Best Beekeeper Supplies & Tools
As you begin the craft of keeping bees, you quickly realize you need to acquire a few items. Beekeeper supplies for the bees and yourself must be purchased or made. But, how do you know where to start? The good news is you don’t need everything at once. Let’s sift through the wants and needs of various beekeeping supplies.
Essential Beekeeping Equipment
There are many ways to approach this hobby, but you should expect an outlay of money in the beginning. Basic equipment for your honey bees will most likely set you back several hundred dollars the first year.
May contain affiliate links. Read my privacy and affiliate disclosure policy for more info.
Do not let this discourage you, just be prepared with a bit of savings on hand. For only a couple of hives, your expenses should be less in the second and third years.
After ordering your bees, it is time to get ready for them. Whether you buy Italian Honey Bees, Carniolans or a mixed mut bee – they must all have a place to live.
Start with the Basics
In addition to the expense, is the frustration of being unsure of what you really should buy. Sadly, you often don’t really know everything you need for beekeeping until you have some experience.
But, every beekeeper needs beginning beehive setups for each family of bees. A couple of additional bee boxes on hand for your growing colonies is a good idea. It is always advisable to have some extra equipment on hand for emergency situations.
1 Question – 10 Answers
We beekeepers are an opinionated bunch. Even with the best intentions – we often are convinced that our idea is the best one. As a new beekeeper, you will be left very confused on occasion.
The best advice I can give you is to do your own research, listen to an experienced beekeeper and then make a decision for your hives. There is rarely only 1 answer to a question.
If your budget is tight, start with basic bee supplies. You can always buy more fun beekeeping gadgets next year. But, your bees must have somewhere to live when they arrive – don’t delay!
Basic Bee Supplies for the Apiary
Honey bees can live in a variety of structures. Worldwide you can see some rather interesting styles.
There are several different types of beehives in use in the United States. Each one has advantages and challenges. Which is best for you depends on several factors including your location and beekeeping goals.
The Langstroth hive is the most common hive for beginners. This is the iconic hive style of stacked boxes that you have likely seen in pictures.
Boxes (also called supers) of various heights are stacked on top of each other as the colony grows. They also provide a place for the beekeeper’s honey harvest to be placed. Due to it’s popularity, you will find a lot of guidance on the use of a Langstroth hive.
However, you can be successful with any hive style – if you manage your colonies well. Poorly managed bee colonies can die in any type of hive or box.
Spend some time thinking about the type of hive you wish to use. To get the most out of your beekeeping experience, you need to know your equipment.
Learn the basic parts of the your beehive and understand their function before your bees arrive. When you want to ask other beekeepers for advice, things will go much easier if you know the names of your equipment.
What one beekeeper calls a “doohicky” might be a “thing a ma bob” to someone else. Learn the proper names.
Even the common Langstroth hive has many variations you can try. Hive bottom boards come in several styles both with and without trays. There is not a “right” answer.
Some pieces of beekeeping equipment involve serious controversy. One example is a queen excluder. Some beekeepers swear by them and others swear at them. Will you use a queen excluder on your hive?
I generally do but you have the choice. In most cases, this is not a piece of hive equipment needed during the first year. Excluders are normally placed just under honey collection boxes. New colonies often do not produce a honey crop until the second year.
Most beekeepers use a foundation material in the wooden frames of the hive boxes. Both beeswax foundation and plastic foundation is available.
It is generally better to avoid mixing types of foundation in the hive, until the bees have drawn out the comb.
Each type of foundation has benefits and disadvantages. I prefer beeswax personally but it is more trouble to install beeswax foundation into frames.
If you are considering buying a beekeeper’s kit, look over the included pieces closely. A beekeeping kit can be a good deal if it contains items you will really use. Also, consider reviews of the product.
Some kits contain silly impractical items just to make it look like a better deal. This has become a bigger problem in recent years with the increased popularity of beekeeping. Try to buy quality products from a true bee supply – even if you are ordering on Amazon or another source.
Buying Used Equipment
Beekeeping tools can be cleaned. However, old comb and wooden components is another issue entirely.
Is buying used beekeeping equipment a great way to save money? Yes, it can be – perhaps. But there are many risks in purchasing equipment that has been used by bees.
New beekeepers are tempted by the opportunity to cut cost of beehive boxes. However, old equipment can contain disease that will wipe out your new colonies.
Some diseases such as American Foul Brood can live on old equipment for over 50 years and can not be cleaned off with conventional methods.
Build Your Own Beehives
Would you like to build your own beehive? With a little woodworking skill and some good bee hive plans, it’s possible. But, be sure to follow the directions carefully or you won’t be a happy beekeeper.
Spacing inside a beehive is very important. Improper construction leads to excess burr comb that make inspections difficult. Learn how to build a beehive of your own without getting into big trouble by following measurements carefully.
Before you rush off to the store to buy wood for this special project, take some time to evaluate your reasons. With the cost of lumber, you may not save any money by building your own honey bee boxes.
Painting a Beehive
Bees don’t really care what color their hive is painted. But, most beekeepers paint hives to prolong the life of the wooden parts. And yes, we want the hives to either look really outstanding or blend into the surroundings.
Make a decision and paint your hives well before bees arrive. Your equipment should air out a few weeks before bees are added.
Just a white or solid color hive is fine. Perhaps you want to have a spectacular painted hive but lack a lot of artistic talent? Yes, I just raised my hand.
No fear, there are many ways to achieve your goals of a colorful bee hive design. Templates and design aids make creative painted bee hive for non artist beekeepers.
Tools for the Beekeeper
The bee smoker is the #1 tool for a beekeeper. When used properly, the cool, white smoke makes hive inspections easier for you and the bees. Yearly cleaning of your smoker will keep it functioning well for years.
Once you have chosen a good smoker it’s time to think about fuel. Yes, you need something to burn in there that will not hurt your bees. Be sure to research the various types of smoker fuel.
Its a good idea to experiment with various types of material to burn. Once you find the best one for you, lighting your smoker becomes much easier.
Add a nice hive tool to your work box and you have the basics required to manage your hives. Other things can come later when you have more experience.
Honey harvesting equipment, extractors and similar items can often wait until year 2 or 3. Some local beekeeping associations offer rentals to members.
Protective Beekeeper Clothing
Every beekeeper needs some safety gear or beekeeping clothing. There are many options to choose from. Learn the facts you need to know about choosing beekeeping clothing and protective wear.
Your main goal is to protect your head and face. Stings in this area are painful and can be dangerous. Gloves are not a bad idea for the beginner beekeeper – veils are a must.
Ok, maybe you just want a good beekeeping suit. Jackets are also a popular option. Beekeeping suits come in many different styles, colors and quality grades. Here are some tips to help you find the very best – beekeeping suit.
And of course, it will be important to periodically wash your beekeeping suit to prolong its life. Bees are not fond of stinky beekeepers.
Planning the Bee Yard
Before you plunk your hive down just anywhere, do some planning. Finding the best location for your beehives, is one of the first major tasks to accomplish.
Many beekeepers don’t spend as much time on this as they should. Moving them later is possible but an aggravation you can often avoid.
After choosing the best place, it is time to decide how you will set them up. In the beginning, your new colonies will start off in a single box. What will you place your wooden hives on?
Using hive stands in your apiary is a great idea too. Elevating the hives off the ground helps protect them from skunks other small predators. Your back will thank you too-due to not having to bend down so far.
Many beekeepers choose to keep the ground under the beehives free of tall weeds or grass. This is more than just a visual issue – it is healthier for the bees. Avoid the use of heavy mulch if you live in an area with Small Hive Beetles.
Another important consideration is protection of your colonies. Beehives are valuable and people will steal them. If theft is a concern, place hives where they can be watched or are difficult to access.
In addition, if you live in a region that has a bear population build an electric bear fence. Most beekeepers have no idea they have a bear problem until one destroys their hives.
Storing Equipment in Winter
It is easy to accumulate many pieces of beekeeper supplies that will need storage. Some of your boxes will not be on the hive during Winter. They are for seasonal use – such as honey supers.
Those beekeepers who have a dedicated honey house for extraction can store some off season items there.
Boxes or supers containing drawn comb need special attention to prevent damage during storage. Learning how to store honey supers during winter is a task that will face the second year beekeeper-if not the first.
Of course, it is not just your honey supers that you must have room to store. Other various pieces of supplies and equipment must have a place to be when not in use.
Most of us end up with our bee stuff located here and there in 4 or 5 different spots. If you can, find a place to store beekeeping equipment that will be out of the way until needed.
All beekeepers end up some some items that they will never use. These gadgets and new products take the beekeeping industry by storm from time to time.
Many will be forgotten in the next few years. Some will prove useful and earn their spot as valuable beekeeping tools.
However, basic hive components, protective wear and the old standard smoker and hive tool have stood the test of time. Choose the tools and beekeeping supplies that appeal to you and your style of managing honey bees.