What equipment do I need to start beekeeping?

Getting started as a beekeeper is a daunting task. If I hadn’t ordered my bees before I started ordering equipment, I may have quit before I even started. Which tools and components are truly necessary, and which can I do without? Which beekeeping supply companies are reputable, and which should I avoid? In another post, I’ll go over the components of a Langstroth hive in detail and how they go together, but for now I’ll answer your question: what equipment do I need to start beekeeping? This post will include just equipment, not the bees themselves.

What equipment do I need to start beekeeping?

I recommend everyone in the United States start beekeeping with Langstroth setups. Most local beekeeping associations will teach their classes assuming everyone is using a Langstroth setup. Before you begin buying equipment, you’ll need to decide whether you’re using 8- or 10-frame equipment and make sure all of your gear matches that size. More on that in another post.

Get a printable checklist of needed equipment to start beekeeping HERE!

Hive Components (for a Langstroth hive)

  • Bottom board (1 per hive)
    • I recommend buying screened bottom boards. They will be the most versatile in your beekeeping journey. THESE are my personal favorites and hold up well.
    • You’ll need to decide whether you plan to use 8- or 10-frame equipment which I will discuss in another post.
  • Entrance reducer (1 per hive)
    • Most bottom boards come with an entrance reducer. If they don’t, you’ll want to buy one.
  • Brood boxes
    • In another post, I’ll discuss choosing depth options for your brood nest. If you’re savvy, buying unassembled boxes and assembling them yourself saves money on both the equipment itself and on shipping. I personally buy budget grade woodenware as the imperfections don’t bother me. They get painted over anyway.
    • In a climate where you’ll get winters, I recommend three medium or two deep brood boxes per hive, and it’s good to have an extra to have on hand. I buy THESE.
  • Honey supers
    • Honey supers are the same as brood boxes. The only difference is what the bees use them for. I do not recommend using deep boxes as honey supers due to how heavy they can get, so if you are using deep boxes for your brood nest, I would get a couple medium boxes to use for honey. I use THESE.
    • If you’re using medium boxes for your brood nest, buy one or two extra to use as honey supers.
    • Most beekeepers will not need a honey super in their first season, but it’s good to have them on hand just in case.
  • Frames
    • You’ll need enough frames to fill the boxes you have. If you’re using 10-frame deep boxes for the brood nest, you’ll need at least 20 deep frames. You’ll also want enough frames to fill your honey supers. Frames are inexpensive, so it’s good to have extras on hand. I recommend beginners purchase assembled frames with heavily waxed plastic foundation already installed. I like THESE for brood and THESE for honey.
  • Inner cover (1 per hive)
    • You don’t need to go crazy, so a basic inner cover like THIS will work.
    • However, I personally use THESE insulated inner covers.
  • Telescoping outer cover (1 per hive)
    • This is the roof of your beehive, so don’t forget this part! THIS is an example of a good, basic cover.
  • Feeder (1 per hive)
    • You will almost certainly need to feed your bees. There are lots of different types of feeders. THIS is the one I started with.
  • Queen excluder
    • You most likely won’t need this in your first year, but it’s good to have on hand in case you need to make manipulations that require them. I like THESE.
  • Mouse guard (1 per hive)
    • You won’t need this until late fall, but I recommend purchasing it now so you don’t forget. I use THESE and leave them on my hives all year round.

Optional Hive Components

  • Slatted rack (1 per hive)
    • This is not necessary, but I think it’s nice to have and use them on my hives. I buy THESE.

Other Necessities

  • Hive stand
    • Your hive needs some type of stand to keep it off the ground. Cinderblocks and 4x4s work fine. I personally like the stand built from the plans in Beekeeping for Dummies.
  • Tie down straps
    • I feel these are necessary for making it more difficult for predators to gain access to your hives as well as make them less vulnerable in the unlikely event they get knocked over in high winds. THESE are sufficient.
  • Electric fence
    • An electric fence is absolutely necessary if you live in an area where bears could gain access to your hive. Electric fences deserve their own post, but HERE is a good primer on building one.

Tools

  • Hive tool
    • This will be your best friend and your most-used tool. I think it’s worth getting a couple different styles to try since they’re inexpensive. THIS is my favorite style.
  • Frame rest
    • While not completely necessary, I find THESE to be extremely helpful. I received one with my beginner’s kit and still use it almost every time I inspect my hives.
  • Smoker
    • A large smoker is great for people who have many hives, but THIS basic one works well for beginners.

Protective Clothing

  • Bee suit
    • I strongly recommend new beekeepers own a full suit. THIS basic suit will work well, and doesn’t cost a lot of money.
    • Once you know you’ll stick with beekeeping, you can upgrade. I wear THIS suit.
  • Gloves
    • I also strongly recommend new beekeepers use beekeeping gloves. I like THESE since they prevent the loss of your hive tool which is bound to happen without the magnet!
  • Veil
    • If you’re a member of a local bee club (you should be!), a veil is great to have so you don’t need to wear your full suit to club events. THIS gets the job done.

While you can certainly purchase a beginner’s kit, I find it to be more cost-effective to purchase components individually. Beginner’s kits often don’t include all of the equipment you need to start beekeeping, and usually include a few pieces of equipment you don’t need. Once you know what you need, it’s nice to be able to mix and match preferred components so you don’t end up re-buying items down the road.

If you’d like my printable checklist of equipment needed to start beekeeping, click HERE!

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