What equipment do I need?

Beehives

A beehive can be described as any cavity which will house a colony of honeybees. For example, honeybee colonies will thrive in hollow trees, holes in rocks, or in wooden boxes. Modern moveable frame beehives comprise a series of wooden or polystyrene boxes each containing wooden or plastic frames to support the wax combs built by the bees.

There are several designs of moveable frame beehives which may be obtained from hive manufacturers. These have names which are often based on the name of the hive designer for example, the National, the Smith, the Modified Commercial, the Langstroth and Dadant. All these hives allow the frames holding the comb to be removed for inspection. The National and the Smith hives are the most popular hives in Britain. Polystyrene and plastic beehives have been used in Europe for at least 30 years and have become more popular in the UK in recent years.

When considering either hives one should weigh up their long-term durability compared with the lower initial cost. In addition, the options available for cleaning and sterilisation of plastic hives are limited compared to the range of treatments you can use on wooden hives.

From time-to-time second-hand hives are sold. It is essential, if you are considering buying second hand equipment, that the equipment has been cleaned and sterilised so that it is free from anything which could cause spread of bee diseases. Lincolnshire hold a bee equipment auction in March every year at the Lincolnshire showground, districts will also have members who may have equipment to sell and we also have in Lincolnshire Thornes based at Rand nr Wragby www.thorne.co.uk .

Clothing

When bees are handled, protective clothing and equipment are needed to protect the beekeeper against the occasional sting. This gives confidence which then allows efficient colony management and close observation of bee behaviour. Protective clothing should comprise a hat and veil that will fully protect the head and face while allowing clear vision and free flow of air; a light-coloured, zipped, lightweight boiler suit worn over normal everyday clothing, beekeeping gloves with gauntlets, and Wellington boots or working boots with protective toe caps. An alternative is a full bee suit, which combines the veil and boiler suit.

Beekeeping Tools

Beekeeping tools A bee smoker should always be used to subdue the bees. Smoke is produced by burning a suitable fuel in the smoker and the best fuels are slow burning and produce a cool smoke for a reasonable length of time. Popular fuels include cardboard, dried grass or rotten wood. As an alternative, many of the beekeeping equipment suppliers also supply suitable smoker fuels.

Another essential part of the beekeepers tool kit is the hive tool. This is a mini ‘crowbar’ which is needed for prising the various hive components apart and for scraping frames and the inside of hive surfaces free of beeswax. Hive tools come in a range of shapes and sizes.

Processing

Honey processing Bees will produce honey if conditions are suitable. In some years this can be as much as 40+ kg per hive. In order to harvest this honey, you will need the equipment required for honey processing. This includes equipment for uncapping the combs, extracting the honey from the combs, filtering, bottling, and labelling the honey. As a new beekeeper you may find your district had equipment you can borrow when needed, avoiding this expenditure at least in the early years.

What does it all cost?

At the beginning the initial outlay could be quite high, from £500-1000 plus for a colony of bees, the equipment (hive, smoker, hive tool, extractor, honey bottling and filtering equipment) and protective clothing required.

It is possible to economise when starting up by borrowing extraction equipment or by buying some equipment second hand. Second hand equipment, when available can help to reduce the initial cost. If buying second hand hives, it is worth checking that they are of the correct size. The possibility that second hand equipment may contain disease pathogens should always be considered and, as mentioned previously, any such equipment must be sterilised before being reused.