September 23, 2016

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What Sustainability Means to Us

The word sustainability is often used vaguely, and with so many murky definitions, it can be hard knowing what’s really intended. Here is what sustainability means to us here at Bee Thinking.

It’s paramount that in our work of crafting hives that we aren’t causing harm to forests while helping bees, and we know our customers feel the same way. We take concrete steps to source wood that is FSC certified and responsibly grown and harvested, and now we are the first hive producer to become FSC certified.

Our passion for bees is as immense as is our concern for the environment and nature. That’s why we source wood that won’t harm our forests. Here are just some of the ways that we aim to nurture the balance of our ecosystems, support the bounty of our beautiful land, and encourage beekeepers to join us in our mission to promote pollinator health.
Since 2008, sustainability has been at the forefront of our minds. In fact, the first wood we ever sourced was salvaged western red cedar—trees that had fallen in storms or had been harvested due to disease. Even though we have outgrown that wood source, we haven’t outgrown our commitment to using local and sustainable materials.

We believe that beekeepers care about the environment and are committed to doing their part to help. We think beekeeping suppliers should do the same. 

After plenty of careful research, we decided to source our wood from forests certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. FSC is a highly respected, third party certification that currently sets the bar for defining sustainable forest management. FSC is an international organization that provides principles and audits with the strictest requirements to ensure lumber comes from forests that maintain natural integrity, protect indigenous rights, and support surrounding communities.

As a result, FSC wood often commands the highest market price because of its quality and because it is harvested with minimal impact to the environment and the surrounding communities. We believe that by supporting the demand for sound forestry practices in the construction of long-lasting bee hives and woodenware, we benefit honeybee health by producing a beehive that is truly sustainable and considers all of nature. Not only is our wood FSC certified, but it all comes from sustainably-managed forests in Oregon and Northern California, reducing the carbon footprint tied to transportation, and helping the local economy.

Here at Bee Thinking, we use two types of wood to make our beehives: sugar pine and western red cedar. Sugar pine grows in southern Oregon and northern California. They are the largest of the pine trees, and John Muir called it the "King of the Conifers" for that reason. Sugar pine trees grow very straight, are dimensionally stable (meaning they resist warping, shrinking), and process beautifully through our machines with minimal tearing or cracking, making it the ideal pine species for bee hives.

Western Red Cedar is the premier beehive material. Native to the Pacific Northwest, Western Red Cedar is rot resistant, stable, lightweight, has tight straight grain, and insulates better than pine. It is revered for its beautiful grain and coloration, and due to its decay resistance, doesn't require paint in the elements. Our cedar is harvested within a couple hours of our Portland location.

We work extremely hard to use every scrap and shaving left over as we create hives. We use these pieces to produce birdhouses, mason bee houses, wooden feeders, and extra cedar shavings for quilt boxes both on our website and in our retail shop. We are always working to develop the new products and accessories our customers ask for, in a way that utilizes every bit of the wood we’ve brought in and in keeping with the design aesthetics we are known for.

Our efforts don’t end with wood sourcing, but apply to all aspects of our business. Each year we ship thousands of hives to our customers all over the world. To mitigate the environmental impact of shipping, we invest in carbon neutral offsets through our shipping providers whenever possible.

We hope this helps to make clear what we mean when we say we are committed to sustainability in every aspect. If you want to hear even more about our sustainability philosophy, check out the below video with our co-founder, Matt!

July 14, 2016

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Designing the Perfect Birdhouse

There are infinite models of birdhouses on the market these days, but very few are researched and designed with the birds’ needs in mind. We did the leg work! The development of our Cedar Songbird House began just like our other pollinator homes: by asking questions. What does this creature’s natural habitat look like? What size does this species become when it’s wings are extended? What behaviors does this species exhibit that we can accommodate? And finally, how do we design something this species will be attracted to while also adding beauty and charm to backyards and gardens?

By the end of our research and design we came up with an attractive, innovative bird house that will keep your songbirds singing. And of course, we used the highest quality materials available, including Western Red Cedar that is precision-milled right here in the Pacific Northwest.

Below are the top five aspects we considered while designing our bird house. Bird Thinking, anyone?

1. Keeping Birds Dry

In the Winter, birds can face some seriously cold and wet months, depending on where you live. Don’t let your bird house turn into a swimming pool! Our bird houses utilize sloped roofs to support water runoff, along with a recessed floor inside to wick water out of the nest.

2. Temperature Regulation

Our cedar walls that measure ¾” thick provide optimal insulation of the nest, especially accompanied by four ⅜” ventilation holes to assist with proper airflow.

3. Keeping Out Predators

Sure, perches have become a classic component of most birdhouses, but they actually tend to attract more predators by giving them a convenient landing spot! For this reason, our birdhouses are perch-less, and also have keyhole notches on the back for you to securely hang the house out of reach of ground predators.

4. Entrance Hole Size

Our Cedar Songbird Houses are built to specifically accommodate chickadees, wrens, nuthatches, and swallows. These birds thrive with an entrance hole ranging from 1 ⅛” to 1 ½” in diameter. Our bird house also comes with an optional, poplar fitted entrance reducer for adjusting the entrance hole size for the birds in your region.

5. Rough Interior Walls for Climbing

The inner wall below the entrance is sanded down and has shallow grooves in the wood to help fledglings climb out of the nest.

There you have it: Five species-first considerations we made when designing and building our beautiful and effective Cedar Songbird Houses. Be sure to check back soon so you don’t miss out on what comes out of our workshop next!
August 13, 2015


The Mysterious Bee Escape

Few of our beekeeping supplies can seem as perplexing to new beekeepers as the 8-way bee escape. On its own, the yellow plastic bee escape hardly looks intuitive (is it a hummingbird feeder? A water trough? A Frisbee?). Once mounted to a Langstroth inner cover or other exit board, however, the bee escape board becomes a beautifully simple honey-harvesting tool.

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August 04, 2015


Checking Hives with the Rauchboy Smoker

As busy beekeeping equipment suppliers and hive builders, own beekeeping adventures often happen in the early hours. With the morning sun soaring upwards, two of our staff beekeepers and I packed coffee and breakfast out to our apiary. We wanted to check up on a few hives, and we used the opportunity to field test our new Rauchboy Smokers. The smokers recently arrived from Germany, and we're excited to become one of the only US retailers to offer the Rauchboy. 

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June 21, 2013


Cedar Bee Hives - Langstroth

They've been a long time in the making, but we finally finished the first batch of cedar Langstroth hives. They are constructed from the same wonderful kiln dried Western Red Cedar used on the rest of our hives. Boxes available in shallowmedium and deep in both 8-frame and 10-frame configurations. Cedar hive kits with a roofinner cover and either solid or screened bottom are also available. All hives boxes and cedar hive kits include FREE SHIPPING to the contiguous 48 states!

Cedar Hive Kit with Medium Boxes - Starting At $144.99

Cedar Medium Hive Kit
Cedar Hive Kit - Medium Boxes

Deep Box - Starting at $36.99

Cedar Deep Box
Cedar Hive Body - Deep

Medium Box - Starting at $32.99

Cedar Medium Box
Cedar Hive Super - Medium

Shallow Box - Starting at $29.99

Cedar Shallow Box
Cedar Hive Super - Shallow