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When browsing the latest beekeeper supply catalog or website, it can be easy to become overwhelmed by the limitless options available to beekeepers. Fortunately, you don’t necessarily need to purchase a long list of supplies to start beekeeping. Below is our list of tools every beekeeper needs to have:
Gloves– When starting out with bees, your hands should always be covered. As you progress and learn to understand their behavior, you may not use gloves as often. I use goat skin gloves with a fabric gauntlet. You can also use nitrile gloves as well. When shopping for nitrile gloves, chose 9 Mil or thicker. Although bees can sting through 9 Mil, stings are less common. Gloves closer to 14 Mil are stingproof.
Hive Tool– Hive tools serve many important purposes. They pry off lids and inner covers, help lift frames, scrape burr comb, and a myriad of other uses. I personally use a J tool for our Langstroth hives, and it is a must. There are other styles available as well. Trust me, you won’t be able to remove a propolized frame without one!
Smoker– Although we rarely smoke out bees, a smoker is a good thing to have, especially for new beekeepers. Even if you never use it, it’s better to have it and not need it, then need it and not have it. (If we use anything, it’s usually a sugar spray. More on that below)
Hardware cloth in 1/4″ and 1/8″– Hardware cloth us a staple with our hives. 1/8″ cloth is used for keeping bees out (or in) an area, and 1/4″ allows bees to squeeze through. (For comparison, screened bottom boards are usually 1/8″ screen.) We use the 1/8″ on the bottom of moisture quilts, and to block entrances when moving hives. 1/8″ can also be used to reduce entrances in the event of robbing. 1/4″ hardware cloth is used as a mouse guard. Note: 1/4″ is also sold as #4 and 1/8″ as #8
Staple Gun– The best way to affix hardware cloth is with a staple gun. You can also purchase dual purpose guns that can handle brads, and use this to build frames and shims.
Logbook or HiveTracks- I like to think I have a good memory until I try to remember the details from my last hive inspection a month ago. Which hives needed a second check? Which needed fed? Which one was about to swarm, or needed another super added? I highly recommend everyone keeps a logbook at a minimum. A simple notebook would suffice. If you’d like a bit more guidance, you can use our Inspection Form, and add it to a binder once completed. For those that prefer the electronic route, I personally use and recommend HiveTracks! HiveTracks works in the field as a smartphone app, and allows you to enter data about that hive on the spot. You can create QR codes to scan and quickly pull up the hive, and my favorite feature is the ability to add a weather report. With HiveTracks you can track the equipment used, feeding, honey harvest, and tons of other data. You can access the online dashboard with your computer and type longer inspection narratives if you choose. They offer a 14 day free trial, I think you’ll like it!
Duct Tape– Not the regular silver duct tape, but the good stuff! I love the Gorilla Glue Tape! I use it to secure boxes when moving, or when stacking nucs. I’ve also used it to cover a hole I tore in my beesuit, and it lasted through 3 wash cycles now. (They have it available in white, too!)
Water bottle– It gets hot in a beesuit or jacket. Stay hydrated and drink plenty of water. I love my Hydroflask bottles- with a little ice my water stays cold in the summer heat, and the bottles don’t sweat. They are also pretty sturdy and handle drops well.
Entrance Reducer– I find it a good idea to carry a spare entrance reducer or two. You never know when you might need one!
Sharpie– Sharpies are always good to have around. I number all of my hives and all of my frames with a sharpie. You can also write inspection notes on the underside of the telescoping lid.
Rubber Bands– We run almost entirely foundationless frames (save a few foundation frames we use as guides). Sometimes comb needs straightened or falls out, in which case you’ll need rubber bands to straighten things out. I also use them as hair ties when I forget/lose/break mine.
Bucket– I like to use a bucket to store everything in. It can also double as a swarm container if you happen to find one in your beeyard!
Extra equipment to consider
Spray bottle with sugar solution– As mentioned earlier, we rarely smoke our bees. If we need to calm things down, I usually use a spray bottle with sugar solution and homemade Healthy Honey Bee added. This works great to calm the bees, and gives them a boost from the essential oils. Plus, it’s safe to use if you live in a dry area like we do that has hight fire danger. If you use sugar spray, use caution during the dearth. Over spraying outside of the hive could cause robbing.
Burr Box– I carry a small Tupperware container when I do all my inspections. When I remove pieces of burr comb, they go in my “burr box”. After a while they really add up, and can be processed later.
Queen Clip– In the event you find a swarm in your beeyard (it happens!), a Queen clip can be quite handy. If you can secure the Queen, you’ll stop the workers from flying off and you can move the swarm into an empty hive. Free-bees!
Frame Stand– Frame stands are handy for holding frames in order and out of the dirt, freeing up space to work inside of the hive.
Frame Gripper– Sometimes frames are difficult to remove either due to propolis or from being close together. A frame gripper helps remove frames, and makes handling them easier for those with weak hands.
Nuc Box or Spare Hive– When I caught my first swarm, it had to stay the night in a cardboard box in the garage, because I had nowhere to put them. Needless to say, this isn’t the ideal situation. Fortunately, we have a local hive builder (Beeline Woodenware), and I was able to get the supplies I needed the next day. If you don’t have a local option, I highly recommend keeping a spare hive, or at least a nuc box, for impromptu splits or swarms.
Spare Equipment– If you have the funds and storage space, spare equipment is a must. If your woodenware is damaged/broken/vandalized, having spare parts on hand makes the situation much less stressful. Sometimes the nectar flow arrives sooner than expected and you need more honey supers, too!
What do you think? Are there any tools you’d add or remove from this list? Let us know in the comments below!