This article is mainly for parttimers, not you big people with rooms full of stainless-steel equipment and vacuum pumps.
As I extracted last season’s late honey crop, I often found myself lifting buckets, whether up onto a strainer perched on another bucket, or up to the countertop for bottling. Long ago, at EAS in Delaware, the honey show included a Gadgets category, and a woman had entered her ‘Bucket Lifting Device.’ It consisted of a kind of swing/tripod thing, similar to old-time hive lifters, and was meant to help a featherweight with those 60 lb. buckets. I think it won first prize in the category. I was intrigued at the time, but no, I’m not going to describe the plans and measurements for building one here. I have come up with an even more ingenious way to handle honey buckets. Are you ready for this?
I just don’t lift full buckets. So what if standard buckets hold 5 gallons? I pull the one from under the extractor spout when it’s only half-full and move it to the strainer. Then the bottling bucket that has to go up on the counter is moved when it’s half full, and topped off up there with a second half bucket. Also, except for the one being filled at the extractor spout, buckets can be kept on a chair or on a couple supers. That way, you aren’t lifting from way down on the floor. How about that! No special equipment, no pulled back muscles, just working smarter.
Let’s go back in time a little. A similar lifting problem comes up even before the honey is in the extracting room (at my house, the entryway). Think back to the beeyard. The escapes have been under the supers for two days and now it’s time to fetch them. Yow! Those darn supers are heavy! Also, the top ones are pretty high up off the ground, since my hive stands are 16-18 inches tall. When it’s harvest time, I often pull combs to check for completeness of capping. If combs aren’t capped enough (at least 80%), I’d rather leave them on the hives than carry them to the truck and then back again later. Hey, bees! Finish those up! As I pull frames out and set finished ones in an extra super, usually the supers going to the truck each only have 5 – 6 frames instead of 8. Now I do this for all supers, even if the all frames are completely capped. All you need to use this method are some extra empty supers. We all have those. This tip may even help some of those bigger beekeepers, if they have bad backs. What? A beekeeper with a bad back?
General Box Handling
One last technique I developed has to do with actually grabbing those heavy boxes, at harvest or any time of the summer. Maybe many people do this without thinking, but many do not. I know some beekeepers out there grip the super only by those ridiculous carved-in hand-holds (or should I say fingertip-holds). You can screw (not nail) on some extra pieces of lumber to make better grips, or leave the boxes alone and use more than your fingertips.
This is how I do it: First of course comes the prying at each corner, the twisting and slight lift to make sure the super is really free of the frames below. Don’t forget to peek into the crack to see which plastic frame below is trying to lift out with the super above. Pry it down in. Then I get up really close to the hive, with my stomach almost pressed against the back. While lifting in the usual way with 3 fingertips jammed into each side handle, I squeeze inward very hard using my forearms, and lean the super against my stomach. This takes a lot of the weight off the fingers.
Editor’s Note: Do you have any tricks or tips? Write about them, maybe even photograph them, and send your piece in …I’m waiting! Really, I am!