Tuesday, July 6, 2010

BEE(n) Shopping! (by Kat)

So, in order to support my new hobby, I've been shopping.

(There were two opportunities to make bad puns in that last sentence...I refrained in both instances. Aren't you happy?)

While I've read and researched everything I could find on top bar hives, I hadn't done much homework on Langstroth hives before the day I went to pick up my hive. So, when the 4th of July weekend found me over in Pugetopolis, I hit my favorite new/used bookstore, Third Place Books. I wasn't lucky enough to find any used bee books, but I picked up the "Beekeeping for Dummies" book and read it straight through on Friday so I'd be ready for my trip to the apiary supply store on Saturday.

I wasn't sure what to expect at the store, and my expectations were fairly low. Good thing. The owner was very set in his ways, and only carried the supplies/styles he preferred. When I told him I'd built my own top bar hive he looked at me as though I had a horn growing out my skull. In his words "if you've got access to a table saw, you don't have any reason to use a top bar." I told him that I'd used my table saw quite a bit to build my top bar hive, and he looked at me as if I now had a tail curling out my hind end. He reiterated his point that "there's no reason to build one of those if you live in the modern world."

I tried to move on, but he had to berate the entire world of top bars and their users for a while longer before he'd let the subject change. As he stood there, blabbing away like a southern baptist minister, and as my mind wandered away just as if he actually were a southern baptist minister, I realized that he had very little money to make off people who used top bars. It all clicked!

Anyway, I did buy quite a few pieces of equipment that day. My total, including the book from Third Place, was just about $150.00. Not cheap, probably not all necessary, but comforting for me to have at this point.

Here's an Italian style hive tool. It's less burly than the kind I wanted, and in fact I'd label it a doo-hickey as opposed to a tool, but what do I know? After all, I'm enamored with top bar hives! This end is for scraping burr comb and propolis off the places you don't want it. It is also supposed to be useful for prying the lid off the hive. I'm not sure this is burly enough for use as a prybar, but we'll see.

Here's the other end of the hive tool. The notch helps lift up frames. I could snap this tool in half with ease, even though it's metal. I'm just not in love with it at this point. But, you know, I haven't even sued it yet so I could be very wrong (who, me?)!

This is the frame grip. I wanted the French style, as was recommended by the guy from whom I bought the bees. The minister at the bee shop said he didn't like the "frenchy" kind, so he didn't carry them. So, I have this style instead. The French style has points where this style has flat grips. I can't see how this will give the positive grip the French style has, but the minister swore by it, so I'm giving it a shot.

Finally, I have goatskin gloves that reach up to my elbows and a bee veil to protect my head, face, and neck. The draw strings tighten around the collar of your shirt, making it very difficult, though not impossible, for any bees to enter the veil.

I didn't buy a beekeeper suit, as they are about $100 at the minimum. Jeans are fine, as is a white long-sleeve heavy shirt. I'll be hitting up the local thrift store here pretty soon to find the shirt. Honey bees are so docile that unless you are really bugging them a lot, or working around them day after day, you don't need special protective gear other than a veil and gloves.

In fact, the book I bought suggests that you don't even use gloves. I'm not that brave, though.

Although, after taking the photos to show you the equipment, I walked over to the hive to see how all my new little friends were doing.


And bare-footed!


  1. Yikes, its not a cheap hobby, but I guess the rewarding ones never really are. Interesting that a suit isn't required.

  2. I can't find a search field on your site, but did you ever post why you decided to go into bee-keeping, or do you simple eat honey on everything? :-)

  3. Hi Paperseed!
    First let me bow down to your greatness and tell you how humbled I am that you stopped by!
    Second, Blogger has a tiny little search-a-ma-job in the upper left hand corner of the page, but it isn't really labeled. I'll have to look into searches for blogs again, now that I have a little more experience.
    Third, well that sounds like a good topic for a whole post in and of itself. Stay tuned!

  4. Kat I'm really excited about your bee ventures. How lucky to stumble on that book second hand. I love the great pictures of the equipment and such and of course I enjoyed the narration. You may be able to push me over the line with the bee thing. Although there is a bit of expense it's so far not as astonomical as I had been led to believe.
    What got me hooked on your blog in the first place was your foray into soap making....and I still haven't crossed that line yet!
    I look forward to more revelations.

  5. Tanya---just go make soap already, okay?!
    Today, go buy the lye at the hardware store and line a shoebox with parchment paper.
    Tomorrow, make the soap.
    The third day, cut the soap into bars and go to bed happy.
    Or, don't, and go to bed the third day wishing you had!
    But be very careful, okay? Us Bobwhites can't afford to lose a single reader!