Wherever I go beekeeping, I take along my beekeeper tool tote, affectionately known as “My Little Bag of Tricks”.
Given the unpredictable nature of beekeeping, you learn quickly what to put in the tote. Here is a quick summary of the essentials:
1. Epipen: you may not (yet) be allergic to honeybees, but it pays to have this with you at all times. I have read enough stories about beekeepers who, after enjoying years of beekeeping and the invevitable stings with no trouble, suddenly went into anaphylaxis without warning when stung. You will also need an epipen if for some reason you get scores of stings, or if someone close by is stung and goes into anaphylaxis.
2. Charged cell phone: In case of medical emergency, above. Because once you need the epipen, you must secure immediate transport to Emergency for further medical care. Great for taking quick photos too!
3. A bottle of benadryl: in case you just swell up a lot from bee stings.
4. A hive tool, unless you leave it tucked under the outer cover of the hive.
5. Queen marking cup and marking pen. For the day you discover an unmarked queen in your hive!
6. Small plastic bags/ziploks and toothpicks: for taking foulbrood or diseased bee samples. Note you can also carry foulbrood test kits.
7. Duct tape: you can put a piece onto the outer cover with notes to self flagging a situation of interest ie. “queen cells in hive, hatching July 9th”
8. Squeeze bottle of food grade mineral oil: lay a bead of mineral oil across the top bars of the top super every time you close up the hive…acts as tracheal and Varroa mite control.
9. Not strictly something that fits in the kit, but consider using cover cloths.
10. Water mister/spray bottle. A mist of water moves the bees down and out of your way.
10. Random useful items: scissors, permanent marker(s), queen cages, collecting jar, pieces of foam to use as quick entrance blocks, extra pen/pencil, paper for notes.
What you need to start beekeeping:
At a minimum, you need a good beesuit, a veil, beekeeping gloves (fit them carefully), a smoker and fuel, a lighter (I use a butane canister fitted with a créme brulée torch head), a hive tool. You will be glad if you have a complete extra hive setup ready to go at a moment’s notice, or at least extra painted supers (bee boxes) and frames. You will be very glad if you have a painted nuc box or two in case you have to do some quick splits or manipulations.
I know the expense is daunting…sequence your purchase of backup equipment over a few months, but having that ready to go is going to pay off, if not this season then next!
Note that painting your plastic foundation with a thick layer of purchased beeswax will really speed the bees along on drawing out those first frames. Until you have a stock of drawn comb stored in totes, waxing foundation can really help your colonies grow quickly.