Five Beekeeping Gift Ideas

Do you have a beekeeper in your life? Are you scratching your head wondering what to get them for Christmas? Here are five beekeeping gift ideas that they’ll glad to receive – probably.

Choosing gifts for family members, a partner or friend is a tricky job. The easy route is to stuff some cash into an envelope. But, this feels more like a bribe than an token of affection. Choosing something that won’t spend the rest of its life forgotten in a cupboard somewhere requires some careful thought and research.

Luckily for you if you have a beekeeper in your life I can help you out. Here are five gifts which most beekeepers would love to find in their stockings:

Leatherman Juice S2

 

perfect beekeeping multitool

perfect beekeeping multitool

The king of the multi-tool is without a doubt the Leatherman. Created by Timothy Leatherman in the 1970s, this ingenious device packs a tool-kit into your pocket. The full size tools are heavy and, frankly, pretty ugly. However, Leatherman has a range of mid-sized tools which are prefect for your everyday beekeeper.

The Leatherman S2 Juice has pliers, scissors, a knife as well as a collection of screwdrivers and other gadgets which are endlessly useful around the apiary.

It is small enough to fit on your pocket and its bight orange colour means you are unlikely to misplace it.

I like this tool so much I own two.

 Muck Boots

 

perfect-beekeeping-boots

perfect beekeeping boots

 

The overwhelming memory I have from my first season of beekeeping was worry. Coming a close second is how cold my damn feet were. Spend time looking for beekeeping equipment I can guarantee not a single article, beekeeping supplier or equipment manufacturer will mention boots.

Let me tell you dear reader – love your loved ones feet and buy them some decent boots.

Beekeepers spend a lot of time standing, often in cold mud. Cheap rubber welly boots are uncomfortable and cold.

High quality boots are therefore a godsend. My recommendation would be the Edgewater Hi Wellington Boots from the fine people at Muck Boots.

They are light and warm; the weather proof elasticated tops provide a snug fit which keeps any curious bees at bay.

I love them and my feet have never been cold – or indeed too hot.

A good bee book

 

perfect-beekeeping-book

I have a mild addiction to bee books which I impulse buy relentlessly. This has resulted in an embarrassingly large pile of unread volumes. The best book I did read this year was The Bee A Natural History.

It is a truly beautiful book, the binding feels lovely and the photographs are delightful.  The content ranges from the history of beekeeping to the diseases and pests. Meaning that it will entertain and inform everyone from the casual reader to the seasoned beekeeper.

For God’s sake buy the hardback and not the kindle edition!

A good tool bag

 

Unless a beekeeper has hives only in their gardens it is likely that’ll be carrying their tools too and from an out apiary. I carry a surprisingly large amount of kit to when I visit my bees: hives tool, smoker, gloves, queen marking kit, multitool, tapes, pens and other nic nacks.

perfect-beekeeping-toolbag

A well organised beekeeping handbag is essential to keeping this stuff in order. The grandly named ‘Fatmax multi access tool bag‘ (I’d like meet whomever named that) has fold out sides with lots of internal pockets which prevent all your equipment piling up in the a heap at the bottom of the bag. It’s light, not too bulky and with a shoulder strap lugging stuff to and fro is pretty easy.

A nail gun

 

 I’m a big fan of beekeeping rituals, lighting a smokers, eating tea and cake are some of the things that make the hobby marvellous fun. I use to enjoy knocking frames up in the spring but as you grow your hives the number of frames increases and it becomes tedious.

Behold the mighty nail gun!

beekeeping-nail-gun

ideal beekeeping nail gun

I use this Tacwise 0327to make my frames and it is far far quicker than using a hammer and nails. For £50 this is a brilliant time saving device.

Hopefully this list has given you some beekeeping gift ideas that you can delight your loved ones with.

Good luck.

 

 

 

Apiary Expansion: Part 1 Splitsville

I started beekeeping with a single swarm and started this season with two strong hives, but, my long term goal is to manage between six and eight hives over two apiaries. This is enough to provide a challenging hobby but not so much effort as to make it a second job.

One of the most important lessons learnt from my beeking mistakes is to have a plan for the season ahead and prepare for it. In past I’ve be caught unprepared, having to build or order kit quickly to catch up. It simply made life more difficult than it needed to be and when keeping bees the easier you make it – the better.

This year I knew I wanted to double my hives so I actually got organised – which I have to admit shocked me quite a bit.  I built, painted three hives, made up the frames and painted my poly nucs; all by the end of April.

My preparation has paid off because in England we had a delightfully warm spring which has prompted an explosion of activity by the bees and May has been a time for seemingly endless swarms. It wasn’t long before charged queen cups were in both my hives.

I have ..erm… rather enthusiastically marked my  Queens from last year which they may not have enjoyed but it does mean you can spot them from orbit. I moved them into two of my trusty poly nucs and left one queen cell up in each of the old hives. fingers crossed the girls should raise two fresh new queens in a few weeks.

I’ll be honest swarm control is still somewhat of a mystery to me and although I have the whole split thing down I’m not sure moving a laying queen into a nuc and waiting for my production hives to make a new queen is the best approach to maximizing my honey yeild? More research is required on my part on  this topic.

The rules of our association apiary stipulate a two hive per. member maximum, so now I’m on my way to four hives I need to find a new site to place them.

But I have a plan….

Frame Making

framesSpring has sprung early here in South London and unlike last season I am determined to have all my equipment ready before I need it. Saves all that rushing around at the last minute, something I did a lot of last season.

The wife has banned me from making frames on the dining room table after a few ….. erm  …….. incidents that left small holes in the table. So banished to a garden bench I spent a rather pleasant morning making frames on my trusty workbench.

I do have some hives to make, preparation is one of the many beekeeping rituals that I love about this hobby.

Surrey Beekeepers Bee Day

Beekeeping is a remarkably social hobby; if you want it to be. This is thanks to an army of generous and enthusiastic volunteers who organize events throughout the year.

In my first two seasons I failed to take advantage of these events, frankly I was too lazy to make time, but this year I’ve decided to attend a few. Boy have I been missing out!

The most recent meeting I went to was a day of presentations organised by the Surrey Beekeepers Association hosted in Ewell. It was a great venue and after registration there was time to chat to the other attendees over coffee and pastries.

The day had four presentations:

  • Paul Metcalf: The bumble Bee through the eyes of a beekeeper
  • Nick Von Westenholz: Agriculture under the neonicotinoid ban
  • Richard Ball: Managing varroa in 2014
  • Steve Alton: Bees need buddies

Unfortunately I had to leave before the final presentation but if it was as good as the previous three that was a real shame.

Paul Metcalf kicked off the day with with a very informative and amusing overview of the lifecycle of bumblebees. I was very interested to hear that they are now being cultivated as green house pollinator. A few days later I found this story on the BBC website regarding honeybee diseases jumping species to bumbles bees. One of the causes appears to be the practice of using honey bee stores in creating these bumble bee colonies which are being used in greenhouse pollination. I wonder if these farmers thought of contacting their local beekeepers association, I know that the members of mine are always keen to build new relationships with local landowners and often they could arrange to place a few hives on their land for free.

The next presentation was my Nick Von Westenholz who is the Chief Executive of the Crop Protection Association; the trade body for the pesticide industry. Given the passions surrounding this topic I must admit I wondered if it was going to become a little shouty; however everyone listened to him very politely asking some insightful and considered questions. Nick’s presentation outlined the dichotomy facing modern agricultural. There is a finite amount of land to grow food on and an ever increasing population to consume it. To address this problem he provided two options; use more land for faming or use technology to produce more food. You won’t be surprised to hear the CPA are in the technology camp, which in Britain a country that struggles with divide land between housing, agriculture, industry and conservation is probably the only real option.

After the questions and answers session we broke for lunch. This was a catered affair offering a wide choice from curry to pasta. I can report the chicken curry and apple crumble were very tasty.

The final session I caught before I had to leave was a brilliant presentation by Richard Ball on using predatory mites to control varroa. Richard has been working with the folks from Bet Vet testing a predatory mite called stratiolaelaps scimitus against varroa. This mites have been used in pest control on chickens for well over decade and Richard reported some very promising data from his trails. The biggest challenge appeared to be the distribution mechanism as these mites live in soil. An ingenious solution to this is to put the soil and mites inside teabag type packaging which can be laid on top of the frames.

Although Richard points out that these mites cannot deal with a heavy varroa his studies show promising signs they can maintain low varroa numbers. I am going to be keep a close eye on the Bet Vet site to see if this novel varroa treatment comes to the market.

If you’ve never attended any of the numerous events hosted by local and national bee association I would strongly recommend giving one a try. They are great fun and you can pick up all sorts of useful contacts.

 

 

 

My portable beekeeping workbench

P8310306The time has come to stop using the dinning table, garden furniture and pretty much any other flat surface I can find to make beekeeping boxes and frames on. I’ve become a little concerned that divorce may be on the horizon if I make a mess of any more furniture

So, I’ve grabbed myself and Black&Decker workmate. Most people are familiar with this benches. Balck&Decker have been selling them for decades. These simple collapsible benches are very handy for beekeeping. I’ve been using mine to make frames and hives. The ability for it to clamp boxes as I make them is really very useful and above all never again will I nail a frame onto the patio furniture by mistake.