Beekeeping equipment will be one of the first things you will need to think about. When you start beekeeping it is easy to get carried away and buy all sorts of beekeeping equipment, most of which you do not really need and could easily do without. Having said that, there are 5 pieces of beekeeping equipment that are essential.
Beekeeping Equipment Essentials
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For this reason, it is a good idea to try to handle bees in as many different types of hive as possible. See what works for you before you buy one for yourself. Talk to other beekeepers in your area for advice on what works locally.
The truth is that bees do not mind what home they are given, as long as it is dry and relatively undisturbed. They will adapt to any hive type, so the important consideration is what type of hive suits you and delivers what you want to get out of beekeeping.
Protective Beekeeping Clothing
As you gain confidence and get better at handling the bees, the stings will become less frequent and you will need less protective clothing. Very experienced beekeepers can handle bees without wearing protective clothing, but it is only through years of experience and learning how not to get stung.
So, as a bare minimum you will need a hat and veil to protect your face and eyes, but really as a beginner beekeeper you would be best to buy a full beekeeping suit which will include a built in veil. There are many of these on the market. As always, the very cheapest will be the least effective. Go for what you can reasonably afford.
You will also need suitable gloves, especially to begin with. You can use household rubber gloves, although bees will probably be able to sting through these, so you might want to buy specialist beekeeping gloves with gauntlets.
Wearing gloves does make handling bees more difficult. You will be less clumsy without them, and so disturb the bees less when working at the hives. As soon as they get a bit of confidence, many beekeepers do not wear gloves at all, but you should still get yourself a pair to start with.
There are different types of hive tool, but the main rule is to buy one with a thin end, as this is much easier to use (and does less damage to the hives) than the thick ended ones which are available.
The stainless steel smoker is the best of the three but is the most expensive. Again, when buying this piece of beekeeping equipment, choose what you can reasonably afford.
When you first get bees it is usually a good idea to feed them right away to get them off to a good start, so add a bee feeder to your list of beekeeping equipment essentials.
To start keeping bees, you really do not need any other beekeeping equipment. Maybe later, but not now.
When it comes time to harvest your honey, you will probably need some extracting and honey handling equipment. This can be expensive so, depending on your area, you might be able to borrow or hire this equipment - or you could try building your own honey extractor. Your local beekeeping association is the first place to try - in fact this can be a good starting point for all beekeeping equipment.
This is probably the most important piece of beekeeping equipment you will buy. Be aware that, no matter what protective clothing you wear, if you keep bees, you will get stung! But the correct clothing will mean that you get stung much less often.
The hive tool is another essential in your beekeeping equipment list. It is used to prise open the hive, separate the hive bodies, and scrape frames clean. Generally, it is used to separate things that the bees stick together (just about everything) and so is the all purpose tool of beekeeping.
Smokers are used to make the bees easier to handle. They come in 2 sizes (small & large), and can be made out of tin plated steel, copper, or stainless steel. The tin plated steel version is the cheapest, but will probably not last very long, and the copper will not corrode but will bend easily.
You will need to feed bees sugar syrup at certain times (usually before winter, although they can need ‘top up’ feeds at other times too). To do this, you need a special feeder which goes on top of the hive. There are 2 main designs of feeder - a contact feeder and a bulk feeder.
The contact feeder (above) is a small feeder which holds about 2 litres of syrup, so is useful for top up feeding, but not as good for over winter feeding. For this, the bulk feeder (right) is best, as it holds up to 20 litres, so one fill will be enough to keep the hive going for the whole winter.
Image courtesy beebitz.com
Image courtesy treehugger.com
There are many different types of bee hives available, so the first question is which type will you buy. There is no right or wrong answer to this question - they all have their advantages and disadvantages (see Beehives and Top Bar Hives for more information).