Economic Modification of Langstroth to AZ-Style Beehives to Enable Aging or Physically Limited Beekeepers to Begin/Continue Beekeeping and Improve Hive Care, Colony Health, and Production

Project Overview

FNC18-1142
Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2018: $14,986.00
Projected End Date: 12/01/2020
Grant Recipient: Saum's Mini-Farm and Apiary
Region: North Central
State: Ohio
Project Coordinator:
Jeanne Saum
Saum's Mini-Farm and Apiary

Information Products

Commodities

  • Animals: bees
  • Animal Products: honey

Practices

  • Animal Production: animal protection and health
  • Crop Production: beekeeping
  • Education and Training: farmer to farmer
  • Farm Business Management: sustainability of beekeeping practice for older beekeepers or those physically limited.
  • Sustainable Communities: analysis of personal/family life, ethnic differences/cultural and demographic change, quality of life, sustainability measures, opportunity for physically handicapped to participate in beekeeping and for older, physically limited beekeepers to continue their practice

    Summary:

    We will positively impact the quality of life and livelihood of beekeepers with physical limitations due to health or aging, by modifying Langstroth hives into AZ-style hives, for under $90. These hives make beekeeping tasks easier to perform and less weather dependent, allowing persons with physical limitations to continue beekeeping. Our modification will positively impact the economics of beekeeping by providing a way for beekeepers to use equipment they already have to transition to AZ-style hives instead of purchasing new AZ style hives at $450 each. We will collect data to investigate whether the ease of use of these hives improve colony survival and increases honey production, resulting in a positive economic impact. We will keep inspection records to see if the AZ style hives will change beekeepers’ practices into more ecologically sound management. Our theory is that the AZ-style, sheltered hives will increase the frequency of hive inspection and IPM because these tasks will be physically easier and not weather dependent. They can be done inside a cooled or heated structure, with little colony interruption, and less demanding physical labor. Increased care should result in healthier bees with better survival rates, showing a positive ecological impact.

    1st year Report – March 2018 – February 2019

    The purpose of this grant is to convert Langstroth-style bee hives to AZ-style hives to reduce the physicality of beekeeping for aging and/or handicapped beekeepers. Our belief is that these hives will help people sustain their beekeeping practice without costly alternative equipment and help improve: accessibility; ease of use; frequency of inspections; IPM; colony survival; and honey production. These hives will also open up the beekeeping field to those with physical limitations, as they allow for sitting while working with the bees and eliminate the need for heavy lifting.  

    We started working on our SARE Grant project, in March of 2018. Steve and Jeannie Saum took responsibility for procuring the needed hardware and lumber for building the first 10 LA-AZY (Langstroth Adapted to AZ style) Hives, as well as ordering the new Langstroth parts needed for the hives we would build for our handicapped new beekeeper. We began building the LA-AZY Hives in April 2018.

    We had hoped to get the modified hives finished, into their shelters and the bees moved during this past spring-summer-fall bee season, but our schedule and the weather prevented us from reaching this goal. The building of the hives and the shelter took much longer than we expected. The amount of rainy days we had in late 2018 greatly impacted our work. 

    Also, as we filled the LA-AZY Hives with frames, we realized we had to do some modifications. The frames fit too snugly and there were places where correct bee space was lacking. We brainstormed some fixes and came up with a plan and the items we needed to modify. This involved taking them apart and adding more spacing with lath in between the boxes.

    During the fall and winter, October 2018  – February 2019, when weather has permitted, and working around our business schedule, we have almost completed the Saum bee shelter. The Dotsons have decided to use an existing building on their property to house the new hives. The Kelletts will either put theirs in a hoop house on their new property or in a small roofed shelter that is yet to be built.

    The extra time it has taken to build the components we needed has put us behind by a season, as we had hoped to have two seasons to conduct action research caring for the bees in these new hives by Feb. 2020. We will begin our beekeeping in these new hives this spring of 2019 and will be able to report on this one season.  We will want to continue the field research into the spring-summer-fall of 2020 and amend our report after this additional research.

    During the months of February – April 2020 we will move the honey extractor into the shelter, tow the trailer into place on our property, and add steps into the shelter. We will also modify the other 6 hives for the Dotsons and Kellers. The Dotson hives will be placed in a small garage for shelter this spring, with a tube entrance through the wall. The Keller’s hives may be placed in a hoop house or we will build a small roof/shelter for them outside.

    As soon as the weather warms up and the bees break their winter cluster, we will move the bees into the LA-AZY Hives. Our plan is to strap the Langstroth hives together after dark and using a dolly, wheel them into the shelter.  We will move the frames, one at a time, into the new hives, at night. This process will be repeated at the Dotson’s apiary as well. We will get the Keller’s hives started with splits as the season continues.

    Our plans for the second year of the grant are to document the care and progress of our bee colonies in these newly designed hives, host field days later in the season to share our project with other beekeepers, finalize the hive plans, and publish them in hard copy and online.  We will seek places to present our project throughout the beekeeping community, and continue to share our progress on social media platforms. Next fall, at our state conference, we will have a drawing for five “kits” and plans for building these hives. We documented our progress on this project at https://www.facebook.com/LAAZYhive/?ref=bookmarks .

    Year 2 Report – March 2019 -February 2020

    Health issues of the two couples working on this grant prevented us from making much progress on the grant project during this past year.  The handicapped beekeeper and spouse participating with us spent many months out of town due to their growing business.

    We applied for and were granted an extension that will cover this year’s bee season so we can keep bees in the newly designed LAAZY Hives and collect data.  The present quarantine is preventing us from carrying out presentations and a Field Day to share our project.  We are pursuing other ways to disseminate information including; ZOOM meetings, Face Book, Website, emails, and online newsletters. 

     

    FINAL REPORT SUMMARY

    1)The problem that our project set out to address is the physicality required in traditional beekeeping in Langstroth hives and the difficulty it poses for aging, physically limited beekeepers, or prospective beekeepers.  We learned about the Slovenian AZ- style hives and thought they might be the answer to this issue. The design of the AZ hives takes away the physical demands of beekeeping- standing, lifting, bending, carrying heavy boxes, and suffering in high heat and humidity.  However, replacing one’s existing hive equipment with AZ- style hives is cost prohibitive.   We set out to find an economical way to modify Langstroth hive components that beekeepers already have, into Slovenian AZ-style beehives with the use of common hand power tools that most people have.  We wanted this to be doable by the average person with only basic wood working skills.

    2) We educated ourselves on the features and design of the AZ-style hives and how beekeeping is done in them.  We visited a beekeeper who has several different Slovenian and American- made AZ hives, mounted in a shelter. We examined AZ hives made in the US (costing over $450 each) and considered what features were required and which ones could be modified or eliminated.  We created a design that would allow beekeeping in the Slovenian way – sitting in a cool shelter, opening hives from the back, one box at a time.  Beekeeping in this type of hive does have differences that we had not thought of, so we have learned by doing and by consulting with more experienced AZ-hivers, how to adjust our beekeeping practice.  We had to make several revisions to our design as we started using them, to solve various issues such as bees escaping, lack of adequate bee space, and different hive spacers needed.

    Other lessons learned:

    • Inspections are not as easy to do as we thought.
    • The need for different tools.
    • The bees put beeswax and propolis everywhere – not always on the frames!
    • Beeswax built on top of frames was a problem, not propolis on the bottom of the frames as we had been told.
    • We learned it is better to build and test one prototype and revise, revise, revise, before building many!
    • Life problems get in the way of plans!

    3) We designed, built, revised, and used AZ style hives from Langstroth hive components that most beekeepers already have, for less than $80 in lumber and hardware (which was less than our $90 budget projection) and using common hand power tools most people have. We demonstrated that beekeeping is possible using the AZ style hives, for people with limited mobility, health issues, or physical handicaps.

    4) Our own unexpected health issues, affecting three of the four grant participants (additional back treatments; broken ankle requiring surgery and no weight bearing for 3 months; 4 eye surgeries; and a terrible case of shingles delayed our project and brought us right up to the Pandemic. The Coronoavirus quarantine and restrictions have impacted our ability to work with others directly on trying this new way of beekeeping. 

    Beekeeping is hard to learn virtually.  We have used social media, YouTube, and Zoom to share with others, but once we can resume face to face contact, we will be more successful in sharing this way of beekeeping with others. We have given out 20 hive building kits and building instructions to beekeepers with physical limitations,  interested in building and trying these hives. Additionally, we have published our plans online and advertised on several social media sites. In addition, we will present a PowerPoint of  our project  as part of  Ohio State Beekeepers Association’s 2021 Live  Webinar Training Series, offered via ZOOM on the second and fourth Sunday evenings at 7:00 pm.  (Date TBA at ohiostatebeekeepers.org)

    This project has allowed participant and grant manger, Jeannie Saum, to participate in beekeeping again, after not being able to for 3 years.  Failed back surgeries, chronic pain and limited ability to stand and walk, had prevented her from performing most beekeeping tasks. All she could do was sit in a lawn chair and take notes of the inspections her husband, Steve, was doing.  With our new hive design (and an old golf cart to get out to the hive shelter), she can now go out and inspect and care for the bees, herself.

    We have met our goals with some modifications due to the quarantine restrictions. We will continue to collect data of hive inspections and work with interested beekeepers, even after the grant program is concluded.  

     

    Project objectives:

    1. Finalize design of hive modification.
    2. Modify hives into AZ-style hives, place in shelters.
    3. Enlist two handicapped or older beekeepers to test use of modified hives. Participants will collect data on: ease of use, accessibility, frequency of inspections, pest checks, pest infestation, treatments, time spent on hive care, IPM, feeding, colony survival, swarm and absconding rates, honey production.
    4. Host Field Day to demonstrate AZ-style hive design and project.
    5. Present design and results at beekeeping meetings/conferences, publish online.
    6. Raffle off 5 modification kits to beekeepers with physical limitations.
    7. Publish plans for modification, present project findings.

    1st year Project Report – March 2018-February 2019

    During the months of April and May, once the weather warmed up enough for outside work, we held several ork days to build the  LA-AZY Hives. Present were Steve and Jeannie Saum, Beekeepers;  Peter and Laurie Dotson, beekeepers and partners in the project; and Brian and Emily Kellett, new beekeepers (Brian is wheelchair bound). We set up an assembly line system,with each of us doing a part of the build process.  We also had help from some friends and family members over the course of the building process

    Covering objectives 1 and 2 from above we started with building  the hive components:

    • cutting the ends off hive boxes to be the doors,

     

    • cutting a “window”hole in each door, 

     

    • Stapling screen over the opening,

     

    • drilling hole for and placing steel rods across the bottom of the boxes to support the frames,

     

    • cutting slots in inner covers,  

     

    • cutting the 1 x 4 support lumber that would hold the boxes together,

     

    • assembling the stacks of 4 boxes and spacers, securing  them with the 1 x 4 uprights,

     

    • building a large “back door” that covers the stack of  boxes on the back,

     

    • adding a lid and hardware closures.  

     

    • Putting together frames for our new beekeepers and adding them to their boxes.

    After the hive building process was finished, we met for some painting days. We painted the outside of the hives and door, to seal the wood, using “Oops Paint” (mis-tints).  

    In May, we found an old trailer to use for the Saum’s beehive shelter. Steve Saum started working on gutting the interior of the trailer to prepare it for use as the bee shelter. Jeannie Saum painted scenes on their hive fronts to mirror the painting of folk art on the AZ hives in Slovenia.

    From June to September, Steve Saum worked mostly independently on re-purposing the trailer, since Jeannie Saum’s multiple back surgeries have left her limited in what she can do (one reason for this project). He did enlist son, Nathan to help on occasion. He carried out the following tasks:

    • gutting the interior of the trailer
    • Replacing the floor
    • framing the exterior 
    • Adding T-111 wood to the exterior and trim to give it “curb appeal” for the neighbors’ sake
    • Added a metal roof with overhang that protects the front of the hives mounted in the wall.
    • Jeannie Saum cut and painted the trim for the exterior, since she could do these tasks sitting down!
    • Before the weather turned too cold to work outside, we were able to get the exterior and interior painted and the header beam for the cut-out wall up.

     

    We had hoped to get the modified hives finished, into their shelters and the bees moved over during this past spring-summer-fall bee season, but our schedule and the weather prevented us from reaching this goal.  The building of the hives and the shelter took much longer than we expected. The amount of rainy days we had in late 2018 greatly  impacted our work. This had put us behind by a season, as we had hoped to have 2 seasons to conduct action research caring for the bees in these new hives by Feb. 2020. 

    Also, as we filled the LA-AZY Hives with frames, we realized we had to do some modifications. The frames fit too snugly and there were places where correct bee space was lacking. We brainstormed some fixes and came up with a plan and the items we needed to modify. This involved taking them apart and adding more spacing in between the boxes.

    During the fall and winter, October – February, when weather has permitted, and working around our business schedule, we have almost completed the Saum bee shelter.  The Dotsons have decide to use an existing building on their property to house the new hives. The Kelletts will put theirs in a hoop house on their new property or in a small roofed shelter that is yet to be built.

    The extra time it has taken to build the components we need has put us behind by a season, as we had hoped to have 2 seasons to conduct action research caring for the bees in these new hives by Feb. 2020. We will begin our beekeeping in these new hives this spring of 2019 and will be able to report on this one season.  We will want to continue the field research into the spring-summer-fall of 2020 and amend our report after this additional research.  

    We have done the following to prepare the bee shelter to house our bees this spring:

    The hives sit on a shelf. Underneath is storage where we have plastic tubs to hold extra frames with wax, so wax moths won’t get into them. All equipment is in the Bee Shelter – tools, jackets, Honey extractor, work tables, stools, sink and AC.

    During the first week of May 2019, we moved the Bee Shelter into its place on our property.

     

     

    Later that week, we installed a swarm that Steve Saum and Laurie Dotson caught at the local golf course.  This ended up being more than we bargained for and different than installing a swarm in a Langstroth hive. A weather front was moving in, it was late in the day and the bees were agitated. I ended up with about 10 stings – due to my back pain and movement issues plus being in a closed shelter, I couldn’t get away!  We wish we had watched the You Tube video we found, later – before we attempted this install! There WAS an easier way!

    In May and June, we added a nuc we were given by a friend into a LAAZY Hive. We made a split of the 8 -frame hive in the apiary.  We had wanted to move the entire hive into a LAAZY hive but realized that the 8-frame hive had medium boxes and frames on it. We needed deep frames for the bottom two boxes of the LAAZY HIVES. We moved over a split, using the deep frames in the 8-frame hive and a swarm cell from the nuc we were given. We had to leave the 8 – frame hive in the apiary, until the brood hatches in the 8 – frame boxes.

    Jeannie was excited to be able to go out and feed the bees by herself. She could ride her golf cart out to the Bee Shelter, climb in, sit on a rolling chair and open the hives to feed. This was the first time she was able to do beekeeping tasks since her second back surgery three years earlier!

    We were all ready to spend the summer tending to our bees and getting the Dotson’s shelter built and LAAZY Hives installed, when Jeannie fell and triple fractured her ankle, requiring surgery, two months of no weight bearing on the foot, and three subsequent months of slowly walking on it again and doing physical therapy. I the meantime, Peter Dotson came down with a terrible case of very painful Shingles that lasted two months and prevented him from being able to do anything, including sleep!  These medical issues resulted in a half of our grant activities, as spouses were tied up taking care of the invalids and all the household chores and responsibilities.  It was at this time that we submitted a request for an extension that would last through the bee season of 2020. 

    Despite our neglect, the bees did well in their new homes. We treated for mites in the fall and fed them 2:1 syrup.  They had a box of honey stores going into winter. Two strong hives and one weak one.

    In September, the Saum’s drove to Fremont Ohio to see the Bee shelter and AZ hives of Evelyn Lepard, an AZ hive beekeeper Jeannie had met in an online Facebook group for AZ Hivers. They spent an afternoon getting a tour of her Bee House, examining three different companies AZ style hives in her shelter and discussing beekeeping how-to’s in these hives. They got some great ideas for tools to use and ways to arrange the Bee Shelter. 

    Two of the three hives at the Saums’ made it through winter. Interestingly, Laurie Dotson took very good care of her bees in Langstroth hives. Due to the weather she unfortunately lost five out of six hives.

    In January – March of 2020, we modified the six hives for the Dotsons and Kelleys, put spacers in to add bee space and replaced the screen doors that were letting bees out. We also built 4 swarm traps and pollen-feeder lures. In April these traps have been put out in undeveloped areas in an attempt to catch feral swarms. 

    A veteran beekeeper is mentoring our bee club on catching feral swarms.  Here in Ohio, there have been areas found where the feral bees have naturally developed varroa mite-chewing behaviors, which is desirable, as the bees are killing mites without pesticides. We want the genetics of these bees in our apiary gene pools.  We will check on these swarm traps every two weeks, and install any swarms we catch, in our LAAZY hives. 

    This April, 2020, we will be putting up a shelter for the Dotsons’ LAAZY Hives and installing their hives and bees.  We will also install the Kellets’ hive and bees in a glass greenhouse they built for their plant business (task 3).

    During the summer of 2020, we will be tending our bees in the LAAZY Hive and keeping documentation.  We have already found that use of a smoker is still necessary and that propolis build up is happening ABOVE the frames instead of below, requiring a longer tool to break frames free. A long-bladed machete is now our hive tool of choice.

    We had planned to do a talk on these hives for a beekeeping club in June, but due to the COVID – 19 ban on gathering, we aren’t sure.  We have offered to do the presentation via Zoom, as someone in the Ohio State Beekeepers Association (OSBA) has offered to host large zoom meetings on his super computer (task 5). We are waiting to hear if the club wants to do this type of meeting. 

    Tasks 4-6 will be carried out eventually, but with the quarantine, we don’t know when.  We had planned to have a drawing for hive conversion kits at a bee conference, but there probably won’t be one in the near future. We know a few elderly beekeepers – from our local bee club and our nuc/queen provider -who might be interested in trying these hives. We could give a few kits to these gentlemen.  We might advertise a distance drawing through the Ohio State Beekeepers Newsletter and disseminate the kits in this manner (Task 6).

    The lack of meetings and conferences will impact our ability to share our project in person, but it appears that OSBA will be offering Zoom Conferences during this time, so that could be a way for us to share our LAAZY Hive SARE Project.  We have much interest from other beekeepers in coming to a Field Day to show our LAAZY Hives.(Task 4) This will have to wait until the quarantine is lifted or be done as a virtual Field Day.

     

     

     

     

     

    Task 7 is to publish our  LAAZY Hive plans. The plans are almost ready for publishing.  We just want to be able to include any beekeeping tips we might learn this season, along with the plans, measurements and how-to’s. Our target date for publishing the plans is Sept. 2020.  These will be disseminated through the OSBA Newsletter, our Face Book pages, emails, and at any meetings or conferences that might be eventually permitted. Update: View the published plans here.

     

    FINAL REPORT

    Project Objectives Met:

    1. Finalize design of hive modification. – Several modifications of design were made as they were put into use. Design plans complete and published online and advertised on social media.
    2. Modify hives into AZ-style hives, place in shelters. – Hives placed into two different shelter designed and bees installed.  Success overwintering in these hives.
    • Built and revised 10 AZ hives and Saum’s and Dotson’s have put them into use.
    • Built 2 different types of shelters for the AZ style hives

    3. Enlist 2 physically limited/older beekeepers to test use of modified hives. – Found two different, physically limited beekeepers to try out the LAAZY Hive, to replace those who had initially committed to working with us. (Wheelchair bound friend moved to Savannah for business; one elderly beekeeper friend passed away; another couple got out of beekeeping when the wife started having anaphylactic reactions to bee stings.) These new participants will begin using the hives next season and we will continue to report on their experience on our website, in addition to gathering data from those who were given the starter kits.

    4. Participants will collect data on:

    • Ease of use / accessibility – has allowed Jeannie Saum to resume beekeeping after multiple unsuccessful back surgeries that have limited her mobility. Have found that getting frames in and out is not as easy as we thought it would be. Also, changing out the dividers between boxes was difficult due to propolis deposits. We had to consult another AZ beekeeper for advice as to how to do this. Modification of changing out the frame spacers to some specifically designed for AZ hives and redesigning doors to fit differently has helped ease of use.
    • Frequency of inspections / pest checks – We have just gotten electricity run to our indoor camper hive shelter, so inspections did not happen as frequently as they should have during this hot summer.  Now that we can have a cooled shelter, inspections will be easier and more frequent in the future.
    • Pest infestation / treatments – mite load has been controlled. We are using sumac cones in smoker. They contain formic acid. Did not find doing mite checks any more cumbersome than in a traditional hive. No problem with hive beetles since hives are off the ground. No problem with hive moths.
    • Time spent on hive careinspection, IPM, feeding – not as frequently as they should have been inspected. Will do better next season, now that we have solved some inspection issues and will have a cooled space.  Discovered, recorded and solved some unexpected issues related to how hive inspections are done in these hives – different tools needed, modifications to bee suits, procedures for changing out the box dividers to give bee access to the next box as hive grows. (These notes are all found in the published hive directions.)
    • Colony survival, swarm and absconding rates – In the first year of use, two of the three hives in shelter at Saum’s have thrived , one hive seems to have absconded.  This hive struggled from the beginning.  It started out as a nuc from a friend, but it had several medium frames that we tried to put in the deep box of the LAAZY Hive by propping them up.  Bees built crazy comb and we had to tear it up to try to inspect. Hive just never thrived.
    • Honey production – Harvested two supers of honey from Saum’s LAAZY Hives, with enough left for overwintering bees. Dotsons were also able to harvest a full box from each of their AZ-style hives.

    5. Host Field Day to demonstrate AZ-style hives. We were unable to do this in person due to coronavirus restrictions.  Project coordinator has had to work on the  final tasks of this grant between further treatments for her chronic back pain. Modifying the remainder of the hives has taken much time.  We ran out of warm weather to do our video tour of the hives and inspection. This will be conducted next spring and posted online.  We intend to continue to share our project with others, as we know there is a need in the beekeeeping community.  Our involvement with our local bee club and the state beekeeping organization gives us many opportunities to do so, even during the pandemic.  We are on the speaker list for the state organization and have a presentation ready! 

    6. Present design and results at beekeeping meetings/conferences, publish online. –

    • We have created and presented a PowerPoint Presentation on the LAAZY Hive. (presented at East Central Ohio Beekeepers Association June 18, 2020. This presentation is posted online at BEEpothecary.Wordpress.com.
    • We have prepared a PowerPoint presentation that will be part of Ohio State Beekeepers Association’s 2021 Live Webinar Training series. This will be published on ASBA’s YouTube channel after it is presented live. 
    • Created a Facebook page to document our progress and run our drawing.
    • Wrote and published the plans for the LAAZY Hive.
    • Posted the plans online via Facebook and our website for others to access.
    • If the Tri-county Beekeepers Conference in Wooster Ohio, is done in person in March 2021, we will pursue presenting our project at this venue.

    7. Drawing for 5 modification kits to beekeepers with physical limitations – Compiled 20 LAAZY Hive starter kits using extra funds not needed for in- person Field Day and travel. We advertised the kits first on our LAAZY Hive Facebook page, to those who had been following us.  Then we posted on other beekeeping Facebook pages, awarding the kits to beekeepers in need of an easier way  to keep bees. This was done on a first come, first served basis.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.