Holiday gifts for beekeepers
It’s time for my annual list of holiday gifts for beekeepers. The items range from very inexpensive stocking-stuffers to more expensive “serious” gifts. If you are a beekeeper, you can print this list, stick it on the fridge, and hope for the best.
- Microscope with camera: a microscope of only 400x is enough to do your own Nosema testing, plus you get to see pollen grains and all sorts of interesting things that live with your bees (or with you). Even inexpensive microscopes now come with cameras that hook up to your computer, so you can keep a .jpg of that creature you’re not sure of. No serious beekeeper should be without a microscope. Don’t forget to order a box of glass slides as well.
- Hive-top feeders: I used these plastic one-gallon Ultimate Hive Feeders this year and loved them. Easy to fill, easy to see the syrup level, easy to clean. Two feeders will fit inside one medium super.
- BroodMinder: Monitor the temperature and humidity of your hive on your cell phone. You still have time to get these at the Indiegogo price.
- Vivaldi board: An inner cover, ventilated cover, and feeder rim all rolled into one. They can be used year round and can easily hold a Swienty feeder. My favorite, made by Greg at GSLongWoodworking in Oregon, has two ventilation ports in the bottom so ventilation can occur even when a feeder is in place. Check out his site for other cool bee stuff too.
- Swarm Commander. Swarm season is just around the corner and if you catch just one swarm with your bottle, you’ve more than paid for it over the cost of a package. I caught five swarms my first year of using Swarm Commander, and I’ve got plenty left for another year. The bottle has a two-year shelf life.
- Ventilated gabled roof: allows good weather protection and excellent ventilation. My favorite, made by Bill Castro of Bee Friendly Apiary in Maryland, is designed much like the attic space in a house and is beautiful besides.
- Bug Baffler: Much lighter and cooler than your average bee suit, the Bug Baffler is made of fine, durable netting and is extremely honey bee-resistant. I use mine a lot, especially for quick checks or on really hot days: Bug Baffler Insect Protective Mesh Shirt.
- Green bee suit: On those occasions when you want a heavier suit, I love these new green ones, all cotton with eight pockets. They run small, so be forewarned. Natural Apiary® Beekeeping Suit.
- Hardware cloth: A roll of #8 hardware cloth has endless uses around the apiary. Amazon stocks it in a ten-foot roll.
- Duct tape: can’t live without it necessity in the apiary. For variety in hive design, you can get tiger stripes and even leopard skin, but it doesn’t deter bears.
- Hive tool: these get lost. So if one is good, more is better.
- Essential oils, especially spearmint, lemongrass, tea tree, or anise: used for making dietary supplements for bees. My favorite source is 100PureEssentialOils.com.
- Paint strainers, one-gallon or five-gallon size depending on the number of hives: these can be used for filtering honey or beeswax (or paint).
- Everclear: In the past I listed isopropyl alcohol, but I’ve changed to Everclear because it is non-toxic. You can use it for removing propolis from everything that’s not propolis. You can use it for making swarm lures from dead queens. And if you have some leftover, you can always drink it . . . in moderation, of course. You can find Everclear at your local liquor store in 151 or 190 proof, depending on your state laws.
- Sugar, white granulated in 10-, 25-, or 50-pound bag: for making candy boards, syrup, or candy cakes. Also useful for pie. If you can find extra-fine granulated baker’s sugar (also known as bar sugar) it dissolves super fast.
- Seeds, flowers or herbs: provide bee forage—choose flowers that are attractive to bees such as five-spot, bird’s eyes, baby blue eyes, or borage. A good source for heirloom seeds is the Hudson Valley Seed Library.
- Tree or shrub: serves the same purpose as above except feeds a crowd. Try cherry laurel, California lilac, or black locust.
- Velcro ankle straps: the little darlings really like tender ankles and legs.
- Mason bee condo or bumble bee house: once hooked by honey bees, there’s no turning back—all their relations become fascinating as well.
- Electric drill, an 8.0 amp 3/8-inch pistol-grip drill for assembling woodenware is about $60.
- Drill bits, extra long, of various sizes from 1/16-inch to 5/16-inch: allows the beekeeper to make his own bee condos.
- Countersink: I prefer screws over nails for assembling woodenware, and a countersink keeps the boxes from splitting at the holes.
- Hole saw and mandrel: Nice for those entrance holes you are going to drill in your honey supers. Also good for ventilation ports.
- Cross-cut saw: handy for many beekeeping projects. Stanley 20-045 15-Inch Fat Max Hand Saw
- Yellowjacket traps: for trapping . . . you guessed it . . . yellowjackets. My favorite brand, Rescue!, contains pheromones that will not attract honey bees.
- Florescent green spray paint: for marking drone frames, a useful tip learned from Randy Oliver.
- Fishing line, 50# test for wiring frames: it is still springy like wire, but it doesn’t kink or break. Forget melting it into wax, however—it doesn’t conduct electricity.
- Ratcheting tie down: for tying hives together, to each other, or to something else; they are good for hurricanes and earthquakes as well.
- Wood filler: to replace those chunks missing from your masterpiece.
- Butterfly net: a long handle is good for removing bees from inside your skylights or snaring flyaway queens. Also useful for annihilating yellowjackets. A variety of good nets can be found at the Educational Science Online Store.
- Double boiler: for melting wax; try to find one at Goodwill because it won’t be good for anything else after the first melt.
- Crock pot: an alternative to the double boiler for melting wax and a bit safer. If they already have a crockpot for cooking, don’t worry. The one for melting wax cannot easily be used for anything else.
- Bee brush: because a paint brush just doesn’t work.
- Propane torch: the no-nonsense method of lighting a smoker. Bernzomatic TS4000 Trigger Start Torch
- Air compressor: a small, three-gallon, 135 psi pancake compressor is about $100 and can save hours of time.
- Brad gun: although I use screws on my bee boxes, I use brads on the frames. A pneumatic 18-Gauge 2-inch brad nailer is about $80.
- Air hose: to connect compressor to brad gun, somewhat necessary to make the system work. About $10.
- Brads: several sizes, such as one-inch, three-quarters-inch, or five-eighths inch. If you are on a tight budget, just gift the brads. This will force the beekeeper to buy the rest.
- Uncapping knife: one of those things beekeepers skimp on, but they are really nice to have for extracting honey. Fristaden & Company Electric Honey Uncapping Hot Knife Beekeeping Tool with Stainless Steel Blade
- Honey Extractor: Now, you know I never extract honey, but if you’re into that, I’ve heard good things about this little two-frame hand-cranked extractor: BuildaBeehive Honey Extractor Spinner Constructed of High-Polished Stainless Steel with Turning Manual Hand Crank
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