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Hints & Tips
that make beekeeping easier and more pleasurable

There are many small, simple tricks that can transform beekeeping from drudgery to enjoyment. In themselves they are obvious and take little preparation.

Wax bucket a small honey bucket with a well fitting lid serves this purpose well. (The tight fitting lid stops the sticky wax fragments from embedding themselves in the carpet in your car or van.) All the scrapings and small pieces of brace comb from an apiary visit can be transferred back to your main wax storage without the bees being attracted to the comb fragments or the honey that may adhere to them. These small scraps mount up and when melted are a useful and valuable resource. Apart from any value the elimination of wax fragments on the ground near your hives is good for hygiene and they are not available to trigger robbing in the apiary.

Washing bucket... A medium sized honey bucket with a strong fitting watertight lid. Filled with water that has a teaspoon of caustic soda (NaOH) crystals and a drop of washing up detergent dissolved in it. This is useful for washing hive tools and any other kit. The caustic soda helps cut through wax and propolis deposits and provides a minor sterilising effect. (Be sure to avoid spillage on carpets or any seat covers.)

Water bottle... A litre of water in a suitable container is handy to have available... It can be drunk if you are thirsty... It can be used to wash honey from leather gloves, the steering wheel, the van door handle, and anything that becomes sticky. Lloyd Spear lives in a hot climate, and he never leaves for his bee yard without a thermos flask of iced water. I use a bottle from a fizzy drinks machine with plain water in it. This goes into an insulated "cool" bag with other bottles or cans of refreshing drinks and pre-frozen "ice packs".

The wooden wedge, or as Chris Slade says... "better still several".
If the bee-space between your boxes isn't quite it ought to be; if you haven't been liberal with the vaseline on your woodwork; if you haven't been squirting liquid paraffin into your hives every week, then you will need a wedge. At this time of year you go to lift a heavy super and find that the top bars of the box below are being pulled up as well, often too late to prevent a thorough and unfortunate disturbance and unnecessary stirring up of the bees. If you do realise in time what is happening you can lever the box up half an inch or less with the hive tool, then take the weight on your fingers while you bend down to see which frames are stuck and use the hive tool to free them. At this point your back gives up in protest.

With a wedge to hand you can stuff it into the gap to take the weight and leave room to drift some smoke in. Then you can change to a sensible position, kneeling maybe, and gently free the stuck frames without hassle to you or the bees.

Of course, when you lift the box the wedge will fall into the grass and hide, so dip the blunt end into the brightest paint you have, or put some coloured tape on it or staple some orange baler twine to it and tie the twine to a belt loop on your trousers... That way it's always within your reach.

Another use of the wedge is found when you discover the hive is not as level or as stable as you thought it was when it was shorter.

The wedge should be not much shorter than your hive tool and cut at shallow angle.
Chris's comments were transplanted from the 'Irish List' and include a few words from Michael Palmer.

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Originated... May 2001, Revised... 18 June 2001, Revised... 01 August 2003,

favicon Coding Standard 2003 Issue 2