by Cameo Wood
I opened my beekeeping store in downtown San Francisco in June, and I’ve found that everyone loves beekeepers or bees, and that beekeepers are serious makers. What they can’t find to buy, they generally end up building. I’ve also been stocking my store with the beekeeper in mind, and here are some of the top sellers, at my store and abroad!
8-Frame English Garden Hive
If you’re just getting started in beekeeping, choosing the type of hive can be confusing. The only hive I use or sell is the 8-Frame medium Cypress hive, called the “hive of the future” by Bee Culture Magazine’s Kim Flottum. Having one consistent size for all your equipment is a huge time saver, and is ideal for beginners and experienced beekeepers alike. There are two problems with the traditional 10-Frame shallow/deep sized box methodology.
- If your bees decide to make honey in your deep, you don’t really have any recourse. You now have a 100+ pound box of honey that you need to lift every time you work your hive.
- If you get brood (bee larva) in your honey shallows (hive box usually intended for honey only), or honey in your brood deeps (primarily intended for larva), there’s no way to switch the frames around — you’re stuck with a mess.
The 8-Frame medium garden hive solves all of those problems. This is a beautiful hive that is all set up. You only have to paint/lacquer it, and you’re set to go. Also, get a load of that gorgeous copper A-Line top… Fancy!
Apidan Overalls with Air Openings and Detachable Hood ($175)
The one thing that every beekeeper tends to buy eventually is a full sting-proof suit, for the days when the bees are cranky. Bees tend to sting if something is wrong in the hive, if the queen has died, if there was a recent invader, or if it’s really cold and rainy outside. In these cases, the bees would really prefer if you didn’t come barging into their home, making a mess of everything they’ve been building. For all these reasons, but mostly for the ones I can’t anticipate, the full sting-proof suit is at the top of my list. These are the best I’ve found, and they look darn cool to boot. Find them in HMSBeekeeper or in the UK from beeproofsuits.
Copper Smoker ($38)
Beekeepers tend to have a couple of tools that they rely on for years and expect to work or be easy to repair: Her suit, hive tool, and her smoker. Brushy Mountain makes a truly beautiful copper smoker with replaceable wood and leather bellows. This is one of the most popular items in my store, especially for gift-giving. It looks more beautiful than a boring old stainless steel one with a plastic bellows. This smoker is an heirloom that will last forever.
The Backyard Beekeeper: An Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Keeping Bees in Your Yard and Garden ($20)
The best book for beginner beekeeping is The Backyard Beekeeper: An Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Keeping Bees in Your Yard and Garden. It is written by Kim Flottum, an editor at one of the two main beekeeping magazines in America. The thing that separates this book from others on the market is that it is beautiful illustrated with photos and uses very clear language and easy to understand instructions. There’s also an entire section on cooking with honey, making beeswax into candles, and other types of crafty things you can make with your bee-products.
Clan Apis ($20)
Clan Apis is the classic great beekeeping graphic novel. It may also be the only one, but that doesn’t mean it’s not absolutely fantastic. The illustrations are scientifically accurate, and yet the reader cannot help but fall in love with Nyuki, a young worker bee that works with her hive sisters to thwart the threat of a woodpecker attacking the hive. This is an epic tale of a young honeybee adolescent becoming an adult, learning joy, love, and ultimately, sacrifice for the good of the hive. Adults and young adults love this book alike.
Heated uncapping knife ($95)
One of the most frustrating parts of extracting honey from frames is getting the little caps of wax off of each cell, while losing as little wax as possible off the frame. Without a special tool, you can accomplish this by taking a bread knife and getting it as hot as possible, and then scraping off the merest top of each of the cells, heating up the knife again, and repeating. A professional heated uncapping knife is great for uncapping a lot of frames in a row without having to stop to keep heating up the knife yourself. This one is great because it has a variable temperature control, so you can set it to the temperature you need, not one that’s preset at the factory. This is a great tool that can change extracting from a huge chore to something fast and fun!
1 Gallon Winery ($45)
One of the very first alcoholic beverages intentionally brewed was honey wine, or mead. Mead has been enjoyed as long as humans have been eating honey, so as long as recorded history! It is believed that the remains of the honeycomb was washed out with water, and left to ferment. Eight months to a year later, it was enjoyed as mead. This is an awesome use of honey, and it’s something fun you can enjoy with your friends. I highly recommend you make your first batches with a one gallon fermenter, as honey is precious and expensive, and you wouldn’t want to waste any while you’re learning.
Sponsor a Resource Box for a beekeeping group (£50 GBP)
A few of my friends have been beekeepers since they were kids, and they don’t want any of this newfangled stuff. One gift I’ve given a few beekeeper friends is a resource kit for teaching people in Africa how to do beekeeping. A great organization, Bees for Development, offers a training kit of posters, books, and other materials sufficient to teach 25 people how to make their own beehives and maintain them. I love this type of gift, and it’s amazing to think that for only £50, you can teach 25 people a self-sustaining, healthy, food-producing vocation.
USB Digital and Optical Microscope ($90)
I love looking at my bees, checking for mites, looking at wax flakes produced on their bellies, and occasionally performing an autopsy on dead bees to show others how they work. I have been using this optical and Digital USB Microscope from ThinkGeek. I can use it in the field to check things out in the hive, record video and images, and it’s fantastic for showing off your bees to the rest of the intertubes!
These are just a few selections of items that have been selling at my store, and what I’ve heard other beekeepers say they wanted for the holidays. Let me know if I missed anything, or if you have any other ideas, in the comments below. Happy Holidays!
About the Author:
Cameo Wood currently owns a beekeeping supply and honey shop, called Her Majesty’s Secret Beekeeper, in the Mission district of San Francisco, California. She enjoys this a great deal as she helps to create food, pollinate flowers and fruit trees in the city, and make the world just a little bit better.