Posted July 16, 2016
by Hilary

Beekeeping Lifehack: Use Ratcheting Straps to Move Hives

It’s Sara writing again! Recently, on Facebook, I saw a post about lifehacks, and it got me wondering: Why I haven’t seen more beekeeping hacks? I know they exist, but don’t they deserve their own spotlight—and genre!—in the world of lifehacking? If you agree and want to see some cool beekeeping tips, read on!

Lifehacks are ingenious tricks that make everyday life easier. They often repurpose common objects to solve problems in simple ways, and their usefulness can range from inane to brilliant. I guess they speak to the MacGyver in all of us because, with a little internet searching, you can find a lifehack for almost anything. Check out all the ways to use binder clips and bread bag tags and the best of the smartphone hacks, like how to turn your sunglasses into an iPhone stand.

Yet, for some reason, no one has written about beekeeping lifehacks!  A community rife with tinkerers and inventors, beekeepers are coming up with tips and tricks every day, and it’s high time we get them out there. Below is Part I of a two-part series of Girl Next Door Honey beekeeping hacks. You’re invited to share your own hacks in the comments section, and we might include them in Part 2!

1. Speed Up Bee Removals with Two Natural Products

During swarm catches and removals, you can lure bees into a new box with natural products like Swarm Commander. Conversely, you can expedite getting bees out by using Bee Quick or Honey-B-Gone. Bees run from the marzipan smell these natural products produce, which means you can herd bees out of places, stop them from immediately returning, and preventatively spray hard-to-reach spots they might run to during a removal.

Beekeeping Lifehack: 2 Natural Products for Bee Removals

2. Create a DIY Push Cage for Queen Bee Installation

All you need is #8 hardware cloth and a couple of sturdy rubber bands for extra stability.

Beekeeping Lifehack: DIY Push-In Queen Cage

3. Save Egg Cartons to Burn as Smoker Fuel Beekeeping Lifehack: Egg Cartons as Smoker Fuel 4. Use Nitrile Gloves Over Bee Gloves for Sticky Situations 

Keep your gloves honey-free during bee removals or messy honey harvests by wearing nitrile gloves over your bee gloves.

Beekeeping Lifehack: Use Nitrile Gloves to Keep Clean

  1. 5. Create An Ideal Drinking Fountain for Bees (Pool Owners, Take Note!)

Bees need water to keep the hive healthy and to regulate temperatures inside the hive. It’s easy to create safe, nourishing water sources for them, and there are tons of designs on google. Many involve nothing more than a wine barrel, mosquito fish, water, and duck weed! If you own a pool, providing an alternative—and better—water source can keep bees from drinking where you swim.

Beekeeping Lifehack: Create a Better Water Source for Bees6. Make Pizza Even More Delicious with Honey

Honey drizzled over hot pizza is an idea straight from Hilary’s kitchen. It’s amazing!

Beekeeping Lifehack: Honey on Pizza

Hilary recommends infusing the honey with red pepper flakes for extra deliciousness.

  1. 7. Spend Less with a DIY Honey Extractor

Check out how inventive beekeepers are saving money by making honey extractors with bicycle rims, bearings, galvanized tubs, and a drill.

8. Get Great Macro Shots of Bees with an iPhone and a Jeweler’s Loupe

Buy an inexpensive set of jeweler’s loupes. (10x and 30x work great.) Simply set the loupe against your smartphone lens and experiment with distances between the object and the camera. The camera will focus through the loupe and take a great close up. 

Beekeeping Lifehack: iPhone Photography Trick

  1. 9. Make a Queen Excluder for a Top Bar Hive

If your top bar bees place brood on every bar, try making a queen excluder, like one of Hilary’s clients did. Create a wooden frame that fits in your TBH, and cut a regular queen excluder to fit inside that frame.

Beekeeping Lifehack: TBH Queen Excluder

10. Thirsty in a bee suit? Drink through your veil!

Yes, it’s that easy!

Beekeeping Lifehack: Drink Through Your Veil

Hilary rehydrates on a break during a days-long shed bee removal in San Diego.

  1. 11. Use Your Smartphone to Take Hive Notes

It’s hard to take notes right after a hive inspection when you’re sweaty in your bee suit and wearing gloves. So, dictate notes to your smartphone before leaving your apiary using the voice memos or video app. Listen later and transcribe your observations into your bee journal.

Beekeeping Lifehack: Use an iPhone to Take Hive Notes

12. Use Ratcheting Straps to Move Beehives

Whether you are moving a hive a few feet or a few miles, make it easy by lashing all the pieces of a hive together with a single ratcheting strap.

Beekeeping Lifehack: Use Ratcheting Straps to Move Hives

13. Requeen on a Budget with Swarm Cells

Is one of your hives queenless? Is it swarm season? With the right timing, you can remove capped swarm cells and requeen your hive with them.

Beekeeping Lifehack: Requeen with Swarm Cells

14. Save Money on Bee Plants through Propagation

Provide more forage for your bees cost free by propagating certain plants, like basils. Here’s a tutorial for how to take cuttings of African Blue Basil.

Beekeeping Lifehack: Propagate Free Bee Plants

  1. 15. Forgot Your Hive Tool? Here are Some Handy Alternatives

In a pinch, Hilary has used a screwdriver, and once, when I forgot my tool, I tried pruners, a house key, and a fork.

Beekeeping Lifehack: Alternative Hive Tools





  1. Emily

    Nice! How does drinking through a veil work? The veil has to go in your mouth? Or you just pour water through it?

    • Hilary

      Try it and find out! 😛

    • Loretta

      I take my big bubba cup with a straw and suck right through the veil!

    • Hope Hochhalter

      I drink thru mine all the time. I make sure I only use my pours spout style bottle, and not the kind with the built in straw

      • godsowndrunk

        I find drinking through the veil makes my beer taste flat.

  2. Danielle

    Good evening I actually have a question , hopefully you might be able to answer it
    I have a topbar hive now and it’s about 2 months into the hive. My bees in the evening a early daylight morning form a cluster just above the entrance grove I have in the hive.. Is this something I should be concerned about or its ok.
    As well they are supper developing comb too, and I assume they’re prepping the comb for honey production.
    The hive is a smaller one and my neighbour is planning on helping me to build a larger one to either split the hive or possibly move it all over to the bigger one. #@ inch to an about 4 ft long one

    • Hilary

      Hi, clustering like that is pretty normal. Don’t worry about it. I don’t know what this sentence means, “As well they are supper developing comb too, and I assume they’re prepping the comb for honey production.”

  3. Daryl Hern

    Re: 15 Lifehacks for Beekeepers DIY Honey Extractor segment. In this particular invention I feel there are too many parts and crevices to be properly cleaned and sanitized before and after honey extraction. Nothing wrong with DIY though and thanks for the ideas!

  4. Lesley

    Love these! The ratchet straps are the greatest- though I always put a little bit of duct tape at the front and back of the lid- I guess I could just put another strap in that direction! I use my phone for all my notes now too- though I’ve had to lock the honey off a few times. I’m trying out a few apps now too for recording info.
    I too worry about not being able to clean a home made extractor like the one above- but it just means I’ve found a new challenge for this winter!
    Thanks for the fun article!

  5. Lesley

    Errr… “lick” the honey off my phone… not lock it. 😉

  6. Ginny

    Great ideas! I’m happy to hear someone else drinks through the sweaty veil as well. Ha Ha. A good old fashioned pocket knife works great as a hive tool as well. We use lemongrass oil to help lure bees into their box.

  7. Halle

    Thanks! Great suggestions! Especially the egg cartons. I am having a heck of a time keeping my smoker smoking for longer than 5 minutes, so I will try the egg cartons.

  8. Deb

    I use a putty/paint scraper, as my hive tool.

  9. Gary Lusso

    Honey extraction made simple. Dry wall mud tool, 6 gallon bucket, lid with hole drilled for hand drill, and bungee cords to hold frames tight. It will hold two frames.

  10. Hope Hochhalter

    The nitrile gloves are great, but don’t fit over larger hands/gloves. I use and old fashioned technique of picking up a hand full of my sandy soil near my hive, and rubbing my gloves in it as if washing my hands. It is quite effective at removing propolis, honey and beeswax, and doesn’t require water. I can repeat as often as necessary over my inspection time which is between 1 and 3 hours.

    • Hilary

      Interesting! We will have to try it. Although most soil in this area is dusty or rock hard clay.

  11. Laura

    To keep bees fed during summer dearth, consider planting old time favorites: Hollyhock, sunflowers, and artichoke. The honeybees feed heavily on Russian sage until dusk. What is your favorite mid to late summer bee food?

    • Hilary

      I’m all about African Blue Basil it blooms every day of the year here.

      • Terry McFall

        Where is “here”?……………

        • Hilary

          San Diego, CA

  12. michelle

    These are fantastic and I am using that egg carton hack immediately! People always give me egg cartons and right now my silly hens are on strike. These are all great tips and tricks. Thanks for sharing!

  13. Rachel Monger

    Really enjoyed your blog and tips! I’m a newbie beekeeping girl in Tanzania! Always looking for life hacks for our projects!

  14. Jonathon

    Great article and some really great ways to make the hobby easier
    I really like the idea of putting honey on pizza-definitely something i’m trying this week!

    Here is another great website which explains 5 big reasons you should start beekeeping today-hope this can help some other people also

  15. Saj

    Thanks for your hacks! Going to set a hive next spring from a hive that is in my house siding. Been studying and about to get supplies so that the extraction will be safe and painless.



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My name is Hilary Kearney. I’m the author of the book, “Queenspotting” and founder of the urban beekeeping business Girl Next Door Honey in San Diego, California. I’m an artist turned beekeeper on a mission to help new beekeepers succeed and educate the public about the magic of bees!

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