Being an engineer I can’t help but over analyze and try to gather data on everything I do. Part of starting my blog was to keep a record, for myself, of my projects. I think the bees should be no different. Thus I built a bee scale to help measure the weight of each body and super as they are filled. Beyond the pure joy that is data collection, keeping track of their weight can help predict when supers will fill, and alert me to reductions in population.
I bought a package scale and took it apart. The scale can hold up to 100 pounds which ought to support even the fullest deep. I made a top board that the bodies will rest on while being weighed. The back edges are wider than they need to be and have tall guides. This should keep me from falling off any edges when moving the supers onto the scale. Using only 4 small areas of contact at the corners helps reduce the chance for bee casualties. The top of the scale is a plastic part that is easily removed. I screwed it to the bottom of the top board to take advantage of its alignment pins.
Next I made a base board that would hold the guts of the scale and its controller. I screwed the scale down at the far end of this bottom board so that when the top board is on you can still read the screen. The controller simply zip tied to the base board.
Both top and bottom board got a quick hand hold roughed into them. The top of the scale had alignment pins so it would sit snugly on the base. They are tricky to align, but once in, the top board is very stable. I can disassemble and carry both halves easily. The true test comes tomorrow when I perform my first hive inspection.
I could use the scale to answer a question I get a lot “How many bees do you have?” I find that as kind of an odd question. I would think most people know that bees are small and go in large groups. My typical response to the question is: “Thousands???” with a big shrug of the shoulders. If I weigh the deep with bees, then shake them off and weigh again, I could get a good estimate of total bee weight. Not worth the effort and disturbance to the hive. I will choose a new answer of “Enough to KILL!!!!” from now on instead.
My co-worker had an excellent suggestion of building an IR trip sensor at the hive entrance. That way I could track the number of crossings. I like it, but it would require power and electronics far away from an outlet. Solar cells on top of my hive? Maybe someday.