Choosing Tools and Accessories for Your Beehive

5 of 11 in Series: The Essentials of Setting Up a Backyard Beehive

All kinds of gadgets, gizmos, and doodads are available to the beekeeper. Many different mail order establishments offer beekeeping supplies, and a number of excellent ones are now on the Internet. Some tools and accessories are more useful than others.

Beekeeper’s smoker

The smoker will become your best friend. Smoke calms the bees and enables you to safely inspect your hive. Quite simply, the smoker is a fire chamber with bellows designed to produce lots of cool smoke. The key to a good smoker is the quality of the bellows. Figure out how to light it so that it stays lit, and never overdo the smoking process. A little smoke goes a long way.

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Hive tool for beekeeping

The versatility of the simple hive tool is impressive. Don’t visit your hives without it! Use it to scrape wax and propolis off woodenware. Use it to loosen hive parts, open the hive, and manipulate frames. You can choose from various models.

Two varieties of hive tools.
Two varieties of hive tools.

Veils

Don’t ever visit your hive without wearing a veil. Although your new colony of bees is likely to be super-gentle (especially during the first few weeks of the season), it defies common sense to put yourself at risk. As the colony grows and matures, you will be working with and among upwards of 60,000 bees.

It’s not that the bees are aggressive (they’re not), but they are super-curious. They love to explore dark holes (like your ear canal and nostrils). Don’t tempt fate; wear a veil.

Veils come in many different models and price ranges. Some are simple veils that slip over your head; others are integral to a pullover blouse or even a full jumpsuit. Pick the style that appeals most to you. If your colony tends to be more aggressive, more protection is advised.

Keep an extra veil or two on hand for visitors who want to watch while you inspect your bees.

Protective clothing comes in various styles, from minimal to full coverage. This beekeeper uses a v
Protective clothing comes in various styles, from minimal to full coverage. This beekeeper uses a veil-and-blouse combination, leather gloves, and high boots to keep him bee-tight.

Gloves for beekeeping?

New beekeepers like the idea of using gloves, but don’t use them for installing your bees or for routine inspections. You don’t really need them at those times, especially with a new colony or early in the season.

Gloves only make you clumsier. They inhibit your sense of touch, which can result in your inadvertently injuring bees. That’s counterproductive and only makes them more defensive when they see you coming.

The only times that you need to use gloves are

  • Late in the season (when your colony is at its strongest)

  • During honey harvest season (when your bees are protective of their honey)

  • When moving hive bodies (when you have a great deal of heavy work to do in a short period of time)

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Elevated hive stand

Elevated hive stands are something you’re more likely to build than purchase. The simplest elevated stands are made from four 14-inch lengths of two-by-four (use these for the legs) and a single plank of plywood that is large enough to hold the hive. Put the entire hive on top of the elevated stand, raising it a little more than 14 inches off the ground. Alternatively, fashion an elevated stand from a few cinderblocks. You can also use posts of various sorts.

You can build a simple table stand to elevate your hive off the damp ground. Note how it is open on
You can build a simple table stand to elevate your hive off the damp ground. Note how it is open on the top — this is to accommodate the use of a screened bottom board.
You can also elevate your hive on cinderblocks.
You can also elevate your hive on cinderblocks.
You can use a level stump to get your hive up off the ground.
You can use a level stump to get your hive up off the ground.

Beehive frame rest

A frame rest hangs on the side of the hive, providing a convenient and secure place to rest frames during routine inspections. It holds up to three frames, giving you plenty of room in the hive to manipulate other frames without crushing bees.

A frame rest is a handy device for holding frames during inspections.
A frame rest is a handy device for holding frames during inspections.

Bee brush

The long, super-soft bristles of a bee brush enable you to remove bees from frames and clothing without hurting them. Some beekeepers use a goose feather for this purpose. Keep that in mind in the event you have an extra goose around the house.

Use a soft bee brush to gently remove bees from frames and clothing.
Use a soft bee brush to gently remove bees from frames and clothing.

Slatted rack for beekeeping

You might want to sandwich a slatted rack between the hive's bottom board and lower deep-hive body. It does an excellent job of helping air circulation throughout the hive. Also, no cold drafts reach the front of the hive, which, in turn, encourages the queen to lay eggs right to the front of the combs.

Slatted racks help improve ventilation and can improve brood pattern.
Slatted racks help improve ventilation and can improve brood pattern.
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The Essentials of Setting Up a Backyard Beehive

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