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Beekeepers can buy or make beehives for their beekeeping operations. You should use the best type of wood for making beehives so that the beehives work for both you and your honeybee colonies. There are many types of wood that are accessible by beekeepers. Choosing the best one for use in making beehives does not have to be difficult for you. In this article, we explore the factors you should consider and give you an in-depth look at different types of woods. It looks at the advantages and disadvantages of popular wood types to give you the best understanding of the types of wood. Use it to inform your choice of the best type of wood that is suitable for making beehives for your use.
Factors to Consider Choosing Wood for Making Beehives
Wood for making beehives should have a very specific set of characteristics. It is not every wood type that is suitable. There are therefore factors that you should consider when choosing the type of wood to use to make beehives. Make sure that the wood you use satisfies most, if not all, of these factors of consideration. If it does, you will have beehives that work well for your bees and for the beekeeper too.
In a beekeeping operation, expenses need close monitoring. Aim to keep these expenses as low as you can. Durability is an important factor to consider when choosing the best type of wood for making beehives. Wood is an organic material and rots. Some types of wood can withstand exposure to weathering elements better than others. You should therefore go for wood types that last longest, especially where they are used outdoors. The life of wood depends on the natural properties of the wood and your preservation activities.
Types of wood that have natural antimicrobial compounds resist deterioration over time better than those that do not have antimicrobial compounds. If these compounds do not affect honeybees, go for the wood types that contain them. It makes the work of preserving the wood easy for you.
Where wood does not have natural preservative compounds, you may apply artificial preservatives to it. Such preservatives increase the life of the wood. Artificial preservatives you use on wood that is for making beehives should not affect the acceptability of the wood by honey bees. Additionally, such preservatives should not be harmful in case they get into beehive products. You may apply the preservatives on one side of the beehive wood that is exposed to weathering elements.
Honeybees are very selective of types of wood. They show a clear preference for some types of wood over others. Natural hollows in which honeybees make their habitat are in the types of wood that bees love most. When choosing wood to use to make beehives, use only the type of wood that bees accept. If you use other types of wood, you might have difficulties or fail in getting bees to live in your beehives.
Commonly, natural odors in wood are the major deterrent to acceptance by bees. Other times, chemical compounds such as toxins in wood are what make the wood unacceptable to bees. All the types of wood that we discuss in this article are acceptable to bees. It is best to use types of wood that are easily accepted by honeybees that try to force acceptance for your beehive. You may have the bees accepting a wood type that they would not use for their habitat naturally and then later have challenges such as a high rate of colonies absconding from the beehives.
3. Ease of Working with the Wood
Making beehives is a procedural process that makes use of many tools and equipment. Additionally, the wood material you are using in making the beehives is valuable. The wood should be easy to work with so that you get through the process quickly and with minimal overhead costs. Wood types that are easy to work with are characterized by being not too hard, not splitting easily, and not warping after the construction of your beehive.
If the wood type you use to make beehives is too hard, it causes your tools and equipment to get blunt, break or go to waste. Nails get bent as you drive them into the wood and screws can break when the wood is too hard. Cutting the wood to the required sizes is also difficult. Brittle wood that splits easily causes you to have a lot of wastage that drives up your costs. Equally problematic is wood that warps after you have used it to make a beehive. It renders the beehive useless for its intended purpose and therefore a loss for your beekeeping operation.
Commonly, hardwoods are difficult to work with. This is because hardwoods are dense and resist penetration by tools, bits, and nails. Equally difficult to work with are types of wood that have knots, whorls, and uneven grain.
Save yourself time and money by working with the type of wood that you can easily acquire. In your locality, one or more types of wood will be readily available while others will be difficult to get. Among the types of wood that are readily available, go for the one that meets the other criteria for suitability and use it. It saves you the time you would have spent traveling long distances or waiting for delivery of wood from far away.
- This also translates into a reduced cost of acquiring the wood since it is already available near you. You are able to get the wood quickly, often at cheaper prices, and are able to start making beehives sooner.
- Most importantly, getting wood to replace that which gets damaged or spoilt is easy and fast when you are using locally available types of wood
In the best-case scenario, you use wood that you harvest from your own land so you are saved the cost of buying the wood. You also know the source and history of the wood, so you are sure it is not harboring pests, parasites, or microbes that may later affect honeybee colonies living in the beehives you make using the wood.
5. Weight of the Wood
Consider the weight of wood that you use to make beehives before settling on the final type of wood. Beehives with honeybees in them require handling and manipulation such as when carrying out inspections and harvesting beehive products. Modular beehives such as Warre hives and Langstroth beehives make handling easier, because they can be handled in sections instead of as a whole beehive. Even then, boxes of these modular beehives can be heavy when they contain honey or bees in them.
Using a type of wood that is too dense and heavy causes the beehive to be difficult to lift and carry. It can cause you unnecessary health problems due to straining your muscles. It is therefore advisable that you use wood that is light to make your beehives. Light wood adds little weight to the total that you lift and carry during work in your beekeeping operation. This allows for the engagement of both the young and elderly in beekeeping without putting their health at risk or having to exempt them from some activities.
6. Structure and Aesthetics
Pieces of wood are cut from tree stems and large tree limbs. The wood may contain features such as knots and twists in the grain of the wood. Structural features such as these are important to consider when selecting wood pieces to use for making beehives. Having knots in wood is not good for woodworking. The knots are hard and not easy to cut through, drill, or drive nails into. The knot can also come off the wood if it is at an edge of a cut piece of wood. Just like knots, uneven wood grain is not good for the wood you use to make beehives. The uneven grain in the wood causes splits to ruin pieces of wood.
The look and feel of wood for beehives is equally important. Your beehives should be pleasant to look at. Most often, the aesthetics of wood are a result of rich wood color, parallel wood grain, and having few knots in the wood.
Major Types of Wood for Making Beehives
There are very many types of wood that you can use to make beehives. Some are very suitable while others are not very good. Below is a curated list of the best and most popular types of wood for making beehives with the characteristics, advantages, and weaknesses of each type of wood.
This is arguably the most popular and best type of wood for making beehives. Pine is easily available in any region of the USA you live in. Even across the world, getting some pinewood is not difficult. This ease of availability makes pinewood very low-priced. It is important that we mention pinewood is easy to work with. It also meets other considerations for wood to use in making beehives, such as weight and aesthetics. Honeybees accept pinewood readily so you are sure that the beehive you make using this type of wood will work.
Pinewood comes in several grades. A clear grade is best for making beehives. It does not have many knots and blemishes in it. Additionally, its grain is straight and tight. This wood does not split easily. It is preferred in making beehives, unlike the knotty grades that are cheaper but more difficult to work with. Knotty grades of pinewood require you to buy more of the wood material so that you may use alternate pieces of wood if the one you have selected has a knot in the wrong place. One upside of knotty grades of pinewood, is that they give your finished beehive a pleasant rustic look.
Durability is a major challenge for pinewood. For the long life of pinewood, some preservation is required. Painting the wood on the outer surfaces of your pinewood beehive is acceptable. Dipping the wood in wax is also a great method to preserve the wood. You may also take additional measures to minimize the contact of your pinewood beehive and weather elements.
Cypress is a beautiful type of wood for making beehives. Honeybees accept it easily when it is used to make a beehive. Its structure makes cypress a reliable type of wood to use for making beehives. It has a tight and straight grain and is not too hard. Cypress does not split easily, so not much of it will go to waste. Honeybees accept cypress wood easily. The wood makes aesthetically pleasing beehives that last for many years.
This type of wood is naturally durable when it comes from old-growth cypress. It contains some oil in its sap that works as a natural preservative. The sap from old-growth cypress also repels insects as well as microbes including bacteria and fungi. Considering these properties, cypress is a great type of wood for making beehives if you can get enough of the wood. It does not grow well in areas far outside the tropical regions, so it is not readily available in the northern states of the USA. When using new-growth cypress wood to make beehives, use some preservatives for the long life of your beehives.
Cypress trees grow slowly. As such, getting cypress wood is not as easy as other fast-growing tree types such as pine. Cypress wood is therefore often priced higher than other types of wood. The wood is also a little heavier than other wood types, so it will present problems working with the beehive you make using this type of wood.
Cedar is a sweet-smelling type of wood. Honeybees love it and will quickly make a home in a beehive made using cedarwood. The wood is also aesthetically pleasing. It does not come cheap but saves you costs in other areas such as in preservation. Cedar contains natural oils in its sap that preserve it and protect the wood from insects. You are free to paint the wood for preservation, but this is not compulsory. Additionally, the oils in the sap prevent the wood from warping. Cedar that is left untreated and unpreserved fades in color to a beautiful light gray.
There are many varieties of cedarwood available in the USA and across the world. In the USA, a variety called Western Red Cedar is the most widely and readily available. Cedarwood is often priced a little higher than pinewood. It is not too heavy, so handling beehives made using this wood type is easy. Cedar trees grow faster than cypress trees and are therefore less dense. They show less grain concentration per inch but have a long life when you use cedarwood to make beehives.
Cedarwood is strong and easy to work with. It does not put up too much resistance to nails, bits of tools and equipment, or blades. Cutting through cedarwood is easy with the proper tools and equipment for modern woodworking. It does not split easily, so there is little wastage of wood material when you use this type of wood for making beehives.
4. Spruce and Fir
Spruce and Fir are conifer trees. They are classified together in lumberyards. Both types of trees have strong wood that works well in making beehives. They are especially suitable for making beehive components such as beehive frames or top bars. Honeybees accept the wood without a fuss. You may need to use some preservation method on the outer surfaces of your beehive if you use spruce or fir to make the beehive. These two types of wood are not expensive. You have an easy time working with them and there is little wastage of the wood material.
Firwood is very stable and does not warp easily. It is also very resistant to weathering because it is non-porous. Wood from fir trees has tight grain lines that are close to each other. It expands when exposed to moisture and shrinks when it dries out. Even with the expansion and shrinkage, fir wood always gets back to its original shape. These properties make it a favorite wood for many beekeepers making beehives.
5. Black Lotus
Black lotus trees grow quickly and give stable wood. It does not split easily and lasts for long even in outdoor use. This makes black lotus wood a suitable type of wood for making beehives. Wood from black lotus trees is hard. You, therefore, need to work with it when it is wet for easy cutting, drilling, and nailing. If you use the wood when it is dry, you use up more nails and screws as they get bent more often. You also end up with your tools getting blunt more often and thereby requiring you to sharpen them severally.
This type of wood is very resistant to rot. It is prized when used to make beehives. Flavonoid compounds in the wood help it resist the effects of exposure to water and even soil. The beehives that you make using this type of wood are nice to look at. Honeybees take to the wood quite well.
It is important to bear in mind that black lotus wood has an unpleasant smell when wet. Once you have made beehives with the wood, it is best that you allow them time to dry before installing a colony in the beehives.
Unfortunately, black lotus wood is heavy. Using it to make beehives may therefore not be the best option due to weight considerations if you have access to other types of suitable and lighter wood. This heaviness of the wood, its long life, and a beautiful natural finish make black lotus wood beehives great as gift items to beekeepers. Black lotus wood beehives are also great as centerpiece beehives in demonstration apiaries and other high visibility functions of beehives.
Beehive Durability and Preservation
Beehives you make will often be outdoors in most beekeeping operations. You need to take steps to ensure they last for many years to lower replacement and repair costs. Beekeepers use various methods and materials to preserve their beehives and increase their lifespans. These methods depend on the behavior of bees, suitability and availability.
The use of chemical preservatives for wood is common in many parts of the USA. It is easy to carry out and preserves wood for many years. Chemical preservatives, however, can cause problems to bees and cause the chemicals to be in beehive products. Chemicals in beehive products lower the quality and safety of the products. This method of preservation is therefore not suitable at all for use with beehives. Modern preservative chemicals have little or no Cadmium, Arsenic, and other poisonous elements, but they still have an awful smell that bees do not like.
Painting the outer surfaces of beehives is one easy method of preserving beehives. This is best when you do it by individual beehive boxes. Use paint that does not contain any chemicals that can harm honeybees. Water-based paints are great, especially those that are water-proof. Painting beehives enables easy identification and recognition of your beehives. It also allows for marking the beehives as an anti-theft and apiary management feature.
Another method you are free to use to preserve beehives is waxing them. This involves applying wax to the wood. You may apply cold wax to the wood by rubbing it onto the wood, or dip wood in hot wax. A tub of hot wax is best so that you dip the wood into it and allow the wood to soak up the wax. Take care when working with hot wax not to cause a fire.
Making beehives is a pleasurable and satisfying activity for beekeepers. You can make beehives for your use or for sale. Selling off beehives that you have made contributes to increased incomes in your beekeeping operation. Beehives you make should be easy to work with and durable. They should also be readily accepted by honeybees.
Wood that you use to make the beehives is a major determinant of how good the beehives are and if they will be accepted by honeybees. This article gives you great information for when you are choosing the best type of wood for making beehives. Use it to make informed choices and make beehives that work well in beekeeping.