Gone, gone away

When I analyze my beekeeping time—the hours I actually spend in the apiary—I estimate fully 40% is spent looking for my hive tool. You probably believe that’s an exaggeration, but I think not.

I start the day reminding myself not to lose the damn thing and I don’t—not for at least fifteen minutes. But then I get all wrapped up in the moment, thinking, assessing, planning. Before you know it, I reach for the hive tool but it’s not there.

Now, my favorite place for all of life’s little treasures is my right rear pocket. Everything goes there, including the hive tool. Unfortunately the pocket is way too shallow for such service, so the tool invariably falls out. Still, I cannot break the habit. I’m programmed and everything goes there.

So I start searching the ground. I pat down my other pockets. I retrace my steps back to the house. When that doesn’t pan out, I begin re-opening hives. I get down and look beneath the hive stands. I survey the weeds and the grass, I re-pat my pockets.

Finally I go looking for my husband. He sees me coming with a certain look on my face and before I even ask the question, he says, “No. I haven’t seen it.” How annoying.

“But I had it just five minutes ago,” I complain. “And now it’s gone!” Whenever I say that word it reminds me of the song Gone by John Hiatt: “Gone like a Nixon file, gone, gone away.”

So I wonder aimlessly around the yard, tracing my route over and over. Pretty soon I’m looking in places I haven’t been for weeks. Seriously, it had to go somewhere, right?

Today after I spent an hour circling like a disabled airplane, I spent another hour rehashing the hive tool’s final moments. It pried open a box and separated a few frames. It bent the metal tab on a queen cage and forced the feed can from a shipping crate. It flipped a slug from my shoe. The last thing I remember: it got wiped with a wet rag—a rag I didn’t lose.

My husband keeps telling me to paint the hive tool pink. He has this idea because once about six years ago in a fit of annoyance, I spray-painted an ax pink. Pink because it was the only color in the garage—a color that’s always available because no one ever uses it. In any case, I haven’t lost the ax since.

So today after I finally found the hive tool lying in the grass about ten feet from the hive (I swear I did not go there) I considered the pink paint. But alas, I couldn’t do it. I’m sorry, but I just can’t be a beekeeper who uses pink hive tools. What would people think? Worse, what would the bees think? Certainly they’d sting me to death for less.

So I did the next best thing; I wrapped the hive tool with pink survey ribbon. Now, I know this is going to annoy me no end, all those dangly ends slipping down between my fingers and getting caught between the frames. The ends will stick to the propolis that sticks to my hands and I will be moaning and groaning and invented new words. But that’s a problem for another day. For now at least, I know exactly where my hive tool is.

Rusty
HoneyBeeSuite

Tools decked out in pink.
Tools decked out in pink.

Comments

Gona Kikbuty
Reply

Oh, and your ‘AX’ (in photo) is not actually an axe. It’s a hatchet. Just sayin’…

Rusty
Reply

I’m not surprised. What’s the difference?

Gona Kikbuty
Reply

Hatchets are about 18 to 24 inches long and have a smaller striking head. Axe’s are about 4 feet long and have a larger striking head. Double bit axes have 2 striking faces (think Paul Bunyun).

Rob
Reply

I bought glow in the dark paint to paint my tools…I seem to misplace them at dusk!

I got a 1/2 off code for a vendor on Amazon and the paint glows SUPER bright. Only cost me $11 for 2oz

Kat
Reply

My husband marked all (and I mean all) his tools with day-glo orange tape. He did this so when he took a rake or shovel to a church clean up, or a hammer and some screw drivers to work for some project, he could easily tell which we’re his.

My point here is, no need to paint. Duct tape comes in all kids of fun colors and patterns now, so tape away! :).

Kevin
Reply

Now this is pretty funny, went out and worked bee hives with a bee farmer yesterday. After the second stop I told the guy I am not taking a beehive tool anywhere anymore because the first thing I do is loose it. Once it fell out of my back pocket at the very end; the next time the farmer had picked it up before I even made it to the hives. (Of course he didn’t tell me until I started looking for it and said something.)

Tony Meadows
Reply

Great story,sounds very familiar. I finally started buying hive tools by the dozen. My son sent me the link to this story because he’s heard my laments for lost hive tools.

Dave Hennessey
Reply

When I go to the lumber yard, I usually ask for a (free) carpenter’s pencil. One time, the counter person gave me a PINK pencil (advertising Owens-Corning fiberglass – “Pink Panther”). When I stuck it in my pocket, he asked if I would like some more. “Sure”, I said. He then gave me a huge handful of them. Apparently, they couldn’t give them away as no self-respecting carpenter would be caught dead with a PINK pencil.

It’s easy to find where I left my PINK pencil. Plus, no one has ever “borrowed” one of my PINK pencils. They’re 100% loss-proof.

Of course, one must endure the funny looks and odd jokes, but it’s a small price to pay for always having a pencil.

Rusty
Reply

Dave,

Thanks! I really like this story.

Richard
Reply

I’m not the only one! In my toolbox at work the same pink mechanical pencil has lived for the past 13 years. It’s missing the eraser and the pocket clip broke off long ago…but no one steals a pink pencil!!!

Island Bee Girl
Reply

Hi Rusty,

I have used a large split ring, such as from a key chain, to attach my J hive tool to a curly springy cord (from the Dollar store) … at the other end of the curly cord I’ve used a 3″ carabiner clip to attach to the belt on my bee suit or my pants belt. I can drop the tool when I need both hands and the tool stays with me! The curly cord lets me reach a little farther if I need, without the added length of a string getting in the way. Love it!

Rusty
Reply

Now that sounds like a good idea. I will definitely give it a try!

dj
Reply

Had to look at this just to laugh. The first thing I do to all my hive tools is flo orange paint. Even after loosing a few of them I’ve ended up attaching them to retractable key rings. I have it on a belt I can put on and just pull it out to use it. Just don’t let it go to retract on its own.

Rusty
Reply

“Just don’t let it go to retract on its own.”

Ouch! The thought hurts.

Johnye
Reply

I did paint my hive tool pink after I saw this – haven’t lost it since :-)

ricky
Reply

Carry a magnet in your pocket and you can hang the tool from it.

Tim
Reply

A commercial beekeeper told me his trick… His employees would lose an amazing number of hive tools every year. So he started making them supply their own hive tools (at their expense). Hive tools never got lost again.

KO
Reply

Yeah…Why don’t I have a day-glo pink hive tool? I should know better too. Years ago I joined sign painters & display local 510, they needed women in the ranks but didn’t really want to work with us. It was back in the day when men really believed pink could make a man weak so I painted all my tools day-glo pink. It worked! I still have them. When I find any one of my several hive tools, I am going to do the same to them. LOL

I am enjoying your site tonight.

Mike F
Reply

Habits are hard to break I know, so at our beekeepers club we train all new beekeepers to keep their hive tool in their hand at all times, no matter what the temptation to put it down. In five years I have only lost one, and I will shamefacedly admit that it was because I did not follow that excellent habit.

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