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7 Best Practices for Beekeeping Tool and Equipment Maintenance
Beekeeping equipment is an investment, one that you can easily protect with just a little effort. These tips will help you safeguard your investment and keep your tools safe, clean and ready for use.
1. Paint Exposed Hive Parts
All exposed wooden hive components should be painted to protect them from the weather. It’s not necessary to paint the inside of the hive - the bees will do that for you with a mixture of plant sap and wax, otherwise known as propolis.
In addition to helping your hives to withstand the weather, a white exterior (latex or oil-based) paint will help to keep your hives cooler in the summer. If you have more than one hive, you can paint designs on the hive's exterior to help the bees differentiate between hives, reducing drift between colonies.
2. Maintain Protective Clothing
It’s important to maintain your protective clothing to prevent unnecessary stings. Check bee veil and suit for holes and tears. Ensure that zippers and Velcro closures work properly. Read the instructions that come with the suit. Most bee suits (coveralls) and gloves can be washed by machine, although some require handwashing. You may want to hang dry to prevent shrinkage since most suits are made of cotton material.
Be sure to look at the instructions on the tag of your suit if you have any questions, especially if it’s been a while since you last laundered it.
You’ll want to hand wash the hat and veil and then hang to dry because the netting can get caught in the washer or dryer and tear. Washing is easy. Just fill sink or tub with warm water and a little soap, then allow the gear to soak. Gently rub the material to remove any dirt, honey, wax or propolis that remains.
3. Maintain Hive Tool
The hive tool should be cleaned on a regular basis to remove debris and prevent the spread of disease. There are several methods you can use to accomplish this. The first is to scrub the tool using comet, diluted bleach and a stainless-steel scrubber to remove wax and propolis. Rinse with water; then soak in isopropyl alcohol. Another method is to flame sterilize the hive tool using a blow torch (for about 30 seconds) and then wipe clean. The third method is to place the hive tool in a hot fire pot of the smoker and pump the bellows. Lastly, it can be thrown in the dishwasher.
4. Maintain Smoker
Read the specific cleaning instructions that came with your smoker. After the smoker has cooled and after removing any leftover burnt materials and ashes, most can be cleaned using warm water and a soft cloth. Use soap on stubborn residue. Allow to dry thoroughly before storage.
5. Protect Equipment from Moisture
When not in use, your equipment – tools, veil, suit and unused hives – should be stored in a dry location that is protected from the elements. From a storage shed to a barn to a large tote near your hives, you have lots of options. It’s important to protect your equipment from wet and moldy conditions, especially over the winter months when you may not be checking or using it for long periods of time.
6. Store Hives Stacked
Store unused hives stacked in a storage building just as they would be during use. They’ll take up less space and they’ll be ready to use quickly if you happen to be blessed by the appearance of a swarm, although swarm traps can be used as well. Stacked hives also make it easier to keep mice out during storage.
7. Hang Tools
Hang tools, if possible, to keep equipment safe and organized. Tools that are hung make it harder for rodents to get to them, easier to find when you need them and easier to see when cleaning is required. Hooks, nails and pegboards can be used to hang suits, tools, frames, etc.
With these tips, you'll be sure to protect and enjoy your investment for years to come!