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.
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.