Beekeeping is a fairly gear-intensive hobby or occupation, requiring certain essential items for the bees and for your safety. Every beekeeper needs a few basic items to start beekeeping, and fortunately, many of them will last a lifetime!
Beekeeping is a fairly gear-intensive activity, with much of the gear being oriented for safety and practical functions during hive maintenance. Quality bee equipment will last for many years, and the basic items are not over-priced. Protective gear is especially important for beginner beekeepers.
The top items every beekeeper needs is not a very long list, but each item on the list is important for proper beekeeping and safety practices. Even though these items are essential, the equipment is not extremely costly, giving beekeeping a fairly low cost of entry.
Gear Every Beekeeper Needs
Besides the beehives themselves and the gear you need for each beehive, most of the other gear is safety gear and essential tools for beekeeping.
Some of the items are more important depending on where you are located, how you keep your bees and the demeanor of your bees.
Items of safety should never be neglected, especially for new beekeepers who typically will spend longer in the hive and run the risk of agitating the bees.
Fortunately, most of the beekeeping gear is robust and built for rugged conditions, which is good news for beekeepers. We use much of the equipment in conditions that require durable, well-made gear.
Fortunately, much of the gear is made with durability in mind, meaning that much of the gear will last you for many years, if not a lifetime!
The following gear is recommended for beekeepers of all levels, and you will find these items in most beekeepers’ gear bags.
1. A Bee Suit And Beekeeping Gloves
A bee suit and beekeeping gloves are essential for new beekeepers until you have gained enough experience to decide whether you will risk working with limited protective gear.
Many forms of bee suits are available, from full cover-all style suits to veil and jacket to veil only, depending on the safety preference you prefer for your beekeeping.
The purpose of the bee suit is to protect the beekeeper from extensive stings when a colony or a swarm becomes aggressive.
An example of the cover-all bee suit style is the Forest Beekeeping Supply Beekeeping Suit. This premium cotton suit with a round veil is suitable for beginner and advanced beekeepers. The zipper closures have Velcro covers to prevent bees from accessing the suit if the zipper is not properly closed, and it has elasticated cuffs on the sleeves and ankles.
If you prefer to wear jeans, a bee suit jacket, and a veil, the Forest Beekeeping Supply Beekeeper Jacket And Veil is a good choice. The top-quality cotton is durable and resistant to the most determined bee stings.
For the extremely confident beekeeper who only manages calm bees and does not do bee removals, a hat and veil option such as the Cowboy Hat And Veil work well. The hat and veil option provides good all-around visibility and minimal movement restriction.
Beekeeping gloves can be a fairly controversial option, but I prefer working my bees with gloves to prevent stings and stay safe. Some beekeepers prefer not to wear suits and gloves, and if you would like more information on the reasons behind this, you can read our article “Why Do Some Beekeepers Not Wear A Suit Or Gloves?“
Beekeeping gloves come in a variety of styles, from heavy-duty gloves to leather gloves. The type of gloves you use will depend on your beekeeping activity. I prefer heavy-duty gloves for bee removals, while leather gloves work well for general maintenance activities.
The Forest Beekeeping Premium Goatskin Leather Beekeeper’s Glove is a pair of leather gloves I highly recommend as a good pair of general-purpose beekeeping gloves.
2. Beekeeping Boots
Some beekeepers prefer to use normal shoes, while others prefer specialized boots for the job. Beekeeping can be a messy, sticky affair, so you will need a pair of dedicated beekeeping boots for working around the hive.
Boots are a necessary part of your beekeeping gear since aggressive bees will often target your ankles when they try to chase you away from the hive.
Rain boots are a common choice for beekeeping, and the TIDEWE Rubber Neoprene Boots are easy to pull on and take off and provide good protection against the bees.
If rain boots are not your preference, a good pair of leather hiking boots that have a high ankle, such as the CAT Second Shift Work Boot, is an excellent alternative.
3. A Bee Smoker
A smoker is one of the most indispensable tools for the beekeeper. You should always have a lit smoker on hand whenever you open a bee hive.
The smoke from the bee smoker calms the bees down and changes their focus from the beekeeper to the smoke. This makes it safer for the beekeeper, bystanders, and any nearby livestock or pets.
A quality smoker, such as the Goodland Bee Supply Stainless Steel Bee Smoker, is a robust, durable piece of beekeeping equipment that will last many years.
4. A Hive Tool
Next to your bee smoker, the hive tool is the next most indispensable tool in the beekeepers’ toolbox!
The hive tool is used to pry frames loose in the hive, lift frames out of the hive and scrape beeswax and propolis off the frames and the hive. The hive tool may be one of the most useful tools in your arsenal, but it is also the tool you will most likely lose at your apiary site.
Consequently, every beekeeper should have more than one of these tools on hand. There are essentially two styles of hive tools, the standard option, such as the Mann Lake Stainless Steel Hive Tool, and the J-style hive tool, such as the Forest Beekeeping Supply Tempered steel J-Hook Hive Tool.
I use both tool types and use them for different functions when opening hives and extracting frames. They are inexpensive enough to have multiple tools in your beekeeping box.
5. A Headlamp With A Red Light Option
A headlamp is a must-have piece of gear for beekeepers that work their hives after dark. White light disturbs the bees and makes them active and aggressive.
Red light does not disturb the bees as much and provides sufficient light for working inside the hive at night. A headlamp is perfect for this application in beekeeping, and this is why I prefer the bee suit with a hat-style veil rather than the fencing-type veil.
The headlamp is easily worn on the head over the hat part of the veil and does not fall off. An example of a headlamp with this function that I can recommend is the Boruit LED 5000 Lumen Headlamp.
6. Queen Catcher
A queen catcher is useful when working in the hive to isolate the queen and keep her out of harm’s way while you work in the hive.
The queen is the most important individual bee in the colony, and accidentally injuring or killing the queen can be devastating for the colony if they have no brood of the right age to raise a new queen.
Locating the queen when you open the brood box and securing her in a queen catcher, such as the Maxmoral Stainless Steel Queen Clip, is an ideal way of keeping the queen safe and secure.
7. Bee Brush
If you have ever opened a beehive and the bees are crawling all over the area where you are trying to work, it can be difficult to move the bees gently out of the way so you can get the job done.
Trying to move bees with your hand or finger is inefficient, and you risk damaging the comb and squashing bees. When bees are squashed, they release a pheromone that agitates the rest of the colony and makes them more aggressive.
A bee brush is a gentler, more effective method of brushing bees out of the way so you can work on frames and find the queen without causing injury to the bees or aggravating them.
Soft-bristled brushes, such as the Little Giant Beekeeping Brush, are ideal brushes, gentle enough to brush the bees out of the way without causing them harm.
The brush is also useful to brush bees off your suit when leaving the bee hive to ensure you do not take any bees into your car or house.
Beekeeping gear is an essential part of working with bees to ensure the safety of the beekeeper, the bees, and any other person, pet, or livestock in the area. We have recommended the minimum items that are useful to a beekeeper at any level, but these would be a good basic kit for the new beekeeper.
Choose good quality beekeeping gear, and you will be rewarded with many years of safe and effective beekeeping!
Writer’s personal experience.