If you are looking to get started with beekeeping and do not yet have equipment, here are the tools you’ll need:
- Hive Tool — This is a small, steel pry-bar. Because bees are always producing wax and always waxing the inside of their hive, the parts of the hive get stuck together by the wax. In the winter, I’ve had Langstroth hives waxed together so well that you could pick up the hive by the lid, and the entire hive would come up in one piece, and these hives weren’t light. The hive tool is what you use to pry the parts of the hive apart so that you can work on and inspect the hive.
- Smoker — The smoker is a metal cannister you can fill with wood chips, grass and leaves then ignite. It makes smoke in a controlled way. Whenever bees sense that something is coming to their hive (such as a bear or a beekeeper), they react by putting out an alarm pheromone–a scent that tells all the bees: “Danger is present.” The smoke masks, or covers up, this alarm pheromone. When getting ready to look inside a hive, I always use a smoker, even at times when you could get by without it, because it keeps the bees calm, and that makes it safer–both for them and you.
- Cap and Veil — The veil protects you from getting stung on the face and neck. Some beekeepers go without any protective gear, but it’s safer to wear it. In my classes, I always ask students to please wear a veil.
- Suit — The suit is not essential. I don’t wear one, but many beginning beekeepers will feel more comfortable around their bees if they do. It’s basically a set of coveralls with a zipper front. Just be aware that it’s not foolproof–you can occasionally get stung, even with a suit, veil and gloves on.
- Gloves — Beekeeper’s gloves are usually made of leather and cloth. They protect your hands and extend up to the forearm so that if you’re wearing long sleeves, which I recommend, they’ll cover the end of your sleeve well, so that bees don’t crawl in.
- Bee Brush — When inspecting the combs or harvesting the honey, you can use this brush to gently brush the bees off the comb.
In terms of cost, most of these tools are fairly inexpensive. Smokers will run about $30-40, a veil and cap together are about $22, gloves are around $15 and a bee brush is under $5. After you’ve gotten a hive, which you can purchase or build yourself, the bees are the biggest expense. A 3 pound package of bees, which is a good size to start with, runs about $110-130. Altogether, you should be able to start your first hive for under $400.
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Learn More about Beekeeping
To learn more, see our online beekeeping videos or see our classes on beekeeping and other agricultural skills.