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Beekeeping Supply Companies

Well, I am not a whiner. Take the bad with the good, is what I say. But, my current experience in the bee shop (translated, messy garage turned into workshop) may have had a profound effect on me.

Three weekends ago, I realized that I was short on Mediums. I use them as the top ‘hive body’ on my brood nest and for honey supers (I also use shallows for honey supers, which I was running short on, but figured I had enough for the honey.) Right now, I needed second stories to several swarms that I had caught earlier in the month.

I am mainly a Dadant customer, so I first checked them. The freight was nearly $200 for my order (and this was just to tide me over until Mother’s Day, when my wife would be in Chatham (Dadant’s Va branch) to be able to get a bigger load)! I couldn’t stomach that and even considered, multiple times, just driving down there. Finally, I ordered from Mann Lake, since they had free shipping. The merchandise was more expensive, but the total cost (Dadant included freight) was less than Dadant. I started building and painting supers.

Two weekends ago, I went out to hives that had between 1 and 3 honey supers on them, to check to see who needed more. I have already used up the meager supply of drawn wax supers, so I am in the ‘add a super of foundation’ phase, which has to take place 1 bloody super at a time. When you have several supers of drawn wax, you can literally drop them all on (I have never put on more than 2, but I know some folks that put on 3) before the flow and the bees (assuming you’ve chosen a strong hive) will happily fill all of the frames in all of the supers with honey.

On the other hand, if you dropped a bunch of supers with foundation on a hive, it would start working on the middle and probably give you a  headache at harvesting time. So, I was looking to see who could use another super. I brought 6 with me, as I didn’t feel like trucking the trailer down to Charles City and 6 is about what I could store in the Trailblazer with the inspection gear, spare Nucs and other beekeeping junk that I drag all over the world.

As of the second outyard, I was out of supers… Heh. Those gals were really pouring it on (of course, I have the laggards that will probably become Winter Nucs this Fall, but most were really putting it away.) At the time, I figured no problem! I’ll grab a few more supers from my shed tomorrow and make the rounds again. Much to my dismay, when I returned home that afternoon, I found zilch on the super front. I didn’t have a single one left. I knew I was out of Mediums, but had no idea I was out of Shallows (I need to be better organized.) So, I open the box of Medium frames from Mann Lake to get to work and suddenly realize these things are not wedge  bars!!! The wax I have won’t fit it and the wax from Mann Lake hasn’t arrived yet!

Panic mode.

Again, I think about driving to Chatham, Va. But, then I remember a posting on the Richmond Beekeepers mailing list from Tiny or Anthony Abate regarding a fellow in Mechanicsville that sold bee supplies! I called him first thing and bingo! He had what I needed. He is a dealer from Brushy Mountain. I ran up to get enough for 10 Mediums, which I was hoping would get me through Mother’s Day.

So, here is where we get to the guts of it. Mann Lake and what this guy sold were identical. A bit more expensive, but amazing woodwork. I had grown used to forcing super rabbets to  fit together and the occasional warped frame. With these new ones, not a single problem. In fact, putting the stuff together was a  piece of cake. Not one single equipment problem (2 of the super sides were damaged in shipping, but Mann Lake was resending them at  no charge!) I have over 50 hives and only the Lord knows how many Nucs. Each of the hives have at least 3 boxes (2 hive bodies and 1 super) and most have 4 or 5. I have a ton of Dadant equipment. I like the folks at Dadant. But, this Mann Lake stuff has me thinking that I may change horses. With free shipping, it makes it much easier to swallow. I haven’t officially made the switch yet, but I’m leaning that way a lot!

On a final note, I ended up getting an open bottom on my frames. I have always used a closed bottom. No reason for it. It’s just how I do my thing! But, about 50% of the time, I have to trim the wax to make it fit without buckling. These open bottoms eliminated that task completely! All in all, I have decided to make this change for sure. Wedged Top Bars with open Bottom Bars! Easy as cake.

5 comments to Beekeeping Supply Companies

  • Great post! I’m 45 minutes from Dadant in Chatham, and while Mark and his crew are great, I have been shopping around too. I’ve found a beekeeping supplier on the other side of Greensboro here who builds his own hives out of cypress, and what he doesn’t build, he gets from Brushy Mountain. Plus his prices are just as great as Brushy Mountain, and I don’t have to pay shipping. Oh, and even better…he’s open all day on Saturdays! With more people getting into beekeeping, I think our supply chain (and price competition) could get a lot better! -Mark

  • So did you prefer the Mann Lake or the Brushy Mountain? I buy from a BM dealer in Damascus, MD. I really like picking out my own hive bodies, etc. and enjoy visiting a local bee supplier.

    I had a very poor experience with someone else in MD and am very glad I found Jim who sells Brushy Mountain stock, their woodenware has always been excellent in my experience (I ordered from Dadant, Mann Lake, this other person and BM).

  • I have switched over to Mann Lake for the most part. Their frames are great and their customer service is awesome. I had one problem with a hive body that wasn’t fitting together, and they sent me a full replacement, no questions asked. Although, I like BM screened bottom boards. I’m guessing in your post you are talking about Al Hollins in Mechanicsville. I work near him and he is a valuable resource for those, “I got to have it NOW!” moments. I also am able to buy my bottom boards from him without paying the shipping.

    Keep posting. I’m starting my second year, and I like to hear about what other people find out and learn.

  • @Anna,

    I do not have a preference between Mann Lake or BM yet, as I have not used much of either of their product. I do believe, with this recent run (20 Mediums, 200 frames and foundation) that they make a better product than my previous supplier and I now believe the extra cost is worth it.

    I suppose that if I were buying 1000 supers and 10,000 frames, the cost might not be worth it. Who knows. I never will (1000 supers seems insane to me…)

  • BillK

    I am fairly new to beekeeping (3 years into it), and I usually order from Brushy Mountian or Mann Lake. Both have quality products but you can’t beat Mann Lake’s free shipping for orders over $100.
    We have a local farm and feed store (here in Powhatan, VA) that started caring beekeeping supplies. They are a little pricey but in those cases when you need something quick it is great having a supplier within a few miles. They typically get their products from Dadant and recently started getting products from Mann Lake as well. I know they have to mark up the price a bit to turn a small profit but I don’t really mind paying a little more for some supplies. I know I am helping out my local economy.

    I am with you in regards to the open or divided bottom bar frames. They are so much easier to assemble.

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