Getting started beekeeping can be daunting as there are so many products out there: from the new 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:
- Inquisitive and creative with your thinking?
- Able to problem solve?
- Eager to learn something new and investigate: read and enquire?
- Ok with feeling lost, stupid, and confused?
- Are you willing to take critical, and sometimes cruel, advice about your decisions? (beekeepers are synonymous for offering ‘tough love’)
- Willing to engage with strangers, make new friends, and ask for support?
This post is going to answer the following questions:
- Essential Equipment List
- Purchasing Used Equipment
- Timeline for Ordering
- Suppliers and Who is Selling New Equipment
- Equipment Purchasing Faux Pas
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.
Essential Equipment List
– Kirko Beeo, Backwards Beekeepers and HoneyLove LA
Protective equipment that keeps your comfortable during inspections. Options:
- Hat and veil
- Jacket and veil
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 neighbours yards (You can be a hero!)
Other essential equipment for all types of beehive keeping includes:
- Smoker with shield in steel container for safe storage
- Lighter or matches
- Smoking material- this can be egg cartons, horse dung, burlap, wood chips and or dry grasses. (wood chips and dry grass can create sparks, so use the billows with self-awareness)
- Hive tool
- Queen cages
- Pocket knife
- Tooth picks
- Flat topped push pins (cut-outs, fixing broken comb, IDing hives or frames that need some work)
- Cotton string role (cut-outs and fixing broken comb)
- Duct tape
- Inspection journal
- Water jug to wash hands and tools
- Bottom board (screened or regular)
- Entrance reducer
- 6 Langstroth boxes/ hive (standard box depth is 9 1⁄2” or 9 5/8” for 9 1/8 frames, shallows are 5
- 11/16” depth) Click here for measurments.
- 10 frames per box
- Foundation, standard, small cell, or go foundationless (your choice)
- Inner Cover
- Queen excluder- (not essential. This is a management tool that I don’t recommend using until your second year after you get a hang of watching brood production and whole hive development unobstructed.
- Telescoping lid
- Feeder (boardman, hive top, or friction frame)
Top Bar Hive Beekeeping
- Standardized TBH design: A.B.C uses Backyardhive.org Golden Mean Hive, blueprints available.
- A.B.C Supering lid- Allows for you to super your GM TBH to increase honey production and decrease swarming issues. (email us if you want the simple prints, $10, info@ backyardbees.ca)
- 2 Top bar hives per colony
- Extra spacers and top bars
- Boardman feeder
Purchasing Used Equipment
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 focussed pace by starting from scratch than you will jumping in to the middle of it.
So, in my opinion, don’t do 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.
- Start with something that is popular in your community. 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
- You can always do something different the following year
- Can I smack you and 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:
- They are illegal to keep in Canada, because you can’t see if they are spreading disease, or for that fact why they died.
- 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. BULL SHIT. 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.
- If it is fancy, wait to buy it until you know what it is used for.
- Have a management strategy in advance of buying new equipment. Things like fume boards, queen excluders, bee escapes, pollen traps, and other little add-ons are great, but need to be used properly at at the right time of year.
Standard langstroth beekeeping equipment from commercial outlets are pretty regular in their costs. Anything from $19-$24/box and around $.70/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.
How do you judge crap? Beekeeping equipment is farming equipment. If it feels flimsy or poorly crafted, it probably is. There is a saying, “There is no money in honey”. This means that beekeepers keep the equipment they INVEST in for over 10 years. Will what you are looking at last that long?
Top Bar Hive equipment isn’t as popular so its costs are higher (unless you build your own). So, have a look around and see who is offering what and where. Talk to the producer about what you want, and figure out a deal.
You will want to have all of your seasons beekeeping equipment in your hot little hand by mid-April. If n0t, 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.
Purchasing from Alberta Suppliers
BEE MAID BEE STORE
Alberta & Manitoba Cooperative Honey Producers Limited
HONEY HOUSE SUPPLY Strathmore, AB https://honeyhouse-supply.myshopify.com/
BEE WYZE HONEY
Call or email for details Kim Greenizen, 403-993-9961 firstname.lastname@example.org