How to assemble a bee box
Unless you order your bee boxes assembled, they will arrive at your door in four pre-cut pieces with a bag of nails. They sometimes come with instructions and sometimes not, but I never follow them anyway.
Everyone does this differently, but here is my take on the subject. I’ll concede right from the beginning that there is the easy way and then there is my way. If you want the easy way, go find those directions!
This method will give you extremely strong boxes. I was once carrying a complete hive in a wheelbarrow up a steep hill (I know, dumb thing to do.) The hive was held together with a ratcheting tie-down but otherwise it was just sitting in the wheelbarrow. Sure enough, I lost control of the wheelbarrow and the entire hive went careening down the hill, bouncing off trees as it went. When I got done cussing and moaning, I scrambled down the hill to retrieve the hive. I removed the tie-down and had to carry the hive up box by box, but the whole thing was square and tight with no damage. Oh yes, the bees were fine too.
Instructions for an indestructible, strong-as-an-ox bee box:
- Save the bag of nails for some other project.
- Pre-paint what will become the outside of the box as well as the top and bottom edges. I like to lay all the pieces on the floor and then use a small trim roller to paint the whole business at once.
- Next I take a countersink tool and drill a depression at each nail hole. The nail holes are usually pre-drilled in the wooden pieces. If not, drill a pilot hole yourself. At this point you can sand, if you want. (If your countersink is not really sharp, there may be some “fur” around the edges.)
- Assemble the boxes. The box joints fit together only one way, but in case you get confused, remember that the handles need to face in the same direction—and they need to be on the outside of the box.
- You may need to tap the sections together with a rubber mallet or a hammer wrapped in a rag, but they should go together fairly easily.
- Once the four pieces are fit together, use a carpenter’s square to make sure the sides of the boxes are at right angles to each other. This is important. If you skip this step, your stack of boxes will not quite line up because they will be parallelograms, not rectangles.
- Use flat-headed screws to assemble the boxes. Some think this is overkill, but this is what will make your box really strong—it will last forever—and you don’t have to glue anything. I have a large box of screws from Home Depot and I use an electric drill with a screwdriver attachment. But a regular old wear-out-your-wrist screwdriver works just as well. The sink holes you drilled keep the wood from splitting around the head of the screw.
- After the box is assembled, I touch up any parts that need paint–which is why most people disagree with pre-painting. Still, I like doing it this way—so I do.
So in addition to the unassembled brood box, you will need:
- Exterior-grade paint
- Paint brush or small roller
- Countersink tool that fits your drill
- Sander (optional)
- Rubber mallet (or hammer and rag)
- Carpenter’s square*
When you are done you will have a perfect, square, solid, beautiful brood box fit for your living room. Then you will give it to creatures that will coat it with propolis and wax, smear it with honey, pollen, and poop, chew on the edges, and sting you if you try to clean it. Go figure. Still, it was gorgeous for a moment.
*By the way, if you choose to assemble your box the easy way, you can skip the drill, counter sink, sander, screws, and screwdriver. But please don’t skip the carpenter’s square—you will get totally frustrated if your boxes don’t line up.