For most beekeepers, what to get us as a gift is easy—bees. Like chocolate and money, you can probably never have too many. 🙂
If you’re wondering to get your favorite beekeeper for Christmas, here are a few ideas. I’m adding to the list every few days at my FaceBook page (“Charlotte Hubbard, Beekeeper and …”) I’ll also update the complete list here in a few weeks. But until then, here are four possibilities.
One of the two things that I ALWAYS have when working bees (beyond Hubby and my protective suit is the Kent Williams hive tool–the reddish, well-worn one pictured. No other j-hook hive tools that I’ve found compare (sure, the blue one has a hook … but it doesn’t compare.)
To me, the key feature is the perpendicular pry bar edge (on the left of its photo.) That allows you to hook a frame with the wonderfully long hook, and then leverage the frame out using the side of the hive body. It also is tapered from the right end well up the shaft; most j-hooks are only tapered a quarter-inch or so. The longer hook is also helpful when wrestling a well-propolized frame. Just google ‘Kent Williams hive tool’ — lots of places carry them. Other than the hive tool not running to me when I call it (after I have of course misplaced it), it is PERFECT.
The second thing I NEVER work bees without is a squirt bottle containing 1:1 sugar syrup. This photo features many things — like my crazy husband who feels that pants are over-rated and often works bees in shorts. In the foreground is said squirt bottle.
I recommend a heavy-duty squirt bottle – less than $5. The dollar store versions work OK for a few months, but when you drop them they snap easily … so spend the big bucks and get something a bit more rugged.
We use a squirt bottle of 1:1 sugar syrup practically every time we work bees, because:
-I want them to remember me as the sugar fairy who brings them sweet drinks, not as the smoke threat who disorients them
-The syrup spritz focuses them elsewhere (ie, licking each other and residual syrup on the frames) instead of worrying about the person opening the hive
-Because they’re licking syrup off themselves, they’re potentially grooming (and removing) some mites
-It provides a refreshing drink on a summer’s day
You shouldn’t spritz when it is cool (less than about 50 degrees as a guideline) because you might chill any brood, so the squirt bottle has been stored away for the season.
Please note: we do use smoke when a hive is cranky, as well as when we’re robbing honey. But for 90% of our hive checks, we just squirt a sweet hello at the front entrance, and then spritz lightly each hive body and most frames as we work our way through.
A third thing I’d recommend as a beekeeper gift? A beekeeping jacket. Even if your beekeeper already has one, another set of protective wear allows them to share the joy of hanging out with honeybees with another person. (You?) With a jacket on top, and floppy, tucked-in pants on the bottom, the wearer is well-protected.
Purchase an XL or larger to fit most potential hive visitors. A loose-fitting jacket is a good thing (bees can sting through a protective suit IF they want to and IF they can get a good grip on the fabric.)
Chances are your beekeeper started out with a full protective suit. It seems safer and more secure. But, as a person works with stinging insects and discovers they really don’t want to sting—as well as discovers that the sting hurts terribly for a bit but that the intense pain passes, (using profanity often helps)—beekeeping in a jacket has appeal. It is cooler and easier to put on.
There are lots of headpiece options in jackets, and lots of different features (zip versus pullover, thumb hooks or not, a waist tie should an angry bee find its way up through the bottom, etc.) Most options and features are individual preference. With jackets generally priced $55 – $80, if your beekeeper develops a strong preference for a different style hood or feature for example, you can always buy another jacket down the road … and now you’ve got another protective suit for when your neighbor and her brother want to see what’s in those pretty buzzing boxes in your backyard.
Number four? The Kalamazoo Bee Club’s bee school, February 20th of next year. Whether you’re a wanna-bee, a relative newbee, or even experienced, you’ll find something of interest with our multitude of speakers and topics. You can learn more about it at this site.
By the way, I once met Kent Williams and I frequent Home Depot, but promotion of their products is coincidental. I’m not getting anything for doing so, except the joy of helping someone else better help my favorite insect.
Do you have other gift ideas I should include in the next post? Thanks in advance.