After much research, there are really, in my opinion, a few must have tools for the beginning beekeeper. To help others who may have the same questions, here are my choices.
|Kelley Bee Smoker|
One is a SMOKER. You will hear some beekeepers say they don't need a smoker. Of course, I haven't even started using mine but after speaking with others and reading a lot of information, a smoker seems a necessity. For those who've often wondered about a smoker and its purpose (I know I always did), what the smoke does to the bees is it makes them think there is a fire nearby and so they gorge themselves on honey in case of evacuation. In essence, it does to them what Thanksgiving does to us...they get full and want to just lounge around and are happy with the world. The bees are less likely to sting and are much more relaxed.
We got this brand, from Kelley Beekeeping. We also got the metal case that holds it (it tends to get dirty, and hot). This one has a wood board with leather on the bellows (the squeezie part) for the longest lasting under constant use and lots of heat. I'll have a lesson on how to use it later in future updates.
The next essential tool has a simple name, a HIVE TOOL. It might not look like much, and it might seem as if you could use a crowbar or a long flat head screwdriver...but they won't work as well as this (and will tear up your hive boxes while trying to use them). So this is specifically used for beehives. The flat end is used to pry open and/or apart the boxes and/or frames and the curved end is used for scraping as well. Bees make a type of "glue", for lack of a better description, called propolis, and this tool helps you get through that.
Any beekeeping supply house will have these. I actually ordered two of them (they are very inexpensive) just so that I'd always have one handy should I happen to leave one laying back at the barn or somewhere else.
The next tool is called a BEE BRUSH. Just as the name implies, it is actually used for brushing away bees. The bristles are VERY soft and they won't hurt the bees. As with all things beekeeping, slow and gentle movements are recommended and this brush allows you to gently move bees out of the way, if they are clustered around a frame you need to remove for example.
Again, a very inexpensive tool, any beekeeping supply will have them. We also bought two of these for the same reason we bought two hive tools.
|Bee suit / veil|
Even thought this isn't really a "tool", I feel that PROTECTIVE CLOTHING is a good thing to have. The reason I think it's essential is its ability to make new beekeepers feel comfortable and with a bit of protection, we can focus on taking care of the bees. I'll admit, I'm a bit of nervous about getting stung (I'm not allergic, have been stung several times in my life, just not anxious to do it on a regular basis). So I ordered my suit by researching "best bee suit you can buy", ha. I found, via many recommendations on forums, the Ultra Breeze Suit. Be forewarned, it's not cheap, but it is also ventilated, important in our warm climate. You don't have to get a full body suit like I did. Any manufacturer will have hats with veils, just jackets for upper body protection, and of course, the full body suit that covers you from head to toe.
Of course, who's to say that in a few seasons, I might just not wear anything at all (well, let me rephrase that, not NUDE beekeeping, LOL) but for now, it makes me comfortable when working with them (wore a suit during some classes I took) and that's the most important thing.
Lastly, a FRAME LIFTER. This is a hinge like device that you open and close by squeezing, much like a pair of tongs you might have in your kitchen. They are made with small grips on the ends that can get between the frames in the hive box and allow you to easily lift them out. If you have gloves on your hands, these are definitely handy (no pun intended).
|Hive tool box|
In order to keep it all in one place, I found this beekeepers tool box that lets me keep as much together in one spot as possible. It's made out of a box that you would normally use for moving bees. It's got some add ons to hook tools onto. You can use anything as a tool box of course but as with all things we do at the farm, we are starting from scratch so we can be organized from the beginning.
|Hive tool box|
Tomorrow (Saturday) is the big day! We've had a LOT of rain the last few days. Almost 4 inches in 3 days (and more predicted this afternoon). However, tomorrow is supposed to be a lesser chance of rain so fingers crossed.