Before you can start beekeeping you need some basic beekeeping equipment. What you need and what you end up buying depends a lot on how serious you are, and how much money you have of course.

Here is a short list of some of the items which I think you should start with. Different beekeepers will have their own view about the most basic equipment, but beekeepers are like that, opinionated!

smokerI would recommend a slightly larger smoker than the smallest which many beginners tend to choose. A larger smoker is easier to light and stays alight longer. Many different types of fuel can be used, special smoker pellets, corrugated cardboard, pine needles and rotten wood. I tend to use rotten wood since it’s free and usually quite easy to obtain. Some newspaper or a yellow pages directory will make it easier to light.

glovesWhen I first started keeping bees I read that it was advisable not to wear any gloves. Without gloves you’re much gentler and less likely to crush bees and upset them. It needs a strong will to start as a novice without gloves., but there is some truth in it. Once I started removing bee hives without gloves I learned a great deal. I remember dropping a piece of comb and reaching down between the combs to retrieve it. I was amazed how warm it was. I knew in theory that the bees warm up their hive, but to feel just how warm it was (over 90°F) certainly brought it home.

hooded-bee-suitI think most new beekeepers start off with just a pair of gloves and a veil. I believe this is actually a false economy. If you’re serious about keeping bees I recommend a full suit. A complete beesuit with integral hood will increase your confidence immensely. Once you know that you’re unlikely to get stung you can concentrate on what you’re doing. I use an Ultrabreeze suit which although much more expensive then a regular suit, is virtually sting proof (bees will sometimes sting through a thinner suit) but is well ventilated so will help you keep cool. There is more information about different types of beesuit here.

hive-toolThere are a few different types of hive tool. They’re used to prize boxes apart, scrape off propolis and burr comb and all manner of tasks. It’s amazing that it’s only beekeepers who have them, they’re so useful. The ‘J’ style is my favorite. The ‘J’ end is used to hook under the end of frames when removing them for inspection. Without this type of end it’s quite difficult to lift the first frame. There are special frame-lifter tools, but that seems overkill.


bee-brushWhether your capturing a swarm, or removing frames of honey, a soft bee brush is invaluable. They’ve quite inexpensive and is handle to have in your tool box. I didn’t think a brush was necessary for many years, but once I got one I wouldn’t be without it. I’ve heard of beekeepers using a goose feather or something as a brush, but I like something a little more durable and versatile.

hiveThe Langstroth hive is almost ubiquitous in the United States, but in other parts of the world such as the United Kindom there are six or seven different types. The parts of the different hives aren’t interchangeable and so whichever type of hive you choose you should bear n mind that you’ll be stuck with it.

I would suggest you consider a top bar hive, if you’re just starting. They offer a more natural type of hive and have the advantage that you harvest the honey as comb, meaning you don’t need an extractor. The honey harvest is not as great as from a Langstroth, but if you’re only aiming to produce enough for yourself, with perhaps some to give away to friends, a top bar hive will probably produce more than enough.


There’s almost no limit to the amount of beekeeping equipment you can buy to set yourself up, but there’s plenty of time for you to decide what you need, what you want later and what you’ll probably never need.

4 Responses to “Basic Beekeeping Equipment”

  • Kalah

    I would really like to start my own. Is it super difficult to start? and is it ideal for NE?

    • Geoff

      Hi Kalah I assume by “NE” you mean Nebraska. There are certainly beekeepers in Nebraska (Just search for Nebraska in the search box above), so I’ll say “Yes”.

      I’m sure you’ll have many questions, so check out Google Helpouts or click on the button at the top right hand corner of this page.

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