When you’re starting out as a beekeeper you usually have a couple of tools… literally, like two. Maybe a hive tool and a bee brush. In the long run, you collect more stuff that’s helpful during inspections. Here’s a non-exhaustive list of odds and ends that you should think about having or might want to collect. Excluded are tools related to your treatment regime (for varroa, nosema or other bad things) and woodenware, since these things should form part of every beekeeping adventure, without question. The list is divided into a group of essential items followed a wish list of nifty, non-essential nice-to-have’s.
There’s something truly torturous about getting stung up the nose. If you don’t want experience that kind of pain, get yourself a suit that has a face covering (or veil). They come in many shapes and sizes, for kids and adults, half suits and full suits or just a veil, ventilated and/or coloured. It may make you look like you’re ready for a mission to Mars, but it’s better than getting stung… up your nose. So, suit up and have fun!
Yes, a toolbox. Get yourself organised with a toolbox that has some compartments where you can store all the gidgets and gadgets you end up using. It’ll make you seem all professional when you’re beekeeping with friends – large and in charge.
This should be one of the first tools you get as a beekeeper. And they come in many varieties, but they provide some basic functionality that allows you to use leverage to manipulate frames.
If you’re working in a group with other beekeepers, consider marking your tool in some way (engraving, taping, painting, …).
When clearing frames for inspection, you can get the bees to move away with a gentle blow. However, if they persist with their congregating around exactly where you want to look, consider using a bee brush to clear them away.
A brush also helps clear off bees from box edges when you try and replace your 50lb honey super! Hoot hoot! Yeah, your friend can brush the bees away while you hold on to the riches. 😊 And, of course, when you want to avoid getting in your car with a bee in your bonnet – brush them off your suit and tell them to make friends elsewhere.
In a pinch, you can use some grass clippings, but that’ll make a mess in your toolbox, so don’t keep that.
Sure, you may not always have the need for these, but they do come in handy when a colony becomes testy. For example, when you want to do beekeeping in the rain, or before sunrise, or after dark. Oh, and don’t forget those aggressive Africanized colony you keep at your in-laws.
This tool is essential because it allows you to perform varroa mite checking by lancing drone brood. It’s also helpful to scratch that itch where you were stung three days ago. And when it comes time to reap the rewards from your blood, sweat and tears, this handy uncapping tool will help you gain access to the liquid gold.
This will allow you to write notes in your apiary journal, or mark a frame that has queen cells on it so you remember to be careful next time you inspect, or scribble reminders on the outer lid so you can remember when your next inspection or treatment is due, or…
If you get stung and show a strong reaction, antihistamines (like Benadryl) can provide some form of control over the swelling. It’s always handy to keep some in your toolbox for the odd occasion that you might need it. Or, when you have have a friend over and they get stung, unintentionally of course.
If you usually have a larger reaction to stings, carrying an Epipen with you becomes a requirement. This is especially important if you’re far from any form of first or medical aid.
Trust me, there will come a time when you’re looking at a frame and wondering whether you need a pair of glasses since you’re just not 100% sure there’s an egg in the cell. Or maybe when you look at your bottom board you want to know what a Varroa mite looks like. Pick yourself up a cheap magnifying glass that can help out in these situations.
Focus on your beekeeping… literally. Don’t go chasing ants.
Maybe you do an inspection of a queenless colony and find that a queen cell had hatched, so you want to catch and cage the queen (to replace the one in the nasty hive at your in-laws). Or, maybe you want to mark/colour the queen so you can see her better next time you inspect. So, get yourself some
- Queen cage(s)
- Marking tools (including the important colours, because how else “Will You Raise Good Bees”)
Put these all in your toolbox, because remember… you’re large and in charge!
If you’re scared to handle a frame loaded with bees, a frame lifter/holder could be helpful. Or maybe your apprentice still doesn’t know how to handle frames, so they can hold onto it using this device.
Non-essential?! What do you mean? Bees tend to be manageable without smoke, unless it’s a particular time of the season (for example, during the fall when food is scarcer, or when they’re being plagued by wasps or other stronger colonies). However, it’s not everyone’s favourite thing to light up some fuel and have it sit close by, puffing in your face, only to go out when you actually need it!
There are also alternatives to smoking bees, like using a sugar spray. Spraying the bees with food makes them clean one another and not focus on your hands as much. Some people also add some peppermint to that spray, since it’s a natural bee repellent.