Finding a use for election signs

    Bee Boxes_154212

    An example of one of the election sign bee boxes built by local beekeeper Sean Swart. Photo Submitted

    A local beekeeper has come up with a novel way to keep many of the signs from the recent municipal election out of the dump.
    Sean Swart who is re purposing the signs by building bee boxes out of them.
    “As long as the bees don’t learn to read and ask questions that I can’t answer I don’t care really particularly care what’s on the sign,” he laughed.
    Swart is a relatively new apiarist. While it is a hobby now, he hopes to turn it into a career in the near future.
    He said he got started keeping bees by chance but has developed a real love for it.
    Currently, Swart keeps his bees in his yard. His hope though is to find either an acreage or a farmer who has the space for him to set up several more hives outside the city.
    This is where the election signs come in. Swart plans to use them to create bee boxes, known as nucleus hives commonly referred to as NUCs.
    “What that is…is a fully functioning mini hive,” he said.
    Swart was inspired to use the election signs by an online bee keeping group he is a part of.
    He saw there are commercially available plastic bee boxes and though he should be able to build his own.
    Seeing all the signs, Swart realized he could use those as the raw materials to build his light weight bee boxes.
    “I just got to thinking, what really happens with the signs at the end of an election,” he said.
    “I thought, well if the guys are going to be throwing them away anyway I might as well collect them and experiment with putting together the boxes,” said Swart.
    The NUCs have 5 frames in them and as such are much smaller and narrower than a standard 10 frame bee box.
    “The idea behind a nucleus is…to in a sense simulate a tree,”
    The narrower design as it starts to get taller is closer to what a hive built in a tree would be like than in the standard 10 frame boxes.
    For Swart, his plan is to build the NUCs out of the old campaign signs and use those smaller boxes to start new hives.
    “It’s a much smaller space for them to defend and populate and keep warm,” he said.
    The temperature is particularly important for starting a new hive.
    “Bees have to be at a certain temperature to…thrive,” said Swart.
    The plastic boxes will be temporary with the bees being moved to a larger ten frame box once they are established and healthy enough to thrive in the larger space.
    “It’s kind of just an intermediate solution rather than building a whole lot of small hives out of wood,” he said.
    His goal, if he can design the boxes right, is that he will be able to fold these NUCs flat for easier storage through the winter.
    The storage option will be particularly important as Swart works to turn his hobby into a career.
    “Any good-sized bee operation or apiary will probably run anything between 100 and 500 hives,” he said.
    Bee boxes, whether they are the standard 10 frame boxes or smaller 8 frame or nucleus hives all start off the same way.
    Bees will fill the outside frames with honey and keep the eggs in the more central frames.
    “As your hives grow you start building vertically,” he said.
    This could lead to a total of 600 bee boxes for 100 hives, which is way more than Swart currently has storage space for.
    A secondary purpose for the boxes will be to collect unwanted swarms of honey bees from people’s properties.
    Swart said that as he experiments with the design and refines his process he will likely use the plastic bee boxes primarily in the spring and summer months.
    While he hasn’t worked with plastic bee boxes like this previously, Swart believes that each election bee box will last between five and eight years.
    If the election sign bee boxes do last as long as that, Swart will be able to replace worn out boxes with new ones from future election signs.