Getting started beekeeping can be daunting as there are so many products out there: from the Flow Hive to queen rearing and wax rendering equipment. They key to getting started beekeeping is to START! You do not need to be an expert to begin beekeeping, but you do have to have some of the following qualities. Are you:
If you are any of the above things, you will be a great beekeeper. If you are under the impression that all you have to do is put bees (or even a single queen) in to a box, turn a tap, and get honey, you are in for a surprise. Bees are animals and you will be taking on farming and animal husbandry. If you are not prepared to inspect your beehive every 7-10 days through the duration of a bee season, then you should consider Bumble bee nests and solitary bee nesting blocks. These bees are great, no maintenance, and encourages pollinator health and support.
“I always wear my bee suit, so then I never wish the hell I had put it on”
– Kirko Beeo, Backwards Beekeepers and HoneyLove LA
Protective equipment that keeps your comfortable during inspections.
These items come in all shapes and sizes, including children sizes. EGO IS GOING TO MAKE YOU WANT LESS EQUIPMENT WHEN REALLY YOU SHOULD BE PURCHASING MORE THAN YOU NEED. This is because you then can have friends and family join in with little fuss, have to comfort and safety to manage beehives that are ornery or remove wasp nests from neighbors yards (You can be a hero!)
Other essential equipment for all types of beehive keeping includes:
I have one rule: Never buy bee equipment that doesn’t have live bees in it. Baby bees (brood) express many of diseases that can cause serious problems for your bees. Live bees allows for a valid and real representation of what is in the beehive. So, this advice is for hobbyists out there and it is for a few reasons. Here is my thinking:
If you buy equipment with pulled comb, you risk having your hive out grow your learning, taking your nice hobby to an overwhelming experience. It is best to grow with your hive, build in experience as your bees build comb infrastructure.
Used equipment, especially equipment found in friends or family’s garages and barns carry disease. I always ask: Why aren’t there bees living in there? What made the bees die or abandon the equipment? Diseases are rampant, and particularly American Foul Brood can live in equipment for over 60 years (in the wood and wax). Save the bon fire with your bees and equipment in it in the Fall, start from scratch.
Can you ensure that the beekeeping equipment that you are purchasing has been inspected my a regional inspector? In Canada, it is illegal to sell used bee equipment that isn’t inspected.
Why are you keeping bees? Is it for the fast production of honey? Likely, as a hobbyist, the answer is NO. So, there is no reason that you need to follow your commercial counterparts on practice here. Starting with wax and big hives is great if you are seeking a surplus. But, I CANNOT IMPRESS ENOUGH how wonderful the learning is to build up your own wax and populations slowly, go through the growing pains. You will learn more at a slower and more focused pace by starting from scratch than you will jumping in to the middle of it.
As beekeeping has grown in popularity, as well as the appreciation for our past, we are finding more and more alternative, unique and innovative beekeeping hive types and styles available. From free blueprints, to YouTube videos, our DIY culture there is a never ending rabbit hole you can fall in to when looking in to this stuff. So, here is my advice.
This tends to be Langstroth or Top Bar Hive in Canada, especially if the equipment is standardized within that community. BEFORE YOU LOSE YOUR S#*T, think about this for a second.
It is easier to learn from people who are used to using the equipment you are using, making finding a mentor easier.
This tends to be Langstroth or Top Bar Hive in Canada, especially if the equipment is standardized within that community. BEFORE YOU LOSE IT, think about this for a second.
You can always do something different the following year.
Can I remind you of why you are doing this beekeeping thing: It is to learn and commune nature, not to dominate it or become the RULER of a colony, or the coolest person in your club. Its all about LETTING GO OF EGO!
Once you learn to work bees, it doesn’t matter what hive type you move to as the bees are still bees. Its all about becoming comfortable with observing, critical analysis, note taking, and preparation. If you can get that down, you could keep bees in a clay pot!
For that fact, ask WHY are you keeping bees? Your answer can include a whole lot of things, but it should also include TO LEARN AND EXPAND MY UNDERSTANDING OF THE NATURAL WORLD. So, if you are planning on keeping a Warre beehive, or some other un-inspectable beehive, I want to remind you:
If you can’t inspect, then please tell me, how are you to learn from your bees? To me, not inspecting your bees, is lazy. And for those who say that it is because it is natural? We live in the 20th century and disease and hive health are issues (even with the best and most active organic standards) that every beekeeper needs to deal with. You are not exempt. The more people not inspecting their beehives, especially in an urban environment, the more beginner beekeepers are going to be facing diseases they can’t respond to for lack of experience and critical observations skills. This is a fact. This means more hive deaths and disease to hobby colonies, and the real threat of spreading to commercial apiaries.
Standard Langstroth beekeeping equipment from commercial outlets are pretty regular in their costs. Anything from $19-$24/box and around $1-2/frame. You can get fancier with lids and bottom boards. Know this, solid pine of good weight and cut is better than any fancy new design out there. I would recommend buying from where everyone else buys from when you start. There are new places and outlets that are carrying beekeeping equipment these days (Williams and Sonoma, Peavey Mart, online stores and garden centres) and I recommend going IN to the store, seeing the quality of the products at these locations before you buy (unless it has a long and strong reputation). This is because there is a whole lot of CRAP out there.
You will want to have all of your seasons beekeeping equipment in your hot little hand by March 1. If not, you run the risk of suppliers being out of stock or not having it available. You are a small fry in a big sea. When those big commercial guys get in to production in the spring, they can purchase a tractor truck trailer load from these guys, putting you on a waiting list before your bees come.
If you are having TBH’s built, you need to offer time for the carpenter to build it and make any changes that you see fit.
Get your HONEY BEES ordered before January 15th to be on the safe side, or ever earlier if you can. This will ensure that you aren’t waitlisted!