If you want to be a beekeeper, you need to start by getting the right equipment for the job. So, let’s break the list down into some easy components.
Manuals and References
You might not think that manuals and references count as beekeeping equipment, but they are essential. Even the most experienced beekeeper might need help from time to time. There is absolutely no shame in admitting that you don’t know all about bees, whether you have been working with them for five minutes, five years or 50 years.
You can easily purchase books, consult a manual, or read articles on the Internet. However, it’s also a good idea to join a local beekeeping club, because fellow beekeepers can be great sources of information and advice. They may even have some equipment that you can borrow from time to time.
After the reference materials, the first thing that any beekeeper needs to get is hives. How many you need depends on how many bees you want to keep. Beginners usually opt to start with just one or two hives. Remember that you always have the option of expanding later on.
There are many different types of hives to pick from. If you like doit-yourself projects, you could even build your own hives. However, as a beginning beekeeper, you’re probably better off just buying the hives that you need. You may be able to get them from another local beekeeper. If not, you can order them online.
The most popular type of modern beehive is a Langstroth hive, which contains frames that are easily removable to harvest honey or inspect the hive. Other hives are not as user-friendly as Langstroth hives.
If you decide to build your own hives, you’ll also need supers, which are basically just honey storage containers that are usually positioned above the brood chamber. Langstroth hives come with built-in supers, which is another good reason to simply purchase a pre-assembled Langstroth hive.
A Hive Tool
A hive tool is also a critical piece of equipment for any beekeeper.
It is an elongated metal hook used to pop open the hive covers for inspections. You’ll also need your hive tool any time you want to add new boxes to a hive, or harvest honey or wax from the hive.
If needed, a sharp knife and a crowbar are good substitutes for a hive tool. But if you buy two or three of them then you will always have a spare hive tool handy when you need it.
A Bee Brush
A bee brush is one of the most important tools for a beekeeper.
Yet, it’s one of the tools that beginning beekeepers often forget about. A bee brush is specially designed to gently sweep bees off of the honey comb when you are trying to harvest it. You can use your bee brush to direct your bees to and from certain areas. However, be careful because your bees are not going to like being swept aside.
There is no way that you can be a beekeeper without a smoker, which relaxes the bees into a manageable state so that you can harvest honey from the hive. The smoker can also be handy when you are setting up the hive, inspecting it, expanding it, and doing several other tasks related to your beekeeping.
The interesting thing about a smoker is that it doesn’t just put bees “to sleep.” It causes them to eat a lot of honey. They stock up because they expect an impending fire. Smoking the hive can also interfere with the way in which the bees communicate with each other. That means that they are less likely to stage a full scale assault on you while you are tending to the hive.
A Bee Suit
One of the first things people think of when they think of beekeeping is the bee suit, which consists of a jacket, gloves, and a veil. A bee suit is usually tan or white and, hopefully, bee proof. If you are an especially nervous person, you’ll definitely want a bee suit.
The important thing to remember about bee suits is that they aren’t perfect. So, it will be up to you to make sure to take a few added precautions. For example, you may want to tape or pin your pants in such a way that the bees cannot crawl in and climb up your legs.
You should do the same with the area where your gloves meet your arms.
Other than the bees themselves, those are the basic pieces of equipment that you will need to start with. However, if you plan to harvest honey and wax from your bees then you will need some other items, including:
- A shed or shack where you can harvest the honey • A honey extractor (separator)
- A wagon or other method of transporting the honey supers to and from the shed
- An uncapping tray
- A settling tank
- Food grade, air-tight buckets or jars to store extracted honey • Labels for the honey jars
Although that covers most of the starting equipment that you’ll need, there are other items you may want to get later. For example, you may find yourself needing feeders, queen cages, queen marking pens, and other odds and ends. Again, your local bee club can be a great source of information. You can also purchase pre-made beekeeping starter kits online. Just remember to always “bee” alert because you never know when your bees might need something that you initially forgot.