The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Birthday beekeeping

View of our apiary with two beehives

Our main hive and a nucleus hive in our apiary

It’s Danny’s birthday today. As requested, I gave him a very smart pair of washable beekeeping gloves and a hive tool. It was quite hard buying gloves for him when he was working away from home and not available to try them on.

I buy most of my beekeeping supplies from John, at the Springwell Apiary in Little Chesterford, near Saffron Walden. You need to ring him before visiting so contact me for his phone number and email address (through our contact us page).

John explained that there are basically two types of hands, those with stubby fingers and those with long fingers. Danny’s fingers definitely fall into the stubby category so I selected a pair that I thought would fit. And to our delight, they did.

The birthday celebrations began at 00.08 am this morning with a small glass of excellent cognac that was screaming to be included in the birthday present box when I did the big shop yesterday. Needless to say, the glasses were filled and refilled as we played with his presents and listened to the CDs.

Perhaps including a box set of four Celtic “mood” CDs was a mistake as we had to listen to each one. We tottered to bed at four this morning. For the first time in years we slept until 12.30.

I woke to find Danny sitting on the bed explaining that we were due at a lunch party in fifteen minutes.We were sitting down to Beef Wellington half an hour later, with large glasses of San Pellegrino to soothe our sore heads.

The meal was the most sustaining “breakfast”. Our friend Bunty is an excellent cook. We had a great time and returned mid afternoon to our smallholder tasks. Danny donned his new gloves and, hive tool in hand, approached the hive. Today’s beekeeping job was to go through the large hive to check that all was well before extracting the honey later this week.

The bees are at their most aggressive at this time of year as they are very protective of their honey stores. But the whole session went very well and we had the extra fillip of spotting the queen bee, who has been avoiding us for weeks.

Tips and tricks:

  • Even if you are only going to the hive to perform a small quick task, always wear your protective clothes and gloves. Without these it’s easy to get stung and propolis (the sticky secretion that the bees use to fill gaps within the hive) is difficult to remove from clothes.
  • If you do need to remove propolis, put the clothes in the freezer. Frozen propolis peels off easily.
  • To remove propolis from the hive use the sharp end of your hive tool to scrape it off.


  Leave a reply


  1. Love backatya, you Kiwi fruitcakes!

    I’ve seen your fingers. That was what I had in mind when I said mine were not stubby. In your case, stubby is too long a word for them. LOL

    Bidet was trif. Can’t wait for 60.

  2. Hello der, is dat yourself?
    Its myself and herself here!
    What is wrong with stubby fingers?
    I am the proud owner of a set of show stopping stubby fingers!
    I never thought I would call my sister an eejit!
    Anyhow hope you had a trif birthday.
    Love myself and herself.

  3. Hello. It’s old stubby-fingers here. Never been so insulted in my entire life 🙂

    I must ask Fiona to post a photograph of this famous hive tool. It’s a very simple but essential piece of kit. I can’t imagine how you could do beekeeping without it, or how my dad managed without one forty years ago. He kept three beehives and moved one or two to the boglands every year to obtain heather honey.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

HTML tags are not allowed.

2,241,104 Spambots Blocked by Simple Comments

Copyright © 2006-2023 Cottage Smallholder      Our Privacy Policy      Advertise on Cottage Smallholder