If you are considering starting beekeeping, there is some equipment you will need as well as some cost involved in getting set up. As you consider how you are going to set up your beekeeping, here is some information that should help.
There are two basic kinds of hives used by beekeepers: the Langstroth, which looks like a box with drawers, and the Kenyan or top bar hive (TBH). The Langstroth is by far the most common kind of hive, and is nearly always used by commercial beekeepers in America. This is because the Langstroth is set up for maximum honey production.
The TBH is gaining popularity, though – they require less equipment and maintenance. TBHs produce less honey and more wax, but for the hobbyist beekeeper, that is usually not a problem. One TBH will still produce more than enough honey for an average family.
Before we get into the equipment you need, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the components of a hive and some of the terminology.
Brood box – This is the part of the hive where the queen resides. Eggs are laid here and the young raised.
Super – The super is a chamber above the brood box where the bees store their excess honey. It is from the super that you will harvest your honey.
Honey extractor – This is a centrifugal machine that spins the honeycombs to draw out the honey. They are not used to extract honey from TBHs.
Queen excluder – This is usually a sheet of metal or wood placed between the brood box and the super. It has small openings that allow the worker bees through but are too small for the queen.
Here is a list of some of the essential equipment you will need for each type of hive.
The top bar hive
To get started, you will need a good location, the hive itself (or plans to make one and the necessary lumber), and a veil, gloves, hive tool, and smoker. (Some proponents of TBHs claim that a smoker is not necessary, since the design allows for much less disturbance of the bees.)
The veil, of course, protects your face and head from stings and the gloves protect your hands. The hive tool is used to remove the supers and causes the least stress to the bees. The smoker is used to subdue the bees – the smoke makes the bees react as if there is a forest fire, and they become so distracted by gathering honey that they pay much less attention to human intrusion.
If you go with a Langstroth hive, you will need to purchase a honey extractor in addition to all of the above equipment.
Of course, with either hive, you have to obtain bees. They are actually sold by the pound, and the price range for 3 pounds (the typical package amount) is anywhere from $35-$60. The queen is sold separately, and she costs around $10.
There are other odds and ends you will find yourself needing during that first year of beekeeping. Expect to spend anywhere from $150-$300 in setting up your beekeeping hobby or business. Constructing your own hive can save you a lot.