Sunday, 17 May 2009

Clothing & Equipment

Protective Clothing
To complete your beekeeping set up you will probably want to kit yourself out with some form of personal protection. It doesn't have to be expensive as to be truly 'sustainable' you can even make your own.

Bee clothing comes in a range of shapes, sizes, colours and, of course, costs. You will primarily want to protect your face, though as a new beekeeper you may gain more confidence with a suit and gloves.

You'll want to wear this most of the time as a bee in the ear or sting on the face can be quite alarming! If you can use a basic sewing machine to sew straight lines then you can make a simple and effective veil to fit over a brimmed hat with some netting material for under £2. Download instructions here.

If you'd rather buy then there are many places that sell veils or complete bee suits on the Internet. YABeeP would recommend that you use a local (Burnham-on-Sea) supplier and friend Mike Duckett. Mike's range can be viewed on his website here though he kindly offers a discount on these prices to YABeeP members so mention us when you contact him or speak to us first. If buying, for natural beekeeping I'd recommend a smock.


A full suit is not absolutely necessary though those of a more nervous disposition will find more confidence in one. White is definitely the best colour for playing with bees as it not only keeps you cool in the hot weather, but bees are more likely to attack dark colours – something about looking like a bear! The cheapest option is to use a forensic suit as used by the police. These lightweight suits have elasticated cuffs, ankles and hood which keep the bees out and cost about £5, though if you have any contacts in the force they throw them away after only one use! 2010 Update - Use this link for an Ebay company selling them at £1.95 inc. postage!

Whatever kind of clothing you wear remember to keep it clean using washing soda. Not only does this cut down on the possibility of spreading bee diseases from apiary to apiary but when a bee stings, even a suit, it releases a pheromone to tell other bees to come to the party and start stinging. This pheromone stays active for a long time so a beekeeper in a clean whistle & flute will be merrily working away whilst his less laundered neighbour finds he's constantly being attacked.

You can pay pay thorough the nose for specialist gloves which are really not at all necessary as a pair of marigold washing up gloves are all that you need. A determined bee can sting through anything but one of the many advantages of sustainable beekeeping is that you'll be handling your bees very gently and happy bees don't sting. You'll soon have the confidence to forgo your gloves anyway so why waste money – you'll be surprised at how gentle you'll be with you hands exposed and covered in bees!

Again, sustainable beekeeping is the cheaper, less environmentally damaging one. You don't need those catalogues filled with expensive things. Just a few basic items which you'll probably have around the house already:

Traditionally beekeepers suppress their bees using a smoker. However, as we practice bee friendly beekeeping we would suggest that you don't use one. The smoke actually triggers a panic response in the bees. Fearing there may be a fire which could destroy their home they go back into the hive and gorge themselves on honey so they can be prepared to start a new home in case they need to take flight. Not only does this unnecessarily panic the bees but it could take them up to 24 hours for them to off-load the honey and get their constitutions back to normal once the threat has gone – hardly bee friendly!

Instead we recommend that you use a fine mist water spray bottle. Add a teaspoon or two of cider vinegar to the water and it is as effective as a smoker. You can even add a drop or two of certain essential oils to the mix - no more or the mix will become toxic. Peppermint, lavender and eucalyptus are known to be an irritant to the varroa mite which plagues our bees today so you will be killing two birds with one stone.

Long bladed serrated knife

You'll need one of these especially if you have a horizontal hive for releasing the bars which the bees stick down with propolis and for cutting any comb attached to the sides – cut gently upward in a slow sawing motion.

Large clean plastic containers

Always have a couple on hand when you are doing inspections – useful for saving any comb that breaks off.

Whenever visiting other people's bee hives always launder your clothing, wash your gloves and sterilise any equipment you take both before and after to avoid any cross contamination - see parasites, diseases and illness.

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