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Beekeeper's Back

Back pain is common among beekeepers for various reasons:-

Bending over open hives

It is easy to become engrossed in what you are doing and to spend much time bent or leaning over bee hives.

Lifting of beehives

or fully laden supers is often performed in an awkward fashion, simply due to the size and weight of the object being lifted.

The beekeeper's age

Has it's part to play, as beekeeping is reducing in the number of participants and the beekeeping population is becoming older with very few recruits. Sr. Catherine in Ireland is attempting to address that problem by working with children. And L&RBKA in Leicester are using a specially built bee proof demonstration tent that gives children 'hands on' experience of honey bees

There are simple things that we can do to reduce the problems...
We can raise the height of the hive on a suitable stand, which also has the benefit of providing ventilation and air flow underneath the hive where it can become damp. The raised starting point, that this gives, makes it easier to bring a frame from the box up to face level for examination. This has several benefits:-

Examination of Comb
Your back is vertical and not bent.
You can position yourself so that the sun is shining on the comb under examination.
By standing upright with the comb at face height it is easier to maintain the comb in a vertical orientation so that nectar does not drip out, or queen larvae are not compromised.
The diagram at right shows a good stance.
Correct Lifting

Lifting is a problem owing to the shape of brood boxes, supers or assembled hives... The centre of gravity of the item being lifted is always well away from the lifter's body.

By employing good lifting practice many of the risks are reduced although they are rarely eliminated.

Carrying two half width supers

Stand directly in front of the hive or supers, place the feet about shoulder width apart. Place one foot in front of the other for balance. Bend the knees and tighten the stomach muscles. Using both hands, grip firmly and pull close to the body. Use your legs, NOT your back. lift by straightening the legs. Keep your back straight, don't bend at the waist. To turn, shuffle the feet around, do NOT twist at the waist or swivel at the hip.

A simple modification used by Robin Dartington, is to make the supers half of the normal width and then use two of them side by side on the hive, but when being carried one sits on top of the other, Thus the weight is much closer to the body and easier to handle.

The diagram at left shows a good carrying stance whatever the load is, but in the process does illustrate the carrying of two stacked half width supers.