Portable Hive Scale
The goal is to build an accurate, electronic bee hive scale for under $50 that allows anyone to weight 4 hives per minute – up to 250 lbs each – without materially disturbing the colony.
In my first year as a beekeeper, I had 2 out of 3 hives swarm. I think. I experienced a Tulip Poplar nectar flow. I think. I saw bees gather nectar – some days more than other days. I think. I say, I think, because I am led to believe that these things happened and I saw evidence that they did occur but I cannot be sure. And if they did occur, I cannot tell you if it was more or less than previous occurrences. But if I could have weighed the hive once or twice a day, I would have known for sure:
* I would know the population of the runaway swarm …estimated at 3500 bees per pound.
* I would know the mass of nectar (and pollen) gathered during the day and of water evaporated at night. One pound equals roughly 1.04 US pints.
* I would know the number of bees foraging by monitoring the loss of weight in bees leaving in the morning.
* I would know the rate of growth of daily nectar collection as a nectar flow began.
* I could compare my hives with the hives of others and with my own hives in previous years.
Lord Kelvin said, “To measure is to know.” If I could weigh a hive, I would know a lot more than I do now…
How Does It Work?
The scale has 3 fingers or tongue that lift one side of the hive. The two outside fingers push down while the center finger lifts the hive. A $16 electronic luggage scale measures the force required to separate the center tongue from the outside tongues. The force to lift up the back of the hive is roughly half the total weight of the hive.
Step 1: Buy a luggage scale
This is the luggage scale that I bought off the Internet for $16. You attach your luggage to these hand-held devices and lift them with the luggage attached. The scale beeps or stops changing value and then you read off the weight. Their maximum range is about 125 lbs – less than a lot of bee hives. However, if you measure the hive by only lifting one side - and assume that weight in the hive is more or less centrally distributed - then you are only measuring half the hive's weight. You have a loss in accuracy but your maximum range is now extended to 250 lbs.
You do not need to use exactly the same scale shown here. However, you may need to get creative in attaching the luggage scale to the scale handle.