What you need to start beekeeping

So you’re interested in beekeeping but there are so many choices out there. Should you get a top bar hive? What do you need if you want to harvest honey and is it expensive? The catalogs have SO MUCH that I don’t know how to start or where to begin! There’s a lot to consider before acquiring your bees.

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I’m here to help…

In 5 steps we are going to:

Step #1- Choose your hive style

Step #2- Order or make your own equipment

Step #3- Learn about Tools of the Trade

Step #4- Choose your Protective Gear

Final Step #5- Specialty Equipment

Let’s begin!

Step #1- Choose your hive style

There are so many different styles of beehive that I’m still learning about them after 17+ years of beekeepery. To make it simple for you, I have written a guide on the top 3 most popular hive styles that I’m aware of. Click on the guide below and then come back for Step #2.

The Three Styles of Beehives: Which one fits your needs?

Step #2- Order or make your own equipment

I hope that by now you have a much more clear idea of the style of beekeeping you wish to pursue. Now it’s time to work towards ordering a basic kit. Or, if you are savvy with saws, you may choose to find some plans or blue prints on the web to help you make your own.

Here are some suggestions: BackyardHive.com not only sells hive bodies but they also sell the Blue Prints so that you can make your own. I have bought two sets of plans from them already.

Here is a free set of plans for construction the Warre Hive also known as ‘The People’s Hive.’ And for the Langstroth style, another free source of plans by Dummies.com.

I’m going to list a few resources here where you can go online to look at where you can find a basic startup kit:

Top Bar Hive: Backyardhive.com OR Kelleybees.com

Warre Hive: TheWarreStore.com

Langstroth Style: There are considerably more choices with this style. I will give you the top three. MannLakeltd.com OR Betterbee.com OR Dadant.com

Be aware that within these three options, there are many other choices available that I cannot make for you. But do not fret! You can either ask me for information about something through my Contact page, contact the company directly, or do your own research online about individual hive components.

It is more important that you are aware of what’s out there than to make a decision right now.

Step #3- Tools of the Trade

There are some basic tools that you will need no matter which style you have chosen: A hive tool and a smoker

Hive Tool– This is an incredibly important tool when it comes to opening your beehive. The bees use propolis to glue their equipment together and in place. As a result, we need a hive tool to use as a mini-prybar.

It’s used to pry one hive body box from another one and also for prying frames in order take them out and inspect. I do not recommend any hive tool over another but I do recommend looking here.

Smoker– The smoker is a beekeeper’s way of ‘knocking on the door.’ It serves as a fair warning that the hive is about to be disturbed. When a honey bee smells smoke they begin to fan. The result is to keep them from emitting their attack pheromone which the smoky smell also disguises.

I am going to recommend another post I have written which helps to distinguish the elements of a quality smoker. But to take the guesswork out of it, I’m also going to link my best recommendation below.

Click here to read, Elements of a Good Beekeeping Smoker. Click below for my recommendation.

Step #4Choose your Protective Gear

The basic protective gear consists of: a veil for covering your face, which comes with either a jacket or a full body suit, and a good pair of gloves.

This is definitely an area where there are too many choices. I have two more blog posts below to help you choose which style of veil and gloves to g. Or you can go straight to the recommendations listed below as well.

You still need to decide if you want a jacket + veil OR a full body suit which usually comes with a veil. That’s totally up to you. I’ve used a jacket for years but I’m tired of bees finding their way into my veil by crawling up my back when I bend over. I will be getting a suit later this year.

Recommended reading: Top 3 Beekeeping Veils: what to get and what to avoid AND What to look for in a good pair of bee gloves.

Final step #5- Specialty equipment

This is the part where you need to study about the type of equipment you may need for the style of beehive that you have chosen. An example: if you chose the Langstroth style then you will eventually need an extractor and an uncapping system.

However, you do not need to necessarily go out and buy an extractor during your first year of beekeeping. Your hives need time to build and grow. And you need time to observe and learn.

If you have zero experience then you could inadvertently ‘sting yourself in the toe’ by harvesting too much honey and dooming your hives to starvation.

But if you want to go ahead anyways then I will refer you to my page on Tools of the Trade. There’s lots of stuff I recommend, among which is a small extractor.

Final thoughts…

I hope to have covered the basics enough to inform you without overwhelming you. There is a lot to learn, and you will learn it over time. If I have left something out and did not answer every question you have, then let me know in the comments below or through my Contact page.

I want you to feel like this is something that you can do because I know you can! The two best times to start beekeeping are 10 years ago and today. Have fun with it!

Thanks for joining me and until next time remember,

~Weeds are Wildflowers, let them Bee!~

Jonathan Hargus/Beekeeper Extraordinaire

11 Comments Add yours

  1. You forgot “where to get bees”. πŸ˜‚ And you already know what I’m going to say. At least try to catch your own local swarms. 😁

    1. You have a very good and overlooked point there! I can’t remember if I meant to include that or not, hmmm? ha! Thanks! Maybe I should do a post just on that, and I totally agree with catching your own. πŸ™‚

      1. I tell people to give it until May to catch a swarm before buying one. Plenty of people splitting and selling bees then. I still wouldn’t buy any of course. πŸ˜€

      2. Haha! I refuse to as well. I’m splitting my beed in April and am already getting antsy about it. I’m hoping to go into this winter with 50. What about you?

      3. I don’t know exactly when I will be splitting. I’m often late, and end up shaking swarms off of bushes, but that’s fine with me. At least 21 out of 28 have survived so far. Only unknown swarms died (starve outs). Everything I raised myself lived. I still can’t believe it. πŸ˜‚ I’ll probably go into winter with about 30 again, and sell the rest. I’ll requeen most of the swarms I get with my ferals before selling them. I’m hoping to catch 50 swarms this season. 😁

      4. 50 swarms?! Wow, you have a lot more swarm action than we do. That’s awesome!

      5. I network ALOT. My website and FB page get me most of my calls.

      6. That’s a thought. I used to take calls for bees but then stopped for years. I think I will try what you do.

  2. Thanks for sharing

    1. You bet! Glad you appreciate it.

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