If you're wondering what supplies you need for beekeeping, look no further. Here is exactly what you need to get your beekeeping operation off the ground. The list will vary depending on the type of hive you choose, as well as your DIY skills and desire to save money, but this list will get you started.
You will need a beehive, either a Langstroth hive made up of boxes and frames, or a top-bar beehive. For a Langstroth hive, the most common type used by beginning beekeepers, you may purchase a hive kit or individual components which include boxes, frames, and foundation. There are several options from which to choose. Deep boxes, for housing the bees, and supers, for collecting excess honey, are usually constructed with wood and may come assembled or in parts that the beekeeper puts together. You will also need a bottom board, and inner and outer covers. Optional equipment includes, hive stand, queen excluder, entrance reducers, and shims. Langstroth hives come in two sizes-10 frame (most common) or 8 frame.
Foundation is what the bees will use to draw out comb. It can be made of plastic or natural beeswax. Many beekeepers prefer natural foundation as the bees seem to do better with it. Foundation is available with or without reinforcing embedded wires. The frames and foundation are sold separately so that the beekeeper can put the two together on an as needed bases. Optional equipment includes additional wiring, a wire crimper and a frame board to make inserting foundation into frames easier.
And, of course, you will need the bees themselves! You can buy package honey bees and queens online, or from a local bee supplier. Oftentimes, buying bees locally is preferable, because you'll wind up with honey bees that are optimized for your particular micro-climate and beekeeping conditions. Honeybees come in a three pound package which translates to about 3,000 bees. A mated queen is usually part of the package but can be purchased separately.
Nucs are another way to obtain bees. A nuc is usually made up of five frames of bees with brood, honey, pollen and a laying queen. Think of it as a mini hive or half hive in which the bees are already settled and actively working. Nucs are more expensive but offer the advantage of not having to re-home the package bees in your empty hives; a practice which has its own set of potential hazards.
Getting stung is part of beekeeping. The proper protective clothing provides protection against this more painful part of working with your bees.
Some beekeepers work without any protective gear but these are usually those with many years of experience. For beginners, it's a good idea to practice precautions. Facial stings can be unsightly and really hurt. What do you really need for beekeeping? If you are working with a Langstroth hive, you may need all of these items. Top-bar beehives disturb the bees less when you work with them, so a veil and gloves may be enough for you.
- Veil. A veil protects your head and face from bee stings and is the most important bee protection element to own.
- Gloves. Gloves are often used by beginners - and you can even use dishwashing gloves - but more experienced beekeepers often do without them.
- Bee suit, one-piece or jacket, and pants. A bee suit can protect your whole body from bee stings, but wearing full-length clothes is often enough. If you can only get one piece, get the jacket instead of the pants.
Bee Tools and Smoker
A smoker will calm the bees before you check on them or harvest honey. Several basic hand tools are sold by beekeeping supply stores that will help you work with the bees. There are many more small tools that you may find useful, but these are the most common.
- Hive tool. A hive tool is a small, crowbar-like implement that helps you break apart the boxes that make up your beehive, which is often stuck together with beeswax and/or propolis.
- Scraper. A scraper can help you remove the buildup of wax and/or propolis on your hive components.
- Uncapping scratcher. This will help you uncap your comb to release honey.
Honey extractors take the honey from your honey frames and, well, extract it from them. There are different sizes and types, but it's all the same basic idea. Some are hand-crank and some are run by a motor. Your extractor should be sized to the number of hives you have. You may find it best to rent or borrow one for your first few seasons or if you have a small number of hives.