Using a Beehive Scale – How to Weigh a Beehive


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It takes plenty of work, time, serious devotion, and downright sweat and blood to raise healthy and successful honeybee colonies. For starters, setting up your beehive will be your first and perhaps the simplest task you will ever have in beekeeping. Subsequent tasks that guarantee the health and safety of your bees will require work and dedication. You will have to work year-round to ensure the bees are free from pests, well-fed, and protected from various invaders and weather elements. The beehive has to be continuously monitored and one of the easiest ways to do it is using a beehive scale. This makes it possible for you to monitor the bees and their activity, without the need to open hives, hence saving time and eliminating stress.

Importance of Weighing Beehives

If you have never considered it earlier, then weighing beehives proves to be the easiest and safest way of checking on your bees without the need to raise an alarm from aggressive colonies. You can use so many methods to keep track of the colony. However, it is prudent to consider better ways to do it without necessarily interfering with their space.

  1. Prying open a beehive is often perceived as an attack on the colony and honeybees will not take it kindly, more, so if the beekeeper makes this a daily affair. As a matter of fact, monitoring the colony’s productivity by checking on every frame is not only stressful to the bees but also proves to be a difficult task for the beekeeper.
  2. Using a beehive scale will give the beekeeper a proper picture of how much honey and how many bees are available in the beehive. It will also help monitor the colony’s progress, giving clues on what could be happening behind those wooden walls.
  3. The weighing scale helps the beekeeper estimate the amount of available food stored inside the hive and this is important information irrespective of the season at hand. During winter the bees are unable to venture outside the hive for foraging and will rely solely on the food reserves. This is required for both sustenance and for warming up the colony. The scale will help the beekeeper gauge the number of available food reserves and ascertain if it will be necessary to provide food supplements depending on the severity of the winter.
  4. Determining the weight of the beehive during fall helps the beekeeper to ascertain the number of available honey supplies. It will guide them if they need to provide syrup to cater for the colony until the onset of spring. It is also important to know the weight of the beehive during autumn for comparison against the expected threshold for a hive during such a time.
  5. The need to regularly stay abreast with the changes in the weight of the colony is important just like any other work and should be embraced as a year-round task. You need to understand the weight of the beehive during honey flow so that you can track the amount of honey the honeybees are producing. Regularly weighing the hive can also give clues on possible swarming during peak seasons. And in case of swarming, you can weigh the hive and get an estimate of the number of bees that have left and those that have remained.

When Should You Weigh the Beehive?

Beehive Scale - Weighing a Beehive

The majority of beekeepers will weigh their hives during fall since this is the time they want to have a picture of how much honey is in the hive. This helps ascertain if the available honey will be sufficient to feed the colony through the winter months. That way, they will be able to know if it will be necessary to provide food supplements such as sugar syrup or not.

However, you do not have to stick to the practice of weighing hives only during fall. You can always weigh your hives at any other time of the year. For instance, during the peak season, you can carry out weekly checks to monitor the amount of honey being produced. You can also weigh the hive after the colony splits or swarms so that you can know the number of remaining bees.

You should weigh the beehive when it is brand new or empty, and before you introduce the bees to the hive. This will act as a guide once the bees occupy it and when honey is being produced.

The Weight of a Standard Beehive

The weight of your beehive will vary depending on a number of factors. First off, the season affects honeybee activities and will affect how heavy the beehive can be. For instance, a season of honey flow will translate to a heavier beehive, unlike the season of dearth. There will also exist some variations within the same season even during peak seasons, as food stores might change.

Secondly, the hive design will affect its weight. The Langstroth beehive being a common hive in North America will weigh about 80 lbs when empty if it has two deep boxes. As for a Langstroth hive that has 3 medium boxes, it will weigh approximately 60 lbs.

Additionally, horizontal Langstroth hives tend to be much heavier when empty and can weigh up to 150 lbs when empty. On average, your beehive should weigh as follows on average when filled:

  • Deep hive with bees, brood, and honey – 80 lbs.
  • Deep super – from 70 to 90 lbs.
  • Medium super – 40 to 50 lbs.
  • The shallow 10 frame super filled with honey – 40 lbs.

The weight of the beehive can help the beekeeper project if available food reserves will be sufficient especially when winter is close. Areas that experience mild winters do not demand much as compared to areas with unforgiving winters. If your region experiences mild winters, the honeybee colony can survive on about 40 to 50 lbs of honey reserves. Regions with colder and longer winters will survive on honey reserves of between 80 to 90 lbs.

Insights You Get from Weighing Beehives

The weight of the beehive can give the following information to the beekeeper:

  • The overall weight of the hive and its content. This can help calculate the amount of honey available and project expected earnings. The colony weight will also guide in making critical decisions such as moving hives to better locations with sufficient forage.
  • Colony’s productivity during honey flow seasons to keep track of the colony’s productivity. This will also guide the beekeeper about when to harvest honey.
  • Food reserves prior to winter and act accordingly. If necessary add more supplies as the bees go into winter.
  • Signs of possible swarming. The changes in the number of bees would suggest the bees have swarmed when there is a decline in population. Equally, an increase in number and the colony might split.

How to Weigh a Beehive

Beehive Scale - How to Weigh a Beehive

Weighing a beehive is ideally one of the best and least intrusive options for finding out the colony’s number, productivity, and health status. The beekeeper can pull this off using a number of ways, some simple and others a bit complicated. The use of modern and advanced bee scales has gained massive popularity in the recent past since it gives real-time information and can convey data remotely.

The traditional ways of weighing the beehive are also still popular among beekeepers and will mean they have to travel to the apiaries to check on the colonies. That notwithstanding, you can use the below techniques to weigh your beehive:

1. Traditional Lifting

This involves lifting an entire hive with its contents onto a scale. It is quite tasking and will require some muscles or support from other people. The beekeeper has to consider the number of boxes that need to be weighed alongside factors such as the number of bees, honey, and propolis stores, and the brood volume.

If weighing an entire hive, you can use a strong strap to tie the hive and then attach this to a bathroom scale. You can also open up the beehive and lift each of the boxes onto a reliable weighing scale. This second option can make your work much easier and guarantee more accurate results. You will also manage to do it on your own. Unfortunately, weighing each individual box forces the beekeeper to open the hive and disturb the colony.

2. High-tech Methods

There exist some sophisticated gadgets that have been made for weighing beehives. Beekeepers and scientists have not been sleeping and made it possible to weigh hives easily, accurately, in real-time, and in some instances remotely. The use of technology is common and should not be pushed aside when considering better solutions for managing honeybee colonies.

Some of these methods that are used for weighing hives will sit in the background without disturbing the bees and still grants the beekeeper insights into what is happening inside the honeybee colonies. You can check out a number of these sophisticated scales online.

Modern beehive scales make it possible for beekeepers to receive constant updates on hive temperature, motion alerts, weight, and other insights. These can be relayed in real-time to your mobile such as the smartphone. You can also use a remote collection unit to monitor these parameters using the web or mobile phone. With remote viewing, you can get real-time updates on changes in weight and that can help safe situations such as swarming, colony robbery, or predator invasion.

Some of the sophisticated features of modern beehive scales include:

  1. Connectivity of the scale to the internet and the capability to upload all data to the cloud on a real-time basis. The data is easily accessible using mobile devices and a website.
  2. The collected information is safely stored in the cloud and is accessible whenever needed.
  3. The beehives are weighed on preset frequencies to keep the beekeeper updated at all times.
  4. The scales provide accurate data without the need to disturb bees. This ensures the bees are never stressed and their productivity is not affected.
  5. A solar-powered battery keeps the device working seamlessly. The battery is also durable and will guarantee years of service.
  6. High-quality gadget made of high-quality material and components that are snow and rain resistant.

You can also get other modern gadgets that provide updates on weight and temperature only. They are not sophisticated and lack special features such as remote access to data. The available solutions in the market are limited presently but the numbers are expected to increase with time.

3. Tilting

This is an ingenious solution for measuring the weight of beehives. It allows the beekeeper to get an almost accurate measure of the beehive. Hives are heavy and can go up to 300 pounds and by tilting, you can avoid the stress involved with handling the whole load.

A spring bathroom scale can help with weighing hives by tilting. A strong one that can handle a lot of weight will be sufficient. You should insert the scale underneath the beehive and carefully tilt the hive to get a measurement. Once done, shift to the other side and repeat the process. Capture the two weights and do a total to get the overall weight of the beehive.

The figure you get through tilting will give an almost accurate measure of the weight of the beehive. Either side of a beehive should be measured and added since the content on either side of a beehive vary and will never be equal.

A luggage scale can also help when weighing hives by tilting. You can attach a screw on both sides of the beehive and then use the scale to weigh both sides by tilting. You can then add the two weights to get the overall weight of the beehive.

Portable Hive Scales

Some of the desirable features of a beehive weighing scale are portability. In addition, the scale should resist weather in all seasons, give accurate measurements, and handle the maximum weight of hives. Some of the portable beehive scales available in the market presently include:       

1. Pry Scale

This portable beehive scale is simplistic in design and is a low-tech option that anyone can use. It is designed to make your work much easier, even when handling a heavy beehive.

The pry scale derives its name from the manner in which it is used. To use it, you pry one side of the scale off the beehive’s bottom board, and will require half the effort you would use to pry an entire hive. The reading for one side of the hive is captured and then multiplied by two to get an approximate measure of the total weight of the beehive.

2. Bee Weigh

This portable beehive scale only requires the force you would need to lift the hive just a few meters to get a reading. It is a scale that can be folded and is portable.

You need not worry about the issue of weather elements when you invest in any of these low-budget weighing scales for beehives.

3. Hivetronics

Hivetronics is a lightweight beehive scale that is available for commercial use. It weighs barely 11 lbs and works perfectly without disturbance to the honeybees.

The scale is designed for the beekeeper that has several hives and needs a scale that can get the job done within the fastest time possible. It is easy to use and gives accurate results. The scale is however highly-priced when compared to others but definitely worth the price.

4. Broodminder

Broodminder is a beehive scale designed for remote monitoring. The scale is minimalistic and will be placed underneath the hive, just above the hive stand.

This scale occupies a small space and will not obstruct the bottom board. It comes with a battery that runs for about six months.

Making a Diy Beehive Scale

You can build an accurate electronic beehive scale that can weigh your beehives easily, more accurately, and within a manageable budget. The design of the DIY beehive scale allows you to lift one side of the hive using 3 fingers or tongues. Two fingers on the outer side will push the hive downwards as the middle finger lifts the hive. The electronic luggage scale is used for measuring the force used to separate the center tongue from the outside tongue.

You will need the following:

Step 1 – The Luggage Scale

A simple electronic luggage scale that can be purchased online or in your local stores will do the job. This is the type of scale that are hand-held with the luggage attached to it. You lift the luggage using the scale and it makes a beeping sound and the value on the scale stops changing. You can then take note of the reading.

The luggage scale can measure up to 125 lbs which tend to be substantially lower than what you expect from the majority of beehives. But since the weight of the hive is measured only from one side, it means you have measured half of the hive’s weight. The accuracy of the scale then translates to about 250 lbs.

Step 2 – Required Hardware

You will need a number of components such as bolts, screws, washers, 1 or 2 tee hinges, a pulley, and a steel mending plate.

For the pulley, the black hanger is removed and the axle is drilled out. The pulley assembly will comprise 2 corner braces of about 2 and a half inches, a clevis pin axle of a quarter inch, a nylon spacer of one inch cut into two half-inch pieces and a nylon pulley.

Item Description Average Price Per Unit ($) Average Total Price ($)
3 6-inch steel mending plate or bar that will work as a station and movable tongues 1.58 4.74
1 2 and half-inch utility nylon pulley. The pulley is delivered mounted on a hanger. This is to be removed by pulling the rivet that keeps the axle in place. 2.74 2.74
2 2.5 by 1.5 corner brace. Works as pillow blocks for holding the pulley. 3.77 7.45
2 ft. 1/16 inch wire cable (uncoated) 0.31 0.61
2 1/16 inch ferrules. Stop for the connection cable 1.48 2.96
2 4 inches super heavy tee hinge to used as an anchor to the middle wooden finger 2.47 4.94
2 1.5 inches corner brace for attachment to pry the handle 2.98 5.96
1 ¾ inches by 5 inches by 16 inches scrap plywood wood and the handle 0 0
1 nylon spacer, 1 inch long, 0.5 inch OD, .257 inch ID, cut this into half to have 2 half inch pieces, spacers on both sides of the pulley 0.31 0.31
1 Clevis pin, ¼ inches by 1 inch in length, axle for pulley 1.51 1.51
1 The electronic luggage scale 16 16
    Total $47.22

Step 3 – Wooden Paddle and Lever

Prepare an outline of the paddle on ¾ inch plywood, maple, or any tough wood. Make the lever that will be used to pull the luggage scale and drill holes.

Prepare the center tongue using a band saw for cutting long cuts and a jigsaw to join the two cuts. Complete by sanding and using suitable varnish.

Step 4 – Assembling the Parts and Attaching the Lifting Cable

Assembling the parts is easy and quick. The corner braces will hold the luggage scale to the lever. Use long screws to hold the pulley assembly in place, that is, to the paddle and also the mending plates located on the bottom.

A 1/16-inch wire cable will attach the lifting tongue to the scale and should have ferrules on both ends to act as a stop for lifting the tongue.

A slot stick for inserting the pry scale can be created on the bottom board or the deep body for easy access and use.

Step 5 – Test the Scale

Put the completed scale into a test. You can use an empty hive or any suitable object for the test.

Conclusion

A beehive scale is an important tool in beekeeping. With its use, you will be able to find out the rate of honey consumption by the colony during nectar shortage, provide information about swarming, suggest peak foraging conditions, and give clues about the end of nectar flow. You need the scale to monitor and collect data from your hives, prepare for winter, and have up-to-date information about the honeybee colony.



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