• Maggie James

Blackball Beekeeping Innovations

Last month a trip to visit Glasson Apiaries in Blackball on the West Coast proved popular with readers. So, this month, Maggie James takes a closer look around the 97-year-old beekeeping business’s sheds to find some clever innovations and labour-saving devices, many of which are custom made.

Honey House Trollies and Pallet System

Getting full honey supers from the back of a truck and into the honey house is made easy through the use of small steel trollies, well suited to the confined space. These are similar to other trollies available, but modified by Gary’s father John and uncle Ralph Glasson. The wheels underneath are a lower and smaller profile, designed to fit under pellets.

Honey supers arrive on the truck stacked in single columns, six high on nests of pallets grouped in fours and these pallets are designed to neatly accommodate approximately 200 full-depth supers.

The truck deck, equipped with a 300 Ezyloader, is the same height as the concrete loading bay. A large round saw blade bridges the gap between the deck and the bay. One stack of six full supers at a time can be easily wheeled, using the trollies, off the truck to the hot room, then into the extraction room.

Ezyloader Floor Mounted Drum Lifter

When ordering the honey truck 300 Ezyloader from Australia, it wasn’t much more in freight costs for a custom-made drum lifter to be sent. It is potentially the only example in New Zealand and made to Glasson’s dimensions. Capable of 400 kg lifts with an electric winch, it is bolted onto the concrete floor next to the settling tanks. On extraction, honey is transferred via outside overhead pipes to the settling tank and drum shed. Drumming is undertaken with scales recording the weight. The Ezyloader makes it easier to get drums off scales onto pallets and is safer to use than a manual barrow. It makes for decreased forklift use, resulting in less labour and fuel consumption.

Frame Washing

Constantly rising and seemingly out of control freight expense, along with worsening delays, were the catalyst for Glasson developing an on-site frame washing process, expressly just for their outfit. It created another task for staff in down time, with cleaned frames guaranteed available to suit their schedules.

There are still many wooden frames in use, but the business goal is one piece recyclable plastic frames. Currently two to three frames per hive are taken from brood nests each season, with wooden thrown out and plastic washed and reused.

A 3000 PSI 20L per minute, Honda powered water blaster is connected to a hot box to provide pressurised hot water to two nozzles with rotating heads mounted on a swivel, so they spin in a circular motion. The nozzles are in a cabinet to help keep the operator dry and the frames are passed through one at a time. Glasson wanted the nozzles, heads, and hot box in one unit, and contacted Waterblaster Solutions, Nelson, who had previously had a similar request from another beekeeper.


The slumgum to be sent to the compost heap, drops onto an angled sieve eventually ending up in a wheelbarrow while the hot water drops into a tank below which is full of frames getting preheated prior to washing.

The hot box and water blaster are separate units making them more versatile in terms of uses. The whole setup including nozzles cost approximately $9000.

The washed frames are re waxed manually using half sized paint rollers with beeswax melted in a stainless steel bucket mounted in a repurposed commercial classic stainless steel 1950s hot water tea urn.

The Spring & Autumn Lightweight Beekeeping Truck

Like all beekeeping operations the truck plays a central role. Glasson Apiaries 2018 VW Crafter is no different. Diesel powered and on a WOF it is a very practical and valued part of the business. It is not a heavy vehicle, thus less likely to get bogged and so is used in spring and late autumn for lighter work – spring checks, making up nucs, carrying empty honey supers, wintering down – and is not used to cart honey.

The cab comfortably seats three staff members and the low deck is often used as a work area. The deck holds a plastic insulated trunk for miticide strips, a few bags of raw sugar, and a couple of 300 litre honey drums containing 1:1 syrup from which 20L buckets of syrup are siphoned via gravity. It makes for a much more pleasant user experience than a noisy pump working, and syrup is not spilled while driving. A larger tank is carried in periods when greater amounts of syrup are required.



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