What do I need to start beekeeping?

So this is a common question I get when I share pictures and videos of my beekeeping experiences. So I figured my first post about beekeeping will be about getting started. Getting started with beekeeping takes a lot more planning and education then most people realize. I’m no pro, but there are a lot of different styles and opinions on how to do it, and where to start. To treat or no to treat, to feed or ot to feed. For this blog post I’ll focus on getting your basic equipment together an finding a local bee association to help mentor you on best practices in your area.

Buying or Building a Hive

Most new beeekeepers will buy their first hive, while others will use their first year to build up gear and build their own and buy frames or sometimes just the foundation. Either way you need to know what part you need to get started. For a basically 10-frame Langstroth hive will have a bottom board, enterance reducer, 1-3 Brood deeper suppers, queen excluder(optional), 1-2 honey medium suppers, inner cover, outer cover, 10 – deep frames per brood supper, and 10 – medium frames per honey supper, and usually a frame feeder to get your bees started or when needed. Speaking of feeding buying or making pollen patties is also a great way to increase your numbers quick. If you wish to build search for DYI 10-frame hive, and you should find plans and videos with all that you need.

To start out you can order a starter hive online for about $130 or so. It will come with the bottom board, entrance reducer, deep brood super, 10-frames, inner cover, and outer cover.

 10-Frame Complete Painted Hive Kit, Assembled, Made In The USA

Although you should probably have a second brood box ready to put on if your bees really take off in the spring. You should add it on when 8-9 frames are full of brood, honey, pollen. You can get by with 2 of these including the starter kit.

10-Frame Assembled Painted Hive Body Kit, Wood Frames, Made in the USA

A Queen (or honey) excluder can also be purchased, it works by keeping the queen laying eggs in the brood boxes with openings like a strainer that only worker bees can fit through. I say honey excluder simple because encouraging some worker bees to go through the excluder can be difficult, not to mention the bur comb that may need clean up. Many beekeepers get by without them by just managing where the queen is laying and get moving her to the bottom brood box. A good queen excluder can’t hurt if you want to keep the eggs out of your honey suppers.

Mann Lake 10 Frame Wood Bound Metal Excluder, Queen

Finally you should have 1 or 2 honey suppers depending on how often you harvest, these are the boxes you will harvest your honey from, leaving the honey in the brood boxes for the bees. They are smaller mainly because they can get heavy when loaded with honey.

10-Frame Assembled Painted Honey Super Kit, Wood Frames, Made in the USA

Bee Suit, Gloves, and protection

Bee suits are also optional but recommended for first time beekeepers, and those sensitive to bee stings. Simply a jacket with a veil and wearing a long pair of paints works fine. This one comes with gloves, hive tool and, a bee brush.

LORJE Beekeeping Bee Keeping Suit Jacket&Gloves& Bee Hive Brush & J Hook Hive Tool Set

If you are worried about getting sung you can go for the full suit for a little more:

New Professional Large / XL Cotton Full Body Beekeeping Bee Keeping Suit, with Veil Hood By VIVO (BEE-V106)

You can also just wear a long sleeve shirt, gloves, and a bee veil/hat as well.
Natural Cotton Medium / Large Professional Beekeeping Beekeepers Hat Veil for Bee Protection During Beehive Maintenance by Goodland Bee Supply
Little Giant Farm & Ag GLVMD Goatskin Gloves with Vented Sleeves, Medium

Note: make sure to size your suit and gloves appropriately.

Basic Hive Tools

There are some basic hive tools every beekeeper should start out with. Some of these may have already beeen included ina kit above.

The first of such tools that is of high important mainly due to how bees tend to glue everything in the hive together with propolis or bee glue. This tool has a hook on the end great for pulling frames out of your hive. This is what I use every day I work on my bees.
KINGLAKE® Steel J-Hook Jhook, Bee Hive Tool Frame Lifter and Scraper,Beekeeping Equipment, 10-1/2-Inch

A smoker is also important for keeping your hive calm while working with them. Some pine needles or smoker chips with a starter is all you should need.
Mann Lake HD554 KwikStart Smoker Pellet
Honey Keeper Bee Hive Smoker Stainless Steel with Heat Shield Beekeeping Equipment
Note: honey extraction is a whole topic of its own, for getting started I would focus o the above and study which extraction method you wish to use, some bee clubs have loaner equipment you can use for free or a small fee.

A bee brush, sometimes you need to gently brush the bees away to avoid smashing too many of them or to get them off your honey frames you plan to extract. Sometimes a good smoker will do the trick. It never hurts to have all your tools ready when you need them.
Little Giant Farm & Ag BKBR14 Beekeeping Brush

Some other items that can come in handy, a large plastic tub with a cover, spray bottle (with sugar water), a six foot ladder, nuc box or any box and a roll of duck tape incase you wish to catch a swarm.

Finding your local beekeeper association

I saved the best for last, but you will want to support and join your local local bee club. They usuallly have monthly meetings, can get you information to register your hive with the state, and offer classes and sometimes rent or loan out equipment. You will find good local mentors here, and possibly some free bees even late in the season.