I started with Honeybees in spring of 2009. When starting with honeybees, you of course need the bees, then you must choose a hive to keep them in. Below I will expand on what supplies one needs in order to start with honey bees and hopefully that will give you a good heatstart to begin your beekeeping journey.
There are two main choices when it comes to hives in the US. The Langstroth hive which is the modern hive that most people are used to seeing these days.These consist of stacked boxes of specific measurements with rectangular frames hung inside them, much like one hangs folders in a drawer, in which the bees build their comb. These frames can be made of wood or plastic and many people put foundation in these frames to give the bees something to build their comb off of. The foundation can either be made of plastic or wax.
The other hive is the top bar hive(tbh). These hives consist of a wood trough with either square or angled sides and top bars made of wood, placed perpendicularly across the top of the hive. The bees then build their own comb without frames or foundations. The top bar hives require less materials and so they are sometimes preferred by new beekeepers but from a honey production aspect, they are not best hives out there. This is the reason langstroth hives are used in most commercial operations.
Here are the General Beekeeping Supplies you will need no matter what hive you go with:
A beekeeping suit, to protect your body from stings
beekeeping hat with veil, to protect your head from stings
gloves, to protect your hands from stings
a smoker, to calm the bees when opening the hive
hive tool, for prying frames apart
a bee brush, for gently brushing bees off comb
Honey Extraction Equipment, this can sometimes be rented from local beekeeping suppliers or other beekeepers
When keeping a Langrstroth Hive, you’ll need:
Hive Boxes or Bodies for the body of the hive, these come in shallow, medium, or deep.
Frames of which there are various kinds
Foundation, usually plastic or wax, cell sizes may also vary
a bottom board, for the stacked hive boxes to sit on
inner cover, covers inside top of the top hive box
outer cover, covers around the outside of the top hive box, basically a cap for the hive.
An example of components, from bottom to top, in a langstroth hive might have: a bottom board, 1 deep super with 8 or 10 deep frames, 2 medium supers with 8 to 10 medium frames, frames with plastic foundation, an inner cover and an outer cover.
The way a Langstroth hive works is like this, if we start with a deep super at the bottom of the hive, the beekeeper will install a 3# package of bees w/ queen into this deep super. The bees will then be allowed to become established. The bottom of the hive will always be the core of the hive. This is where bees keep their initial honey reserves but more importantly this is where most of the brood frames will be. these are the frames where bees are raising more bees to continue the operations of the hive.
Once the bees have an adequate number of able-bodied workers, they will begin to expand upward and build more comb for honey storage. The boxes and frames of the upper portion of the Langstroth hive, are where you harvest your honey. It is important to give the bees adequate space to expand and store honey especially when the nectar flow is at it’s highest because that is when bees have the most potention to collect nectar and turn it into honey. In many locations, the nectar flow may only come in the spring with a smaller flow in the summer. Collecting nectar is time-sensitive and the beekeeper should be ready to supply the bees the space they need when they need it.
When it comes to Langstroth hive configuration, different beekeepers have different opinions. As mentioned above, there are 3 sizes of supers/hive boxes. Shallow, Medium and Deep. most beekeepers agree that deeps should be reserved for the bottom of the hive. So there should only be one deep per hive. Some people do use two deeps per hive. This becomes difficult because the upper deep will be for honey storage, honey is very heavy and deeps are large and hold a lot of honey. Some deeps could weigh more than 60 pounds when filled with honey. This is difficult for some beekeepers to lift. So many beekeepers stick with mediums and shallows above the bottom deep box.
These mediums and shallows can be added as bees need more space for honey. If they are expanding slowly then a shallow could be used or shallows are also good if you’d like to harvest more frequently because they will fill up faster.
Some beekeepers don’t use deeps at all and opt for a hive of entirely medium boxes, this has it’s pros and cons. The boxes are easier to handle but the nucleus or core of the hive will be smaller and will require at least 2 medium boxes. They may also have trouble overwintering in a hive of all mediums because they will not have the one deep hive to all huddle into to keep warm. They will have to span over the two medium bodies instead and this is less efficient for conserving heat.
When keeping a Top Bar Hive, here is what you need: