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    Essential guide to beekeeping supplies

    Authored by Hannah Mather of Hannah's Honeycomb

    Beekeeping success first starts with the right supplies. Be sure to have everything you need before bringing your honeys home! There’s a saying within the beekeeping community that if you ask 5 beekeepers, you’ll get 6 answers. Everyone does things a bit differently, but if you have each of these categories covered, you’ll have the best chance for success! 

    Beekeeper (and bee) protection

    Bees shouldn’t be feared, but they should be respected. It’s important to properly protect yourself from stings, especially when you are first getting started and learning the bees' temperaments. Here are a few options to consider based on your own comfort level.

    Veil

    Your face is the most important place to protect when tending to bees. Always wear a veil when opening a hive. A sting to the eye could leave you blind! Make sure all sides are secured and pair your veil with light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.

    Veiled jacket

    When you want a bit more protection without the full suit, a veiled jacket is a great option. These protect your face and upper body.

    Full suit

    A full bee suit provides the best protection against stings, leaving fewer places bees can sneak in. Choose a ventilated suit if you live in a warm climate though, it can get hot in there.

    Gloves

    Next up is hand protection. Different beekeepers have different preferences. Some prefer no gloves at all, others prefer nitrile gloves (bees can still sting through, but are less likely to), and others prefer full protection leather. Well-fitting gloves make a big difference in how easily you can maneuver the frames within the hive.

    Smoker

    A smoker is another important tool that helps protect both bees and keeper. The smoke produced should be white, thick and cool. This smoke helps to block pheromones between the bees that could otherwise be used to organize defense. It also serves as a diversion, triggering a reflex for the bees to consume honey in case they need to leave the hive due to a fire. It’s important to use smoke, but use it sparingly!

    Building your hive

    Now onto the beehive. The most common type of hive is the Langstroth style hive. These are comprised of stacked boxes with moveable frames inside which allow for easy inspections and rearranging as needed.

    Hive stand

    To assemble a hive, you first start with the hive stand. This can be a purposely made hive stand, or it can be as simple as cinderblocks. Either way, you want it off the ground and at a height you can easily work with.

    Bottom board

    On top of the hive stand, the base board is next. This can be either ventilated or closed.

    Entrance reducer

    An entrance reducer helps your bees out by giving them less space to guard. Use the small entrance when the hive is just starting out or when nectar is scarce to prevent other bees and hornets from robbing their resources. Flip it to the larger entrance when populations are growing and you notice traffic jams building up.

    Boxes

    Next come the boxes. Most beekeepers prefer their bottom box to be a “deep” brood box (as opposed to the “medium” boxes typically used as honey supers). These boxes can get very heavy when filled with bees and brood, so sometimes petite beekeepers choose to use all medium sized boxes. The bees won’t mind either way!

    Frames

    Inside of each box are the frames. These frames will serve as the foundation for the comb the bees will build.

    Queen excluder

    The queen excluder is used by some beekeepers to keep the queen bee from accessing the top boxes where honey is produced. The queen excluder is placed between the bottom brood boxes and the honey supers.

    Lid

    The most used hobbyist lid style is the telescoping lid paired with an inner cover. The inner cover makes it much easier to open, while the telescoping outer lid protects the hive well from the elements.

    Other lid styles, like the migratory lids, offer less protection but more practical for stacking and moving boxes. These are often preferred by commercial beekeepers.

    Feeding

    Because of widespread habitat loss and urbanization leading to flower losses, honey bees often must be fed supplemental syrup or sugar patties certain times of the year. Have a plan in place for a feeder and a sugar mixture.

    Mite control

    Varroa mites and the diseases they spread are likely the leading causes of colony losses. Varroa mite numbers grow throughout the summer and can lead to a collapsing colony by winter. Have a plan for testing and treatment.

    Miscellanious beekeeping tools

    Hive tool

    No beekeeper’s bag is complete without a hive tool. This multipurpose tool comes in handy for everything from opening the hive to rearranging frames.

    Bee brush

    A bee brush comes in handy for gentling removing bees from a frame to either inspect it or remove for harvesting honey.

    Resource books

    It’s always good to have a guide to refer to, especially your first year. You’re going to have a lot of questions! (Beekeeping for Dummies, The Backyard Beekeeper, and Beginning Beekeeping are good ones)

    Bees

    Of course, we can’t forget the bees! You can purchase bees as 5 frame nucleus colonies or as packages with bees by the pound. Be ready for your bees beforehand, so you can transfer them to their new hive as soon as they arrive!

    Hannah is a beekeeper, horticulturist and pollinator advocate. She's passionate about sharing stories of our bee friends and their relationship to the environment.