By Ben A Field
Having the correct beekeeping supplies is of prime importance. The best supplies are needed to properly manage and keep the bees in the best of health. Harvesting and extracting the honey requires equipment, jars, labels etc. Also without protective clothing beekeeping can be dangerous.
Treating the bees correctly means that much greater levels of enjoyment can be derived from beekeeping. It also means that the quantity and quality of the harvests will be much better. At the centre of the supplies required to handle the bees is the smoker. This can be used to emit smoke into the hive which will 'calm' the bees. It works by fooling the bees into preparing to leave the hive because they fear a fire in the hive. It also hides the alarm chemicals produced by the guard bees signalling an intruder. These reactions combine to allow the beekeeper to open and work in the hive without a defensive reaction by the bees.
There are a large variety of fuels that can be used in a smoker ranging from cartridges to natural fuels such as hessian, twine, pine needles, corrugated cardboard and rotten wood. There are now aerosols that can be used as smokers.
A range of tools have been developed to help the beekeeper work in the hive. These are used to lift the frames, strip the wax caps etc.
Bees are very good at finding their food themselves having survived for millions of years. But it is necessary to supplement their diet with sugar syrup. This prevents starvation in bad times and it stimulates the laying of eggs by the bees. There are different kinds of feeders available for the beekeeper to achieve this. In the summer when the bees are active coming and going from the hive an entrance feeder is the best bet. In the winter inside feeders are best - hive top, pail or division boards can all be used.
Very important to the bees is their house - the hive. By far the most popular is the Langstroth hive, originally devised back in 1860 the design has lasted through time not yet being bettered. In this hive the beekeeper used a wax foundation in a removable frame to assist in the harvest of the honey. The frame is reusable but the wax foundation is a necessary supply. This foundation is a thin wax sheet with a hexagonal cell pattern embossed on both sides. This assists the bees so that the effort required in the construction of the comb is much less. This means the bees concentrate on making honey. Thus much more honey!
Last but not least we must consider the protective clothing that is required to keep the beekeeper comfortable - no one enjoys being stung. The essential elements are a hat and veil, gloves and a beekeeping suit. It is most important to protect the face and neck. The bees will be attracted to this area by the person's breath and it would appear that the sting's affect is far more severe. Two types of gloves are used heavy working gloves and latex gloves for the more delicate worker. However many beekeepers do not use gloves feeling that they hinder the finer worker that is often necessary. The beekeeper suit should be light coloured and a close weave to stop the penetration of the bee's sting.
By using the correct supplies and protective clothing beekeeping provides hours of highly rewarding pleasure, benefit the pollination of all the plants in the area, stop the decline in the number of bees (with its devastating effects if not controlled) and provide the most delicious honey.