Everything You Need to Start a Backyard Beehive
The world honey bee population is dwindling, so if you aspire to be a backyard beekeeper, now's the time. Here's what you need to get started.🐝
Bee Hive Box Kit
A good-quality bee hive box kit that allows bees to thrive and create lots of amber-colored goodness is a must for any new beekeeper. Get one that protects your precious honey bees from the elements. Keep it from high-traffic areas too, like swing sets and patios. Like you and me, bees appreciate privacy, so tuck the hive behind a screen or greenery. Set up a saucer of water in close proximity to the hive to keep your little guys hydrated.
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Stainless Steel Smoker
You can't have a beehive without a smoker. They're like peanut butter and jelly; they just go together. A smoker confuses bees a bit, keeping them from sending out red-alert signals to every other bee in the hive. The puffs of smoke also make bees think the hive is on fire, so they eat as much honey as they can and basically fall into a food coma. At this point, the bees are full, chill and have little desire to sting you, much less move, giving you time to inspect the hive and harvest honey. Don't forget smoker pellets.
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Beekeeping Suit & Veil
You may be fearless when it comes to bees, but you'll still want to invest in a proper beekeeping suit and head covering to keep from exposing skin to your bees. Even with a smoker, there may be a bee or two in the hive that are less than excited about your presence. Get one that's comfortable and well-ventilated, enabling you to care for your bees all summer long.
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Interestingly, most beekeeping suits don't include beekeeping gloves. These are a must, even if they need to be purchased separately. Spring for a pair of durable gloves that are not going to tear or allow bees to make their way into your suit while you're tending to the hive. These leather beekeeping gloves have sting-proof cuffs, making it near impossible for your honey bees to zap you while you're harvesting honey.
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Starter Tool Kit
Every new beekeeper needs a good-quality starter kit of tools to take care of the bees and hive. One tool you won't be able to live without is the "hive tool." It's a multi-functional tool that lets you pry open the hive and remove bee hive frames, cut open honeycomb and destroy intruders, like hive beetles. A soft bee brush lets you gently remove bees from the frames and parts of the hive that require bee-free attention.
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Queen Bee Cage Catcher
Another must-have tool is a durable clip to catch and cage the queen bee. Basically, you want to mark and cage the queen while you are working with the hive. (You can also buy pre-marked queen bees.) You'll need to find and remove the queen bee if you need to replace her with another queen bee. (It happens.) You can't have two or they will battle to the death. You'll also need a catcher when your hive has grown so much that you need to split the hive and move her to grow and cultivate a second hive.
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A honey refractometer is one more tool you'll want to have in your arsenal. This high-tech gadget measures the moisture in the honey. Essentially, it gives you a good read as to the best time to harvest your honey. Harvest too soon and excess moisture will make your honey go bad, letting all your hard work go to waste.
Buy It: Amazon, $25
Hive Alive Bee Feed
Honey bees typically seek out nectar from flowers on warm sunny days. Sugar water works well as an alternative, too. Then there's store-bought bee feed, a power-packed supplemental food source that helps maximize winter survival and beef up the colonies in the spring. It's also a good go-to food source in a wet spring since bees don't much care for flying in the rain.
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Once you've painstakingly cared for your bees and hive, reap your rewards with the help of a honey extractor, which removes honey without breaking the honey combs. Insert one or two frames from the hive into the honey extractor, then give it a spin. Centrifugal force strips the honey from the frames. Since bees love honey, do this inside. They'll be a real nuisance if you do this outside near the hive.
Buy It: Amazon, $135.99
Honey Jar & Spoon
Once you've gathered your honey, it's time to party, or at the very least display and share your sweet riches with friends and family. Set out your honey in a beautiful hand-blown glass jar that encourages guests to spoon as much as they like into their cup of tea. No ordinary honey pot will do, and this one will impress. Winnie the Pooh will be especially proud and eager for a scoop of your deliciously tempting honey.
Buy It: Amazon, $42.99