Alternatives to Wooden Beehives?
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  1. #1
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    Default Alternatives to Wooden Beehives?

    I'm hurting for a workshop since the Fires back in late 2017 got my bee yard, home and workshop.

    I might accept an alternative to a wood shop if I can get the bees to accept the resulting hives.

    I am considering a hot wire bow and cutting up styrofoam to make temporary boxes, as well as political signs (a.k.a. Coroplast) with wood ends.

    Composite beehives with one material inside and another outside are a possibility. Bricks are another. Waxed cardboard is still another. I know there are nearly infinite others.

    Anybody have any ideas for cheap, small, quickie production setups?

    I'll just have to bit the bullet and purchase frames or wait until I can get the wood shop running.

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  3. #2
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    Apr 2017
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    Default Re: Alternatives to Wooden Beehives?

    Understanding that polystyrene and polyurethane foams are different, You could try making hives out of the 1" foam board sold at the big box stores. Dont even need the hot wire, you can cut it cleanly with a utility knife. Of course if you make the hot wire cutter big enough, it might justfy the purchase of a Velocity RG kit.
    Thankfully, the bees are smarter than I am. They are doing well, in spite of my efforts to help them.

  4. #3
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    Default Re: Alternatives to Wooden Beehives?

    Look at MyMotherLode for plastic hives

  5. #4
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    Rutland County, Vermont,USA
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    Default Re: Alternatives to Wooden Beehives?

    Not an alternative to wood, but you could quickly build warre hives with ply cut at a home store, or just do yourself with a circular saw. They would at least get you up and running quick at low cost. J

  6. #5
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    Default Re: Alternatives to Wooden Beehives?

    Don't overlook the knocked down boxes available from Mann Lake and others. They cost less than I can buy the material for and I have a professional shop with pro suppliers; I'm not buying at retail. Clamps, glue and either screws/manual nails or a small compressor with a nail gun complete the task. Most of the other things can also be easily bought or built in the driveway using basic hand or hand-held power tools. You don't need a full shop.
    Humble assistant to beek Alison as well as family purveyor of luxury Bee condominiums and Paparazzi activities...

  7. #6
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    Default Re: Alternatives to Wooden Beehives?

    Kilo I feel for and have been there years ago.Went the cheap route on some and it always ended up costing way more in the long run.I know thats not what you want to hear but look at the long term and where you want to go with your bees.I started building a bit at the time.Selling a few nucs from what you have every year will get you lots of equipment.Building really cheap stuff will get you building stuff again the next year and so on.Not trying to discourage you just want you to look towards a good happy future with your bees.

  8. #7
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    Default Re: Alternatives to Wooden Beehives?

    Quote Originally Posted by Fivej View Post
    Not an alternative to wood, but you could quickly build warre hives with ply cut at a home store, or just do yourself with a circular saw. They would at least get you up and running quick at low cost. J
    If I were in that position, then I'd be thinking in terms of generating both boxes AND the bees to go in them. Boxes can be built much quicker than colonies of bees can grow - and so this is what I'd do:

    I'd suggest extending the above idea to dimensioning those 'Warre' boxes to fit whatever frames you intend to use - or maybe build horizontal hives (shorter ones if needs be) dimensioned in exactly the same way. Those kind of hives could be built outdoors or under some kind of crude cover. If you were to buy-in a small amount of frames, then those temporary boxes could then be used to build-up a seed-stock of colonies, whilst you then set about building sheds, a workshop, your 'proper' boxes and so on ...

    When making temporary boxes, pretty-much anything would do - no need to make roofs etc - use a sheet of tin or a tarp instead. A long hive could be crudely built in a couple of hours - handsaw, hammer and nails - or skil saw and screws - no need for paint or anything fancy.

    As I see it, the important thing is to get the slowest feature - the growing of colony numbers - up and running before anything else. That way the colonies can be building themselves up at the same time you're building-up the long-term infrastructure.

    Personally, if under pressure of time I wouldn't consider experimenting with any material I wasn't fully familiar with.

    Best of luck with this project.
    LJ
    A Heretics Guide to Beekeeping http://heretics-guide.atwebpages.com/

  9. #8
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    Default Re: Alternatives to Wooden Beehives?

    Anybody hauling in nucs (like JZs) and selling them ? After the transfer the empty might be available. Even the cardboard last a while.
    It is not true that you cannot teach an old dog new tricks.
    They can learn them, they just can't do them.

  10. #9
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    Default Re: Alternatives to Wooden Beehives?

    I agree that you can't beat a negotiated purchase from a supplier. Like Jim said, you can assemble almost anywhere and have pro grade equipment.




    Quote Originally Posted by Jim_in_PA View Post
    Don't overlook the knocked down boxes available from Mann Lake and others. They cost less than I can buy the material for and I have a professional shop with pro suppliers; I'm not buying at retail. Clamps, glue and either screws/manual nails or a small compressor with a nail gun complete the task. Most of the other things can also be easily bought or built in the driveway using basic hand or hand-held power tools. You don't need a full shop.
    All of my opinions and suggestions are based on my five decades of actual beekeeping,
    not so much on book learning, watching YouTube videos nor reading internet sites.

  11. #10
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    Default Re: Alternatives to Wooden Beehives?

    Thanks, guys. Lots of good prods to the thinking process. When I get going with a woodshop area and can build them, the effort will be toward half standard boxes and half Brother Adam hives, AKA Modified Square Jumbo Dadant beehives.

    I'm seeing that time wise, wood is most practical, cardboard is prettty clear second if I build them out of a good grade of cardboard then dip them in molten wax afterwards. Cutting foam is more effort from here to startup and does require some shop space as well, although I do presently have a variac for a heat control and the tools to make up several different style bows.

    JW- your post made me think of getting dock foam billet and hotwire cutting out a box from it. From there I could plank it with coroplast, wood, plywood, OSB, or whatever. Solid block, push a heated wire through like a drill bit, then loop the hotwire bow in and cut out the box along a template. No joinery.

    Little john - right now the thing I'm long on is Winter time for building. The swarms will come next month and get thicker as the year goes on.I'm even thinking about inventing inflatable beehives, haha. Yes, the bees bulding drawn comb is the slow element, but I need the hardware made up and waiting before I take swarm calls. But on that note, an new bee vacuum is a very high priority. Thank you.

    Snapper - So very right. I am well aware of double work. But without a shop, even though I have accumulated 8 bar clamps, my quality standard beehive is not yet an option. Cardboard and foam are repeatable and durable enough that they are a consideration just to get some bees up and start drawing out combs this year. I can make a quick production run of 40 or 50 hives and get and order of wood in and keep at the task after work, making up wooden hives as time money and bee resources dictate.

    To those who suggested nuc's ... 2 rectangles of wood, 3 political signs, staples and a knife makes an awesome nuc'. I;m already on that. required tools:a hand saw, a knife, a cutting board, a framing square, some glue, and an Arrow T-50 staple gun. It does not quite work out to stackable beehives, though. They fall over if stacked above about 3 goxes.

    Buying used equipment IS an option - I've seen most of the diseases out there, and have a smattering of knowing how to work through them.

    Thank you all again...good brainstorming session. Feel free to keep it coming

  12. #11
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    Default Re: Alternatives to Wooden Beehives?

    Ok, so I can make a mold for clay beehive boxes and fire them in an outdoor kiln, then glaze them and fit them with standard-length frames.

    I still need the frame jig, the compressor, and the staple gun & hose. Not that bad. I might make it part of an adobe brick mold - 4 bricks and a beekive at a time.

  13. #12
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    Default Re: Alternatives to Wooden Beehives?

    Have you thought about Comfort style box hives?
    all you need is a chop saw (or hand saw) and a screw gun, and a pack of BBQ skewers. move the bees in to "better" hives down the road as you get back on your feet.
    If you realy must have fames for it, make some Latshaw ones out of chloroplast
    The internet is instant, and the internet is often wrong-Kim Flottum

  14. #13
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    Default Re: Alternatives to Wooden Beehives?

    I have painted standard cardboard boxes to use as traps. They hold up pretty well. With a top of some sort to keep the rain off. Good for a couple of years but probably no longer.

  15. #14
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    Default Re: Alternatives to Wooden Beehives?

    Quote Originally Posted by kilocharlie View Post
    Little john - right now the thing I'm long on is Winter time for building. The swarms will come next month and get thicker as the year goes on.I'm even thinking about inventing inflatable beehives, haha. Yes, the bees bulding drawn comb is the slow element, but I need the hardware made up and waiting before I take swarm calls. But on that note, an new bee vacuum is a very high priority. Thank you.
    Strewth - another example of how 'location' is always a principle factor in beekeeping. You are able to rely on swarms as a source of bees, whereas in my locale swarms are as rare as rocking-horse droppings.
    Pity you're unlikely to pass by my front door - as I'd happily give you my bee-vac. I made it many years ago, tested it out a couple of times after encouraging my own colonies to swarm - but have never used it since then.
    LJ
    A Heretics Guide to Beekeeping http://heretics-guide.atwebpages.com/

  16. #15
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    Jasper, Georgia, USA
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    Default Re: Alternatives to Wooden Beehives?

    Quote Originally Posted by kilocharlie View Post
    Ok, so I can make a mold for clay beehive boxes and fire them in an outdoor kiln, then glaze them and fit them with standard-length frames.

    I still need the frame jig, the compressor, and the staple gun & hose. Not that bad. I might make it part of an adobe brick mold - 4 bricks and a beekive at a time.
    Was not going to mention this, but since you brought up clay. Months ago read that in parts of Africa they are making concrete bee hives. Primary reason is theft resistance, ie as heavy as possible. If alternate materials is your goal then there are various additives that make concrete lighter and add a tiny bit of R value.

  17. #16
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    Default Re: Alternatives to Wooden Beehives?

    If you have access to plastic barrels, you can cut them in half top to bottom. Put a divider in each half, cloth and tin for a lid and have 4 top bar hives. Next years do shook swarms into a more permanent set up. For a couple years I built hives on the garbage can lid in the driveway. Unassembled hives could work, I would build 4 and paint them each nite after work. 20 a week by spring you have a few ready. For me the time and work of doing the hive build 2 times is not worth it, so I would make what I could and fill those, and do more next year.
    Maybe place an add in the local rag for folks getting out of keeping, could find a few here and there to augment what you have. The temp stuff would work, next spring shake the bees into the final hive and CS the old one, again more work. Great time to go to what you wished to try prior to the fire.
    Good luck
    GG

  18. #17
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    Default Re: Alternatives to Wooden Beehives?

    You can pick up card tables at yard sales. Same for skill saws. A skill saw upside down screwed to the bottom of the card table and you have a crude table saw.
    Yes you can hotwire cut foam easily but it is not strong unless you go thick sheets, then that approaches the price of cheap plywood. Must be painted with a few coats of paint or the bees will devour it. Foam in your area may often contain termite and ant poison so check that out before you use it.

    Making out of clay and firing it seems way too much trouble to me.

    Have a look at Little Johns site for some very simple and economical frame and box ideas. The Sam comfort frame style mentioned in a previous post would be a way of getting bee numbers building on the cheap while you build more permanent standard sized equipment to shake them onto. I bought two bundles of 1/4" bamboo skewers three feet long. They would be stiff enough to span a standard lang box and make foundationless frames. That comb could be cut out and rubber banded into standard frames in the future.

    The quick and dirty equipment you build now can become swarm traps later.

    Just make sure that "alternate" equipment ideas really are the best use of your time and materials.

    Edit: Just read Grey Goose post. Get some bees on the go, quick and dirty and get fancy later! Greg, would just love such a challenge!
    Frank

  19. #18
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    Default Re: Alternatives to Wooden Beehives?

    About the shop itself.
    Shelterlogic stands up to snow loads here. Knock offs or their lighter weight lines probably would work. Much nicer way to build the permanent shop.

    Not sure what used equipment goes for in your driving distance. Craftsman used tablesaw I would expect to get for 1 to 2 hundred. Wish I had an excuse for:
    https://maine.craigslist.org/tls/d/n...054589469.html
    Last edited by Saltybee; 01-16-2020 at 09:39 AM.
    It is not true that you cannot teach an old dog new tricks.
    They can learn them, they just can't do them.

  20. #19
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    Default Re: Alternatives to Wooden Beehives?

    Quote Originally Posted by kilocharlie View Post
    .......I'm even thinking about inventing inflatable beehives.........
    At this rate, free computer boxes work great as temp hives.
    20170520_133833.jpg
    20170520_133945.jpg
    20170520_134723.jpg
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

  21. #20
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    Default Re: Alternatives to Wooden Beehives?

    The Sam comfort frame style mentioned in a previous post
    sam comfort box/top bar
    latshaw style corplast frame http://www.wicwas.com/sites/default/...ABJ2010-07.pdf
    The internet is instant, and the internet is often wrong-Kim Flottum

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