Beekeeping is more popular than ever. From homemade beehives to small bee farms, more and more people are reaping the benefits of this backyard hobby. And why not? The potential health benefits of consuming local honey are well documented. But did you know that beekeeping will also benefit your garden and the local environment around your hive? Beekeeping is also a great way to interact with people. Sharing knowledge with other beekeepers and teaching inquisitive family members and neighbors about bees can be very rewarding.
There are many benefits to this enjoyable pastime. If you have done your research, learned the basics, and are sure that beekeeping is an endeavor you'd like to try, you'll need some beekeeping supplies to get your new bee colony up and running. We'll go over what supplies it takes to get started and keep a healthy hive going season after season. Even if you have a little experience, you might find some information that will help you be a better beekeeper.
Before You Get Started
While beekeeping is a fun, rewarding hobby practiced by thousands, you need to make sure it's a good fit for you before you set out to buy your beekeeping supplies.
Do A Little Research
There are plenty of books on beekeeping. Pick up one or two and find out the basics. You’ll learn about things like how much time is involved, how the bees make honey and how to harvest it, and the inevitable question, “will I get stung?” (spoiler alert: yes). Beekeeping is not all that difficult, but it does take commitment, an investment in the needed beekeeping supplies, and it’s a year-round hobby. Make sure you have the time and desire before starting a hive.
Also, obviously you’ll want to talk your new hobby over with your family, but let your neighbors know as well. Does anyone in your immediate area have a severe allergy to bee stings? That’s information you’ll want to know before getting started.
Talk To Other Beekeepers
Beekeepers tend to be a friendly, helpful group who like to get together and talk bees. Since beekeeping has certain elements that will be specific to your local area, contact your local beekeeping association and attend a meeting or two before you get started. There will be plenty of helpful folks there happy to give you needed advice.
Plan Your Hive
After you’ve done the first two items on our list and you’re sure beekeeping is for you, it’s time to start planning. Where to set up your hive, when to start a new colony, when to harvest your honey, and other tasks need to be planned for ahead of time. Keeping a journal is a good way to remember what worked and what you can do differently from year-to-year.
Beekeeping Supplies You'll Need
In this section, we'll take a look at some basic necessities of beekeeping. From something as obvious as the hive itself to some lesser known items that will make your life as a beekeeper easier, we'll cover it all.
Along with the bees, this is the most fundamental element of beekeeping. There are plenty of options available. You can purchase a pre-made hive or one that you have to assemble yourself. You can even build a hive from scratch if you like.
One commonly used hive is the Langstroth hive, which is usually an 8-10 frame box. The bees build honeycomb into movable frames making it easier to work with the bees as you need to. It also gives the beekeeper the ability to remove the frames or increase the size of the hive. This is important because the components will need to be replaced from time-to-time.
The Langstroth hive is just one of many types of hives. Things like budget, advice received from other beekeepers, and personal preference need to be weighed when choosing which type of hive you’ll go with. When it comes time to make the purchase, online outlets such as Amazon or local bee supply retailers will have what you need. Remember, the hive will be the home of your bee colony so make it a good one.
Spring is the best time to start a new colony of bees. This gives the bees time to forage for pollen and make honey for food during the winter. You can get your bees a few different ways. You can bait wild bees in the hope of attracting a local colony. One advantage to doing this is that the bees will already be acclimated to the area.
The more common ways to start a new colony, especially for a beginner beekeeper, is to purchase your bees. There are two types of bee purchases available. You can purchase packaged bees from a breeder. The breeder will simply ship you a colony of bees and a queen.
The second way is to purchase a nucleus colony (sometimes called a “nuc” colony). This works great in conjunction with a Langstroth hive. The nucleus colony is already established and delivered in a 5-frame box. Simply transfer the nuc colony to the Langstroth hive. The bees are ready to go because they have already established combs, stored honey, and are breeding.
Having your hive(s) on the ground is not a good idea. Bending and stooping while trying to manage your bees will take some fun out of the process. Various unwanted visitors, like skunks, bears, and hive beetles will have much easier access if your hive is at ground level.
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A good quality suit is one of the beekeeping supplies you’ll want to have. Stings are inevitable, but a beekeeper’s suit will keep them at a minimum. A hat, veil jacket, and gloves are all good ideas for the beginner. Bees can sense fear and until you’re comfortable working around them, covering yourself is a good practice. Eventually, you might opt not to wear some of the gear, but until you gain experience, a full suit is a good idea. There are lightweight, ventilated jackets and hats available for summer use.
Smoke calms your bees without hurting them and allows you to access the hive without irritating them. You can use pine needles, wood pellets, dried grass, twigs, and leaves as fuel for your smoker. You’re going to be dealing with heat and fire so take precautions for yourself and your bees.
You need one of these among your beekeeping supplies to move your bees. When removing your frames to harvest honey, for example, there will be bees that don’t want to get out of the way. A gentle swipe of the brush will do the trick. A bee brush has long, soft bristles and a long handle making it ideal for the job. Your bees won’t necessarily like being brushed to the side and will sting the brush, so only use it when necessary.
Bees use a caulk-like substance called propolis to patch holes and seems within the hive and to glue things together. It can be difficult to pull apart your frames or combs when they’re stuck together with propolis. This 10-inch or so long tool is specially designed to pry the stuck-together items apart. It’s also useful in cleaning excess propolis from the hive to prevent buildup.
This necessary piece of beekeeping equipment is used to safely harvest the honey from the combs without destroying your hive. A simple description would be that they work by centrifugal force. A drum or container holds a frame basket which spins, tossing the honey out into the collection chamber. They can be a bit pricey so you’ll want to do your due diligence before buying. You can also check with your local beekeeper friends to see if a used extractor might be available.
Bees can require feeding during winter and summer months when they have high energy demands and when nectar can be insufficient. There are several bee feeders on the market and your local beekeeping association can tell you what works best in your area.
Two More Suggestions
The above list of beekeeping supplies will have you on your way to starting a successful bee colony. All these items should be readily available from online or local specialty retailers. Beekeeping is a moderately priced hobby and getting started shouldn't set you back a fortune. Here are a couple of suggestions to bring success and potentially reduce costs.
Beekeeping Starter Kits
These are great for the beginner because you'll get all of your essential beekeeping supplies, including a starter hive, in one kit. Best of all, you'll usually save a little money by buying everything together.
Books About Beekeeping
Beekeeping is a growing and changing hobby. New ideas are always being bounced around and you'll want to expand your knowledge and understanding. It's a hobby you can never learn too much about.
Beekeeping can be a fun, relaxing, and fulfilling hobby. You're doing something that is good for the environment and has proven health benefits. Having the right beekeeping supplies is essential to getting the most out of your new pastime. We hope you've found this information helpful and that it aids you in becoming a master beekeeper one day.