Veteran beekeeper gets creative to keep up with his hive needs
Story and Photos By Kyla Hurt
Longtime beekeeper Gary Glaenzer has started constructing his own bee equipment due to the increase in its commercial pricing, an increase he calls obscene.
Glaenzer has been beekeeping since 1962. It started out as a 4-H project when Glaenzer was younger, prompted by the presence of a large bee colony and its hive that were located on his troop leader’s land.
The more years that passed, the more his beekeeping expanded.
In fact, it’s really growing these days.
He retired in 2018 from a background in electronics, allowing him to become more active with his bees. He sells some of the honey through his business, GG’s B’s Honey.
Glaenzer shared that he and a high school buddy traveled to Webster, South Dakota last year and brought back 32 hives (the structures in which bees are kept). He planned on three more trips to add an additional 96 hives to what he already has. He said, “They will barely cover all the requests I’ve had for ‘bees at our place to pollinate our (insert fruit tree, berries, pumpkins, cucumbers, whatever here).’”
Since each hive will need a minimum of three boxes for his honey, he allotted February and March of this year simply to rebuild them. He joked that at the end of all of it, “I will resemble the proverbial one-armed paperhanger.”
On top of that, Glaenzer is increasing his hive numbers by 64 this year. Each hive has 10 frames and then is topped with another 10-frame hive. The frames are inserted into boxes. Glaenzer uses mostly medium (6 5/8 inches deep box) and deep (9 5/8 inches deep box) hives. For reference, a single deep hive full of honey could weigh 65-75 pounds. He noted, “Everything above the two ‘deeps’ in for the beekeeper … the ‘deeps’ are for the bees.”
Glaenzer maintains his hives all over Morgan County, spread out in various locations. “I like to drive around out in the country. … I see a likely looking spot and look it up on [Morgan County] property tax [website] and send a letter to the owner … and most say yes … the ones that answer generally say yes,” explained Glaenzer.
It has been over half a century since Glaenzer began, and he has encountered vast price increases in the equipment needed to maintain, and continue to grow, his beekeeping business.
He said that the costs today have more than doubled for some equipment. For instance, he said, “A simple ‘medium box’ that I used to buy 50 on a pallet, unassembled, for $10.50 each … is now over 24 bucks [each].”
“So, I’m ‘rolling my own,’” he declared.
To increase his hive numbers, he would need 150-200 more boxes.
At first, he said, “I had built 100 out of lumber from Home Depot, estimated cost about $11 [each] to build. That wood was probably pine, spruce or Douglas fir — all softwoods.”
I fell into a killer deal on some white oak lumber. … I was looking for better prices on lumber when I found the white oak from a gentleman who used to run a cabinet shop, pre-COVID, and now deals with hardwoods. The boards I bought originated at a motor home company that decided to no longer build cabinets in-house, but now outsource the cabinets in their homes from China.”
Glaenzer bought all the white oak the man had.
Using the new supply of white oak, Glaenzer voiced, “My best estimate is that I have about $9.50 in each [box] when done.” When considering that the current market cost is over $24 to purchase a single box and Glaenzer needs at least 150 boxes to increase his hive numbers by 64 this year — his savings are substantial. Some quick math would show a savings of more than $2,000.
He commented, “I’m not even going to paint them, at least not at first. … My granddaughters said white is boring.” He decided that he and his granddaughters would paint them when they join him for beekeeping adventures.
Glaenzer assembles the new boxes in different runs. He makes them in his shop at his home. He outlined the assembly in one example, explaining, “I cut boards for 30 boxes all day yesterday … cut to size and then cutting notches for where the frames rest … assemblage is 8-10 minutes.”
He takes his time to make sure they’re right. Glaenzer added, “I do enjoy the woodworking aspect of it. I’m not cabinetmaker, but [he smiles as he cuts off].”
Pointing out a saw in his shop, he shared, “That saw over there I bought in 1977.” It was a Sears Craftsman 10-inch radial saw. He still uses it.
“I don’t hardly let anything go to waste. Scraps, I put in the smoker [for the bees]. Other pieces, I use as a fire starter with my son out at the lake,” added Glaenzer.
To purchase honey and other honey-related products sold by GG’s B’ Honey, look for Gary Glaenzer set up at the Jacksonville Farmers Market. Or, buy his products at Jones Meat & Locker.