If you have decided to join the trend of urban gardening, it is only natural to develop an interest in beekeeping. After all, bees help your gardening efforts succeed. Without the bees, nothing would grow. To get started you need the right beekeeping supplies. Over time you will probably accumulate lots of “bee stuff”. However, to get started as a beginner beekeeper, the essentials are actually quite few.
You will need a hive to house your colony of Honeybees. There are many different kinds. Some are considered obsolete. Others have special purposes. And then there are the traditional designs that are widely used. That is probably the design of choice for a beginner. But it is good to know the differences.
Fixed comb – These are hives with combs that cannot be removed. If you are raising bees for the purpose of harvesting honey, this is not the hive for you. The most common fixed comb hive that you might recognize is called a “skep”. These are cone shaped woven baskets. However, if you want to offer some housing to local wild bees, lots of things can be repurposed as a fixed comb hive:
- Clay pot – leave it natural or paint it with a cute design, tip it upside down and place it in an out of the way, shady spot in the garden.
- Teapot – hang a cute teapot by its handle from a tree branch. If bees don’t move in you may end up housing a wren or sparrow.
Fixed comb hives are illegal in many parts of the U.S. because they cannot be inspected. In the U.K. they are still used. In particular, skeps are used to capture swarms of wild bees and then transport them into a traditional hive.
Portable Frame Hive
This is the most widely used hive in the U.S., particularly the Langstroth design. There are many designs that are similar to the original Langstroth design but all got their inspiration from the original. A Langstroth hive is a wooden box with a top that opens up to reveal the comb frames within. The frames can be lifted out for inspection and honey collection.
The U.K. has its own national hive model, the British National Hive. This is the most commonly used hive throughout the U.K. and is compatible with the following frame designs: British Standard, Hoffman, and Manley.
This design is becoming quite popular among novice beekeepers who are not interested in harvesting honey but enjoy the usefulness of bees in the garden. Top-bar hives have no removable frame so once the honey-filled comb is removed it cannot be returned. This affects honey harvest amounts which is why it is not very popular with beekeepers interested in producing honey for commercial reasons.
Another essential in your beekeeping supplies is protective clothing. When you first get started it is important to wear protective gear. Chances are you will be a bit nervous and the bees will smell your fear. This will cause them to be more agitated and aggressive. Novice beekeepers need a beekeeping suit that includes a veiled hat and gloves. It is important to make sure your face and neck are properly covered because they are highly attracted to a person’s breath. That is why people are often stung on the face.
You will probably notice that most beekeeping suits are light colored. You don’t want to be moving about a swarm of bees in a camouflage colored jumpsuit or dark clothing. The bee’s natural predators are animals like bears and skunks. You don’t want them to confuse you with one of the bad guys.
As your suit receives stings it will collect residue of pheromones that signal alarm to the hive. After each use it should be washed. Gloves can be rinsed in vinegar water which will neutralize the scent of the pheromone. This can be done even while you are working the hive.
This device uses fuel to produce smoke which helps to calm the bees and confuse their communication efforts. By using a smoker a novice beekeeper can open the hive without causing the entire hive to rise up into defensive actions. Bees within the hive are actually more aggressive than bees that are outside and actually swarming. Basically, you are burgling the hive and those within are defending their home.
Beekeeping suppliers will stock an assortment of natural fuels that are free of harmful contaminants. Liquid smoke is a product that is squirted from a spray bottle eliminating the need for the traditional smoker.
Those are the bare necessities of beekeeping supplies needed to get started. There are other helpful tools such as a brush to move bees off of your beekeeping suit or a hive tool that can pry things apart that have been glued together by bee propolis. The easiest way to make sure you have the beekeeping supplies you absolutely must have is to invest in a beekeeping kit.