The smoker is indispensable for most beekeepers. The veil and hat, or some sort of facial protection, is non-negotiable for others. And without the hive tool, nary a propolis-sealed summer beehive could be cracked open, for the bees know how to seal their treasures well. While all of those instruments are so well-loved and so often used that they never seem to filter far down to the depths of my own bee basket, there is one other tool that has my heart: the frame rest.
When my beekeeping mentor, who also happens to own our local bee shop, was selling me on this tool, I was skeptical. As a new beekeeper, you’re wary of gadgets and gizmos that you may not need, especially because you’re spending so much money up front on woodenware and the bees themselves. But I trusted him and took a chance. I plunked down the $20 and am happy to say I never looked back.
How The Frame Rest Works
During inspections of any given super, we often need to remove at least one frame, if not a few more, to make space to pull out the very thick (wide with comb) or very stuck with propolis frames. Where we put those frames while we’re not looking at them is at our best judgement: on the ground, leaning against a hive, wherever we deem the safest and cleanest. Even with our best efforts, bees get crushed, comb gets ruined, honey seeps everywhere, and frames get covered in grass or leaves or dirt—and we know how tidy and clean bees prefer to be!
The frame rest hangs on the outside of the super and holds the frame the same way it is suspended in the hive, so nothing on the frame (bees, comb, brood, etc.) is being touched or crushed. The frame rest sells me because it is non-invasive. The bees are aware they’ve been moved (from the inside to the outside of the hive), but because there’s no trauma and minimal jostling and less of a risk of the frame falling over suddenly, they’re more docile and often wait patiently for their frame to be returned to the super. It keeps the comb intact and the honey and the interior of the hive clean of debris, thus giving the bees less work to clean up after your hive inspection.
Why It’s Great
The beekeeper benefits from its simplicity, as well. With an obvious space to place frames, the beekeeper can easily keep track of the frames that have already been inspected and keep the order of the frames in check. This is important when either trying to keep the frames exactly as they were, such as when inspecting a healthy brood nest or when manipulating and rearranging frames. It’s also helpful to keep honey frames clean when inspecting them before a harvest. (Who likes bits of leaves in their honey?)
Can I live without a frame rest? Yes. Can I be a great beekeeper without one? Absolutely. But does it make my life easier, leave me calmer (and thus, my bees calmer), and make inspections smoother and sweeter? I think so. If you’ve got the cash and the space in the bee basket to spare, give one a try. I’m guessing you won’t regret it either.