Bee Smart Designs

Syosset’s pioneer of symbiotic beekeeping supplies. • Photographs by Doug Young

Ventilation, moisture, predators. It’s not all about honey for Syosset beekeeper Cliff Struhl, who understands the threats that make or break the health of his hives.

Frustrated by the limitations of available beekeeping equipment, the hobby sculptor and CEO of Joseph Struhl Company Inc.—a local graphics company specializing in custom polyethylene signs—began prototyping his idea for perfect beekeeping enhancements.

Applying the basic engineering and materials used in his signs, Struhl started Bee Smart Designs to make functional, bee-friendly apiary equipment.

Struhl’s aesthetically pleasing gear is designed to make life easier for the backyard beekeeper and the bees. Produced from the same lightweight plastic as his signs, his equipment is BPA-free, durable, ergonomic and recyclable. It never needs painting and definitely won’t rot like wood.

“The design is mission style. It has a really nice, clean look to it that accentuates the hive,” says Struhl. His apiary is a pristine row of lavender, moss green and cream-white boxes. “My wife is a gardener and wasn’t gonna go for cinder blocks and two-by-fours for a hive stand.”

Bee Smart Designs’ first product, the Ultimate Hive Stand, is made from 100 percent recycled material. Unsatisfied with the common wood and cinder block setup, Struhl created easily assembled 8- and 10-inch frame stands that hold the hive 10 inches off the ground: too high for predators and the perfect height for the beekeeper’s back. “The drier it is on the inside of the hive, the healthier,” says Struhl, so he included drainage to keep the bottom boards dry. The microenvironment of a beehive is extremely delicate; bees constantly clean and seal holes with propolis (a sap mixture) to keep the hive dry and prevent the development of microorganisms, disease, molds and fungi.

The microenvironment of a beehive is extremely delicate; bees constantly clean and seal holes with propolis (a sap mixture) to keep the hive dry and prevent the development of microorganisms, disease, molds and fungi.

To further keep the hive dry, Struhl designed the Ultimate Hive Cover, which has a dome-shaped top that allows excess moisture to run to the outer edge of the cover; rounded edges on the outside corners help water run off instead of pooling. Inside are internal risers that provide passive ventilation and an entry gap too small for honey robbers like wasps. Air flows through constantly to accelerate evaporation. A cool hive allows the bees to bring in less water and fan less hard, so they can concentrate on honey production.

During spring, beekeepers feed their hives sugar water to supplement nectar. This is usually done with untrustworthy, makeshift feeders. Thus, the Ultimate Feeder, lightweight and easily transportable, holds sugar water in an airtight sealed tank to prevent mold. A spring-loaded valve rations water to maintain just the right amount in the feeder tray that won’t flood the hive. Small platforms span the circumference of the feeder tray so bees can land comfortably without overcrowding or drowning.

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Beekeeping is as unpredictable as any agriculture, which keeps Struhl on his toes and testing new prototypes on mentors Ernie Schwasnick and master beekeeper Rich Blohm of the Long Island Beekeepers Club. Bee Smart Designs also manufactures a honeycomb uncapper for harvesting; more innovations are on the horizon. In an era of skepticism for the future of honeybees, Struhl remains optimistic as he moves forward, strategizing for a mutually beneficial partnership between honeybees and beekeepers.

Bee Smart Designs can be purchased online at beesmartdesigns.com or found in the Brushy Mountain Bee Farm catalog.

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Cristina Cosentino is a food journalist with background in Italian studies, dedicated to sustainable agriculture, food policy and Italian gastronomy.