With so much information out there about getting bees, it can be overwhelming to know what you really need. Here’s a list of beekeeping supplies for beginners to help you get started.
When we got our first hives of bees several years ago, we were starting from scratch. After reading lots of books, taking a beekeeping class, and talking to a few local, experienced beekeepers, we gathered what we thought we would need.
It was a big investment to purchase the hives (we started with two colonies) and tools and then the bees. But, we still use it all after several years and have added to our supplies over time.
It can be overwhelming when websites, books, and other beekeepers are telling you all of the things you should buy. And the cost of it all will quickly add up. I’m going to share with you the basic supplies that you’ll need to get started beekeeping.
If you plan ahead, you can slowly start getting the equipment you’ll need over the winter so that when spring comes, all you’ll need to buy are the bees! Here are our favorite beekeeping supplies for beginners.
Beginner Beekeeping Supplies
A complete hive should include:
- Bottom board
- Brood box with 10 frames
- Second brood box with 10 frames
- Honey super with 10 frames
- Second honey super with 10 frames
- Inner cover
- Outer cover
We purchased unassembled hive kits and built the boxes and frames ourselves then stained or painted them ourselves as well. You can purchase assembled and painted hives but they cost more and aren’t as much fun as doing it yourself or as a family.
Depending on what climate you live in, if it is still cold out in the spring when the bees arrive you will also need:
- Insulation-We wrap four pieces of one-inch foam around the outside of the bottom brood box. A bungy cord keeps the foam on. You can apply duct tape around the foam to protect it and use it year after year.
- Sugar water feeder-There are inner feeders and top feeders, depending on preference. We have both. You will fill these with a 2:1 ratio of sugar water until the bees are able to gather nectar on their own.
Tools you will need for completing hive checks and general beekeeping:
- Bee brush-Inexpensive but important as it allows you to gently brush away bees, sparing many from being crushed during hive checks.
- Hive tool-Very handy for prying frames apart. We use ours every time we check on our bees and even bought an extra one.
- Full beekeeper’s suit with head covering and gloves-These can be basic or made with fancy material and range in price. Just be sure to get one that will be big on you (not tight) and has a full head covering that zips on. And a good pair of gloves that fit well and cover your lower arm. We ordered new suits recently and kept the old ones for visitors who want to suit up and see our bees up close, which is often!
- Smoker-This is optional. We rarely use our smoker but many beekeepers like to have one on hand for completing hive checks in the summer when the bees can be more aggressive. This is a personal preference. It would be a good idea to have one and learn how to use it just in case. We prefer to use a simple spray bottle full of sugar water. It’s much less expensive and easier to use than a smoker and works just as well.
- Frame hanger-One of these will hook onto the side of a hive box. As you are pulling frames out to check, it is much easier to set them on the frame hanger than trying to lean them on the side of the hive box on the ground. Not critical to have but in our opinion over the years, very important for efficient and safe hive checks.
Cost of Beekeeping Equipment for Beginners
The initial cost of becoming a beekeeper can be quite high. But since you will be using the equipment for years to come, it is well worth the investment. Plan ahead and start buying supplies during the winter so you’re all set when spring arrives.
As you gain more experience and expand your apiary, you will probably purchase more equipment down the road. For us, this has included additional hives, an extractor, new suits, and equipment for overwintering.
The cost will vary depending on where you live and where you are purchasing your equipment from. The largest expenses will be the hive and the colony of bees.
A full hive, including all of the parts listed above, can sell for around $300. We have purchased our hives from a local beekeeper who sells them unassembled for just $250. We build the boxes and frames ourselves as a family and really enjoy it.
I also like being able to paint or stain the hives as I please instead of paying for them to come painted. Our daughter painted her hive that we got her for Christmas several years ago with little flowers and bees all over it. I think you will enjoy building and painting your own hive too.
To buy a colony of honeybees is around $200 at the moment. This can vary each year but not by a lot. Always purchase from a reputable beekeeper that other local beekeepers that you know are using as well.
Some websites sell large kits with everything you’ll need to get started. Be sure to check what’s included and price the items out individually to see if you would really be saving. There’s no sense in paying extra for a fancy kit that includes items you won’t really need.
Where to Buy Beekeeping Supplies
There are several companies that sell beekeeping supplies for beginners online. You can find everything you will need but it can be overwhelming. There are so many supplies to choose from and fancy-looking tools that you might think you really need.
There are also local retail stores that carry beekeeping supplies. Feed stores often do and this gives you the opportunity to see the equipment in person.
Finally, fellow beekeepers in your area might sell new equipment as well. We purchased our first hive kits from a beekeeper in southern Alaska and then put them together ourselves. He also sold various tools so we were able to get most of what we needed to get started just from him.
A word of caution, however. Unless you are buying from a trusted beekeeper, do not purchase used hive boxes. Or, if you meet someone who wants to retire from beekeeping and will sell you their old equipment, plan to have an experienced beekeeper look it all over for you before you agree to buy.
Diseases can spread and you don’t want to start off with damaged equipment. An experienced beekeeper will be able to check it all over to make sure there are no signs of disease from previous colonies. Otherwise, buying used can save you a lot of money.
Knowing which beekeeping supplies for beginners to get doesn’t need to be overwhelming. Start with the basics and enjoy the experience with your new bees. Over the years, you will build up your supplies and find what works best for you. These basics will help you get going on the right foot.