The Right Tool

The old saying “The right tool for the right job” is common-sense advice that applies to a wide range of situations. A person thinking about the concept of having the right tool might conjure up images of a carpenter’s hammer or mechanic’s wrench. For the beekeeper, images of a favorite hive tool or bee brush are likely selections. Tools in beekeeping, however, are more than mechanical devices that open-up hive lids or brush bees off frames.  The right tool “adage” occurs in situations that involve beekeepers maximizing a colony’s ability to produce a particular product. It’s a matter of knowing what you want from your bees.


This idea comes to life when we ask ourselves, “bees for what?” Do you want them for the aesthetic value of having two beautifully painted hives in your backyard, or do you want a few jars of honey to sell? How about having bees for pollinating your trees and garden. Maybe you want them for something else.  I place value on building community, raising queens, and making nucleus colonies. I want gentle bees that readily make more bees in the early spring through the first frost. The question becomes one of, “what tools best help me accomplish my goals?'


I use a variety hive bodies made from traditional and novel materials. I use thermal hives for breeder queens and for overwintering small nucleus colonies. Hive IQ sells a nine-frame setup that gives my breeder queens the best chance of staying active during hot and cold days because they are better insulated, have ventilated floors, include a three-stage entrance, and they are durable. I use six-frame polystyrene hives and components from Blue Sky Beekeeping Supply because six frames of bees have just enough capacity to get my small nucs through a North Carolina winter. I spend winter months handmaking wooden cypress hives because they last a long time and when I apply boat epoxy and boat varnish from TotalBoat - they will catch your eye as you drive up to my bee-yard.  So, what should go inside these boxes?


Have you ever thought of bee genetics as a tool?  I do.  Turns out, many races and stocks flourish or fail. I stopped buying queens from online stores and raise my own.  Raising queens forced me to become a better beekeeper, and the queens are better and cheaper in the long run. I’ve been experimenting with a variety of instrumentally inseminated queen bees. I'm trying to find the genetics that produce behavior that best suit my geographical area. Most of the queens I buy are better able to resist varroa mites. Some of my queens are the result from research conducted by USDA and from reputable companies that use science to create their stock. The list of tools goes on and on a I want to write about my selections and my practice in my blog.  My hope is to build community, inspire you to become more intentional in your practice and in your choices for your beekeeping practice.


Without denying that the right tool can mean mechanical devices that crack-open hive lids, intentional choices about incorporating a better – a more right tool -  will help you get what you want from your bees.  It’s just a matter of looking at the old adage through a wider lens. I invite you to join our community and consider the tools I use, the practice I continuously try to improve, and the products I sell.


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