BILLINGS — Backyard beekeeping is getting a lot more colorful thanks to Billings resident Tony Seitz.
Seitz retired in 2009 and took up the hobby with his son, who showed an interest in beekeeping. But soon he found himself immersed in the hive world.
“This Dr. (Leo) Sharashkin from Missouri was giving a seminar in Bozeman. I thought, ‘Oh I don’t want to go all the way to Bozeman,'" Seitz said on Wednesday. "But I did. And after 15 minutes it was the most interesting thing ever."
And now Seitz crafts unique beehive boxes as a hobby to brighten up backyard beekeeping. He has long crafted custom chicken coops but decided to branch out.
“I’ve raised bees before, and I didn’t like the little white boxes. Especially as you get older. They’re very heavy, and it’s pretty hard to actually work with them,” Seitz said. “People really enjoy them when you put a little work into them. It’s fun to make them different than just a box."
According to Seitz, he lists the boxes for sale on Craigslist and takes custom orders. He works on the boxes in the winter and sells them in the spring. Each box costs $695, but he said he doesn't do it for the money.
"It’s not cheap, but they’re not going to find the same thing any cheaper,” Seitz said. “When you get old, it’s nice to have a good, fun hobby that everybody else can enjoy too. That’s building chicken coops and beehives for me. Keeps me out of Kay’s hair."
Kay is Tony's wife, but he also says she is his motivation and an artist herself.
Seitz uses the Layens hive model for his boxes, which is a horizontal box with extra-deep frames. He orders the frames online and assembles the box before painting the outside. He said each box takes about 25 hours to complete.
“It’s interesting for the bees because it makes (the boxes) really identifiable," Seitz said. "It also just might as well be pretty if it’s going to be in the backyard. Be a little work of art besides just a box.”
But this year, he's adding something new—a large Plexiglass window on the front of the box and one inside.
“These new hives are really nice because you open them up and see inside. If you didn’t have the Plexiglass when you opened up the hive, the bees would just be coming out and you’d be in their hive. You couldn’t stand here," Seitz said in front of one of his boxes. "So with the Plexiglass, you can actually open this up. And if somebody comes over that’s just interested in bees, they can look and actually see the bees working around the hive.”
And these boxes are made to withstand the cold Montana winters.
“It’s got an inch and a half of Styrofoam in all the sides in the bottom, and two inches on the top because the top has to be more insulated,” Seitz said. “It’s fit for Montana weather pretty much."
To contact Seitz about his beehive boxes,email email@example.com or call (406) 850-5620. He also says the boxes can be found listed on Billings Craigslist.
“It’s a lot of work, but a lot of fun,” Seitz said. "It’s fun to see somebody get them and say, ‘Oh, I really like that.’”