We get lots of questions from customers who would like to become a beekeeper with their own backyard honeybee hives, but with all of the information out there, they are very confused about where to start. Lappe's Bee Supply is dedicated to helping educate and provide quality products to beekeepers across the United States and around the World, to better understand how to be successful in keeping bees and happy beekeepers. To make it as simple as possible, we have beekeeping starter kits that contain all of the essential beekeeping supplies. But please, read on to find out what is most important!
What beginner beekeeping supplies do I need to start with?
With the vast amount of beekeeping equipment on the market, it can be very hard for new bee keepers to figure out what beginning beekeeping supplies they need at first. To begin with, you need a beehive for each colony of bees that you plan to start. If you are on a tight budget and can't do more than one, then one is the limit, but if you could go with more, we always suggest starting with at least two beehives. This way, you can judge how each bee hive is doing by comparing them against each other.
The most common style of hive for honey bees is the Langstroth 8 frame or 10 frame. When using this style of hive, you need to start the honeybees out in just one of the deep brood boxes, so your starting set up would be a bottom board with an entrance reducer (make sure the entrance reducer is on the smallest side), one deep brood box with frames, inner cover and telescoping lid. An extremely important item needed when first starting out package bees in a hive is a feeder. Bees have to consume feed in order to produce wax. They have special glands on the underside of their abdomens where the wax is secreted, then they take that wax and chew on it to make it soft and pliable, then put the beeswax on the frame in order to provide the room for the queen to start laying. Sometimes in early spring when the packages are first available, there is very little in nature for the worker bees to start working, so by feeding them sugar syrup, you will be giving them a valuable resource to get them further ahead. Feeding them pollen patties is another great option as well.
What kind of clothing do I need to protect myself?
The other supplies that you will need for raising bees are a bee suit or jacket (protective clothing), gloves and tools. We'll tackle each of these in order. For the bee suit / jacket, there are two main styles available. The first is a straightforward bee suit that is usually made out of a cotton and polyester blend material, while the second is a ventilated style that is usually made out of 3 layers of material - there is a layer of rubberized netting sandwiched in between two layers of woven netting. The vented suit allows the air to flow through while at the same time preventing you from being stung. This is especially nice on those hot summer days. There are also different styles of veils that come attached to the suit / jacket. One style is the self supporting collapsible veil, which makes it nice to be able to take your veil off your head without having to take the veil completely off the suit. The second type is a round veil, which is preferred because of it's wide open viewing area, plus the screen goes all the way around the veil, which allows additional airflow to the back of the neck, to help keep you cooler. The third type of veil is the square folding veil. This type of veil requires the use of a plastic helmet, and it is preferred by a lot of beekeepers involved in commercial beekeeping for pollination due to the ability to fold the veil and keep it someplace safe when not in use. The decision between a full bee suit or just a jacket is up to each beekeeper. They both have their pros and cons - the jacket is lighter to wear and easier to throw on for quick inspections, while the full bee suit is sure to keep the bees from crawling in to where they can sting you, which works great for times when the bees are really angry, like during honey extracting time.
Just like with bee suits, there are several different choices for beekeeping gloves from most beekeeping supply companies. Again, the choice between the different styles is up to each individual beekeeper, and what makes them feel more comfortable. The two main leather types are goatskin and cowhide. The goatskin usually stay pretty soft and pliable, which makes them easier for the beekeeper to use, while the cowhide can sometimes get stiffer because of the propolis or because of moisture. The cowhide are heavier duty, which should make them last longer, and it is harder for the bees' stinger to get through. That brings us to two more options: disposable nitrile gloves, or no gloves at all. When we put packaged bees into our own hives, it is usually my job to take the cork out of the queen cage, add in the fondant candy in it's place, and wedge the queen cage in between the frames. Because I have smaller hands, nitrile gloves usually work better for me to do this job in, but I am very much aware while doing this that I am going to end up with at least a few stings to the hands. Because the gloves are so much thinner than leather gloves, you receive pretty much the full sting. No matter how careful you are while working the bees, there will always be bees that sting - it's just in their nature to sting, and the only defense that they have. As for not wearing gloves at all, there seems to be more and more people opting to go glove-less while working the bee colony, but please don't feel like you should, too, just because others are doing it. If you feel more comfortable wearing gloves, then please, do so. I do. My father-in-law started beekeeping in 1978, and he saw a lot of the old timers who hadn't worn gloves while beekeeping, either, but most of them were not able to keep bees anymore, their fingers were so crippled from all of the venom they had received.
What beekeeping tools will I need?
Now on to the beekeeping tools that you will need. The most useful items that you will need are a bee smoker and smoker fuel, and a hive tool. That's it. Nothing fancy, but there are several other tools that do come in handy. Let's cover the smoker, smoker fuel and hive tools, then move on to the extra beekeeping tools that were invented to make beekeeping a little easier. First of all, there are three standard sizes of smokers. There is a small one, that works well if you have just one or two hives and don't need to use your smoker for long periods of time. There is also a regular sized one that measures 4" x 7", which is the most widely used. Then there is the large size, which is mainly used by larger beekeepers that have a lot of hives to work, and need to use more smoker fuel to keep the smoker burning longer. Moving on to smoker fuel, there are all different types used. Some of the most favored are burlap, twine and pine needles. Whatever you purchase / find to use, just make sure that there are no chemicals on it that will harm the bees. For instance, twine is easy to come by if you run a farm, or know a farmer, but be sure that it's the good old fashioned, untreated sisal twine that has not been treated with chemicals.
Moving on to the hive tools, there are lots of different styles to choose from. We here at Lappe's Bee Supply currently sell a total of 7 styles. There are the standard stainless steel and economy hive tools, that have one end for prying and one end for scraping. We also carry the increasingly popular J Hook hive tools. With these you have a scraper on one end, and a handy j hook on the opposite end to easily lift the frames up from the propolis. There is also a wood handle hive tool, an ez pry hive tool, and the Beekeeper's Best hive tool that our customers also like for it's handiness. All hive tools serve the same purpose, different beekeepers like certain tools for different reasons. An excellent way to find out which hive tool works best for you is to buy 2 or 3 different ones to try, then pick the one that you like the most for your bee keeping operation.
There are also some additional tools that our customers like to use that are very handy. Some examples are bee brushes, used for gently brushing bees off frames; frame spacing tools, used to get your frames spaced just right, so the bees don't have too much space to build extra comb in between frames; frame grips, used to easily grip the frames and lift them up out of the hive; and the most popular of all, the frame perch, used on the side of the hive, so that you can set one of the deep frames on it after you have checked it over for the queen or queen cells, which is safer than propping the frame against the side of the hive.
Learn, Learn, Learn....
One more crucial part of information regarding beginning beekeeping and understanding what to do is to read up on the subject and learn everything that you can. There are some excellent books and magazines available that we recommend reading, and they can be found on our website. Local beekeeping clubs are excellent tools for invaluable beekeeping information, and usually that is the best place to find a beekeeping mentor to help you out during your first few years. For the most part, beekeeping videos are a wealth of information as well; however please do thorough research on items of information before trying them out yourself. Sometimes some of ideas that other beekeepers come up with and do videos on can be detrimental to the health of your beehive. Also, find out if there is a beekeeping course at your local community college, or if any bee clubs around your area are holding spring beekeeping classes. No matter if you want to become a hobbyist beekeeper, wanting to learn from the honey bee, or if you want to do backyard beekeeping to keep bees for the honey production and because they are excellent pollinators, Lappe's is a bee company who looks forward to helping you become a beekeeper. We also offer free ground shipping on orders over $100!
From all of us here at Lappe's Bee Supply and Honey Farm LLC -