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Tips to ‘bee’ careful if you’re starting a hive

Carson Arthur

All around the world we continue to hear about the plight of bees. ‘Save the bees’ and ‘colony collapse disorder’ are pretty important things to be paying attention to in 2017 because up to 90 per cent of the food that we eat is pollinated by honeybees. This is part of the reason that more homeowners are getting into bee keeping…myself included! The other reason is that it’s just really awesome and invigorating!

When it comes to hives, they are all basically the same – a series of boxes with vertical panels that the bees use to store honey and to lay eggs.

The biggest difference between most commercial hives is the way that the honey is extracted from the panels. Most traditional hives use a ‘crush and strain’ method of scraping the wax coating off of the cell and then straining the honey out.

There are devices that help remove the honey faster, but they are pretty expensive. There are all kinds of accessories and add-ons that you can buy for a hive to make your life easier; things like ‘excluders’ which keep the queen from getting up to the honey panels and laying eggs in them.

I went with newer technology, buying a hive that has a specially designed system of removing the honey without having to take the panel out of the hive, which causes less stress to the colony.

Things to invest in…

• Buy a GOOD bee suit. One that breathes is going to make your life so much better. The best time to work on a beehive is when it’s less full, usually the middle of the day when everyone is out collecting nectar.
• Thick pants are very important. Skinny jeans or any clothes that are tight to your skin won’t protect you from stings.
• Duct Tape or Velcro straps. Tape your pant legs closed. I didn’t do this the first time and got stung up my pants!
• Good gloves. Go for flexible ones. You need your hand protected but at the same time, being able to handle small things makes the jobs faster.
• A good smoker. Smokers help control the bees’ swarming nature. The smoke triggers a reaction in the colony to save the honey from a fire, so all the bees run into the hive to start eating it instead of going into attack mode and protecting it. The best smokers are the ones that are easy to light…and stay lit. The last thing you want is your smoker to go out just when the hive decides that you shouldn’t be there.
• A Hive tool. Like a flat-mini crow bar, the hive tool helps you open lids, remove panels and scrap the sticky stuff off of the sides of everything! Bees really like to glue things down and they are very good at it. The hive tool is perfect for prying, lifting and scrapping as it has been designed to really deal with almost anything you may run into while doing maintenance and honey collection.

Beekeeping is quickly becoming one of my favourite backyard hobbies and more urban and rural homeowners agree. Just remember that they need our help to survive and we need their help to do the same.

-Landscape designer Carson Arthur is host of HGTV’s new Home to Win show. He is also the outdoor expert with City TV’s Cityline and wrote the sell-out book Garden Designs for Outdoor Living in 2015. More at
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