There are five essential equipment items required to start beekeeping:
A bee-veil or bee suit is necessary to protect the head, face and neck from stings. It must do this effectively, without being uncomfortably hot or heavy, while allowing clear vision for the job in hand. The veil should therefore be worn on or attached to a broad-brimmed hat to keep bees away from the face and the nape of the neck. It should be fitted with tapes or elasticated across the shoulders and around the chest to prevent bees getting inside from below. A choice of net, plastic or wire-mesh veils, or combined hats and veils, is available .
Your smoker should be capable of producing a good volume of smoke quickly at any time during the inspection of a hive. If it doesn’t respond when the bellows are operated, control of the bees may be lost due to lack of smoke at a critical moment. Rolls of corrugated cardboard are commonly used as smoker cartridges, but they tend to burn away quickly, even when the bellows are not being operated. Better, slower- burning fuels are hessian sacking, old cotton rags (not wool, silk or synthetic materials) or slightly damp straw or wood chips. Ensure that your chosen fuel has not been treated in anyway or been in contact with insecticides etc, that could produce toxic fumes. They burn slowly in the smoker and give plenty of cool, ipungent, smoke when required.
The hive-tool is a double ended multipurpose tool made of steel. It usually has a flat blade at one end, the other end being bent at right-angles to form a scraper. It is designed for prizing hive boxes apart, scraping wax from the top-bars of frames, separating frames from one another prior to lifting them out for inspection and for other jobs where a strong lever or scraper is needed. This tool is a “must have” item, as without it inspection of your hives is nigh on impossible.
Gloves make difficult the rather delicate task of handling of frames and combs, but if it is found necessary to protect the hands and forearms against stings, a pair of leather gloves may be obtained. Thin rubber gloves now available have been found suitable by some beekeepers particularly if the gap between glove and sleeve is covered by a short cuff. Many beekeepers prefer to work with bare hands but with some form of cuff fitting closely at the wrists.
Other items of equipment will be needed later on to deal with the removal of honey from the hive, its extraction from the combs, and with its subsequent straining and bottling.
In the absence of adequate food stores in the hive, bees need to be fed with sugar syrup to ensure their survival. Feeding usually takes place in the Autumn after the honey harvest, in order for the bees to create enough stores to carry them over the Winter. At other times, sometimes in the Spring or if there is a nectar dearth, your bees may require additional feeding. In the UK, in beekeeping circles, there is what is known as the “June Gap”. This is the period between the last of the Spring flowers being available to the bees, and the start of the main Summer flowering varieties. However, in recent years, the severity of the “June Gap” has been less noticeable, possible because of climate change and less predictable weather patterns. A feeder is therefore, another essential item of equipment. Numerous types and sizes of feeder are available, but one should be chosen that will take at least half a gallon of syrup. The simplest, and in many ways the best type of feeder consists of a container filled with syrup, and closed with a perforated lid, which is then inverted over the feed hole of the hive. Our preference is for the top feeder which can be installed and filled without disturbing the bees.