Five essential equipment items are Bee-veil or Full Suit, Smoker, Hive-tool, Gloves, Feeder
A bee-veil or Full suit is necessary to protect the head, face and neck from stings. It must do this effectively, without being uncomfortably hot or heavy, while allowing clear vision for the job in hand. The veil should therefore be worn on or attached to a broad-brimmed hat to keep bees away from the face and the nape of the neck; at the bottom it should be fitted with tapes or elasticated across the shoulders and around the chest to prevent bees getting inside from below. A choice of net, plastic or wire-mesh veils, or combined hats and veils, is available .
In use, a smoker should be capable of producing a good volume of smoke quickly at any time during the examination of a colony. If it fails to respond at once when the bellows are operated, control of the bees may be lost because of lack of smoke at a critical moment.
Rolls of corrugated cardboard are commonly used as smoker cartridges, but they tend to burn away quickly, even when the bellows are not being worked. A more satisfactory, slower- burning fuel is old, dry hessian sacking, always provided that it has not previously been in contact with insecticide-dressed seed or any other product that could give off a toxic vapour when burnt.
Old cotton rags (not wool, silk or synthetic materials) also burn slowly in the firebox and give plenty of cool, if pungent, smoke when required.
The hive-tool is a multipurpose instrument made of steel.
It usually has a flat blade at one end, the other being bent at right-angles to form a scraper.
It is specially designed for prizing hive units apart, for scraping wax from the top-bars of frames, for separating frames from one another preparatory to lifting them out for examination and for other jobs where a stout lever or scraper is needed.
This most useful tool should be as much a part of the basic outfit of bee appliances as the veil or smoker.
In the absence of adequate stores of food in the combs bees need to be fed with sugar syrup to ensure their survival. A feeder is, therefore, included among the essential initial items of equipment.
Numerous types and sizes of feeder are available, but one should be chosen that will take at least half a gallon of syrup.
The simplest, and in many ways the best type of feeder consists of a container filled with syrup, and closed with a perforated lid, which is then inverted over the feed hole of the hive. Such a feeder can be made from a jam jar honey can.* The plastic bucket feeder now on the market works on the same principle.
Gloves make rather difficult the delicate task of handling of combs of bees, but if it is found necessary to protect the hands and forearms against stings, a leather pair may be obtained from the bee appliance dealers. The thin rubber gloves now available from chemists have been found suitable by some beekeepers particularly if the gap between glove and sleeve is covered by a short cuff.
Many beekeepers prefer to work with bare hands but with some form of cuff fitting closely at the wrists.
Some beekeepers find cover cloths are useful to lay across a box of combs to prevent the bees from running over the tops of the frames when the hive is open. They can be made from pieces of light deck-chair canvas or similar material, with a batten fixed at each end. The width of the material should be slightly greater than the length of the top-bars of the frames and the length just sufficient to allow a batten to hang over each side of the box. The battens should be heavy enough to keep the cloth flat when laid over the hive and to prevent it being blown off by the wind. The battens, used as rollers, enable a pair of cover cloths to be used so as to expose one frame at a time when examining a set of combs in a brood box or super.
Other items of equipment will be needed later on to deal with the removal
of honey from the hive, its extraction from the combs, and with its subsequent straining and bottling.