When you are first starting out in the beekeeping world, there are many tools you will need to make your journey so much easier.
Keeping any small animal on the homestead requires “tools of the trade”. A lot of them are pretty general. For example, you can use the same shelter for your goat or your duck. But in the beekeeping world everything is very specialized. If you have never taken care of bees before, they are going to seem very foreign. I’ll try to go over the most common and the most needed beekeeping tools. And maybe a few that just make your journey nicer or easier.
If you have never taken care of bees before, check out the posts 10 things to know before you start beekeeping and how to keep bees from stinging. As we went over Bee housing / beehives last time, we will dive right into the other beekeeping tools you will need.
If you are going to keep bees I suggest getting a veil at the very minimum. Why? Because if you get stung on the hand that’s one thing, but if you get a bee up your nose or in your ear it’s quite another. I don’t mention the nose and ear to scare you, but to tell you that those are two places the bees will most likely try to escape to if they feel threatened. Your nose and ears are small dark places that are just the right size for a bee to hide in. So a veil is the very least you should have. Most people will want a full jacket which comes with a veil / hat attached. Others will want a full bee suit. Don’t think you are a woose if you want a full suit. It’s actually very practical. Because even if you have a very docile hive of bees, that you have a good relationship with, what if that same hive has just been decimated by a raccoon or a bear? They are not going to be very friendly towards anyone, even you, their benevolent keeper. After you have been beekeeping for a while you may use just the veil…..most days, but use the whole suit on those special occasions…..
There are many types of veils. Store bought to home made. Here are two. The white ones came with the beekeeping class. It served the purpose just fine (while I had it on. Yes I was the one that got that bee up the nose when I got too hot and took it off too soon.) But I don’t think that veil would have been great for long term. The black veil is worn by our instructor. It is homemade. Notice the elastic at the top that fits over her sturdy hat and the suspenders that hook to her pants and hold it in place. Notice also, shirt tucked in, long sleeves buttoned (and ankles tight – not shown). They love to crawl in small spaces and even if they intend you no harm, if you pinch one…..
An even better option is the beekeepers jacket. Just zip it up and you are covered to the waist. You can even get them in a mesh material so they are cooler. Since your busiest time with your hives is the summer and you need to work on them in the heat of the day, (when most of them are out foraging) it can be pretty unbearable inside a suit. I suggest getting the coolest one you can afford.
This is another option and a good one too as the bees just have no way in. The two worst aspects are the cost and the heat. It is a one time cost though and if you don’t live in Florida like I do, the heat may not be such an issue for you.
Gloves are a personal choice. Some people want a heavy beekeepers “hazmat” type glove to insure no bee stings. But these are very hard to work with. They are very clumsy and you have no delicate “feel”. Most people will get tired of these in a short time and just take them off.
A lot of beekeepers use no gloves at all, figuring that they can be more gentle with the bees and make them less likely to sting.
The third option is nitrile gloves (as seen in the first photo). You have much more feeling with these, and if you do get stung you can pull the glove off and the stinger comes out too. Besides, you can double glove. The bees are less likely to get through two layers and if you need to take the outer glove off, you still have a glove on. Remember to pull your sleeves over your gloves so your wrists are not exposed.
I really don’t have to remind you to have closed toed shoes do I? OK, this is just for us Florida people who live in flip flops. Flip flops are NOT appropriate beekeeping attire. (but to each his own….)
One last note on your attire. DON’T DRESS LIKE A BEAR. That may sound strange, but if you dress in dark colors or have fuzzy socks, a bee is likely to mistake you for a bear. A bear is their arch nemesis. You don’t want to be mistaken for a bear! (just sayin’) That’s why most bee suits are white.
Now on to all the cool new tools to learn about.
I suggest you have an actual tool box to keep all your bee stuff in. When you need to work on the bees you want the box handy so you don’t have to hunt for tools when you want them and then have to carry them all in one hand. If you have a place for each tool, you will know if you have left anything behind.
A tool belt is another nice addition.
The first beekeeping tool you will need is a smoker. The purpose for this is, when you open a hive the bees will send out alarm pheromones that warn the other bees that there is danger to their home. If you put a few puffs of smoke in the hive it masks that scent and the bees are not alerted to you being dangerous and they will act in a less hostile manor. You will need some fuel for the smoker too. You can buy pellets or experiment with dry hay or pine needles. There are a lot of things that work well.
This goes by several names depending on it’s shape. It is a scraper or J hook. The purpose of this tool is to pry the hive apart. Pry it apart? Your not gluing it all together. Your not …. but the bees are. The bees make a substance called populous and they use it to seal up and weatherproof their home, so each time you want to check inside and maybe move frames around you need to pry it all apart again. The J hook is also great for getting hold of a frame so you can lift it out.
At some point you will want to check a frame more carefully. You will take it out of the hive box and it will be covered with bees. How can you see the frame if it’s covered with bees? You can’t. That’s what the hive brush is for. You can very gently brush the bees back into the hive box and have a clean frame to inspect.
This is a holder that fits on the outside of your hive. I think it is a must have. When you are inspecting a hive you need to remove a frame or two so you can see inside. But what do you do with them? If you have a holder right there on the side of the hive the frame can be supported in a safe, clean way that wont crush any bees or damage any cells.
This is a tool to grip a frame for extraction from the hive. It gives you a handle to hang on to. This is not an essential tool. But it can be nice. Especially if you are using those big clunky gloves.
This is a feeder you can place right in your hive in place of a frame. You fill it with food for the bees. Although I prefer to make sure I leave enough of their own honey for the bees to eat, sometimes it’s just not possible. Like when you bring home your first new bees, or if the winter just keeps on going and going. It’s good to have this as a backup just in case.
Many beekeepers find they need to put a ratchet strap around the stand and whole hive in order to foil the raccoon or bear, as both of these scoundrels love honey and will destroy a hive in minutes. This is a link to some photos of damage a bear did to some hives. It’s not pretty.
As you go along the journey you will find a few more beekeeping tools you will want to add. But this list is a good place to start.
Now you need to think about acquiring your bees. You may be thinking that this sounds like a lot of money just to start raising bees. And you would be right. Beekeeping can take a good chunk of change to get started. Anywhere from $500.00 to $1500.00. It will also take quite a chunk of time each week. You will need to suit up each week. Open the hive and check on the health of the hive. You also must be ready to take care of them in an emergency such as an impending flood, fire, raccoon/bear attack, or even disease. This is where having joined your local beekeeping club can be such a good thing, as fellow beekeepers can help each other out in an emergency, or to spell each other for vacation.
Still not sure if you want to start keeping bees? Check out this less permanent idea from “Mother Earth News”. You could just Rent some bees to try them out!
We haven’t even gotten to extracting the honey, which is another good reason to join a bee club. They often have extracting equipment you can rent or borrow. And for a small time beekeeper, it just doesn’t pay to own your own.
Whew! That’s a lot of information! Can you think of any beekeeping tools that I missed? Drop me a line and let me know. I’d love to hear from you. And if you liked this post Please Share!
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