6th July 2007

Score!

posted in Random |

One of the *ahem* advantages of beekeeping is that it gives the new beekeeper an almost infinite number of new intriguing gadgets and supplies to buy. Now, many of these are not precisely necessary… but they’re fun, and nifty, and at least potentially useful. And so we bought stuff.

From Betterbee we got: a queen marking kit, and a “screened front porch” for one of our hives. The first will help us to put a dot of paint on the top of a queen’s thorax, to make her easier to identify quickly (because queens are fast and wriggly and look quite a lot like worker bees to the inexperienced eye). It consists of: a queen capture cage, which is sort of like the kind of clip one uses to close potato chip bags, or maybe more like the clamping sort of hair control devices. Anyway, it’s a spring-loaded clip, with a gap in the bottom and barred sides that allow workers to escape but keep Her Highness in; a clear tube with a foam-padded plunger and a mesh top, for the actual marking, and a nontoxic paint pen. The idea is that one grabs the queen (and, inevitably, a few attendants) in the clip, shake the attendants out, decant the queen into the tube, and very gently press her against the mesh so her top is available for receiving a dot of paint. Many beekeepers color-code their queens as to year and/or strain, too, though we’ll just be doing it for visibility. We plan to practice on drones, because we can ID them easily, and if we accidentally squish one it’s not the tragedy it’d be to squish a queen.

The “front porch” is a doohickey that’s mostly designed to make moving hives easier, since one can quickly close off the hive’s entrances- but the mesh allows the girls to cool the hive effectively despite the reduced entrances. We don’t really need such a thing, but it’s pretty nifty.

From Dadant we got: me a new hat-and-veil combo, since I’m not thrilled with the one I had; and queen excluders, so we can keep the queens out of the honey supers we’ll be adding this weekend. Also 1-gallon in-hive feeders, whcih we want for the winter: they fit in the space a frame takes, and one fills them with syrup which gives the girls an additional food supply, and helps to even out the temps in the hives by acting as insulation. I’m not sure if we’ll be getting hive wraps or not, at this point.

We still need to get bee escapes- they’re doohickeys that fit in the hole in the hive’s inner cover, and allow bees to exit but not return to the supers. These are handy for hobby beekeepers who want to remove supers without unduly pissing off the girls, and who can afford to wait a day so almost all the bees will wend their ways out through this. We may also need more supers, since our hives seem to be quite productive thus far! I’m thinking we may want to experiment with the system in which the bees actually build comb and fill it with honey IN nifty plastic boxes which can then be easily sealed and given away or sold. A bit pricey for commercial keepers- but the convenience is appealing to us, and it’s not really all that expensive. Especially since we have NO desire to get into honey extracting equipment this year! Even a simple system tends to be in the $500 range, and the girls have not been exactly cheap to date. :) (Yes, I know there are more old-fashioned ways to extract that are cheaper but more work, and if we end up with enough honey to warrant it this year- which I still think is unlikely- I’ll probably give that a go. But I’m pretty sure that if we really want to extract honey, we’ll want to do it via at least basic equipment.)

-Amanda

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