Congratulations! You’ve somehow overcome humanity’s instinctive fear of bees and have decided that farming the little guys would be a really good idea. Apiculture can be a fun and rewarding experience and can even net you a tidy profit (or provide you with a great, nonperishable supply of honey for your food storage). However, before you can get your beekeeping hobby off the ground, you’ll need to make some preparations. After all, if you just dive right into it, you’re liable to come away from the experience with some bad memories and a swollen face full of apitoxin (especially if you literally dive right in)—remember, the only difference between a beekeeper and a bee-casualty is preparation. So, in the spirit of doing it right, here are the essential pieces of equipment that you’ll need if you plan on harvesting honey from nature’s most dedicated farmers.
Your bees are going to need a place to sleep, work, and put up their feet. On top of that, you’re going to need to be able to regularly get into that place to retrieve honey. So, the best thing you can do is buy or build an accessible hive that will protect your drones while still maximizing the size of your honey harvest. There are three basic options when deciding on a hive: the Langstroth hive (which features removable frames for easy management), the top-bar hive (which is easy to construct), or the Warré hive (which is basically a combination of the previous two). Each hive has its share of advantages and disadvantages, so do some research before you make your decision.
Bees sure do like their resin. As such, whenever you work with the hive, you’ll need to do a fair amount of prying just to get things apart. This is where the hive tool comes into play. It’s basically the size and shape of a putty knife, and to be perfectly honest, it may as well just be a putty knife. But hey, if you want to be sure to do it right, you’ll purchase a genuine hive tool for your beekeeping (but you could probably do the job just as well with a putty knife).
Bees aren’t a huge fan of smoke; it keeps them from being able to properly communicate (by blocking their alarm pheromones), and it also let’s them know that there may be a fire nearby (causing them to gorge themselves on honey, making it difficult for them to attack). Thus, beekeepers often use contraptions known as smokers to keep the bees from going into a stinging frenzy during harvest.
Some beekeepers are willing to rely on little more than their own skin when it comes to protecting themselves from stings. However, if you’re just starting to take an interest in the hobby, you’re going to want something more. I’d recommend a full body hazmat suit (you’ll understand why if you ever get trapped in a cyclone of angry bees), but you’d probably also be okay with a jacket, gloves, and a veiled hat.
The bee brush is useful for moving bees without harming them. It’s also useful for making them really mad, so use it sparingly if you can.
Although not specifically equipment, you’re still going to have to acquire some bees if you ever want to do more than sit around in your protective gear daydreaming. Bees can be captured from the wild, but doing so may leave you with an inferior breeding population (and it may also be illegal depending on where you live). Instead, your best bet is to purchase a starter nest from a local keeper. You can either buy them in package form (which contains a queen, several workers, and some form of sweet bee-food), or you can buy a nucleus (which is a portion of an already established hive).
Once you’ve got all of your supplies, you’re ready to take your first step into the world of beekeeping. To do so, you’ll need to know a little bit more about selecting bees and a hive. Here’s where the fun begins.
About the Author: Lee Flynn is from the Wasatch Mountains near Salt Lake City, UT. After Lee spent years preparing himself, his home and his family, he decided he had to do more. In his free time, Lee helps educate those who want to do the same. Through small local workshops and articles, Lee trains and teaches others on home preparation, food storage techniques, wilderness survival and self reliance. After obtaining a bachelors degree from the University of Utah, Lee moved to the Salt Lake Valley where he now lives with his wife and daughter.
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