Many styles of bee suits abound. I decided against the full body coverall type suit when a bee keeping friend mentioned how warm one gets while working with the bees in the heat of summer. I opted for this style solely on the fact that it was cheap....or cheaper than all the others. It works as I've yet to get a bee in my bonnet or have a bee crawl up my sleeve. Knowing that I'm safe from bee stings because, really, there are only a few people crazy enough to enjoy bee stings, helps me to keep calm when there are hundreds of bees buzzing around my head. Being amidst a swarm of bees is really an amazing event….as long as you can keep your cool, which is what my bee jacket does for me. Only once was it necessary for me to walk away for the deafening buzz so that I could regain my composure (and sanity).
I also opted for the bee gloves thinking that they too would protect and provide me with a sense of security. Although they accomplished these tasks, they are also big and bulky making it hard to work with anything. It’s hard to hold on to the hive tool or the frames and it makes picture taking impossible. My same beekeeping friend likes to use disposable nitrile gloves which enable easier dexterity while working in the hives. The gloves do work well. However, it gives little protection when you bend your fingers and, in the process, accidently squeeze a bee. I know, as this has happened to me. However, with a pull on the glove, the stinger is removed easily. Yesterday I decided to try my garden gloves. I hate wearing gloves in the garden because they too can limit dexterity; however my hands usually break out into an itchy mess after spending any time in the garden. This spring I decided to splurge on a $15 pair of bamboo gardening gloves. These gloves are awesome in the garden but I found were equally awesome in the apiary! My garden gloves were cheaper than bee gloves and more user-friendly. I can even snap a few photos with my gloves on. Bonus.
Rubber boots prevent bees from wandering up my pants. Nothing worse than having an angry bee stuck in between you and your clothing. My boots also help keep the dew on the tall grasses off my pants. Head to toe, I’m covered to prevent any unnecessary bee stings.
The bee brush is handy to have when trying to gently remove the bees from a frame or hive box. It’s easy to squish a little bee friend when you are working in the hive. My son and I work together; one will brush the bees away while the other is putting the boxes back together.
In a bee keeping class we took last winter, the speaker suggested buying more than one hive tool. The bees create a sticky mess that bonds the hive bodies (boxes) together, as well as the frames. It’s very difficult to check the health of the hive when you are unable to pry anything open. I, foolishly, not wanting to spend the extra moola, and thinking that I would NEVER lose my hive tool, did not heed this advice. I know now that this was sound advice. As you may have guessed, my hive tool is MIA. Here’s some more advice: don’t try to substitute a crow bar for a hive tool. Aside from the fact that it doesn’t work very well, a crow bar can damage your hive boxes. Yes, this too I have learned the hard way.
Yesterday I FINALLY got the smoker going and kept it going the whole time I worked with my hives. This is an accomplishment. I crumbled up a sheet of newspaper, lit it and shoved it into the smoker. After letting it flame up good I added wood shavings that I had scavenged from my dad’s woodworking shop. Unlike my other attempts, I resisted the urge to fill the smoker full of larger wood/sticks. My bees were much more docile with the help of the smoker.
Unfortunately I haven’t had as much time as I would have liked this summer to observe, learn and care for my bees. One of the hives is thriving despite my neglect and one hive is disappearing. I’m not sure if this is by my error or just something that would have happened regardless of my inexperience. I do know that I didn’t catch it in time to try to remedy the problem. At this point I could combine the hives but I’m not sure if this would negatively affect the healthy hive. I’d rather not take my chances. I am very glad that I took the advice of my instructor in having a minimum of two hives my first year. Without a healthy hive in which to compare my dwindling hive, I may not have guessed that something was wrong.