Favourite equipment

At least nowadays each season is just a matter of top up purchases rather than the full investment.  It isn’t cheap to keep bees – we do it for love not profit or return on investment.  After a few years, though, I am definitely developing some preferences.

Maisemore gloves, recommended.

Maisemore gloves, recommended.

My favourite gloves were purchased from Maisemore.  I went there in person and tried them on as another beauty of them is that they are available in glove sizes.  This means you can find those that fit close enough for easy removal and with enough motor control to use a camera as well as do what is necessary with the bees.  I have found, though, that they are less good for controlling an iphone or iPad – I assume that these have been calibrated for skin using temperature or something as well as just pressure.  nevertheless I’ll be treating myself to a new pair this year.

An all in one is definitely the best suit type for most inspections and swarm collections.  Bear in mind that we usually inspect when it is warm enough to wear a t-shirt so beesuits do get hot.  Some of the fabrics are just too thick for comfort just as some suits and gloves are too thin for full protection.  it helps to either visit a supplier or go to one of the bee gatherings so you can feel the garments.  I love Bee Basic.  The fact that the hoods are interchangeable is useful.  I purchased a zipped bee jacket for those times when I may not need full protection and didn’t want the hassle of carrying a full beesuit.  I can wear it more or less like an anorak and if I have sturdy jeans can feel pretty safe.

The best sting stuff seems to be After Bite.  One of our volunteer beekeepers seems to have been targeted more recently so we try to keep something at all times.  After Bite seems better than the more creamy preparations and it is in the form of a pen so conveneient to carry.

Clear quilts are great and Julian, the regional bee inspector seemed to rate them, too especially for beginners.

My worst equipment is the hive strap with a ratchet.  I seem to have a form of dyslexia when using them either unable to get the tightness I want or unable to undo them when someone else has succeeded to put them on.

As far as smoker fuel is concerned I have tried lots.  I do find the pellets sold for the purpose are quite good and I often add some lavender in the hope it calms the bees.  Increasingly though, I use a water spray which seems gentler.  For emergencies I then also have a spray I purchased a couple of years ago.  The bees don’t like it but they do react quite quickly to it.

My worst moment as a beekeeper was when I had allowed my mentor to persuade me to add a super beneath the brood body over the winter.  For me this really didn’t work because it means more weight and more manipulation of heavy bits of hive.  When I had to take the super from below the brood box and place it above in spring, I hadn’t realised and couldn’t see from above, that the bees had used propolis to glue the frames of the upper brood box to the super frames below.  I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t lift teh brood box a little, slide it across and place it elsewhere whilst I moved the super out of the way.  Then suddenly some of the lower frames came detached with a thud and a cloud of unhappy bees was everywhere.  I have wintered on a single brood body ever since and have only had one winter fatality.  That was Spring 2003 – the colony was alive and well as late as mid march but the prolonged winter seemed to knock it on the head almost before the worst was over.


About apiarylandlord

Definitely past it - whatever it was - I may have blinked and missed it. New to beekeeping and totally entranced by the experience. That is probably all you need to know until I work out how secure this blog is. Great fan of recycling - see ilovefreegle.org to find your local group. Save things from landfill. Pass on your surplus, locally, for free or ask for things you need in case you can have someone's cast off again for free.
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6 Responses to Favourite equipment

  1. Nick Holmes says:

    I know what you mean about rachet straps, I too look at those with puzzlement. They do a good job once you get them working, when they do…

    With a smoker I think my favourite is dried grass. You have to get the smoker set up right or it doesn’t work all that well, but when it does you get such thick cool smoke. Oh or hessian sack which if you wrap it quite tightly just stays alight all day smouldering slightly and ready to create clouds after a couple of encouraging puffs of the belows. Only problem with hessian is trying to source it in reliable quantities.

    • You are right. Dried grass works well. So glad I’m not the only one with a ratchet problem. In the early days my mentor used an American (?) hive tool which seemed to work so well. He said he’d never been able to buy one over here. I’d like to find one because it somehow seemed to make inspection so smooth and gentle. And I cannot actually remember what it looked like so how on earth I will ever know if I find one I’m not sure.

      • Nick Holmes says:

        American tools are often J hive tools with the curved frame lifter end. I used to use one but I found the sharp bent scaper end that you get on a normal hive tool invaluable for keeping frame tops clear of brace comb, as long as its kept sharp.

  2. I think this combined the j end with the bent scraper end somehow. It was certainly not a straightforward j tool and my mentor was quite experienced so would have recognised that. The two ends seemed to complement each other so he seamlessly rocked the j end and then moved to the other in an almost hypnotic but efficient way. As I was new, it is harder for me to remember as everything was such a steep learning curve and everything so new.

    • Nick Holmes says:

      One of the things about beekeeping is that it is so personalised. Everyone has their own way of doing things and tools that suit them. Some refer to beekeeping as an art and I am starting to see why. Every mentor has their own methods that they impart (or don’t) and over time you will keep the ones that suit you and grow your own nuances that you will pass on.

      My advice would be to try new things, but also sometimes go back and try old things that you might have dismissed earlier.

      Certainly I went from not liking the standard tool, to liking the j-tool, then back again because I wanted the sharp pull back scraper for the tops of frames and the forward scraper for in between frames. I liked the j-tool frame lifter but I can cope with the pull back scraper for the same I guess.

      I went from a medium smoker to a large smoker, because they supposedly last longer. Larger smokers push more air through though and get hotter smoke, and they are large to handle… What I found out over time is that if you pack a smaller smoker properly then that is much better, smoke when you need it and little smouldering when you don’t.

      But of course like I said to start with, that is me, everyone has to find their own way about what is good for them. Of course that makes it difficult to teach, ‘everything is right for the right person’, so mentors go with what they use / do.

  3. I like maisemore gloves too, easier to clean than leather gloves as I just leave to soak in washing soda over night. Preferred when I didn’t know I was allergic though, and could just inspect with bare hands, much easier!

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