Anyone who keeps bees will need to perform bee hive inspections. This simply means opening up the hive and checking that everything is hunky dory. During these inspections, every beekeeper should have some basic tools available to handle just about any situation.
I like to keep my tools in a small plastic grocery bin that I bring with me to my beeyard. I call it my hive inspection kit. I built my inspection kit based on the opinions of many experienced beekeepers. Here’s what I recommend for building your own hive inspection kit:
Your hive inspection kit should definitely have the following:
- A hive tool – A small metal pry-bar to help open your hive and scrape off burr comb and propolis
- A smoker – Smoke calms bees
- Paper, cardboard – To get your smoker started before adding twigs, pine needles, burlap, etc.
- Lighter or blow-torch – To light your smoker
- A veil, bee suit or jacket, gloves – While a full suit is not necessary, a veil is a good idea. A sting to the eye could cause blindness.
- A log book – Keep logs of your visits to track your hive
- A bee brush – Handy for brushing bees off woodenware
Should maybe have
The following items would be recommended for some people but not necessarily needed by all:
- An extra hive tool – In case your first is lost in the grass
- A folding pocket knife – For quick fixes, making kindling, etc.
- Commercial smoker fuel – If you’re bad at keeping your smoker lit, use pellets or something that’s sure to keep burning
- An extra bee suit/jacket or two – Handy for visitors to your bee yard
- Thumb tacks or push-pins – Read how they helped me and they’re also great for marking problem frames
- Duct tape – For everything imaginable
- Frame rest (AKA Frame perch) – Holds your frames on the side of the box while you inspect them
- A camera – For documenting, blogging, forums, etc.
- A fire extinguisher – We’re often lighting smokers in dry grass. Fires are a real concern. An out-of-control fire could ruin your bee yard, property, or more.
- A beekeeping book or handbook – Great for reference
- An extra hive body filled with frames – In case you need to expand a hive
- A jar to collect burr comb – I don’t let any bit of beeswax go to waste
Nice to have
These items should be in your hive inspection kit if you’re the type of person who wants to be prepared for everything possible. (Bullet-proof vest omitted).
- Benedryl – Helpful for bee stings and other allergies
- Band-aids – Helpful for knicks and scrapes
- Tooth-picks or match-sticks – For examining larvae for pests or diseases
- Newspaper – For placing in between boxes when combining colonies
- Wood shims – For levelling hives
- Hammer and nails – For quick repairs while in the bee yard
- Spray bottle of rubbing alcohol – Removes propolis from hands and clothing quickly
- An extra bottom board and top cover – In case you need to capture a swarm or split a colony
- A digital fencing tester – For those with electric fences to keep bears out
- A 5-frame wooden nuc box with handles – Can be used instead of a grocery bin to hold everything and doubles as a quick box if needed
I have omitted very specific pest treatments from this list, but obviously if you’re taking care of a pest or a disease, you’ll likely want extra stuff for that. It’s a good idea to start with the basics and then add specifics as you go. You’ll learn from your bees and past experiences and modify your hive inspection kit throughout the years.
What’s in your hive inspection kit? Have I missed anything above?