Hive numbers are not commonly employed by hobby beekeepers
that may only have a few hives that are not moved around much.
Numbering of Bee Hives
for Inventory and Records
However once you get above a dozen hives and nucs or several
different sites, numbering makes life easier and offsets the minor
cost and tedium of doing the numbering.
The benefits of numbering are greater still when combined
with a record keeping system that allows beekeepers to keep track of
equipment and breeding lines, such numbering also assists disease
traceability should you be unfortunate enough to be struck.
I have seen brass house numbers used for hives, but there
are several inexpensive sets of plastic numbers available to
beekeepers via the appliance trade. The one illustrated below is made
by Nicot in France and is available from
E.H. Thorne. in UK.
These numbers are about 42 mm tall and are made of a soft
plastic that is readily cut with a chisel or a craft knife. They are
easily applied using gimp pins.
As with most aspects of beekeeping I personally go the
'extra mile'... I number all boxes and any special items (hence the
number 500 on my hive barrow). As a result I need many numbers and a
few extra symbols. I use "L" for "Left"
"R" for "Right" and I have some items that run in
pairs which have "A" and "B" appended to their
inventory number. I make most of the numbers and all of the letters
myself. I find many sources of material in the form of spare honey
tub lids, which I have accumulated, these do not seem to fit any of
the tubs that I have spare. The templates for the "A",
"B", "L" and "R" were made by tracing
around alphabetic 'fridge magnets' and just happen to be the same size
as the Nicot numerals.
I trace around the Nicot numbers using a fine felt tip pen
and then cut them out using a stout pair of scissors. The holes in 6s,
8s and 9s are cut using wad punches and a hammer 0s need wad punch and
chisel and the triangular cut out in the figure 4 is done with a
chisel. To avoid shattering or splitting when nailing, I drill fixing
holes 1.00 mm in diameter using a
hand held printed circuit drill.
I keep my spare numbers in a compartmented plastic storage
box, similar to that used by fishermen for their tackle.
There are white plastic numbers, similar to my homemade ones,
that are made in the Czech Republic by
Antonin Sima (Simaco). (link dud at the moment!)
Some items are too small for the above types of number to
be applied... In this case, I put the number on with a bullet pointed
felt tip marker and then using a 5 mm diameter ball headed burr,
again fitted into the printed circuit drill, and chase around my
number producing a shallow depression in the wooden surface.
The high speed cutting of the burr leaves a feathery edge to the
shallow curved channel, which I scrape off with a piece of hacksaw
blade that has a curved end ground on it, then I re-apply the marker
pen to the freshly cut groove using excess pressure so that a large
amount of dye is transferred, which soaks into the freshly exposed
The hacksaw blade can be ground to the curved shape with a
sharp edge or a square edge. The one that I use was made when I was an
apprentice in 1964 and has a square edge that has not needed to be
re-sharpened in all of those years.
If the item is to be treated with linseed oil I leave the
ink to dry for 24 hours otherwise it bleeds into the surrounding
surface when the oil is applied.
Written... 12 March 2002, Revised... 30 Sept 2002