"One can no more approach people without love than one can approach bees without care.
Such is the quality of bees..." Leo Tolstoy
There was a time when we could safely visit our bees wearing little protective clothing. With the arrival of Africanized bees into the Southern states we've come to realize the potential danger of an aggressive hive and have learned to exercise caution when approaching our bees. A once gentle hive could be invaded and taken over by a small aggressive swarm. These bees are unpredictable and vigorously defend their hives. As beekeepers, it is our responsibility to help curtail the danger to our bees, ourselves, and others.
Veil and Hat
Even the most experienced beekeepers wear veils to protect their face and eyes. Wire veils keep bees farther away from the face than those made of cloth. Black veiling is generally easier to see through.
Some beekeepers prefer to wear a bee suit. Whether or not a suit is used, a beekeeper's clothing should be light in color. Bees generally do not like dark colors and will attack dark objects.
Bee gloves protect the hands and arms from stings, but it is hard to do some jobs while wearing them. It is a good idea to wear gloves until you feel more comfortable working your bees.
A hive tool is the most useful piece of beekeeping equipment. It can be used to pry up the inner cover, pry apart frames, scrape and clean hive parts, and do many other jobs.
Examining a hive is much easier when you use a smoker. It is used to puff smoke into the entrance before opening the hive and blow smoke over the frames after the hive is opened. Smoke causes the bees to gorge themselves with honey; then they are much gentler. Smoke must be used carefully. Too much can drive bees from the hive. They will be slow to settle down after the hive is closed again. Burlap, rotted wood, shavings, excelsior, cardboard, and cotton rags are good smoker fuels.
A brush gently removes bees from frames. It is preferable to use a brush with synthetic bristles rather than a brush with bristles made of animal hair. A leafy twig or bunch of grass can do the same job and gives you fewer tools to carry around.
Wire embedders are handy for wiring your own foundation. Various jigs for assembling frames and supers save time and assure square fitting. These can be purchased or made. Most beekeepers are creative with tools and make various gadgets to do special jobs.
Spring Bee Escape/Escape Board
A bee escape is used to clear bees out of supers. Place the escape in the center hold of the inner cover below the super to be cleared. Bees can pass through in only one direction. It usually takes about a day to get the bees out of a super.
Thank you to R.T. Bessin and L.H. Townsend of the University of Kentucky Entomology Dept. for the use of their article "Beginning Beekeeping for Kentuckians." http://www.ca.uky.edu/entomology/entomology.php
For information on Africanized Honeybees visit our Africanized Honey Bees page