When starting out keeping bees, the sheer range of beekeeping equipment can feel a little daunting at first. However, it is not as complicated as it might seem at first. It is simply a question of thinking what your bees need, what you need to maintain them and what you need to protect yourself.
ESSENTIAL BEEKEEPING EQUIPMENT
One of the most important piece of beekeeping equipment is the beehive. It does, after all, provide a home for your bees and is where the all important honey is produced. There are several styles available, but the important thing is to choose one style and stick to it. That way the parts of your hives will be easily interchangeable.
You may want to consider having an open mesh floor to your hive – this allows mites to fall through and allows you to estimate the level of mites in your bee colony. Your hive should include three or more “super” (honey) boxes, queen excluder and a brood box.
One of the most recognizable piece of beekeeping equipment is the bee suit. But what sort of bee suit should you buy? The purpose of the bee suit is to prevent you being stung; the safer and more secure you feel with your bees, the more enjoyable your beekeeping will be. It is better to get a suit and veil rather than just a veil. The older style veils that have netting all around the back can cause problems when the netting folds inwards letting the occasional bee sting the back of your neck. It is better to purchase one that has a fabric back looking a bit like a fencing helmet.
Smokers are an essential piece of beekeeping equipment. Generally, you can buy large or small smokers. There are basically three different types:
- Tin plated steel: This is the cheapest, but after a couple of seasons it will be past its best.
- Copper: This is more resistant to corrosion but can get dented rather easily.
- Stainless steel: This is the best, but a little more expensive.
The larger smokers will run longer without refuelling, but new beekeepers with only one or two hives a small smoker is sufficient.
Obviously the most important piece of beekeeping equipment is your honey bees. Unfortunately, it is not simply a case of putting up your hive and waiting for bees to arrive. Actually you need to obtain a starter colony, either by buying one from a supplier of beekeeping supplies or from another beekeeper. It may be worth contacting your local beekeeping association to see if they know of anybody who has a starter colony available.
GETTING STARTED, WHAT BEEKEEPING EQUIPMENT DO I NEED?
So now that you’ve cleared it with your family and your city, and you are convinced that foundationless top bar hive or Warre hive (or both!) beekeeping is the best method for you, purchased or built your hive, it is time to buy some equipment.
We recommend the following equipment for all new top bar hive and Warre beekeepers:
Hive tool: Your hive tool is one of your most critical pieces of equipment. Without it you will find it nearly impossible to inspect your colonies or add new boxes if you are using a Warre hive. Bees glue everything in the hive together with their resin-like propolis.
Smoker: While we rarely use a smoker in our own apiary, we do believe that it is a critical piece of a equipment for all beekeepers. The smoker is used to subdue the bees by both making it difficult for them to communicate, and also causing them to gorge on honey in preparation for a fire. Honey bees are temperamental creatures, and otherwise docile hives may have days where they are overly agitated. In most cases you will just avoid the hive on those days, but there are some times when you must get into or move the hive and a smoker will be your best friend!
Jacket with Veil and Gloves: As a new beekeeper it isn’t likely that you will be overly comfortable with your unprotected hands and face near 40,000+ stinging insects at first. We recommend that all beekeepers start off using protective equipment at first so that they can become comfortable around their bees – bees seem to sense nervousness or confidence, and a nervous beekeeper often makes mistakes and gets stung, which is an easy way to get turned off of your new-found hobby. Once you get used to working with bees, if you want you can slowly wean yourself off of gloves and then off of a jacket entirely. You will begin to sense your bees’ mood before you open the hive – they’ll tell you if you need protective gear or a smoker or not!
Bee Brush: More useful than you would imagine, the bee brush can be used to gently move the bees off of comb or other places you don’t want them to be. Keep in mind that the bees HATE the brush and you will find them stinging it mercilessly as you use it, so use it sparingly.
Starter Kit: For those who are planning to get started, there are starter kits that include all the tools and protective equipment you need to get started as a beekeeper: