The beekeeping industry has certainly revolutionized over the last couple of years.
This is mainly attributed to consolidation and the advancement of technology, especially the internet, which has seen to the rise in numerous new and specialized beekeeping suppliers offering alternative choices to the few large suppliers that have always dominated the industry since forever.
The issue with most of the large suppliers is that they are always pricey and often less responsive to the needs of the average or even small-scale beekeepers. As such, they majorly receive orders from large commercial beekeepers.
Many of the emergent beekeeping suppliers that have appeared in the past 20 years have thus been fueled by the neglected small-scale beekeepers to the level of individual beekeepers trying to solve the dominant problem.
This has taken several different approaches with some suppliers improving the available equipment while others engage in deep research and studies for better beekeeping alternatives.
A perfect example of this is GreenBeehives. They designed and built a Small Hive Beetle Trap to help eliminate this pest, which they now sell.
Most common and essential beekeeping supplies
These constitute some of the popular beekeeping supplies that any individual or organization requires to guarantee better beekeeping.
These are essentially the individual units that constitute a bee hive. Despite being crafted from wood back in the years, a great variety of today’s beehives are made from plastic and even polystyrene foam.
It is usually advisable to construct durable bee hives by opting for those made with weather-resistant materials or from specific hardwood trees like cypress and cedar. You should also paint them with exterior grade paint to limit and prevent damage by the elements.
The basic components that constitute beehives include a hive stand, bottom board, hive body, the honey super, frames, and covers. They are all unique in features and functionality facilitating better beekeeping.
For instance, a hive body is usually the individual box, wooden or otherwise serving as the living quarters of a bee colony. It contains wooden frames which make beekeeping easy by facilitating simple removal, handling, and rearranging of the honeycombs within the beehive ensuring minimal to no disturbance to the resident bees.
Subsequently, beekeeping laws also prohibit keeping bees in any hive with non-removable combs to prevent unwarranted bee deaths, unlike the old beekeeping techniques that used to destroy entire hives during honey harvesting.
Therefore, despite the numerous new suppliers in the market, the 10-frame “Langstroth” bee hives have continually dominated the US market being the industry standard for nearly 150 years.
They are usually large and spacious, easier to resell and reuse by another beekeeper, or even repurpose by exploiting for additional equipment and parts. They are thus common in numerous local farm stores and among woodworkers associated with beekeeping and the industry.
Types of wood utilized
All types of woods usually have varying positive and negative implications when utilized in beekeeping equipment. Some of the most common woods used for beehives include;
In Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana, beehives are popularly made from cypress and pine woods and the same goes for different states/regions.
- Is treated wood safe for bees?
Treated wood products like pressure-treated wood should not be utilized in the construction of bee hives as they are usually incorporated with imidacloprid into their exteriors by respective manufacturers.
This is because imidacloprid is categorized as a highly toxic substance to adult honey bees even at very low exposure levels according to an EPA study.
- Can beehives be made of plywood?
Definitely, in fact, plywood beehives are always super economical, fully functional, and affordable as construction only costs a fraction of the traditional cedar designs.
Subsequently, plywood beehives fabrication is also immensely simplified and as such can be made by anybody with basic skills and tools.
- How thick should the wood be for beehives fabrication?
The standard wood thickness for beekeeping equipment in the US is always ¾-inch of pine wood which is also the standard wood utilized by most of beekeeping supply companies.
- Should bee hives be painted?
Painting of beekeeping equipment is not particularly necessary and as such, some individuals choose not to paint their bee hives altogether.
However, it is important to understand that it comes with a number of benefits as it aids the bee hives to stand up to the elements and essentially last longer.
The paint thus protects the exposed parts of the bee hive from damage by weather elements like rain, snow, and sun among others.
- What parts of a bee hive should you paint?
Painting should cover all the bee hive surfaces exposed to weather elements like the sun and rain while leaving the surfaces where the bees live and walk bare.
This implies that most of the bee hives’ exteriors should be painted while the entryways, interiors of the boxes, and essentially all the interior parts like frames should not be painted.
- What kind of paint do you use on bee hives?
The best and most preferred category are the water-based latex paints, specifically rated for external application and with low levels of volatile organic compounds (VOC’s).
The VOC’s should be under 100 but ideally, 50 or lower ratings are best. This type of paint will surely protect your bee hive against the elements while guaranteeing your bees’ health and safety.
- What color should beehives be painted?
This usually depends on a number of factors such as climatic conditions and individual beekeeper preferences.
For instance, in warmer climates, it is always recommended to paint your hive white, a light color, which essentially reflects light and heat keeping your hive cool and tolerable to the bees.
Subsequently, hives in cooler climates should however be painted with colors that would absorb and retain heat such as green or brown paints among others.
Many beekeepers who are artistic, paint their hives with flowers, scenery, geometric symbols and even inspirational sayings. I’ve even seen a bee hive painted with DaVinci’s Mona Lisa on the front.
- Can you varnish a beehive?
Definitely, that’s if you prefer the wood-look for your beehives. Nonetheless, you should keep in mind to utilize the factors applied in choosing hive paint as a coating when choosing stain/varnish to ensure maximum benefits.
You can also apply water-based wood stain to improve the overall look of the wood before you apply the varnish finish.
Beekeeping always demands full-proof protective gear to prevent undesirable experiences with the bees like stings among others. They include:
1. Beekeeping Veils
A beekeeping veil is one of the vital parts of a beekeeping suit that even experienced beekeepers would shiver at the thought of not being secure.
As such, it makes all the difference as it protects the beekeeper’s face and eyes from direct exposure to bees. A rogue bee finding access to your face usually proves very unpleasant and disastrous to an individual.
Most beekeepers, therefore, understand that the most critical areas to protect against bee stings are the face and eyes.
There are numerous beekeeping veil varieties to satisfy most individual preferences.
As such, the most important considerations for judging the veils are always protection and visibility. These ensure that every bee is kept out while also being able to see clearly what you are doing.
Another consideration for beekeeping veils is the level of comfort attainable. Different beekeeping veils come in varying designs and sizes and as such, some fit more agreeably than others.
For instance, individuals who wear glasses would definitely require a specific variety of veils that would effectively accommodate the glasses while also ensuring good visibility. Therefore, you should buy the best fitting veil for maximum comfort.
Subsequently, the attachment mechanism of the veil to a beekeeping suit should also be a consideration.
For instance, beekeeping veils that attach to the suit via zippers are often generally considered most bee-proof as they best seal up the suit compared to others that utilize drawstrings or elastic bands. When it comes to zippers, metal zippers are much more durable than plastic ones.
Beekeeping veils can usually be sold in a variety of combinations. This entails being sold separately from the suit and the hat or as two pieces, hat, and veil. Subsequently, some of the veils are also sold as only one piece while others as part of a whole beekeeping suit.
Naturally, choosing your veil separately ensures that you combine the best qualities of the veil with the qualities you desire in other parts of the suit. As such, it is always a great idea to mix and match for the best combination with maximum benefits.
Beekeeping veils usually come in 3 different shapes:
The round veil is normally a single-piece veil that combines a wide brim with a mesh completely encircling your head. This type of veil offers the beekeeper 360 degrees of vision and as such, it is among the veil types with the best visibility to the user.
It is however quite large and most cumbersome of all the three types essentially warranting extra caution to ensure it fits securely to your beekeeping suit.
Therefore, with these features, round veils usually demand a good and high-quality mesh material. This is because, due to the large mesh-covered surface area, there would great potential for bee intrusion if any part of the mesh tears or is poorly reinforced.
Nevertheless, a round veil is the best veil type for maximum visibility above all else.
These usually come in two parts, a hat and a veil, each sold separately. Its square shape, as the name suggests, offers a decent peripheral vision to an individual, making it a good halfway point between the round veil and the more enclosed hooded veil.
The square veils are also popular among beekeepers given that they are the most economical option. As such, in an effort to save money, beekeepers usually only buy the veil and afterward combine it with whatever hat will hold it in place.
The only major concern with this type of veil is the high probability of it swiveling around your head. Nonetheless, this can often be prevented by purchasing high-quality square veils that would definitely hold firm on your head.
This type of veil is usually collapsible unfolding over the head like a hood. Fencing veils are a favorite protection option for many beekeepers as they are not bulky and thus fits perfectly and securely on most individuals’ head unlike round or square veils.
Nevertheless, it is important to recognize that when wearing these fencing veils, your peripheral vision can often be poor. Subsequently, it is also vital to acquire the perfect fitting hooded veil since an ill-fitting one can often drop low on your head limiting even your direct field of vision.
2. Beekeeper’s Helmet
There are numerous beekeeper helmet varieties from designs to specific manufacturing materials. Nevertheless, most of these helmets are usually advertised and passed on as one size fits all. As such, most often have an interior headband that can expand or contract to fit securely on your head.
Many individuals usually prefer the ventilated mesh helmet varieties since they are lightweight and allow for breeze and free air exchange, unlike some helmets.
Some of the beekeeper helmets are also made from plastic and are essentially economical. However, these plastic helmets often tend to get quite hot when utilized during the summer months and as such unpleasant to most individuals.
3. Beekeeping Suits
The most challenging part of choosing a beekeeping suit, among beginners or even some long-time beekeepers, is always determining whether you have assembled all the parts of the suit needed.
Wearing a full-on complete beekeeping suit always inspires confidence among beekeepers. The boost in confidence further leads to calmness and, a calm beekeeper is usually less likely to be stung since the bees would not be rattled and thus, they would also stay calm.
As such, most beginning and even seasoned beekeepers always opt for a full coverage beekeeping suit as part of their protective gear. These have potentially fewer gaps through which bees might slip through, get trapped, and eventually sting the individual.
Therefore, nearly every beekeeping suit in the market usually comes with an attached veil.
Significant Features of a Beekeeping Suit
With the numerous beekeeping suit suppliers, there are several varieties currently on the market. Nonetheless, listed below are some of the few common features you might want to look out for when planning to acquire a better suit;
- Numerous, sufficiently deep, and robust pockets for holding bits of beekeeping equipment like hive tools.
- Strong, breathable, and comfortable suit fabric capable of shielding your skin from stings.
- The suit fabric should also be machine washable and the veil hand washable for easy cleaning.
- The attached veils should have double zippers for easy putting on and taking off.
- The suit should also have ample space underneath for wearing other layers as needed.
- There should be ankle and wrist cuffs to prevent the entry of bees into the suit through these areas.
- The zippers and fastenings like hooks and loop fasteners should also be high quality.
- The suit fabric should also be relatively smooth to ensure bees landing on the suit are not hampered by loose fibers but fly away effortlessly.
- Bee suits can often be quite expensive, as such, you should ensure that the warranty coverage is good.
- You should also conduct research and identify beekeeping suit brands with the most recommendations and positive reviews from satisfied customers.
Most Available Bee Suit Types in the Market
An all-in-one suit
These are the most common types of beekeeping suits. However, they also come in design varieties with the majority having a fencing or hooded style veil.
These suits boast a key advantage of being a full coverage suit. As such, they always cover an individual from the head down to the ankles guaranteeing potentially fewer gaps and openings upon which bees might slip through and get trapped within resulting in stings.
What are bee suits made of?
Beekeeping suits were traditionally made from cotton and cotton blend materials like polycotton. Polycotton, a blend of cotton and polyester is among the commonly used bee suit materials.
Contemporary advancements in the industry have introduced ventilated beekeeping suits which are designed to suit individual needs. For instance, beekeepers working in hot regions or during extremely hot summers always prefer ventilated suits to facilitate cool airflow.
Therefore, unless you can afford multiple suits for multiple factors like temperature fluctuations, your bee suit choice should enable you to comfortably work in warm environments or even with multiple layers underneath the suit in much cooler environments while protecting you from bee stings.
How safe are the bee suits and can you get stung through one?
The safety of your bee suit will depend entirely on your choice of suit and how you handle it. As such, it is very much possible to get stung in poor quality or quite thin fabric bee suit.
Subsequently, failure to double-check your zippers and potential openings if properly closed off could also result in bees getting inside the suit.
You should also ensure that any bees that might have landed on the suit are gently and effectively removed using tools like a bee brush before attempting to take it off. This way, no bees would have access to sting.
Bee Suit Sizing
The general rule of beekeeping suits is to wear a suit that is one size bigger than your regular clothing size. You should never worry about going overboard with the size since some beekeepers buy even as large as two sizes up.
What is the best beekeeping suit?
There are several beekeeping suppliers flooding the market with their brands. As such, the best beekeeping suit is always a matter of preference and therefore a personal choice satisfactory to your needs.
You should therefore opt for a suit from a reputable supplier with an excellent track record and also beware of substandard and cheap suits with high price tags flooding the markets.
An example of a reputable beekeeping suit supplier popular in the US is Buzz Beekeeping Supplies. Their suits are always high quality, crafted in Pakistan from quality materials, and come with a 60-Day Moneyback Guarantee offer for any flaws.
4. Beekeeping Jackets
Protective Beekeeping Jackets are always perfect for short trips to the bee yard for a quick inspection of your beehives. They offer protection for your head and upper body, easy to put on, and much cooler than the full coverage bee suits.
Bee jackets including even a hood are always cheaper than full suits. It is important to work with your budget and acquire what you can afford to pay without going overboard for protective clothing. The style of the headpiece usually dictates which jacket you prefer.
Pants to use with a beekeeping jacket
Since jackets only cover half body, you do need to think about the sort of pants you would be pairing with them for maximum protection.
Painters’ pants are among the common preferences by many being that they are light-colored, loose-fitting, and quite inexpensive. Nevertheless, most beekeepers just go for ordinary jeans because it is what’s readily available and most of the time, what they have on.
The jeans however need to be loose-fitting for optimal sting protection. This is because, the jean’s fabric is usually not thick enough, and therefore, if it is close-fitting and tight, the sting might penetrate to the skin.
As such, for women, jeans would be problematic given that current women’s jeans style is always close-fitting and body hugging.
Therefore, if you happen to have a stash of baggy jeans, think ‘Mom’ or even ‘Grandma’ jeans for women and not ‘Beyonce style’ jeans, you can surely designate these as your go-to beekeeping pants. They will ensure you are sufficiently protected from bee stings and even prevent you from ruining your favorite jeans out in the beehive fields.
Khaki-colored or very faded blue jeans are always recommended as the best options than dark-colored ones.
A major concern with jeans however is always the fact that bees can often crawl up through the pant legs since they lack elastic bands on the bottom of the legs as is in the suits. Although not particularly very common, this happens. To avoid this, beekeepers should;
- Get boot bands to cinch up the leg openings
- Wear boots with pants tucked down on them
- Tuck the pant legs into the tops of your socks
When using bee jackets, it is important that the garments be sufficiently long so that whenever you bend over, the small portion of your back just above the waistband is not exposed. This is because bees usually have the uncanny ability to zero in on any vulnerabilities that might present.
Therefore, since you will be bending over a lot, it would be important to measure your back neck-to-waistband-of-pants length to make sure your jacket and pants will fit appropriately without exposure. This is vital more so for individuals who are tall, long-waisted, or prefer wearing low-riding pants.
Preferably, always go for garments one size up, since protective beekeeping gear should be looser and more comfortable rather than stylish.
Can honey bees sting through jeans?
Yes, bees can always sting you through clothes, however, this often depends on the type of clothing you have on.
The stings always penetrate thin and tight jeans but can be prevented by thick and loose varieties.
Generally speaking, bees often do not sting unless they feel threatened like during a hive inspection or any form of provocation.
5. Beekeeping Gloves
Beekeeping is usually a challenging task riddled with numerous issues including psychological ones.
The newbies in the industry are the ones often undergoing extensive worrying and anxiety of overcoming the strong lifelong fear of potential bee stings while voluntarily handling hives and frames with live and crawling bees in every interaction.
Beekeeping gloves are thus essential in handling bees while ensuring individual and bee safety. Most beekeeper gloves are usually made of leather or canvas which are very thin and pliable materials.
These features allow the beekeeper to operate with more dexterity while limiting the possibility of harming the bees during an interaction.
It is vital to ensure you select the best beekeeping gloves with the most appropriate features. This is because the choice is usually a tricky one.
For instance, thick leather gloves might encourage clumsiness resulting in the provocation of the bees prompting them to attack and sting an individual.
Subsequently, opting for more dexterity and going with thin nitrile or the dishwashing varieties might not offer much protection for your hands when the bees do sting.
I have a full article on choosing the best beekeeping gloves.
These are usually necessary if you do not want to go through the hassle of putting on the full protective gear due to a number of reasons like a brief inspection of the hives among others.
For instance, when only using your nitrile gloves, the area around the wrists is usually exposed and provides an opportunity for bee stings. To prevent this, a wrist protector covering the entire arm is usually recommended.
They are however unnecessary when wearing a full bee suit or a jacket and the beekeeping gloves.
Boots also constitute a vital part of the protective beekeeping equipment. As such, sturdy boots can always be worn with a full bee suit for added protection against bee stings.
Nonetheless, care must always be taken to ensure that the bees do not and essentially cannot congregate around the boot tops since this can always result in them finding a way into your boots and eventually pants.
For instance, you may wedge the suit inside your boots for additional protection. You should also avoid standing directly in front of the beehives.
This way, you would be out of the bees’ flight paths in and out of the hives thereby limiting contact. Although these are not guaranteed, they will surely limit the chances of a curious bee being trapped inside your pants.
Some suppliers have also added protection to their suits by incorporating elastics on both the legs and hands to prevent bees from slipping through into the pants.
These offer beekeepers a way to further secure their pants by eliminating any openings that bees might use to enter and climb up the pants.
They are however mostly unnecessary to those with full beekeeping suits or boots that you can tuck in the bottom of your pants.
7. Beekeeping Tools
Apart from the protective gear, beekeeping also requires access to several other tools that aid in the process. They include;
A hive smoker is among the most valuable tools for working bees and as such should be a priority for any individual who decides to indulge in beekeeping. A smoker usually reduces the potential of getting stung since bees don’t always care much about the emitted smoke.
This essentially maintains their calm prompting them to pay little to no attention to you while working the hive. Therefore, squirting smoke throughout the hive immensely reduces the chances of agitating the bees and possibly getting stung.
Here is an article on hive smokers.
This is another necessary yet inexpensive tool utilized in beekeeping. A hive tool is a hand tool shaped and designed specifically for prying apart supers and frames. This is because bees usually line their hives with propolis which is basically a form of glue that holds everything together and further acts as an insulator.
The propolis is often quite sturdy, tightly holding together frames and hive bodies making it very difficult to pry them apart from each other unless you use a hive tool.
There are several varieties of hive tools currently available and they include;
- Standard hive tool – which has a box levering edge and a frame levering edge.
- J-type hive tool – which has a box levering edge on one side and a j-hook with a small notch on the other end.
- Italian hive tool – which is a longer style hive tool, designed for better leverage.
- Multifunctional hive tool – which has about 7 significant functions including;
- J hook
- Flat head hive scrapper
- Elbow lifter
- Frame cleaner
- Nail puller
- Metal removal cleaner
- Detachable hammer
The standard and the J-type hive tools are usually the most common types of hive tools currently utilized by the majority of beekeepers.
This is usually a handy tool frequently used when you want to keep the queen separated from the rest of the bees for a while.
For instance, when going through your bee hives, it is always easier and more productive to place the queen in this catcher so that you would not risk losing her in the process.
A queen catcher may also be used as a queen marker to aid in easy marking and identification of the queen bee within the hive.
Subsequently, when catching a swarm to stay in your hives, then you definitely need this tool to hold the queen because the bees will always stay as long as the queen stays in place.
These are tools used by beekeepers to gently remove bees from frames or other beekeeping equipment when collecting honey while carefully making sure not to hurt them.
The bee brushes are usually made with long, soft, non-ridged bristles which are usually quite gentle and appropriately firm enough to remove the bees from a specific surface without imposing them harm but only when used properly.
The bristles are usually made from horse hair, pig hair, or synthetic material which guarantees their gentle feel. For instance, horse hair brushes are usually very gentle and come with either black or white bristles.
These constitute beekeeping tools used to hold sugar syrup that is fed to the bees during a time of the year when energy demands are high but the supply of natural nectar is limited or completely unavailable. These periods usually persist during the winters and late summers in many parts of the country.
The Boardman entrance feeder which is usually conveniently placed at the hive entrance. It is however usually disadvantageous to many beekeepers as it invites robbing.
The division board feeder which usually replaces one brood comb and thus is usually situated directly in the brood nest next to the clustering bees. Floats or folded hardware cloth are often necessary to prevent excessive bee drowning.
The syrup can often be placed in plastic food bags which are then placed on top of brood combs before enclosing them in an empty super. The beekeeper gives the bees access to the syrup by slicing a 5-inch slit on the bag tops with a razor knife.
For further details, here is an article on honey bee feeders.
The process of harvesting honey usually requires three major tools which include;
A bee brush – used to sweep the bees out of the way to ensure minimal interference when harvesting.
An escape board – which is more like a ‘door’ placed on the hive such that when the bees leave the honey super, they cannot again find their way back to the hive box. This essentially clears all bees out in about 24 hours before embarking on harvesting.
A fume board – which is lined with a cloth inset sprayed with a bee repellent. The bees essentially dread the smell of the repellent prompting their immediate evacuation from the honey super within a matter of minutes.
Honey harvesting and processing encompasses numerous significant steps.
- Uncapping of the frames
Some of the common uncapping tools available include the uncapping fork, roller, or uncapping knife. Nevertheless, the majority of beekeepers nowadays prefer to use the electric uncapping knife which usually makes the entire process quicker and much simpler.
- Honey extraction
Extracting honey always requires the use of a honey extractor which is essentially the largest investment often made by beekeepers. Therefore, you will find that a lot of beekeeping clubs will a honey extractor for their members while the majority of newbies in the industry will either borrow or rent one for use.
Honey extractors usually come in manual and electrical varieties. However, many beekeepers prefer the electric honey extractor over the manual one due to a number of factors such as simplicity and time taken during operation.
- Filtering the honey
To properly filter your extracted honey, you will need the following items;
- A Honey Filter
These are usually double-screened and sized to a 5-gallon bucket.
- A honey bucket with a honey gate
The honey bucket typically holds about 5 gallons of honey whereas the honey gate acts as a spicket enabling you to turn the honey flow on and off at will as you fill your bottles.
Individuals starting out can always do so with a beekeeping kit. However, most of these kit tools are usually poorly made, cheap, and substandard, which could cost you even more in the long run.
As such, it is often best and recommended that you buy your beekeeping supplies separately from reputable suppliers.
This article elaborates on some of the significant supplies that beekeepers will often need when starting out in the beekeeping industry or replacing a worn-out item.
Many of the suppliers usually specialize or only carry specific types of beekeeping supplies. As such, it is recommended to conduct thorough research and identify which suppliers specialize in which items to ensure you acquire quality beekeeping materials.
The majority of beekeepers in the country always prefer buying from American suppliers since quality is always guaranteed and customer support is also better compared to foreign suppliers.