The 3 Fragile Woodenware Traps & How To Avoid Them

Master Beekeeping Basics

Jul 01

​It’s common for new and experienced beekeepers alike to purchase woodenware from local country supply stores or beekeeping supply shops.

After all, these nearby stores provide convenient access and stock most or all of the beekeeping supplies you need, so it makes sense to get what you need there, right?

Maybe…..or maybe not.

What you probably haven’t been told is that the woodenware you’ll get at these stores have most likely been poorly assembled and won’t last as long as you need it to.

In this post, we’ll explore what we refer to as the 3 Fragile Woodenware Traps that many beekeepers fall into and how to escape them.

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​Background

​When purchasing your beehives and other beekeeping supplies, it’s likely that the last thing on your mind is checking the structural integrity of your woodenware.

It’s natural to assume what you are about to purchase has been constructed properly if it is placed on the shelves of a reputable store. We have no reason to doubt that what we will get is of high quality.

Then, a while down the road, we wonder why the woodenware gets damaged or falls apart on us for no apparent reason. It seems perplexing that such a thing should happen.

The reason this happens is that the woodenware wasn’t well constructed to begin with.

In essence, you’ve been caught in one of the Fragile Woodenware Traps.

​Structurally Sound Woodenware Is Key
​The long-term durability of your woodenware ​may be an afterthought when you are purchasing your beekeeping supplies, but it shouldn't be.

​Always make sure that what you receive in the end is a solid, quality product that will last you several seasons of beekeeping.

It might seem like you would never be one to get caught in one of these fragile woodenware traps, but sadly, we see beekeepers fall into this far more often than we’d like to. 

This makes us ask the following 2 questions:

  1. 1
    ​Why do beekeepers consistently get caught in this?
  2. 2
    ​What can be done to steer people away from repeatedly making the same mistake?

What Are The 3 Fragile Woodenware Traps?

After many discussions with our beekeepers over the years, we’ve narrowed down to these 3 keys:

Trap #1

Trying To Successfully Do Backyard Beekeeping At The Lowest Possible Cost

As backyard beekeepers, we want to have a great time enjoying beekeeping with friends, family, or even solo. It’s a great activity that gives us a fun way to give back to the earth and help honey bees while (hopefully) getting a few natural perks once extraction time comes around.

However, we don’t have unlimited funds with which to undertake our hobby, so how do we have as much fun as (sustainably) possible?

​Cut Costs
​Cutting costs is a nice way to save money right now. However, ​​this approach might cost you more money in the long run as you'll most likely receive an inferior product and likely have to ​repeatedly replace your woodenware.

One of the first answers is usually to cut costs wherever possible.


This includes purchasing less expensive equipment that is almost guaranteed to be of lesser quality.

Trap #2

​Trying To Successfully Do Backyard Beekeeping With The Smallest Possible Time Commitment

​We live in a busy world in which many things constantly compete for our attention.

One way we cope with the demand on our time and attention is to try to find time savings wherever we can (e.g. multi-tasking).

Paying attention to little details such as the quality of your woodenware assembly process might seem like a luxury you can’t afford.

Get Done In The ​Shortest Possible Time
​Whether you're assembling your own woodenware or purchasing it ​after it has already been assembled, you might be tempted to cut corners and save time.

​We advise against this as you'll likely only save a few minutes of time at the expense of the ​overall quality of your woodenware.

​If you’re assembling your own hive bodies, it can be tempting to try to save time by cutting corners. A few examples of this might include:

​Avoid Cutting Corners​

  • ​Adding less fasteners (i.e. screws, nails, staples, etc.) than needed
  • ​Opting to use less sturdy fasteners (staples or nails) because they are easier to add than screws are
  • ​Failing to include additional durability measures such commercial-grade wood glue in the final assembly

​If you were to do any of the above, you’d be saving yourself time which, as we all know, is basically saving money.

However, you can also fall for this trap even if you purchase your hive body already assembled.

The last time you browsed the store shelves for your beekeeping supplies, you probably picked what looked like the equipment you needed and then headed to the checkout.

What you probably didn’t do was test the hive body (especially the joints) to make sure it was going to hold together for the next several seasons. You were most likely just trying to get what you needed in the shortest possible time.

Trap #3

​Lack of Knowledge

​Even if you are willing to spend the money and the time to get the proper woodenware, it can be difficult to know what to look for in a sturdy hive body, especially if you’re not a particularly handy person.

In other words, you don’t know the good and bad signs to look for so you assume that what you’ve picked out must be the right thing.

​What Do I Look For?
​If you're not the handy type or you haven't worked with power tools, fasteners, etc. you might not know ​what does and does not make woodenware durable​.

The fix is usually to assume that what you have on hand is ​sufficient OR take your best guess. ​Neither is a guarantee that what you actually have is good.

​To add to that, if you’re trying to save time (trap #2), it’s even less likely that you’ll want to take a few minutes to get in touch with an experienced beekeeper to ask what to look for.

​How To Escape The Fragile Woodenware Traps

​Escaping from these fragile woodenware traps is not as difficult as you might expect, but does take a little bit of awareness and discipline.

The most important step is to identify when you see yourself sliding into one of these traps.

Once you recognize that you’re heading down one of these paths, then use the escapes listed below as a mental check to get yourself back on track.

Escaping Trap #1

​Focus On Quality & Value, Not Just Cost

​Backyard beekeeping isn’t the most expensive hobby you can have, but it’s also not the most inexpensive. If you’re serious about getting into it, you need to be willing to spend the money necessary to do things right.

Once you’ve come to that decision, be willing to adjust your thinking and broaden your view of what it means to purchase good woodenware.

You need to focus on the quality and value you receive from your woodenware (i.e. how long it will last) instead of just how much it costs up front for you to purchase it.

​Focus on Quality & Value
​By paying a little bit more money for a ​higher-quality product, you'll likely save yourself time, money, and a lot of headache down the road.

​Focusing on the long game is very likely to save you headache and money as you get further into your beekeeping journey and it will definitely help you avoid getting fragile woodenware.

Escaping Trap #2

​Invest The Time To Do It Right

​Whether you are assembling your woodenware on your own or purchasing it already assembled, take the time to ensure you have a quality product in the end.

​​Take The Time To Do It Right
​If you are assembling your own woodenware, ​take the time necessary to ​ensure ​you use enough of the right types of fasteners and additional measures of durability such as FDA-approved wood glue*. 

If you’re doing your own assembly:

​​Proper Assembly

  • ​Don’t cut corners to save time
  • ​Use high-quality, commercial-grade components to put your woodenware together
  • ​Build your woodenware with a sufficient number of fasteners and additional durability measures to ensure it holds together better over the long-term

​If you’re purchasing your supplies from a store, take a few extra minutes to examine whether the woodenware has been assembled according to the criteria above.

Either way, you should always take the time needed to make sure that what you get in the end will be able to hold up to the demands of being a backyard beekeeper over several seasons.

Escaping Trap #3

Educate Yourself On What To Expect From High-Quality Woodenware

​In addition to spending the proper amount of time and money on quality woodenware, it’s important to also take time to learn what indicators to look for so that you can make a more informed decision.

​Educate Yourself
​Familiarize yourself with basic construction terminology ​(​e.g. different types of fasteners) as well as some of the more common signs of well-constructed woodenware.

The more you understand about construction basics, the better you'll be able to ascertain whether or not your woodenware has been put together properly.

​Learning a few simple ​cues to look for is one of the best things you can do to get the best bang for your buck.

When evaluating potential woodenware, you should look for or ask about 3 key things:

  1. 1
    ​Was the woodenware assembled with a sufficient number of fasteners?
  2. 2
    ​Were the right type of fasteners used?
  3. 3
    ​Was commercial-grade, FDA-approved wood glue used in all of the joints?

​If you’re not the handy type and some of these terms feel foreign to you, not to worry. We’ll explain these in a bit more detail.

What Is A Sufficient Number Of Fasteners To Use When Assembling Woodenware?

​Here is one of the biggest differences between how most (fragile) woodenware is assembled v.s. how we assemble our woodenware at Bear Country Bees.

Below is a quick summary table showing the differences in number of fasteners used for different pieces of woodenware.

In this table, we compared woodenware purchased from a local country supply store with the woodenware we regularly assemble for our customers.

​​Product Type

​Country Supply Store ​

​Bear Country Bees ​

# of Fasteners​Difference

​Hive Body

​12 nails + 4 screws

​40 screws

​+24

​Super

​8 nails + 4 screws

​32 screws

​+20

​Frames

​4 small nails

​8 commercial-grade staples

​+4

As you can see, on average, our woodenware contains as much as 60% more fasteners than what you’ll typically find in the stores.

Once you realize this statistic, it’s not very hard to figure out which of these will last longer.

​Our woodenware contains as much as
​60%
​More Fasteners

How To Tell If ​The Right Type Of Fasteners Were Used

One of the biggest indicators of ​durability is whether​ screws were used to assemble your hive bodies and supers. 

For your frames, check to see if staples were used instead of small picture nails.

​If you don’t see ​these, your woodenware is ​won't be as durable as it ​could (and should) be.

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​In addition to seeing if screws are present, an easy durability test to perform is to tug at the joints of your boxes and frames to see if there is any movement.

If the joints have any wiggle to them, chances are, you either don’t have commercial-grade fasteners OR the construction was done very poorly.

Either way, avoid this like the plague!

​Why Is Wood Glue So Important?

​Wood glue is the secret sauce that provides solidity to the joints of your woodenware. We strongly recommend the use of FDA-approved, non-contact, food-grade Titebond III Wood Glue in all of the joints of your woodenware.

Note: Titebond III Wood Glue is FDA-approved for indirect food contact only. For full details, check out the full article on Titebond’s website. 

Titebond III Wood Glue

​Titebond III wood glue is FDA-Approve for indirect food contact and is our recommended product for pr​oviding maximum durability to your woodenware

​When we assemble woodenware, we only use this type of glue (followed by 60% more commercial-grade ​fasteners than the other guys use) to create an ultra-durable final product.

Wood glue is an absolute must when putting together any type of woodenware, but it’s not used in most other woodenware assembly processes.

If you are unsure of whether or not wood glue has been used, consult the user manual, website, staff, or other resources provided by the manufacturer or retailer that is selling the product.

​What You Need To Do Next

​So there you have it, the 3 Fragile Woodenware Traps + how to escape them.

From here, if you’re going to assemble your own woodenware, make sure to do it properly according to the criteria listed above.

If you decide to purchase your woodenware instead, take the time to properly assess whether or not everything has been properly constructed.

In the end, you want to stay away from fragile woodenware and make sure you have a solid, quality product that is going to hold up to several seasons of beekeeping.

​What Are Your Thoughts?

Now that you know what the 3 Fragile Woodenware traps are and how to escape from them, I’d love to hear what your thoughts are.

Do you agree with these 3 traps? Disagree? Have you ever fallen into one of these traps either recently or in the past? If so, what was your experience like?

Now that you know what to look for, what are you going to change in how you evaluate your woodenware? What other ideas do you have for making sure your woodenware is solidly built?

Leave us a comment below and share your thoughts with us! I’m sure you have some great ideas that could benefit our entire beekeeping community, so don’t be shy 🙂

​Bryce

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About the Author

Bryce is the CEO/CMO of Bear Country Bees and is in charge of marketing, strategy, and innovation. When he isn't obsessing over creating the best possible experience for backyard beekeepers, he loves reading Star Wars, visiting new places, and spending time with his family. He also sells weather and astronomy equipment and loves spending his spare time observing clouds, lightning, and storms.

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