“People who want to appear clever rely on memory. People who want to get things done make lists.” ~ Peter Howilliams
I’ve been beekeeping for a few years now. Yet, until recently, my hive lived in a purpose built apiary at home. Now, it is about 20 minutes away, in our fantastic new apiary.
I still keep all my equipment at home. So each inspection I have to remember what to take and because I’m me, that means writing a checklist.
Frankly, most days my brain is like a web page with a dozen tabs open, so a checklist helps me focus on what I need and ensures that I don’t forget anything. And I’ve made you a lovely checklist, free when you subscribe to my newsletter, yay!
And if you are unconvinced about the value of a checklist, I can recommend The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right by Atul Gawande. If checklists help surgeons and pilots, they’ll work for you too!
Already this season, I have neglected to take extra supers or frames thinking I wouldn’t need them. I ended up having to go back the following week which was a waste of time, since I hadn’t been prepared.
It is also an excellent list for new beekeepers if you are wondering what kind of kit you are going to need to manage your own hive.
Pre-Hive inspection Checklist.
Take it off!
Let’s start with what you need to leave at home! I take off all my jewelry and leave it at home. Earrings can catch on the mesh of your suit, as can necklaces. Take any rings off. When you get stung on your fingers and they swell, you don’t want to have to decide between keeping your finger or cutting off your ring!
- Bee suit.
If you can, buy new. Borrowed suits are fine in a pinch but you want a suit that fits you. Suits that are too big, or too small can restrict your movements and make your inspection awkward.
- Bee gloves
Invest in a good pair of gloves and they should last a few seasons.
- Long socks
To tuck your suit pants into.
I don’t like wearing sneakers, Gumboots offer extra protection to your feet and calves and are easy to clean, they will inevitably get dribbled with honey. As you can see, mine are extra stylish.
- Baseball Cap
I wear a cap under my suit to keep the sun out my eyes, but the visor also keeps my hair out of my face and the mesh from the mask off my face.
- Smoker & matches/lighter
I pre-load my smoker with a paper “cigar” so it’s ready to light as soon as I get to the apiary.
- Hive tool
I use a J-hook hive tool but have an American hive tool as backup.
- Frame holder
This is indispensable when honey harvesting. I can’t juggle a frame and a brush at the same time.
- Galvanised bucket
I fill my bucket with water before going into the apiary and put my brush in there. When the inspection is done, I pour the water through my smoker to extinguish it, then the smoker sits inside the galvanised bucket on the drive home.
- Hive Brush
A handy tool to sweeping away bees before putting the supers or hive lid back on. I also use mine to sweep any bees off a harvested honey frame.
- Extra frames & extra super.
I am always astonished how quick bees can fill a frame of brood or honey. Pack at least a super’s worth of extra frames to rotate in the hive as your rotate out honey frames.
- Big plastic tubs with a locking lid that can hold honey frames.
Harvesting honey frames is impossible without a big tub that you can quickly slip them into once they have been brushed of bees. It seems redundant to say, but bees are attracted to honey and beeswax, so make sure the lid fits tight.
First Aid Kit
I keep a First aid kit in my car, but in addition to that, I also pack the following,
- Oral antihistamines
Just in case of an awkward sting or multiple stings, an oral antihistamine taken immediately can reduce pain and swelling.
Even if you don’t have an allergy, a single sting can trigger an anaphylactic reaction. You can get an EpiPen from the pharmacy without a prescription, but you will have to pay for it. (People with bee allergies can have an EpiPen prescribed and covered by Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme in Australia.)
- Quick cold packs
Single use cold packs are handy to soothe stings and reduce swelling.
This zinc oxide tape is used for securing dressings, but being both waterproof and dirt repellent it is really durable and we often use it to reinforce and repair our gloves. It sticks really well to skin without irritation.
- Big bunch of fresh wormwood.
I place a big bunch of fresh wormwood in the water bucket and place it on the top bars of the hive before placing the hive lid on top. We have had issued with wax moth, and it appears that wormwood is used by the bees to plug their entry points into the hive.
- Extra Queen excluder.
When we had issues with wax moth, it would collect along the middle of the Queen excluder where the Ezi-lift super’s met the center of the brood box. We would rotate in a clean queen excluder each fortnight and clean the other.
- Rubber bands.
If you have a bit of comb that has fallen off the frame, a couple of rubber bands stretched over the frame will hold it in place.
- Container for propolis.
If you want to save any propolis you scrape off the frames a small container with a lid is ideal rather than mucking around with a plastic bag.
- Scissors/ sheathed knife.
Handy should you need to cut through tape.
- Gaffer tape.
Discover a hole in your suit? Gaffer tape it. Lid cracks on your frame box? Gaffer tape it!
POST inspection Checklist.
- Hang up suit, gloves and brush outside to air. Rinse off any honey with water & allow to dry.
- Clean gumboots of any honey and dry.
- Empty bucket and smoker and allow to dry.
- Clean hive tool and wipe with an oily rag.
- Clean old queen excluder and if possible, place in the sun to kill off any pest eggs.
- Place propolis and honey tub inside with a view to process honey frames as soon as possible.
- Once inside I make notes of our activity for each hive. I record all my data in my Bullet Journal for easy reference. I record how many frames were rotated into the brood box, how many honey frames were harvested. Record if the Queen was sighted, or otherwise, evidence of the living queen, like eggs and larvae. If hive is queenless, note any opened queen cells. You might want to also note any pests, (like waxmoth) or swarm cells. You might also want to record any stings.
- I also make a task entry to replace any items used up, like gaffer tape, matches or any repairs. That way I’m not caught short next inspection!
So there you have it! But have I forgotten anything? Do you have any items that you consider essential? Please leave a comment below.