Summer beekeeping brings routine hive checks every week or so, which helps to maintain a healthy colony. Be ready and organized by having a hive inspection toolkit! Here’s what you should have ready when you check on your bees.
When you become a beekeeper, all of the information can be overwhelming! There’s a long list of supplies that you’ll need to get started.
After several years of keeping bees in Alaska, we have found what works for us when it comes to tools that we use when checking on our bees.
Today I’m sharing what’s in our hive inspection toolkit with you so that you can put together your own toolkit to have handy whenever it’s time to check on your bees.
A 5-gallon bucket is the perfect way to organize and easily transport beekeeping tools. We can fit everything that we need in our bucket and it’s always handy and ready to go when it’s time to complete a hive inspection.
Be sure to clean the bucket out each season to make sure your tools are in order. Take note if you need to replace, repair, or clean any of your beekeeping tools before the new season begins.
This is definitely the most important item of a beekeeper’s tool kit! If you don’t take anything else to a hive check, make sure you always have a hive tool.
We purchased an extra hive tool just in case we lose one and our daughter has one as well. Even if one gets misplaced, we always have an extra.
A hive tool is essential when releasing frames gently in order to lift them out to observe them. The hive tool comes in handy when trying to pry through the bees’ propolis, which is how they seal up the hive and stick everything together. It’s like glue!
We also use it to scrape off extra (burr) comb or any unwanted queen cells, which can lead to swarming.
There are a few different versions of hive tools but they’re all basically the same. Choose the one that you prefer, get an extra as well, and always make sure it’s in your hive inspection tool kit!
The bee brush is an inexpensive yet useful tool that we reach for at just about every hive check. It’s a large brush with very soft bristles that allow the beekeeper to lightly scoot bees out of the way.
They’re also handy for brushing bees off of your bee suit when you’re done checking on them. A few will hang onto you after you walk away from the hive and it’s nice to gently shoo them away so you can safely remove your suit.
This is optional as many beekeepers, including us, rarely use one. They are definitely recommended for new beekeepers, though, especially during the honey harvest season when the bees get especially irritated.
We skip the smoker for regular hive checks and save it for honey harvesting in the late summer, early fall. But we keep ours handy just in case we change our minds and decide to use it.
Be sure to have a lighter available and fuel for the smoker, which can be anything from pine needles, dry leaves, brown paper, burlap, or wood pellets. Use extreme caution and be sure the smoker is completely cooled before you place it back into your toolkit.
Sugar water is a simpler way to calm the bees instead of using a smoker. Gently spray the bees and they will keep busy licking up the sugar water while you do your inspection.
Get a good quality spray bottle and mix up a sugar water solution of one part sugar to one part room temperature water. Set the sprayer nozzle to mist and gently spray the bees lightly as needed.
A frame holder is especially handy, although not a necessity. We use ours at every check to help keep the first few frames that we remove safe and off to the side while we complete the rest of the hive inspection.
It simply hooks onto the side of the hive box once you remove the lid and the frames will hang on it. The frame holder can accommodate three frames, which gives you plenty of room in the hive box to push the remaining frames out of your way as you lift each one.
Another nice tool to have for help with lifting the frames out of the box is a frame grip. Once you release the frame using the hive tool, you can pick up the frame using the frame grip and inspect it.
We don’t use ours very often to be honest. We just prefer to lift the frame out with our hands gripping either side at the top. But if we have an especially heavy frame, the grip comes in handy.
Jar for Beeswax
I keep a mason jar with a lid in our beekeeping bucket for collecting wax. There will often be small areas of comb that the bees have drawn out outside of the frames. Scraping these off keeps the hive clean but don’t let it go to waste!
Chunks of wax should be picked up and placed in a jar or other container to save. Wax adds up quickly and soon enough you could have enough to make candles or other crafts!
Bee Suit, Veil, and Gloves
Although these don’t go in your actual tool kit, a bee suit, veil, and gloves are important tools for completing hive inspections. Many seasoned beekeepers are able to go without but I still wear mine every time!
Beekeeping is an exciting endeavor with a sweet reward. Having a hive inspection toolkit ready to go will help your hive checks to go smoothly, and be more enjoyable!
Be sure to print off a copy of my free Beekeeping Records printable so you can take thorough notes after every hive inspection, along with keeping track of your equipment, honey yield, and more!