Basic Equipment for Beginning Beekeepers

Basic equipment for beginning beekeepers: what to buy and how to save money. From

One of my favorite gifts last Christmas was a complete beehive kit from hubby. Maybe he was tired of listening to me talk for several years about getting bees, and decided he'd make it happen. Whatever the reason, I loved it! I took a class for beekeeping beginners (or should we call them "beeginners"?) at the local college and ordered my bees from the instructor.

If you're hoping to get bees this spring, you need to order them NOW. I'm not kidding: the folks in my state beekeeping Facebook group have been taking orders for several weeks already, and their waiting lists fill up fast!

To find a local bee group, try searching online for "beekeepers in your state" - and change it to your own state, of course. Also search for "bees for sale in your state."

Basic equipment for beginning beekeepers: what to buy and how to save money. From

How do you order bees? I have some important tips and information in a previous post, 4 Tips for Ordering Bees. I hope you'll read that post to learn about ordering bees, and read this post to see what you'll need to have on hand when they arrive.

This post contains affiliate links. You can read my full disclosure here.

Soon after I picked up my package of bees, my farrier was here at Oak Hill trimming the horses' hooves. He said he's planning to get bees too and asked me how much it cost to get started. I started adding it up in my head and was a bit amazed and dismayed. It isn't cheap to get started keeping bees.

But there are ways to keep your costs down if you're careful. One way is to buy only what you need. You'll find a dizzying array of equipment in the stores, and while some of it is nice to have, it isn't all necessary, at least when you first start out.

Basic equipment for beginning beekeepers: what to buy and how to save money. From

First, your bees will need a place to live. The "woodenware" is the largest expense in beekeeping. You can buy a full beehive set-up like hubby did (the most expensive but easiest option), or you can make your own from plans online (the cheapest option). You can build the boxes and buy the inner frames already assembled, either a full-size hive or a smaller nuc (see these plans to build a nuc from a sheet of plywood). You can even buy all of the parts unassembled and put them together yourself.

A word of warning though: don't buy used woodenware, at least not until you have some experience. Used equipment can harbor problems, and you don't want to start out with someone else's problems. Start with new equipment!

Also, the instructor in the class I took told us to use cinder blocks or a homemade version rather than buying a commercial wooden hive stand. Anything that will hold your hive off the ground is sufficient.

Basic equipment for beginning beekeepers: what to buy and how to save money. From

The second biggest expense is the purchase of your bees. An established, complete hive of bees will be the most expensive, while a package of bees is the least expensive. A nuc is somewhere in the middle. Or you can capture a swarm, which is essentially free but requires some experience.

Your bees will need to be fed for at least the first spring and perhaps over the winters as well. There are a variety of feeders available. Entrance feeders (affiliate link) are usually the least expensive, and that's what I bought first. However these feeders can encourage robbing by other bees and, at least as far as I'm concerned, they aren't the best way to feed your bees. I bought another feeder, this time an in-hive or frame feeder (affiliate link). (See there, I'd already bought something I didn't need: the entrance feeder.)

Can you feed your bees for free? Sure. A shallow pan lined with small stones for the bees to land on will hold the same sugar water you'd put in any other feeder. Be sure to put this feeder at least fifty yards from your hive to lessen the possibility of robbing. I'm also intrigued by this do-it-yourself feeder on YouTube. But be aware that you'll be feeding more than your own bees when you set up an open feeder like these, and you'll need to fill these feeders more often so you'll be spending more money on sugar.

Basic equipment for beginning beekeepers: what to buy and how to save money. From

You'll also need some equipment to use when working your bees. A hive tool (affiliate link) is a definite necessity. A smoker (affiliate link) is a good investment and I greatly prefer using a bee smoker to the spray bottle of sugar water I used at first.

Hubby also bought some fuel for the smoker - a little package of burlap scraps - but I've learned that you can use other items too. Dry pine needles work well. I use wooden shavings sold for animal bedding, since I usually have a large bag of those on hand for the chickens' nest boxes.

Hubby also gave me a bee brush, but the one time I used it it seemed to antagonize my bees, and I haven't used it since then.

While there are {crazy?} people who work their bees without any protective clothing, I suggest you get a veil or helmet and gloves, at least. Some "beeks" use nitrile gloves; I like my beekeeping gloves (affiliate link). Hubby gave me a veil, but I later bought an inexpensive bee jacket (affiliate link) that works very well too. Be generous with your jacket size; you want some "air space" between your skin and the fabric. Wear a ball cap under this type of hat so the brim will keep the veil away from your face. This hat can be floppy and the ball cap helps a bit to keep it in place, but it isn't perfect.

There are complete beekeeping suits that will protect you the best, but this is where I chose to save some money. I wear heavy clothing and use duct tape at the ankles and waist. A long-sleeved white shirt from the thrift store (oxford type is nice and thick) goes under my veil or my bee jacket.

Basic equipment for beginning beekeepers: what to buy and how to save money. From
Not exactly making a fashion statement, but I haven't been stung yet!

This isn't an exhaustive list of beekeeping equipment by any means, but it is enough to get you started. I found out that I'd need more hive boxes to add on top of my one hive as the bees filled the first box with honey and brood. If you want to split your hive or catch a swarm, you'll need even more woodenware. Once you start harvesting honey you'll probably want to get a honey extractor and filter, etc.

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Where do you find all this? Amazon carries beekeeping equipment, but choose products from well-known suppliers. Some of the offerings from Amazon take months to ship, so be sure to read the fine print.

Atwoods, Tractor Supply Co. and other farm-type stores often have equipment in stock, but they might not have everything you want.

If you've found a local beekeeping group, you can ask about local equipment suppliers. You might find out that one of the members has a local store, or that another makes regular pick-ups of equipment from large companies and resells it. Group orders are another way to save money.

Are you planning to get started with bees this year? If you already have bees, is there a basic piece of equipment that you wouldn't be without? Let us know in the comments.

The images below are affiliate links. You can read my full disclosure here.


Related posts:
4 Tips for Ordering Bees
Installing the Bees
Three Months with the Bees

Basic equipment for beginning beekeepers - how to save money on the basics. Oak Hill

Here's the basic equipment you'll need when you bring home your first bees.

This post has been shared at some of my favorite blog hops.


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