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.
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.
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:
After many discussions with our beekeepers over the years, we’ve narrowed down to these 3 keys:
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?
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
If you’re doing your own assembly:
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
Country Supply Store
Bear Country Bees
# of FastenersDifference
12 nails + 4 screws
8 nails + 4 screws
4 small nails
8 commercial-grade staples
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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 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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