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Beginning Beekeeping

5 must-have tools for beginner beekeepers

5 must-have tools for new beekeepers

Decided to start keeping bees? Congratulations! Be prepared to suddenly be your neighbors favorite new friend the second you start harvesting honey.

But you should also be prepared to discover a deep and rewarding hobby along with a community of people who are passionate about their hives and the natural world that supports and benefits from pollinators like honey bees.

As you start picking up your hives and your first packages of bees, here's the other essentials you'll need:

1. Protective clothing

If you watch YouTube, you'll likely run across more than a few beekeepers who boldly explore their hives without any gear at all. These people are mostly crazy.

Unless you have an inborn immunity to bee stings, you'll want to make sure that you have gloves and a veil at minimum. You can also purchase jackets that include headgear and full suits.

Pro tips:

  • If you plan on having multiple hives near each other, picking up a full suit isn't a bad idea. When you first get a package or nuc of bees, you're dealing with a very small number of bees. In your second and third years you will see these numbers explode.
  • Have an extra hat / veil on hand. Chances are you'll wind up showing your friends your hives.

Costs: hat & veil $10 - $30; gloves $10 - $30; jacket $50 - $150; full suit $100 - $200

2. Smoker

Smoker - must have tool for beginner beekeepersAnother essential for hive inspections. The design of these haven't changed much since the early days of beekeeping, so you can't go wrong with the one you purchase. Cool smoke is best for bees, and you either make your own fuel, or buy wood pellets from your favorite beekeeping supply house.

We also LOVE these natural tumbleweed firestarters for actually making it easy to get the smoker lit and stay lit.

Cost: under $20

3. Hive tool

The hive tool is a beekeeper's best friend when it comes to working inside the hive during inspections. Use it to scrape propolis, separate hive bodies, and loosen / pull frames. There's multiple styles and sizes available, and you'll likely wind up picking up more than one to have on hand.

Cost: $6 - $15

4. Frame grips

Though you won't run into it immediately, as your hive grows and matures, your bees will glue everything together with propolis and frames will become increasingly difficult to remove as they become heavy with brood or honey. Frame grips often make removing stubborn frames easier. 

Cost: under $10

5. Bee Brush

Occasionally, it becomes necessary to gently encourage your bees to go somewhere else. Like when you are exchanging hive parts, moving a feeder, or adjusting frames. A bee brush is the easiest way to get bees out of the way without causing them (or you) a ton of stress.

Cost: under $10

The tools you DON'T need 

It's easy to get caught up in buying new things for your bees, and there's so many things out there. One thing you typically don't need to invest in your first couple of years is extracting equipment.

The general rule of thumb is that you don't extract honey from first year hives - the bees have a lot of work to do building out foundation in their new home, and you need to leave enough honey for them to successfully live through the winter. 

When you successfully overwinter your first hives and make it through your first honey flow, chances are you can borrow an extractor and bottling tools from your local beekeeper's association or a new friend in the beekeeping community.

Extraction equipment are some of the most expensive purchases you'll make, so it make sense to wait until you really need it.

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