The days are becoming just that little bit longer, the sun is just that little bit brighter and this week I’ve seen crocus flowering everywhere.
Yes folks, the new beekeeping season is almost here; time to get excited about this year’s plans and schemes.
Christmas mince pie binging gave me plenty of time to think about what I’d like to get up to in the new season. I’ve set myself four goals which are challenging but achievable.
- Build a new apiary - I’ve found a new site which seems rather nice. In March I’ll place the hive stands on the site, with three overwintered nucs to follow in April.
- Single size boxes – over Christmas I read the Rose Hive method by Tim Rowe. I was inspired to do so by an excellent talk given to our association by Liz Knee who only uses super boxes in her hives. I’m planning on using national size boxes rather than the Rose as I have a stock of these.
- Queen rearing – raising my own queens has been a goal for some time. Queen rearing is one of the skills which many insist isn’t that difficult but appears utterly bemusing to those that haven’t given it a go. I’ve booked myself on a weekend course in June to becoming indoctrinated to this weird sub-sect of beekeeping – I wonder if there is a secret handshake?
- Foundation-less frames – on the Internet it would seem that going foundation-less is a common practice in the United States, but, I know only a few people in the UK who have foregone wired foundation. Rumours are that foundation prices this year are going up so this seems a jolly good idea.
Between now and the end of March I need to make up some new frames, clean a few boxes and do a stock take to make sure everything is ready for April when I jump feet first into the new season.
I wish you all well in whatever plots, plans or schemes you are hatching for this year’s season.
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:
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
Apart from a box of bees there are three pieces of beekeeping equipment everyone needs.
These are: a beekeeping suit, smoker to calm the bees and the bee hive skeleton key - the hive tool.
Like the fisherman’s rod or painters brush, the hive tool is the most intimate of tools. Everyone has their own preferences: weight, size and pattern. With the right combination a deep attachment to the perfect hive tool develops.
Recently I found my first and most loved hive tool which I thought lost to me.
I almost embarrassed to say how happy finding it made me. The dopey grin on my face during trip back to my house the day I found it is likely to have scared any small children that spotted me.
As soon as I got home I placed my beloved into the dishwasher. Now good as new I’ve been fondling it ever since. Still with the same silly grin. Imagine a chubby Gollum with a yellow hive tool and you will have nailed the picture I’m trying to paint here.
At this point I’m sure you’re wondering why I didn’t just order a replacement hive tool of the same model?
Well. I have a beekeeping equipment addiction spending hours ogling the array of hive tools. There is marvellous variety and many to try out
It’s one of my many guilty pleasures; I’m sure you understand.
Like Goldilocks looking for her perfect bowl of porridge here is my path to perfection.
This tool was just too thin
I bought this hive tool because it looked almost identical to my original tool. The handle was too thin and uncomfortable during twisting motions to crack the seal on boxes.
this tool was the wrong pattern
Many of my fellow beekeepers use the traditional British hive tool. It has a concaved handed and crowbar type design. During manipulations I missed the handy J hook to lever out those frames.
This is the heavyweight version of my favourite hive tool. It shouldn’t have surprised me to find it a tiny bit too heavy.
this one was just right!
This Taylor Eye Witness hive tool has the J pattern I like, a comfortable handle and is light in the hand.
When it comes to hive tools, what is the love of your life?