So you probably found your way here because you or one of your loved one wants to start beekeeping. Beekeeping is often a life long hobby once people get started. I always advise newcomers to the hobby to go ahead and get a basic beekeeping kit. Often times you may have to purchase two separate kits. One will be a basic beehive kit and the other will be a basic beekeeping equipment kit. Occasionally, you can find a kit that is inclusive of the beehive and all of the necessary equipment. I actually got my beekeeping equipment as a fathers day gift when I first started beekeeping and it was a complete beekeeping kit. Sadly, that company doesn’t offer those kits anymore, but below I provide my thoughts on what you should be looking for when buying equipment.
A beehive kit will have all of the necessary items that make up the beehive. The very minimum items you will need will be a landing board, hive body, frames, and some kind of hive cover.
The landing board will provide a foundation for the hive body and an entrance to the hive. It also provides a small area in front of the hive where bees will land an enter the hive, hence the name landing board. Often times bees will use this area for other tasks, such as venting the hive, bearding, and wash boarding.
The next integral piece as we move up the hive will be the hive body. There may be one or multiple hive bodies on a hive depending on the time of year and configuration. Oftentimes the lowest hive body is a deep hive body which is 9 5/8″. The hive body is really just a box that holds frames (or top bars if you are into top bar beekeeping or keeping bees in a warre hive). Hive bodies above that will be 6 5/8 or medium hive bodies. These hive bodies can be 8 frame or 10 frame hive bodies. Now it does not really matter what depth you choose for the hive bodies, however, you must be consistent when choosing 8 frames or 10 frames. 10 frame equipment is more common. I will also recommend if you are only getting one hive body to get a deep or 9 5/8 depth, because that will make it easier to find a compatible nucleus colony which is my preferred way to start a new honeybee hive. However, if you have lower back problems or believe you may have trouble lifting over 50 lbs, medium or 6 5/8″ equipment will be the way to go. Deep supers can way upwards of 80 lbs when full.
Once you have decided on what kind of hive bodies you want to order then you need to make sure that you have frames that go in the hive body. Most hive bodies accommodate 10 frames. There are 3 basic options when it comes to choosing frames for your hive body. You can use foundation-less, wax foundation, and plastic foundation frames. Foundation-less frames will have no comb or comb structure for the bees to build on, they only have a rectangular frame to give the bees a guide on where to build their comb. The benefits of foundation-less frames is that you will get fresh comb with no potential contaminates that can accumulate in wax. The downsides to foundation-less frames is that the wax will fragile and it can be easily dislodged from the frame and fall to the ground, especially on a hot day. The other problem is the bees can easily cross comb an entire box of frames making it a headache to fix.
Wax foundation and plastic foundation are pretty much the same with a couple minor distinctions. Both of these foundations give the bees a comb like structure for the bees to draw their honey comb. Wax foundation is generally better accepted by bees, but it can have contaminants since it is typically recycled honeycomb. Plastic foundation does not have this problem, but sometimes if the bees are trying to be cheeky they will draw plastic foundation “incorrectly”. It’s not really incorrect just not how us beekeepers want it drawn. Me personally, I use a mix of foundation-less and plastic foundation frames in my hives.
The last thing you will need to get for your hive will be a cover. The job of the cover is really to keep the elements out. This is really just a preference of the beekeeper. There are three basic variety of hive covers. There are telescoping covers, migratory covers and roof shaped covers. If you decide to go with telescoping covers then you will need an inner cover so that the bees do not glue your cover down with proprolis. Most beginners kits include telescoping covers and the associated inner cover anyways.
Best Beehive Kits
The Little Giant 10 Frame Beginner Hive Kit is made by Miller manufacturing. They really seem to have their finger on the pulse of the beekeeping market, and what new beekeepers need. This components of this hive kit were extremely well thought out. This kit is built around an assembled 10 frame deep hive, with a telescoping cover and vented inner cover. The frames come assembled with wax coated plastic foundation. Just for a beehive kit this is great but they also include a frame feeder. Frame feeders are great because they can be used to help boost a weak hive, without the concerns of robbing. A frame feeder will be great for feeding 1 to 1 syrup to your new nuc (nucleus hive) or package, or you can feed 2 to 1 to a hive that needs to supplement their stores for winter. They also have uses in queen rearing. This kit also includes some other very important tools that I would say are necessary for a new beekeeper. On top of everything already mentioned this hive has a smoker, smoker fuel, and a hive tool. Firstly, a smoker and hive tool are important tools for all beekeepers which I expand on in the paragraph below about beekeeping tools, but the inclusion of smoker fuel just shows the thought put into this kit. Now, buying a specific smoker fuel is not required because you can use pretty much any organic matter and put it in the smoker, but having a consistent fuel as you learn to light and use your smoker will be extremely helpful. If someone were interested in beekeeping and wanted a recommendation on a beehive kit, the Little Giant 10-Frame Kit would be the best beginner beekeeping kit out their in my opinion and most definitely gets my recommendation.
Mann lake is one of the top beekeeping suppliers in the country, so it is only natural that they have one of the best beehive kits around. This beehive kit comes assembled and painted (there is an unpainted option if you prefer to paint it yourself). Being fully assembled and painted means you can put it out in the backyard or your apiary the day you receive it. All that you need is to install your bees. The hive is made with pine construction. It includes a deep hive body and 10 deep frames with waxed plastic rite-cell foundation. The wax coating will encourage the bees to draw comb on the frames. The best part of these frames is that they are assembled. One of the most tedious parts of assembling a beehive assembling all of the frames. This kit also includes a bottom board, inner cover, telescoping cover, and entrance reducer. An entrance reducer is extremely useful when you have a new or weak hive. It gives the hive a smaller entrance to defend from robber bees and potential predators, so that they can focus their efforts on the hive.
VivoHome is a much smaller brand than Mann Lake, but I believe they have still made a quality product for the backyard beekeeper. VivoHome’s two layer kit includes a deep hive body and a medium super. The hive bodies are made with cedar, which is one of the more durable materials used to make hive bodies. Cedar naturally resists rot, decay, and wood eating pests, which will help preserve your investment in wooden ware, which is often your largest cost associated with beekeeping. This kit comes with 20 frames and plastic foundation. The foundation has no wax coating, but the bees will still draw comb on them. You will want to ensure that they draw it properly on the foundation. 10 of the frames are deep frames and 10 are medium frames for your honey super. This kit includes a bottom board, inner cover, telescoping cover and entrance reducer. Besides the cedar construction the inclusion of the medium super will give your bees somewhere to store excess honey, this excess honey is the honey you will be able to harvest and enjoy. Just be aware you will have to assemble this beehive kit. Now beehive assembly is not rocket science and I have assembled every hive body I have ever gotten. It will just take 20-30 minutes for assembly.
In addition to the beehive you will want to get a basic beekeeping tools when you get started beekeeping, There are beekeeping equipment kits that have most of the equipment you will need to get your apiary started.Typically you will get three to four essential items in in these kits, but they pad these kits with stuff that I believe is unnecessary for a brand new beekeeper. One of the main things these beekeeping equipment kits typically lack is protective equipment. You should get some protective equipment which at a minimum will be a veil, but some kits will include gloves. Having protective equipment is one of the most critical things when you get into beekeeping. You will be able to get buy and improvise for some of the equipment, for instance if you look at the first video on the hive inspection post, you will see tat I am using a putty knife and screwdriver in place of a hive tool. The European honeybee is often a calm bee, but if you catch them on a bad day they will inflict painful stings. Bees seem to prefer the face and head as targets which is why a veil is so important. Some beekeepers prefer not to use gloves when doing hive inspections. I tend to wear my gloves most of the time because one of the more painful places to be stung is in the palm of the hand. Maybe the protective equipment is left out of kits so that you can actually buy the veil or beekeeping jacket that you want to use.
Good kits will include a hive tool, and a smoker. Hive tools, are really multi-tools. They provide mechanical advantage when trying to pry hive bodies apart, or to get frames out of the hive bodies. Most hive tools will also have a scraping mechanism so that propolis and burr comb can be scraped off during the inspection. Smokers produce a calming response with bees, interrupting the alarm pheromone as well as causing them to gorge themselves on honey. Most of the equipment kits include a bee brush, I will be honest I have rarely used my beekeeping brush. Depending on where you want to focus your beekeeping, will help you decide what equipment kits to get. Some of the kits have tools for decapping honey prior to extraction, and some of the kits have stuff for marking queens. If you don’t think you will have an interest queen rearing then I would not get a kit with queen marking supplies.
The Bee Castle is a well though out beekeeping tool kit. This kit comes with a smoker, and 2 styles of hive tool. It includes a J style hook and an L style hook. After you get the proprolis broken free you can use the frame grip tool to manipulate the frames. The frame grip tool even though it is not a necessity it will be a great convenience. This kit comes with not only an uncapping tool but also an uncapping knife. When you are ready for honey extraction in future season you will not need any accessory tools. If you decide to start rearing queens this kit has a queen clip, and a queen marking tube. This will be a great kit to get you started beekeeping. by choosing this kit you will really only need to decide what kind of veil or beekeeping jacket you want to use.
One of the better tool kits on the market is the REAMTOP 8 piece kit. It comes at a good value relative to the other beekeeping equipment kits. On top of that it also includes a basic beekeeping veil. Now is this the veil is not the veil that you will want to use for the rest of your beekeeping career, but it will be enough to get you started. You will be able to decide whether you want, a beekeeping jacket, a veil, or a full body suit. In the mean time this veil will help protect your face from bee stings, because no one wants to explain why their eye is swollen shut when they go to work the next day. The other highlight of this kit is the stainless steel Jhook hive tool. This kit includes a frame grip which is really nice for picking frames up out of the hive body. The rest of the tools included in this kit. I would say are just periphery, and not necessary for the brand new beekeeper. It has an uncapping fork which will be useful when you are ready to extract honey, but this most likely wont happen your first year. It also has a queen clip and cage with a plunger, these will be nice things if you decide to raise queens. If you happen to use wax foundation it has a wire embedding tool. Now where this kit falls short is the lack of a proper smoker. A smoker is a critical tool in any beekeepers toolbox, and this one is missing it. If it weren’t for the veil being included in this kit it would be a hard pass.
Hopefully, this will provide you a guide when looking to get started in beekeeping. One of the only things more exciting than getting your beekeeping equipment will be installing your new bees inside your brand new hive. After that prepare to be enamored by the beautiful bee. If you have any more questions about these kits or ideas about a specific piece of equipment even it is not discussed here please drop a comment and I will answer it as soon as possible.