Beekeeping is a hobby that comes with many benefits. You can make some extra income by selling honey. Your garden and local environment flourish due to the hard work of pollinating bees. Perhaps best of all, you get to enjoy the fulfillment and satisfaction of taking care of creatures that are both valuable and fascinating. No matter your motivation, a few tools are necessary for your beekeeping journey. Here is the essential equipment for every beekeeper to properly care for their bees.
Having the right type of hive is key to keeping your bees safe and your honey harvest bountiful. The type of hive you’ll need depends on where you’ll place it in your yard and how you want to raise your bees. For example, if you want to harvest comb as well as plain honey, you might want a queen excluder in your hive to keep the brood out of the honey supers. If you live somewhere that gets a lot of rain, you’ll want a taller stand to keep the hive off the wet ground. Be sure to read up on the different types of hives and their add-ons to find what works best for you and your bees.
The frame is one of the most important elements of the hive. The frame is simply a rectangular frame that fits inside the supers and holds the comb. This is where the queen lays her brood and where the rest of the colony stores its honey. Frames are designed to be lifted out of the supers, making hive inspections and honey removal easier for beekeepers. The foundation in the middle of the frame helps support the weight of the comb and gives your bees an even model to follow when they’re building their combs out of wax. As with hives, there are many different types of hive frames that you can buy. You can choose frames made from wood or plastic and ones that come with or without a foundation. Many beekeepers also get kits instead of assembled frames and build them on their own so that they perfectly fit the hive.
Honey bees rely on nearby flowering plants for their food source. They work all year long to make enough honey to feed the hive through winter, but at times, they might need a little help from you. If your hive experiences a long, harsh winter or a drought, you’ll need to fill their feeders with supplements. There are several different types of feeders that you can use. Sometimes, leaving a feeder full of sugar and water out in your yard is enough to take care of the colony. You can also use pro feeders and top feeders to keep the food source safely inside the hive—this is especially beneficial during the winter, when your colony can’t move very far to look for food.
Suits aren’t always necessary, but protective gear is still part of the essential equipment for every beekeeper. A hat and veil are the most important pieces—stings around the eyes, nose, and lips are particularly painful and dangerous. You can also get a protective jacket, coveralls, or a full-body bee suit for added protection. However, some beekeepers choose to visit their bees in regular clothes instead of in a suit or protective jacket. If you’re comfortable around your bees, then they’ll be comfortable around you, and the chances of bee stings will be low. Despite this, it’s always a good idea to have protective gear on hand in case you have visitors or for days when the bees are more agitated.
Gloves are another part of a beekeeper’s protective gear. There’s some debate in the beekeeping community over whether or not gloves are necessary. Even the supplest material can limit mobility and make working with the frames harder. On the other hand, the extra layer of protection makes some beekeepers feel more comfortable, which in turn keeps their bees calm as they work around the hive. Either way, it’s a good idea to have a pair of gloves, even just as a backup.
The smoker is one of the beekeeper’s most valuable tools. Bees don’t usually sting unless they feel threatened. When a bee stings, it releases a pheromone that alerts and agitates the rest of the colony. To keep the hive calm during hive inspections or extractions most beekeepers use smokers to help mask pheromones. This means that even if you get stung, the other bees won’t notice and defend themselves, as the smoke will mask the bee’s scent. This makes getting in and out of the hive much easier for you.
Another helpful inspection tool is the hive tool, a solid, flat, metal tool that has many useful purposes. Its main use is to pry open frames and remove honeycomb that has been glued in place with propolis—a glue-type substance that bees make to hold their hives together. You can use the hive tool to scrape frames, get rid of unwanted pests such as beetles, and cut open honeycomb.
The bee brush is another simple yet incredibly useful tool. This is a soft-bristled brush that beekeepers use to gently and safely remove bees from wherever they’re working. When you lift a frame and can’t shake off all the bees on it, you can use the bee brush to sweep the rest of them off the frame. This a quick and painless way to make sure your work area is clear when you’re working within the hive.
There are always new methods, tools, and information relating to bees. One of the most important things to have in your beekeeping tool kit is knowledge. You can follow online forums or blogs to keep up with other beekeepers’ experiences and advice. Connect with other beekeepers in your area, and keep an eye out for new educational tools such as books and documentaries. The more you know about your bees and the larger beekeeping community, the better your experience will be. You can even join our beekeeping club and classes to learn more!