jim: Well, here's the odd thing, Kim, I've got five of them because I paid good money for each one of them. I noticed that when the air conditioner companies set those compressors on there, they were pretty much, within reason, self-leveling. I rushed out and bought four or five of those and I put a beehive right in the center of them. They pretty much are level because they're about 48 inches square.
With one beehive right in the center, there's plenty of room for me to stand around and work. The weeds and grass never grow right up around the colony because it sits on this large plastic platform, but it's not practical. I don't see me going out buying 50 air conditioner compressor platforms, but I did go out and buy five just because it worked out so well. As I've already admitted, I like to have my colonies and my hive stands level.
Kim: You just mentioned something and I go back to, what does your hive stand look like from the street? It's the weeds that grow under mine. I’ve got to go out there every couple of weeks with a weed whacker and get the grass and weeds from underneath my hive stand down because they're growing up and they're blocking the entrance, they look ratty, and somebody in my neighborhood's going to complain.
Jim: Just please stop, you're hurting me
Jim: I haven't been cutting the grass in my bee yard and I do these videos occasionally and pictures. People have commented, "You got a jungle back there, Jim. Can you find all your hives?" That's enough of that, Kim. I'd weed trim not often enough. Kim, I've got a hive stand that I really want to try to describe I like a lot. Maybe I'll put a picture on the webpage, but I got it from our sponsor. I don't mean for that to be a plug, but if it's a plug, okay, so be it.
The legs attach to two-by-fours. If you want to put four or five colonies, then you use two-by-fours that are longer and that go through and attach to these two sets of end legs. It's like the hive stand is adjustable. You can use-- have you short two-by-fours for one colony, you can use longer two-by-fours and move one set of legs out and have as many as four or five colonies on that hive stand. I do exactly what you said. I only put two on it and then I have space on either side to put the equipment. If I can tell you the truth, that leaves me a space to sit when I’m tired.
Jim: Instead of putting your equipment there, I can put my rear end there and sit down and watch the bees come and go that I've just worked or manipulated or whatever. That hive stand's not cheap, but I like it. There are some sophisticated hive stands out there.
Kim: I got to believe that those things that you've attached the two-by-fours to is going to be better looking and a lot lighter weight than the cement blocks that I use.
Jim: Oh, it's premium. If you could just see them through the weeds.
Jim: It is because they're nice stainless steel-- I think it's stainless steel. They look chromed and they're adjustable. If you're doing my leveling thing, you can adjust each set of legs to a different height to account for leans and tilts. That works well.
One thing is I've got a picture of-- I didn't do it and someone's going to maybe write me and tell me that I didn't acknowledge their name, but they turned the cement blocks on end, and then they put the four-by-fours in the holes that formed on these two cement blocks on the ends, not on the sides. It made a decent-looking hive stand but, Kim, you want those block ends level or otherwise, you're going to have this whole contraption leaning and whatever.
Kim: Believe it or not, I do that. Not for my bees, but I've got plant containers on. I put cement blocks on them--
Jim: Oh, yes. You're right. I can see what you're talking about.
Kim: I never thought about that. There you are. I learned something today.
Jim: I got a good friend Vernon. He's a friend of yours too. He actually manufactures hive stands and I've got one of those that works very well. Sometime we'll talk more about that, but it's a good, simple hive stand just for one stand for one hive. I keep thinking as we talk, there's just more and more and more and more.
Jim: The best one I saw, Kim, was [chuckles] 25, 30 years ago. Someone had a picture of two beehives and an outdoor toilet. That was what they were using for a hive stand. Where the two people would have sat was two beehives and then you had a nice door, you could close the door, it was under a shelter. It was just really a nice place for two beehives. I'll put that out there as an example of the unusual things that people have used to hold their beehives up.
Kim: Can you imagine the surprise if you're visiting and you open that door?
Jim: No, I can't imagine that surprise.
Jim: I don't even want to talk about it, but it was a good secondary use for that device.
Kim: There you go. High stands are, I think, maybe taken too much for granted. You get the hive and you're worried about the bees and you're worried about the boxes and all of that and where it sits, but you can make your life a lot easier if you think about hive stands a little bit more than I think a lot of people do.
Jim: We end where we started. There is no best hive stand. There's a lot of good ones out there, and there's a lot of things that are just get-by improvised hive stands.
Kim: Think about your hive stand. Go outside and take a look at your hive stand. Is it doing what a different kind of hive stand can do for you? Making it easier, lighter, look better, whatever and maybe fix things up a little bit.
Jim: Yes or not.
Kim: Or not.
Jim: Just let the grass grow.
Kim: Okay. [laughs]
Jim: Hey everybody. Thanks for listening. Tell us what you use for a hive stand, have a look at the pictures we'll post on the web, see what you think about some of the ones we've talked about here today.
Kim: It's been good. I'll talk to you next time.
Jim: I'll be here next time.
Kim: All right.
[00:19:04] [END OF AUDIO]