In addition to preparing yourself for beekeeping, you will also need some essential beekeeping equipment, tools and supplies. But, how do you know where to start? The good news is you don’t need everything at once. Here, I discuss some of the basic “must have” items required for your safety and the well-being of your honey bees.
After years of experience in helping beginning beekeepers, I have a good idea of the most important beekeeper tools needed. You can add more fun stuff later – the beginning is about the basics.
Basic Beekeeping Equipment & Tools
There are several advantages to starting out with the proper bee equipment, tools and supplies. Proper beehive management is easier and well cared for colonies are more likely to be healthy and productive.
Now, I am assuming that you have already made plans for ordering of buying your bees, this is usually done months ahead of delivery. Like – in Winter! Your next task is getting a home ready for them.
No matter which type of honey bee you choose, they all have the same basic needs. You need one complete beehive setup for each family of bees. A couple of additional bee boxes on hand for your growing colonies is a good idea.
There are several different types of beehives in use in the United States. Which is best for you depends on several factors including your location and beekeeping goals.
Will you venture into the new styles (such as the Flow Hive) or stick to more traditional designs. The choice is yours but using a standard hive is easier for new beekeepers.
Langstroth Hive for Beginners
The Langstroth hive is the most common hive for beginners. This is the iconic hive style of stacked boxes (also called supers) that you have likely seen in pictures.
As the colony grows more boxes are stacked on top. They give the colony room to grow and provide a place for the beekeeper’s honey harvest to be placed.
This is the startup configuration for your new hive, you will add more boxes as the colony grows.
- bottom board
- deep hive box – brood box (with frames and foundation)
- inner cover
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.
Bees don’t really care what color their hive is painted or if it is painted. If you choose to do it, paint your beehives 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 or you can use templates to make a really creative painted bee hive designs for decoration.
Feeders for Your Hives
To do so safely, you need to choose a method to provide liquid nourishment. There are several styles to choose and you can even make your own bee feeder with a mason jar.
The importance of feeding bees in new colonies (or new swarms) can not be overstated. This boost of nutrition helps them get off to a good start.
Tools for the Beekeeper
There are not very many essential tools needed by a beekeeper. But, I can’t image beekeeping without these two:
- hive tool
Bee Smoker & Fuel
The bee smoker is the #1 tool that every beekeeper needs. When used properly, the cool, white smoke makes hive inspections easier for you and the bees.
Yearly cleaning of your bee smoker will keep it functioning well for years. Also, 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 ( I love dry pine needles). Once you find the best one for you, lighting your bee smoker becomes much easier.
Beekeeper Hive Tool
This is one of the most useful items you will ever take to the bee yard. A good hive tool – or 3, you will lose them.
This versatile hand-help tool is a metal bar with a hooked or curved end. They come in a variety of styles and every beekeeper has a favorite.
Optional Beekeeping Items
These items are usually considered optional. You do not have to have them to be a successful – but they are so useful that most beekeepers would include them on a necessary bee equipment list.
Considered an optional item, yet I never go to the bee yard without one. This soft bristle brush is used to gently flick the bees off frames of honey. It really ticks them off – but sometimes it is for their own good.
Many beekeepers choose to put something under the beehives to keep the ground free of tall weeds or grass. This might be weed block, gravel, pavers or other materials
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.
Beekeeping Gear and Supplies
Personal safety should never be overlooked when dealing with a box full of thousands of stinging insects. Give proper consideration when choosing beekeeping clothing and protective wear.
- bee suit or jacket (or long sleeve cotton shirt)
Maybe you want a good beekeeping suit to give more coverage. Jackets are also a popular option when paired with jeans or cotton scrubs (loose fitting).
These items come in many different styles, colors and quality grades. It is important to periodically wash your beekeeping suit to prolong its life. Bees are not fond of stinky beekeepers.
Beyond Basic Bee Equipment & Supplies
Here are some items that are optional for the successful beekeeper. If you are a true beginner, you might defer their purchase for a bit. However, most will come in handy at some point in your adventure.
Honey Harvesting Supplies
If you have the money, there is no harm in buying at the beginning. However, your first honey harvest may well be in the second year.
Some pieces of beekeeping equipment involve serious controversy. One example is a queen excluder.
This wire grid of metal (or plastic) is placed just under honey collection boxes – to prevent the queen from laying in those boxes.
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-it is not a requirement.
Are Beekeeping Kits a Good Idea?
Others 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.
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. Try to buy quality products from a true bee supply – even if you are ordering on Amazon or another source.
Additional Beekeeper Supplies
As you gather all the things needed to make your beekeeping adventure a success. Don’t forget some basics that are not exactly connected directly to the hives.
Beekeeping education can not be overlooked. Be sure to check out a few good beekeeping books (I think I have about 30 now).
Buy some flower seed to add a few bee friendly flowers for bees to your yard – there is no harm in providing some beauty and making the them feel at home.
Bees also need a water source. You can create a safe water source for your bees with a large foundation or a small water garden. They will love it in hot weather.
A Final Word
We all end up with some beekeeping equipment, tools and supplies that we will never use. These gadgets and new products take the beekeeping industry by storm from time to time. If your budget is tight, start with the basics. You can always buy more fun gadgets next year.