Well assuming assuming that you have decided on a hive type my advice would be stick to a single type it makes life much easier when you may need to manipulate colonies and transfer combs between colonies. Notice how I assumed that you would have more than 1 colony. Well you can run with just one colony but I would plan on having at least 2. The bees will eventually want to swarm and the new colony will need to be housed and managed. Also having more than one colony does give you some form of back-up if something goes wrong with one colony.
So what equipment do you need:
- Hive – for more detail see: hive types
- Jacket – I would go for a combined jacket and veil.
- Gloves – avoid leather gauntlets and go for either washing up gloves or ideally disposable rubber gloves.
- Hive tool – the J tool design with a hook for levering frame ends is the best.
- Smoker – go for a large size. I found it hard to keep the small smoker I started out with alight even when inspecting just 2 colonies.
- Hive stand – can be an old crate or a purpose made one. It’s much easier to inspect a colony at the right height than to continually have to bend down to take the frames out. For a stand that I use see Techniques and Plans – Single Hive Stand
- Nucleus box – you will need one at some stage and if your bees came in a travelling box then this will do for a season or two. If you have to buy one and cost is an issue then the poly versions that are now available are very good.
- Feeders – either a large capacity rapid feeder type (Miller or Ashforth) or plastic contact feeders.
- Misc. equipment – porter bee escapes, bee brush, hive strap, mouse guards, queen cage, marking paint, storage buckets with lids.
1) Hive consisting of: Floor,entrance block, brood body, 2 supers, queen excluder, crown-board and roof. When it comes to deciding on the hive material I would recommend Western Red Cedar, as it’s light and durable. Poly hives are becoming more common and are much cheaper. You need to be careful with poly hives as they aren’t as durable as wooden hives. Cleaning them is a bit more effort as you can’t use a blowtorch on them! They can be painted to disguise the fact that they are polystyrene. If you do decide on poly hives then talk to other beekeepers who use them and shop around – some of the designs have weaknesses which you will only really notice once you start using them. I found that the floor and fitting of the roof of the poly equipment that I have were poorly designed.
If you can manage a hammer without hitting your thumb too often then buy the hive flat and assemble it yourself. It’s not too difficult just requires a bit of patience.
2) If your hive doesn’t come with frames then you will need to purchase these. I started out with frames and spacers but moved to Hoffman self spacing frames as they are easier to manage and clean. I tried both the plastic ends and the Hoffman converter clips but found that they had a tendency to warp and even melt in my wax steam extractor and were difficult to clean.