2006 - Volume #30, Issue #4, Page #26[ Sample Stories From This Issue | List of All Stories In This Issue | Print this story | Read this issue]
Bee Hive Handling Made Easy
"We were providing pollination services to cucumber producers who staggered their planting season," says Sperlich. "As the season progressed, the hives got heavier, and the bees got meaner. We were moving hives all night and managing them all day."
Sperlich and his partner Ann Mifsud own and operate Norfolk Apiaries, a commercial beekeeping business they started about 10 years ago. What started with a goal of being a sustainable, manageable business had, in Sperlich's words, "grown into a monster."
Sperlich put his industrial engineering training to work and designed a rack and trailer system. Each rack or "bee cell" holds up to 24 bee hives with up to four supers (sections) each.
The cells stand up off the ground on legs and have drop-down catwalks for accessing the hives. When in the up position, the catwalks make the hives in the cells bear-proof in addition to securing the hives for transport. Awnings over the hives provide shade during the day. At transport, they drop down over the hives to reduce leakage of bees from the hives during the move.
The trailer can hold two cells and has a bed superstructure that conforms to the interior shape of the cell. To move a bee cell, Sperlich simply backs the trailer under the cell, and raises the bed with the aid of hydraulic cylinders to pick the cell up off the ground. Once the legs are removed, the trailer bed is lowered and then driven to the next cell.
Where he once required a five-person crew to move hives, he now does it by himself. In addition, because Sperlich doesn't have to manhandle heavy hives, he also no longer has to remove full supers midseason. He simply adds empty supers. Moving the bees with the cells also reduces noise and vibration that can make the bees hard to handle and reduce pollination and honey flow.
"I have six cells now and eventually hope to have all my bees on them," says Sperlich. "I store the cells inside during the off season. If I had a dark insulated building, I could just back them in with the bees on them for the winter and set them down for the winter with the hives on them."
The trailer is rated for 20,000 lbs. He estimates that two cells and a trailer would cost about $40,000. Each additional cell would run about $3,000.
"Their price actually compares very favorably with a $30,000 articulated forklift commonly used by large beekeepers," says Sperlich.
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Andrew Sperlich, Bee-O-Sphere Technologies, 1709 Front Road, RR 2, St. Williams, Ontario , Canada N0E 1P0 (ph 519 586-8289; fax 519 586-8535; email@example.com; www.beeosphere.com).
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