(and that time I scalped myself)
I didn’t bother to put on my veil. This was my first mistake.
It was hot and I loved the feel of the light breeze teasing my hair and cooling my neck. I was cleaning around the bee yard and placing pails of sugar water into the hives that nearly starved over the long winter. It was easy work and I was enjoying listening to the song of the bees… – until that rhythmic hum started echoing a little too close to my ear. A bee had accidentally blown into my tangled locks. Of course, it got stuck.
Now, before we continue with this story, you should know that I hate being stung. During my first hive inspection, I flinched so many times my beekeeping mentor had to tell me several times to stop moving or I really was going to get stung.
So, my first instinct was to get that bee out of my hair as fast as I could before it panicked and jabbed me with its stinger in frustration. I had my hive tool in hand so I thought I’d use that to help free it.
Let’s pause for a moment. I decided to use a sharp, metal object to get a bee out of my hair. Yes, you guessed right. This was my second mistake.
I may have freed the bee, but I also scalped myself. I thought I had been stung but when I reached up to touch my head, I found blood. Fortunately, I didn’t cut off any of my hair but my head was definitely cut and remained sore for the next couple days.
So, it will come as no surprise that the very top item on my list of essential hive tools is a full body, bee suit including a veil, which you should ALWAYS wear.
As I mentioned before, I really don’t like being stung (it has only happened twice in four years) so I not only like to feel protected while I work my hives, but I also like to work them quickly and efficiently with as little disruption as possible.
With that in mind, these are my favourite hive tools.
Take a peek inside my toolbox – my favourite hive tools
The Bee Suit (or my superhero, alien costume)
I love my bee suit so much I leave it hung on my coat hanger year-round. Or maybe I’m just too lazy to put it away. But either way I do enjoy wearing it. I feel like a superhero about to embark on an exciting discovery every time I begin putting it on. It’s my uniform and it’s my protection so I invested in the very best.
Although there are many bees suit options out there, I suggest a full body, ventilated suit like mine, which will keep you well-protected and cool even on the hottest days. Many beekeepers simply don a veil or bee jacket. This is fine too as long as you feel comfortable. Whatever you do, don’t wear any dark clothing that makes you resemble a bear. Also, don’t forget to seal your pant legs tight or you may find yourself doing a painful dance around the bee yard.
Wash your bee suit frequently. You don’t want any alarm pheromone to build up on your clothes or your hive’s guard bees will likely pay you an unwanted visit.
Gloves may make you feel safer when you are working your hives but they are also cumbersome and remove all feeling from your fingers. This could lead to you accidentally squishing a bee.
Instead, you may want to skip gloves or at the very least choose a pair that fit well. Personally, I still recommend buying and wearing gloves – especially if the bees are having a cranky day.
I admit that I didn’t think I’d use a smoker. I just didn’t like the idea of smoking my bees. It sounds cruel. But I’ve changed my mind. Next to my bee suit, my smoker has become my favourite beekeeping tool.
Just a few puffs of smoke will calm, quiet and move your bees out of your way allowing you to do your job faster and more easily. No matter which size or model you purchase, ensure it has a protective shield on the outside. It will save your hands from being burned. Or at least help prevent getting them burned. Somehow, I still manage to touch it on occasion.
Bonus: Some models come with a hook that you can hang on the side of your hive.
The Hive Tool
You can’t work bees without a hive tool. In fact, it is so essential I recommend buying two just in case you lose one in the grass. Hey, it happens to the best beekeepers.
I use my hive tool every time I inspect my hives. Why? Because bees stick everything together with a magic glue called propolis. Without my hive tool it would be extremely difficult to pull the frames or boxes apart. A hive tool comes with a flat blade on one end that I use to scrape burr comb and separate frames and a rounded end that I use to lift up the frames.
The Frame Holder
I’m not sure why more beekeepers don’t use this convenient tool. A frame holder simply hangs on the side of your super. It gives you an easy, safe and out-of-the-way spot to hang a frame when you want to remove one from the box you are working in. I always remove one frame from the outside edge of my hive box before I do an inspection in order to make room to examine the remaining frames.
Pro tip: Make sure the queen is not on the frame you place on the holder. You don’t want her to fly away.
My dad made this toolbox for me and I love it. As you can see, there is a place to hang my smoker and I can put all my hive tools in the main compartment. Every time I head out to the apiary, I just grab my toolbox knowing I have everything I need.
I made the mistake of not buying a feeder my first year beekeeping. That summer we had a nectar dearth. I had no idea we were having one or what exactly that was but my mentor advised me to start feeding my bees. I now know a nectar dearth is when there is a shortage of nectar producing flowers often caused by an excessive amount of hot, dry weather. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a feeder and when I went to the store they were, of course, completely sold out. I was lucky and my mentor lent me a few.
Learn from my mistake and purchase a few feeders to have on hand when your little bee friends need your help. I have tried many different types of feeders but this simple bucket feeder has turned out to be the simplest to use. I also like the fact that they are placed inside my hives so my colonies don’t fight or rob food from each other.
BONUS ITEM! Beekeeper’s Journal
A journal is not necessary, but it has come in handy as my apiary has expanded. The best way to keep track of inspections, observations and your to-do lists is to write them down. I love this journal.
The truth is you don’t need many tools to be a beekeeper (other than perhaps the ability to laugh at yourself!), but if you want to work your bees more easily, efficiently, quickly and safely, you’ll definitely want to stock up on these hive tools.
Of course, when it comes time to extract honey, you’ll need a couple more hive tools. But that’s a post for another day. It’s time for me to head down to the apiary with my bee suit (including the veil) on and maybe this time I will avoid scalping myself.
So, do you agree? What are you favourite hive tools? Let me know in the comments below.
PIN IT FOR LATER!
Read more about bees – Here are my previous posts:
Six Secrets to Choosing the Best Beehive for Beginners
The Bees are Coming…
Why You’d Make a Great Beekeeper (and the benefits of beekeeping)
How to Catch a Swarm of Honeybees…
How to Find the Queen Bee…
Healing Honey Hand Salve (and how to render beeswax)
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