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.

 

 

 

Are you a Beekeeper seeking a hive tool to love?

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.

Too thin:

thin hive tool

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.

Wrong pattern:

traditional beekeeping hive tool

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.

Too heavy:

heavy duty hive tool

too heavy

This is the heavyweight version of my favourite hive tool. It shouldn’t have surprised me to find it a tiny bit too heavy.

Just right:

my perfect hive tool

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?

Book Review: Bees & Honey: From flower to jar

Bees & Honey Michael Weiler

I read a lot of bee books, maybe too many, I categorise them into two types; technical beekeeping manuals or more narrative tales about the natural history of bees and their keepers.  This charming book, which kept me company on a recent business trip, sits between those two genres. It is the biography of a swarm from  hiving until the beekeeper harvests the honey. Included are detailed descriptions of bee biology and their life cycle.

Published in Germany Bees & Honey was written by Michael Weiler an influential figure in the biodynamic movement and a beekeeper of considerable experience. Translated from German to English results in some interesting phraseology, for example, when describing bees flying down to a skep with a captured queen:

 

‘those still outside are gathering at the starting point on the branch on the branch flying round in the familiar lemniscatory loops’  (talking about bees flying down into a swarm catching box)

This gives the book real character and the mixture of photographs and line drawings provide effective illustration when required. Michael travels to the UK often to lecture on biodynamic beekeeping and based on this book I’m keen to listen to him in person.

Germany is the World’s largest consumer of  honey and beekeeping there is popular. As an English beekeeper I was fascinated by some of the different approaches to beekeeping within the book:

  • Keeping swarms in cool dark quiet places like cellar. This, I’m told, is a well known and common practice; I admit I’d never heard of it - but I’m still a fledgling beekeeper. It allows the bees to settle inside the box, giving the beekeeper up to three days to prepare a new site.
  • Hiving swarms with a horizontal board. Most of us have seen images of  a swarm walking up a sheet into a new hive. It’s a cool thing to watch and very British - all the bees queue as they wait enter their new home. German bees it seems are a tad more adventurous, they tightrope walk into the hive …. well almost. The method described by Weiler to hive a swarm is a little different. The new hive and the box containing the swarm are placed at a similar height with the entrances facing each other. A board is placed horizontally between the entrances creating a bridge.  The queen is driven into the new hive and the rest of her workers follow. A sight I’d like to see.
  • Walk in hives. Ever had a hive tall enough you needed to stretch to get the lid off? They are a pain in the arse, well a solution may be at hand. Page thirty eight has a picture of a ‘Baden three story hive’; a hive the size a wardrobe you can walk into. I’ve tried to find some other references to this monster on the Internet without success. The only evidence is this grainy photography - so I’m going to file it in the same box as the Loch Ness monster and the Yeti.

Bees & Honey: From flower to jar is different twist on a beekeeping book, it’s short enough to read on a commute or holiday and is packed with some great stories. I’d encourage you to grab a copy.