Visit to Pierco Beekeeping Equipment

February 2, 2019
P. Michael Henderson

Pierco Beekeeping Equipment, located in Riverside, CA, is a major supplier of equipment to the beekeeping industry.  Pierco invited members of Beekeeping Clubs in Southern California to a plant tour and lunch.  I'm a member of the Orange County Beekeepers and received an invitation.  For me, it was somewhat of a long drive, about 35 miles.

They're located in a modern facility of over 22,000 square feet.  It was raining the day we visited.

John Caron, the owner of Pierco, welcomed us.

Just as a side note, Mark Haag, from Cal Poly, was also there.  Cal Poly has had two beekeeping seminars which I attended.  You can see pictures of those seminars here and here.

This is the display area of Pierco, where we gathered prior to the tour.  I took this picture later after everyone was in the factory.

When we went into the factory, John asked me not to take any pictures of the machinery, and I didn't.  In the rear of the factory, they had set up displays and a place for everyone to register.  Here's Aaron handling the registration.  Each person got a raffle ticket when they registered.

Here's one of the display areas.  Those are black and white plastic frames with foundation on the left.  The green items that you see on the right are drone frames and foundation.

Another display area.  Items were marked with prices in case anyone wanted to purchase tools and equipment.  Prices were very reasonable.  They were going to have a parking lot sale but the rain forced everything inside.

There was also a "snack table".  That table would soon morph into a lunch table, with sandwiches, cookies, chips and more.  But that's later.

After everyone had registered and got their coffee and snacks, John addressed the group and talked about the company, what they do, and introduced some of his employees.  John's background is in injection molding of plastics so he came to Pierco prepared to improve the production processes and cut costs.

It was a big group, as you can see in this picture.

John took us over to the machinery side of the factory and explained what was going on.  Based on his earlier request that I not photograph the equipment, I did not take any pictures.

The equipment was making plastic foundation intended for wooden frames.  John explained how the plastic is prepared and how it is molded into the product.  The molds are expensive and using them is only profitable if a lot of product is to be made.  And from the size of the product stored in the factory, Pierco makes a lot of product.

Here's one of the white plastic foundations that they make.  Look at the stack that's under this one foundation.  That stack is probably four feet high and 20 feet long.  They make a LOT of foundation. 

When I use plastic foundation, I cut the corners off so the queen can get from side to side easily.  If I use plastic foundation already mounted in frames, I drill a hole in each corner.

If you use wax foundation, or go foundationless, you'll see holes in the comb to allow workers and the queen to easily go from side-to-side.  However, lots of beekeepers use this foundation and don't put holes in it, so I suppose the bees adapt.

He also showed us some plastic frames with plastic foundation.  Those are molded in one piece. 

They make black frames and foundation, and white frames and foundation.  If I remember correctly, he said that for brood applications, he sells about 80% black, and for supers (honey) it's about 50/50 black and white.  It's easier to see eggs against a black foundation and since it's dark in the hive, the color doesn't matter to the bees.

Then we went to where they put wax on the plastic foundation.  They have a machine that heats the wax and applies it to the foundation.  Right now, it requires two employees to operate the waxing station but John hopes to fully automate it later.

John was very patient and answered all the questions that the people posed to him.

After the tour, we had lunch.  Here are people at the lunch tables.

Then it was time for the raffle.  Aaron drew the tickets and Mark is helping.  There were a lot of prizes, from a miniature hive tool to a full bee suit and the hive kit shown in the picture.  

I won a one gallon feeder.  Surprised the heck out of me.

Here are the big winners.  From left to right:  John, Tree, who won the hive kit, Aaron, and Gary, who won the full bee suit.

After the drawing, there was a demonstration of how to install a package of bees into a hive, but I had to leave and didn't get pictures.

It was a good visit - John was a great host and it was very interesting to see how the equipment is made.