Beekeeping Gizmos

Part of the fun of beekeeping is working out your own solutions to problems and some of those solutions take the form of gizmos. I have made a few things that I believe have really helped me in my beekeeping, so I have described them here so you can work out if you would like do something similar yourself.

The Frame Holder - Here is a good example of how I was too cheap to buy something from the beekeeping catalogue and ended up with something I think is much more useful. Most specialist beekeeping suppliers offer a 'frame rest' that allow you to rest a single frame in front of the hive whilst you manipulate the rest of the frame in that box. I made this one from wood and added some extra features. As you can see in the picture, it holds a frame in front of the hive, but has the space for three frames rather than just one.
My smoker can be hung on the angled bars you can see either side of the frame holder. There is a nail hammered into the right hand side which can be used to hang my hive tool on. There is a small level on the top left hand side, just as an indicator of how level the hive is, and there is a thermometer on the top right so my hive records can shown an accurate temperature reading. 

The Solar Extractor - Nothing new here, lots of beekeepers have these to help extract unwanted wax from frames, and then separate that dirty wax into clean wax and other stuff. However, I wanted to work out how to make one from stuff I already have, rather than spend hundreds on a purpose built box. As you can probably already work out, I took a hive box (brood or super) and a glass crownboard that I already owned; then I cut a piece of hardboard so it would fit underneath the box with an extra inch all the way around. I nailed batten wood all around that extra width on the hardboard, so that the box could be dropped onto the hardboard and fit snugly. Then it is all held together with a bungy cord to keep it tightly in place. 
So that is the exterior box; it becomes a mini greenhouse. I slid a thermometer in the side of the box and it gets really hot in there, plenty hot enough to melt wax. I use a normal plastic dish bowl, shown here on the left, and cover it with a sheet of horticultural fleece; it's cheap and it does a good job of trapping the rubbish at the top (the dark brown on the top) and lets through clean wax in the bottom (you can see the yellow wax in the bottom of the bowl, under the fleece. The fleece is held in place just with elastic. This design allows you to use the box and the glass crownboard for their usual purpose whilst not being used as a solar extractor - and you can choose whether to use a super box or a larger brood box. The box is also obviously large enough to hold whole frames too, if I have that job to do.

The Bee Vacuum - Some beekeepers like them, some don't. I decided that I'd try and put one together to make my own mind up. As you can probably tell, I made it from an old Dyson DC02 which I have had for many years and still worked well, but it had been replaced by a more modern one (so I didn't annoy my wife by stealing the vacuum). The rest is scraps of wood, and the middle part is a brood box. The DC02 was ideal for the job as it was small enough to fit onto the top of the whole thing, rather than having to have it sat at one side, like many of the designs for bee vacuums seem to have to deal with. So let's break down the constituent parts. This is the base; a pineboard square base with wall of one inch wood which hold the weight of everything else above.
Around the outside edge is batten that holds the next level nice and tight so it is secure and does not have too many gaps as this would reduce the vacuum in the box.There is a hole drilled into the front that is sized to take the hose that I use to suck in the bees, therefore they come in at the bottom. The inside of the base has a ramp that encourages the bees to go up into the next level. And yes, it is carpeted; the idea is to give the bees something soft to hit when they are pulled into the box. The next part of the box, the middle, is simply a brood box. Many bee vacuum that you can buy or make suck the bees into a temporary storage area that you then need to move them out of when you get back to your apiary.
The idea with this design is that they are sucked directly into their new home; so that middle brood box should be fully filled with frames too, which will give the bees something to hold onto and feel comfortable. And when you get back to the apiary with the swarm, you just put the brood box with the bees in, onto a base and give them a roof; no having to disturb them more than you have to all over again. Then there is the roof; another square of pine with batten on the outside (bottom) edge to hold it tight to the brood box that fits underneath it. There are two holes in the roof - one is clear in the picture, the other is underneath the white plastic square. Both are covered from the inside by wire mesh so that the bees cannot get out the top. The white plastic square is screwed down on one corner only; this allows me to move the square to expose the hole underneath to a varying degree of my choice. 
This allows me to control the strength of the vacuum in the box; you should use as little power as possible so that it is enough to pull in the bees, but not so much you end up with casualties. The batten on the top and the block behind them are fitted to hold the Dyson DC02 in place, as it has wheels front and back that would soon have it rolling off the top if it was not held in place with these. Once on top, the vacuum hose fits into the other hole and this is where the suction begins. The whole lot is held together with a long yellow strap which is shown in the picture below. Yes - it is heavy, but the idea is that I bring it onto swarm-site in pieces and put it together when I need it. It takes less than two minutes to put it together. The retractable powercord on the Dyson helps keep things tidy, but I use a extension cord too, as although swarms are often in peoples gardens, you will need to get power to the DC02 as the swarm is seldom right next to the house. 

  The Dyson DC02 Bee Vacuum


  1. You have somehow made this all look very easy! Thank you for offering up these solutions!

    1. My pleasure - thanks for reading Molly.