Flashing and Wire for Building Your Beehives
Wood isn’t the only material you work with as you build beehives. A number of beehive designs make use of metal — specifically, aluminum flashing and wire hardware cloth.
Cut and bend metal flashing
Some beehive plans specify aluminum flashing as a roof material. It’s very thin and easy to cut and manipulate. This is the same material that roofers use to waterproof critical seams. Any big-box home improvement store carries aluminum flashing. You need 20-inch-width material, which likely comes in a 10-foot roll. You can use the extra material when building four additional hives.
The edges of metal flashing are very sharp. Use caution when handling flashing to avoid cutting yourself, and consider using work gloves.
Cutting flashing is easy. You have a couple of options:
You can breeze through it using a pair of tin snips; be sure to measure and mark it carefully before you make a cut. To make your mark, you can scratch the metal with a nail or use a felt-tip marker. Note that the snips do tend to curl the cut edges slightly, but that’s not a big deal.
Alternatively, you can use a sharp utility knife and a straightedge to cut the flashing. With your flashing lying flat on your worktable, measure and mark where you plan to make your cut. Lay down your straightedge on the mark and make several authoritative passes with the utility knife. Done!
Aluminum flashing is so thin, it’s easy to bend. You don’t need special equipment. But for crisper bends and folds, bend the flashing over the 90-degree edge of a table or the edge of a sheet of lumber.
If you trade up and decide to use 40-ounce copper flashing on your beehives, this bending is best done using a special machine called a sheet metal brake. The metal brake allows you to make perfect folds when using heavier material (such as copper flashing). You can find these online, at big-box home improvement stores, and at roofing supply vendors.
Cut and shape wire hardware cloth
Hardware cloth consists of wire that’s woven and welded into a grid. You use it to keep the bees from traveling from one part of the hive to another. Here’s the thing: Hardware cloth is very easy to find with either 1/4-inch or 1/2-inch square openings in the mesh, but those holes are too large, and the bees will breeze right through.
What you need is hardware cloth with 1/8-inch square openings. It’s known as #8 hardware cloth. It typically comes in 3-foot-by-10-foot rolls. If your local hardware store doesn’t have #8 hardware cloth, you can easily find it online. Some beekeeping supply stores sell it by the foot (see bee commerce or Brushy Mountain Bee Farm).
Cutting hardware cloth is easy using tin snips. Or you can use heavy-duty scissors. Make the cut as close to one of the vertical wires as possible to avoid having ragged horizontal wires sticking out of the side. Ouch! Use a felt-tip marker to measure and mark the size you need to cut.