Beekeeping Toolkit: Part Two
As we discovered in What is Urban Beekeeping?, beekeeping is a practice that can be enjoyed by anyone with a backyard and an interest in animals, food and the environment. It is a wonderful and rewarding hobby where the hard work is done for you: industrious bees, pollinating your garden and then busily making enough honey to fill the pantry. Smaller-scale forms of beekeeping—known as urban, backyard or hobbyist beekeeping—have been gaining momentum since the mid twentieth century. However, beekeeping’s popularity has increased considerably in the past two decades, as its connection to environmentalism and the “local food movement” attracts eco-friendly hobbyists. Today, Melbourne and Sydney are among the most popular urban beekeeping destinations, making it a great time to get involved with your local beekeeping community.
So, what might you find in a beekeeper’s toolkit? Aside from the fundamental hive (as described in Beekeeping Tools: Part One), the following tools promote the safe handling of bees and manipulation of your hive, no matter what your experience level.
Despite bees being gentle-natured, it is important, especially for less experienced bee-keepers, to wear full coverage protective clothing when handling these animals. A cotton suit keeps you cool, while the elastic cuffs around the wrist and ankles ensure a high-level of protection. The mesh hood allows you to see clearly, and the large pockets on the front of the suit are useful for holding your tools while you manoeuvre frames.
All keepers, regardless of their level of experience, require protective gloves when handling bees. Made from canvas or leather, these breathable gloves allow you to manipulate your hive, and safely handle your bees, without the risk of being stung.
The Australian style steel hive tool, or J tool, is a sharp flat metal implement with a tapered end and a colourful handle that is perfect for safely opening hives, loosening frames and cleaning propolis and wax. Often made in red or yellow, these tools can easily be spotted if dropped.
Smoke has been used to subdue bees since ancient times, as smoke triggers a feeding response in bees as they prepare to abandon their hive due to fire. The vital smoker, therefore, generates smoke from various fuels such as hessian, burlap, pine needles, corrugated cardboard, paper egg cartons, rotten wood; some beekeepers use commercial fuels like pulped paper and compressed cotton. The smoke produced by the smoker calms the bees when a beekeeper inspects their hive. We recommend burning dried pine needles in a medium sized, high quality BeeCo stainless steel smoker (11cm in diameter x 27 cm high), as the external shield protects the beekeeper from the emanating heat and smoke.
These safety tools, combined with an easy-access Langstroth style hive, comprise the perfect toolkit for the backyard beekeeper.