You’ve done your research on bees, got your hive picked out, and found the perfect spot for it. Now what? Other than a hive and bees, there are a few beginning beekeeping supplies that are necessary for beekeepers. If you bought a complete beehive starter kit you may already have all or most of these items. If not, don’t worry. They are all easily found online.
Beekeeping is such a rewarding hobby, for both humans and bees. Humans need bees, as they are responsible for pollinating as much as 80% of the world’s crops. However, colony collapse disorder, disease, and pesticides have caused the bee population to decline at an alarming rate. It is important that we help the bees, as they are necessary for our food production. Beekeeping is a truly interesting hobby, and of course, everybody loves the sweet honey it produces.
You may think you need a farm, or large area to be a beekeeper. However, that is not true! Urban beekeeping is on the rise and proof that with some creativity, anyone can raise bees. If you would like to start beekeeping there are some beginning beekeeping supplies that you will need.
Beginning Beekeeping Supplies
- Bee Suit
- Bee Gloves
- Bee Smoker
- Hive Tool
- Uncapping Tool
I’ve written about beehives for beginners on this site before, but here’s a quick recap. There are 3 main types of beehives. The Langstroth hive is the most popular type of beehive. It consists of a few boxes stacked on top of each other. The boxes contain frames for the bees comb, brood, and honey. As the colony grows more boxes can be added to the top of the hive. The Warre hive is similar to the Langstroth, but it is smaller and uses bars instead of frames. Extra boxes can be added to the bottom of the Warre hive to accommodate a growing colony. The Top Bar hive consists of one box with bars across the top. You cannot add onto this hive. Read about the pros and cons of each hive and you can find the best fit for you.
While bees are not as sting happy as they are portrayed to be, they will sting sometimes. Beekeepers wear special clothes to protect against stings. The protective clothing that beekeepers wear is called a bee suit.
For the most part you will be able to do hive inspections without the bees noticing you much. But sometimes the bees will get a little agitated (you are removing the roof of their house after all), and they may attempt to sting. If your bees start getting aggressive it is important to stay calm. Bees react to your presence, so freaking out will make things worse. Besides, if you have a sting proof bee suit you have nothing to worry about.
A full body bee suit is great because it protects your entire body. If that isn’t your style, you can also get a beekeeping jacket. Just be aware that even heavy duty jeans do not fully protect you against bee stings. There are two types of bee suits – regular and ventilated. Regular bee suits are made of a heavy white cotton canvas. It can get pretty hot, especially during the summer. Ventilated bee suits are made of layers of breathable mesh and are much more comfortable.
Can Bees Sting Through a Bee Suit?
Many beginning beekeepers wonder, can bees sting through a bee suit? Unfortunately, nothing is 100% sting proof. However, wearing a bee suit greatly lessens your chances of getting stung. And if you do get stung while wearing a bee suit, the effects will be less than if you had no protection. The best thing you can do is be sure that there are no openings in your clothing that will allow bees to get in. Check for gaps at the hands, feet and especially neck.
A good bee veil is an essential part of beginning beekeeping supplies. You need to protect your face and neck! A bee veil is made of a hard hat and a mesh veil. The hat will have a wide brim, which is used to keep the mesh out of your face. Choose a bee veil that offers both comfort and visibility.
Bee gloves are also an important beginning beekeeping supply, as no one likes getting stung on their hands. While many experienced beekeepers choose not to wear gloves, it is recommended that beginning beekeepers do use some sort of protection for their hands. Beekeeping gloves are usually made of heavy cotton and are long enough to go to your elbows. Beekeepers who find this type of glove uncomfortable also use nitrile gloves. They are much thinner that traditional bee gloves, and beekeepers say that bees don’t usually sting them.
Next on the list of beginning beekeeping supplies is the bee smoker. A bee smoker is a can with a spout that allows you to aim smoke at your hive. The smoke masks bee pheromones, so they are unable to communicate with each other with their alarm pheromone.
The bee smoker requires fuel to start the fire, such as twigs, wood shavings, or lint. Use a grill lighter to ignite a fire and pump the bellows to get the fire going. Pump the bellows again to let out a puff of smoke. A puff or two at the entrance and in the boxes is sufficient to calm your bees.
The hive tool is a basic beekeeping supply that every beekeeper uses. Hive tools have a few different uses. They are used to separate frames, lever them out of the hive, remove burr comb, and scrape propolis. There are 2 types of hive tools – the standard hive tool, and the J type, or hook end hive tool. Both tools are made of stainless steel or spring steel and differ slightly in shape. The flat end of the hive tool is used for scraping, while the curved end is used to lift frames.
You’ll need an uncapping tool to harvest honey. An uncapping tool is used to remove the top layer of beeswax covering your honey frame. Doing so exposes the honey to be extracted. The easiest and fastest way to uncap cells is to use an electric knife. It is heated and easily cuts through the wax without damaging the frame. An uncapping scraper can also be used for those hard to reach areas.
Other uncapping tools used are the cold knife (similar to the electric knife, but not heated) and the uncapping roller. The uncapping roller looks like a paint roller with spikes covering the barrell.
The last of the beginning beekeeping supplies is the bee brush. It is a wooden brush with soft bristles. It is used to remove bees off the frame or comb without hurting them. It is typically used during hive inspections or honey extraction. Be sure to clean your bee brush occasionally, as it can get sticky from honey and propolis.
These eight beginning beekeeping supplies are everything you need to start your beehive. First, choose your hive. Then for your protection you will need a bee suit, a veil, and gloves. To care for your hive you’ll need a bee smoker, hive tool and a brush. And for honey extraction you’ll need an uncapping tool.