Saturday, April 1, 2023

The Inside Scoop on Beekeeping Tools


Happy Spring! As beekeepers are opening up their honeybee hives to prepare for another year of pollination and honey making, let's learn about the handy everyday tools that beekeepers use to check on their hives. Beekeepers across the United States utilize different methods of hive maintenance. Some of which have existed for centuries! There are a variety of ways to keep bees, but generally all beekeepers would agree that there are three vital tools required for going into a beehive. Let's explore the inside scoop on the essential tools of a beekeeper!

Hive Tool

A hive tool is used to separate frames inside a honeybee hive.

Hive tools come in different styles. This is one of the most common.

            First, is one of the most essential tools, the hive tool. The name and current common designs of a hive tool have been utilized for at least a century, which demonstrates the desirability of its' multifunctional use across generations. The main reason beekeepers use a hive tool is because honeybees create a substance called propolis, made from tree resin and beeswax. Honeybees use this to seal up their hive to keep it safe from bad weather and pests. The hive tool allows beekeepers to pry open the hive's lid and separated the frames for inspection. The generic hive tool has other functions as well. Personally, I find new uses for it every day. It may be used as a hammer, a shovel, a nail remover, a crowbar, and of course, a hive beetle squasher. When the tool becomes coated in propolis, it is easy to clean by using another hive tool to scrape it off. Remarkably, this instrument is so useful that there are even travel-sized versions available for beekeeping on-the-go.

           Bee Veil or Suit

Beekeepers wearing a full-body bee suit which protects them from potential stings.

The next essential tool provides protection from stings. Some beekeepers use a cap and vail, which protects the face, along with long-sleeved and pants when working with a colony that they are familiar with. Other beekeepers wear a full body suit with thick layers of mesh that prevent bee stingers from reaching their skin. This is great for inspecting unfamiliar colonies. The downside to this full-body bee suit is that you could be mistaken for a giant marshmallow. However, during the hot summer, the hot weather may have you feeling more like a s'more in these bee suits. To complete the picture, all we need is a campfire, which brings us to the last tool of this inside scoop.


A smoker puffs smoke on the hive to mask alert pheromones.

          The smoker, or as I like to call it, the travel-sized campfire, is used to puff smoke onto the beehive to mask the alert pheromones (which smells like bananas) honeybees may produce when their hive is opened. This way they are more likely to behave calmly, allowing for an easier hive inspection. The smoker requires a flame and some fuel such as grass clippings, cotton, hay, pine needles, or other kinds of fuel that do the trick without harming the bees. It's very important that beekeepers ensure the smoke remains cool to prevent hurting the honeybee's wings. Once you're finished using the smoker, you'll need to scoop out the remaining fuel. Scooping out the remaining fuel can be challenging without the proper tool. That's where the hive tool also comes in handy, with its long, metal stick perfectly suited to the task. Ultimately, a beekeeper's toolkit would be incomplete without the hive tool, protective attire, and a smok

Can you spot all three essential beekeeping tools mentioned earlier in the photo below?

Spot the tools of a beekeeper!