This is my home made backpack frame carrier which can carry honey supers and/or brood frames.
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All of my apiaries are accessed on foot, not a single one of my hives is near a road, and one doesn’t even have a footpath to it. I used to have one next to a country road but the bees flew off in winter, and with all their frames too. Many approaches involve steep or rough terrain, or both, and so I have developed my equipment accordingly. My beekeeping equipment, including my suit and willies, have evolved to fit into a single medium rucksack, and all the regularly used stuff fits into pouches on a belt. One of the biggest problems is the removal of heavy, honey filled boxes, so this evolution of equipment included a means to safely transport full frames from hives to the spinner. Hence the backpack frame carrier.
Carrying a full super or brood box, in front of you, when crossing rough ground, or walking downhill on steep footpaths, is an accident waiting to happen. In my case I don’t have to wait any longer because I’ve had a couple. You cannot see the ground immediately in front of you so misjudging the height, or length of a rock step, is easy and I have twice landed heavily on top of a box. Luckily there was never any damage to me (apart from scraped knuckles), or the boxes, but frames have suffered and comb torn apart, with honey (and the resulting curious bees) all over me, the box, and the floor.
So I came up with this, a backpack frame carrier. I’ve been carrying things in rucksacks most of my life, mainly in mountains, so it didn’t take much thinking to realise that 30 or 40lb of honey is better on your back, than in your hands, leaving your vision clear, your hands free, and giving you greater agility, and less back ache.
Here’s a picture of me carrying things in the mountains, Scottish ones on this occasion.
(photo by Mick O’Connor)
The design took a bit of working out but the finished carrier can take 12 super frames, or 8 brood frames, or a combination of both. The 8 castellated ledges are positioned to allow this.
I have tried other solutions in the past, boxes of various sizes, some with shoulder straps, but they are awkward when full, always tilting, and they reduce your agility. Here’s an example:
This converted drawer, with lid and shoulder strap, was made especially to bring a few full frames home (maximum of 6), or to carry new frames to the hives (12). It’s good for a few super frames but it tilts unpredictably causing damage to comb. It also bangs on trees, walls and gateposts.
The design of my backpack is good, but it’s quite heavy as I made it from scrap wood (i.e. free). The top panel is more robust than the rest so that the box can be lifted by it’s top even when fully loaded.
Ideally it should be made from galvanised tin sheet or, better still, aluminium, but I’ll stick with the wooden one for now. No matter how heavy, it is still much easier to carry than a fully loaded brood box or super.
I originally planned to convert an old plastic fish box but the dimensions weren’t right. I still have my eye out for a suitable robust plastic box.
The castellations are cut down 9 spacers which give plenty of room for even the thickest comb without rubbing or crashing against one another.
The castellations stop the frames from swinging.
View from above
The vertical distance between frame levels is generous allowing frames with comb extensions on the bottom, or brace comb protrusions, to be loaded quickly without forcing and squashing.
The carrying straps are from a mate’s worn out rucksack. Rucksacks tend to wear out on their bottom, from contact with rough ground or rock, leaving the shoulder straps and hip strap intact. I cut out the complete back panel, with a 2cm over lap (i.e. don’t unpick the stitching). The overlap was folded underneath to give a neat edge and, more importantly, a double thickness. I secured the panel to the box using short, fat stainless steel screws, so that nothing would stick through on the inside, but you could use small bolts or pop rivets (with washers). Another option is to drill holes in the wooden back panel and stitch the panel to the box using fishing line and an awl.
I added old drawer handles to the sides so that it can be easily lifted vertically from the floor onto a table or wall.
The next version
If I made another backpack there’s a few small features I would improve but on the whole it works very well. I would pay more attention to:
– Rucksack strap attachment
– Making the carrier lighter
– Multi purpose design
– Temporary hive (entrance, no paint, etc.) for moving colonies.
– Correct frame span– Frames with plastic spacer lugs on do not drop easily into the castellations. This isn’t a great problem to me as most of my hives are castellated spacers and the ones that aren’t soon will be. This problem came about because I wanted a little more finger space down the side of the frames, than in a hive, so made the width slightly wider. But its now a bit of a faff as the spacers have to be slid right to the end of the frame as they go in, and slid inwards when they go back into the hive. The solution is to make your ledges wider so that the distance inbetween them is the same as the distance between the side walls in a hive. Don’t reduce the width of the carrier as you will then lose your finger space which is useful when loading and unloading.
Advantages of the backpack frame carrier:
– Hands free to carry other kit
– Frames don’t swing and crash
– It stands up in the front of the car if I slide the seat back a bit.
– It stores neatly against a wall (unlike a brood box)
– It acts as a spare frame holder when not in use
– Harvesting doesn’t tie up a brood box or super. When only a few frames are harvested from a hive then the super can stay in place, and the new frames dropped in.
This short video was made in support of the above article: