Geof Spehar discusses his injection-molded hive part designs at the October 2018 meeting.
Photo by Jacob Dickinson.
During our October 2018 meeting, beekeeper and inventor Geof Spehar presented beehive parts he designed and manufactured.
Beekeepers are notorious for refining the equipment they use. Several members of our club show the symptoms. (You know who I mean!) However, there are differences between us and Geof. Most of us aren't experienced designers of plastic injection molds, or machinists with the chops to make those molds. Finally, most of us don't have access to an injection molding factory.
Geof combines these attributes with beekeeping experience, and a beekeeper's powers of observation.
Injection molding is the process of forcing molten material--in this case, plastic--into a mold. As the material cools, it solidifies in the shape of the mold cavity. Injection-molded products surround us: The Lego block is an example.
The molds and necessary machinery make injection molding very expensive. On the other hand, making the millionth copy of something is very inexpensive.
Compare this to making something by nailing a couple of pieces of wood together. The tools are cheap, and you can only go so fast. The millionth copy costs about as much as the first one did.
Because Geof can design and make his own molds, and has access to existing equipment, his barriers to entry are low.
It's said that to a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail. In the same way, Geof looks at a mechanical problem and sees an injection-molded solution. He must have shown us about a dozen such solutions, some of them variations on a theme. There are more where those came from.
There's a consensus that bees don't like plastic. For example, plastic foundation is typically sold with a coating of wax, which helps the bees accept it more quickly. Geof tends to agree with this. However, he's removed swarms from plastic compost bins, and worse places. So do they really care that much?
In summary, Geof argued with the saying "Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door." Not exactly! "When you build a better mousetrap, you beat a path to the world's door; because people don't like change."
When I first approached Geof, as Program Chair, and asked if he'd consider speaking to the Long Beach Beekeepers, I asked about his experience speaking to groups. I had to do some due diligence, after all! And maybe he'd have questions about us, our expectations, any unique hazards, and so on.
Geof told me he had approximately zero experience doing this. By then, though, it was obvious that I was dealing with a natural-born storyteller. A raconteur. And that's what his seamless talk showed us.