Essential beekeeping equipment
What equipment do I need?
If you've just purchased a hive, congratulations! Your bees now have a natural and beautiful space to call home. Your next step is to equip yourself with some beekeeping essentials so you're not entering the beekeeping arena empty-handed.
There is an array of key tools that will make your hive checks safer, easier and more effective. From sting protection to smokers, we have everything you need to launch and maintain your hive.
We recommend the following equipment for all new beekeepers using any style of hive:
Your hive tool is one of your most critical pieces of equipment. Bees glue everything in the hive together with their resin-like propolis. This requires the beekeeper to pry the seal open with a hive tool. A hive tool allows you to detach comb from hive sides, cut and scrape propolis, and pry frames. Our ultimate hive tool (pictured) is our premium option. It's hand-forged in Portland, Oregon from 1/4" steel and is engraved with the Bee Built logo.
Our tool is based on the "Bill Wood Comb Knife", but has the added benefit of incorporating a traditional hive tool on one end. Having fallen in love with the original comb knife, but tired of carrying around a traditional hive tool for situations where prying is needed, we decided to combine the two!
Whether you're using a horizontal top bar hive, a Warre hive, or a foundationless Langstroth, this is an incredibly useful tool that you'll use constantly. We offer a few other value options as well.
A smoker is an invaluable tool for all beekeepers as it makes aggressive bees more docile. Primarily, smoke makes honeybees believe there may be a wildfire nearby. This prompts them to eat as much honey as they can in preparation for a potential move. Honeybees are more docile with a full stomach due to physical difficulty in tipping their abdomens up to sting.
Smoke also masks the alarm pheromone given off by guard bees, minimizing the defensive reactions of the colony. Honeybee alarm pheromone smells like banana candy, so if you smell bananas in your hive, it’s time for another puff of smoke. Similarly, beekeepers should not eat bananas directly before getting into a hive, since it may be perceived by your bees as alarm pheromone.
Our American Smoker is made of stainless steel and it includes a wrap-around heat shield and grate at the bottom to improve burning.
Bees tend to attack the face of mammalian intruders, thus, a jacket with a veil is an essential tool for beekeepers. Bees have CO2 receptors on their antennae, which allow them to detect our exhalations, and respond aggressively. This ability developed to protect the hive against the threat of bears. Common folklore states that bees sense fear, but really they are sensing fear behavior. If one is nervous around bees, they may breathe more heavily, which can lead to stings. Many experienced beekeepers do not wear any gear, and have become so comfortable around their bees, they can behave calmly and not get stung. We recommend all beginners use at least a veil, though we also offer hat/veil combinations with ventilated and non-ventilated jackets and full body bee suits for additional protection.
Another fear-sensing behavior bees pick up on is shaky or fumbling hands. Confident, experienced beekeepers often do not wear them to maximize their maneuverability, but we suggest all beginners start with gloves as a safeguard. Beekeeping gloves are made of soft leather or other tough but flexible materials to protect against stings without jeopardizing comfort. Our leather beekeeping gloves feature ventilation just above the wrist, which is a lifesaver on a hot day!
More useful than you would imagine, the bee brush can be used to gently move the bees off of comb or other places you don't want them to be. This is an essential tool for honey harvest, repairing broken comb, and sometimes for swarm removal. Keep in mind that the bees HATE the brush and you will find them stinging it mercilessly as you use it, so use it sparingly.
Beekeeping is a dynamic and ever-changing experience that requires research, lots of beekeeping books, and patience. Considering all the environmental factors that affect your honeybees, and the fact that every honeybee colony is different, you may see something different every time you get into your hive. In order to make appropriate management decisions, beekeepers must be flexible in their ability to figure out why bees are behaving a certain way, and how certain actions may impact their well being.
We offer an array of beekeeping books written by experts in the field. Reading as much as possible will help to give you a solid understanding of beekeeping best practices and help you to make sometimes tough decisions.
Every beekeeper has their essential toolkit. For beginners, we recommend our Beekeeping Starter Kits which includes all essential beekeeping equipment listed above (except books) in one bundle, which comes at a better value than buying each piece individually.