I have listed here the basic equipment you will need have for when your honey bees arrive
A Modern Hive – Hive Types
You can buy hives either made up as a complete unit ie, everything is made up for you by the supplier before it is shipped. If you fancy yourself as a bit of a DIYer you can buy a hive kit which comes as a flat pack and you have to make everything up. Obviously shipping costs come into it as a flat pack is cheaper to ship than a fully constructed hive. If you are no good with DIY ask a friend who is
When you are starting off the minimum requirement for a hive is a roof, header board, a brood box, at least one super but I would suggest getting two and a floor. You will also need bee escapes that fit into the Top Board.
Honeybee Queen Excluder
During the nectar flows the Queen Excluder is located between the brood box and the first super. There are two types that you can buy either made of plastic or, of metal bounded by a wooden frame. The latter is by far the better of the two as it is stronger and tends to stay flat. In my experience the plastic type warps and I have had my workers get trapped when trying to move through the holes. The excluder is made up of several columns of slots or holes that are large enough for a worker bee to get through but as the name suggests, the holes are too small to allow the queen through and stops her getting to the honey stores where she would start laying eggs. It also stops the hungry fat drones (males) from getting to the honey stores too.
Frames (for brood and honey)
Frames are what sits inside a hive box for the honeybees to store honey and what the queen bee lays her eggs. If you are setting up using different size boxes you will need the correct size frame for the box. In most hives the Brood box where the queen lays her eggs, is the largest of the boxes and requires a larger size frame (left). The Super which is used to store honey is the smaller of the two types of boxes and requires a smaller frame (right).
Wax foundation is inserted into frames and is the base that the honeybees use to build their honeycomb onto. The foundation gives the bees a head start so that they use less energy building comb and more energy making honey. The picture on the right shows frames for a Brood box and Super with the wax foundation inserted.
Entrance to a beehive is through the space between the floor and bottom of the brood box and therefore, is the width of the hive and between 20 – 30 mm deep. This can be a fair size hole for the workers to protect from invading predators such as wasps and hornets. An entrance block is usually a piece of wood with large and small notches cut into it. Inserting the block into the hive entrance reduces the size of the entrance to whatever size notch you choose to use. The smaller size notch is normally used in winter to cut down on the amount of cold air coming into the hive.
A Mouse Guard is an essential bit of kit, if you want to stop our little four legged friends from eating your ladies out of house and home during the winter months. If you don’t put a guard over the entrance you are apt to find a mouse making its home inside your hive where it has plenty of warmth and food (honey) for the winter. You then end up with a hive full of starving or dead bees. The guard is usually metal with uniform holes punched into it which is large enough to let the bees out but small enough to keep mice out.
A bee escape is a one way trap fitted into the Top/Crown/Header board and allows a honeybee a one way entry into the hive. A top board with a bee escape fitted is used to clear bees from a super when the beekeeper wants to harvest honey out of the box. The type of escape shown is a Porter Bee Escape and shown fitted to a top board.
The hive tool is a very valuable piece of equipment to have and ideally two is not too many. It has many uses, probably too many to mention here but just to mention a couple. The type of tool in the photo is a ‘J’ tool and the hook is useful for hooking under the shoulders of frames when doing a hive inspection. The other end has a blade and is useful for scraping honeycomb off frames where you don’t want it to be.
A smoker is a tool that you use to keep your bees calm while inspecting the hive. You literally light a fire in it and then stuff it full with material that will make plenty of smoke while working the bellows on the side.
If you don’t want to get stung or have bees buzzing in your face and hair it is advisable to be wearing some kind of protection. You will see photos of beekeepers not wearing any protection and covered in bees but I would advise against doing this until such time as you have been keeping bees for a number of years.
Suits nowadays come in a variety of colours but traditionally they are white as bees find this colour to be the most soothing. You can buy a one piece suit that will give you complete cover from top to toe. They are a bit time consuming to put on so if you are in a bit of a hurry a half bee suit is ideal as it can just be pulled over your head and will give you protection from the waist up. If you are already wearing substantial clothing you could get away with wearing just a veil that just covers your head.
These are long gloves that are made from thick material and covering the hands and arms. The thick material stops your bees being able to sting you. They extend to covering the arms and are worn over the bee suit. When inspecting your hive it is advisable to wear Disposable Gloves over the hand part to stop propolis (bee glue) from sticking to them. Propolis is difficult to remove and I made the mistake of trying to get rid of it by washing the gloves. All it did was shrink the gloves, the propolis stains remained where they were and a new pair of gloves were put on my shopping list.
Not much to say about a bee brush really except that the clue is in the name. It is a brush for carefully removing bees from places you don’t want them when inspecting the hive. Note, that I said ‘carefully’, you don’t want to upset your girls by going in heavy handed and stirring them up as they will then go into stinging mode and start to attack you. A good reason for wearing a bee suit but the general rule is don’t go upsetting your girls in the first place.
And finally on this list you will need a feeder. This is to enable you to give your bees an extra feed if their honey stock in the hive starts running low during the honey flow season or when you first get them as the only honey stock they will have is what is shipped with them.