What to use
An all-encompassing resource for basic beekeeping supplies
*Unless otherwise noted, our beekeeping supplies came from Dadant & Sons (dadant.com or 217/847-3324). We also recommend Mann Lake Ltd. (http://www.americanbeejournal.com/mannlake ltd.com or 800/880-7694) for beekeeping equipment. Prices do not include shipping.
2 MASTER POLLiNATOR KITS
Each kit ($310 each) includes:
1 telescoping outer cover with galvanized metal top and an inner cover The inner cover helps insulate the box. The outer cover provides weather protection. Used together, they prevent the bees from gluing the hive shut with propolis (a sticky substance they collect from plants to bond parts of the hive) and wax.
2 hive bodies These are the “brood” boxes, deep boxes that the bees fill with brood (bee larvae), honey, and pollen. Each box has 10 frames loaded with Plasticell foundation (a thin sheet of plastic molded into hexagonal cells and coated with beeswax to make it easier for the bees to build the honeycomb).
1 bottom board We did not use this, preferring the “Country Rubes” bottom board, which helps you screen for mites.
1 metal hive tool This 10-inch-long tool is used to pry apart frames and to scrape off propolis and extra comb. 1 bee brush A gentle sweep with this brush removes bees from the surfaces of combs and frames.
1 smoker A small metal can with bellows that puff smoke when the fuel inside is lit. Smoke calms the bees, making working in the hive easier for the beekeeper.
2 pounds smoker fuel We have had the best luck with KwikStart Smoker pellets (about $8 for 100) and cotton fuel (about $2) from Mann Lake Ltd. We have also used eucalyptus leaves, dead grass, pine needles— anything that will provide long-lasting, cool smoke.
1 entrance feeder Warned that these encourage robbing by intruder bees, we made our own feeders .
1 zipper veil suit We chose large, to fit the largest member of Team Bee, but it became hazardous to the smallest members of our team, because the loose pant legs allowed bees to crawl into the suit. We ultimately bought suits that fit Team Bee regulars.
1 plastic helmet and veil that zips to the suit A zipped-on veil keeps bees from sneaking under the helmet.
1 pair leather beekeeping gloves The gloves come in small, medium, large, and extra large. Most of the women on Team Bee found small to be the best size.
2 books These guides proved invaluable: The Hive and the Honey Bee, edited by Joe M. Graham (Dadant & Sons, 1992); and First Lessons in Beekeeping, by Keith S. Delaplane (Dadant & Sons, 2007).
A year’s subscription to the American Bee Journal
1 medications brochure We found sound advice for dealing with bee diseases and problems in these pages.
NOT INCLUDED IN THE KIT
2 queen excluders, one for each hive An excluder is a screen with a mesh small enough to prevent the queen (larger than the rest of the bees) from crawling up into the “honey super” (a box designated for honey collection) and laying eggs there. About $11.50 each.
2 “Country Rubes” bottom boards, one for each hive A bottom board is a small box on which the hive rests. Designed to help manage varroa mites (see Pest Control, page 43), it has an open, screened bottom and a removable plastic board. $39 each from www.country rubes.com.
2 honey supers (unassembled), one for each hive A honey super is a box that is smaller than the brood box and is set on top of it. It is normally used with a queen excluder to get clean honey. Each measures 6 5/8 inches tall, with frames. $22.75 each.
20 Plasticell foundations Plastic sheets, 51/2 inches by 16 3/4 inches, used for filling the frames in the supers. About $0.75 each.
2 drone frames, one for each hive These are used to combat varroa mites (see Pest Control, page 43). $3 each. 3 vented helmets Much more comfortable than the plastic helmets from Dadant. A helmet paired with a round veil (see below)—plus a white, long-sleeved shirt, light-colored pants, and closed shoes—works fine as a basic beekeeping outfit, with gloves for heavy or prolonged work or for days when the bees are grumpy. About $14 each from Mann Lake Ltd.
3 round veils with string tie-ons These are not quite as secure as zip-on veils, but they are fine for working with gentle bees like ours, and you can put them on faster. About $12 each from Mann Lake Ltd.
You can get bees three ways:
Packaged bees and caged queen It takes time to build up the colony this way, but it’s the least-expensive choice. You can usually order packaged bees through your local beekeepers’ guild. Preorder as early as the fall and certainly no later than early spring, as bees are only available for a short time in spring. About $65.
Nuc (short for “nucleus”) A nuc is a young hive, usually covering no more than 5 frames of comb, with a newly laying queen. Starting this way helps you get a jump on honey production. Buy from a reputable beekeeper to avoid getting diseased equipment or sick bees. We ordered two nucs from master beekeeper
Randy Oliver and drove to his location in Grass Valley, California, to pick them up. $90 for each nuc, queen included; scientificbeekeeping.com.
Well-established swarms or colonies Large colonies can be daunting if you’ve never kept bees before, and beginning beekeepers shouldn’t try to capture a swarm. Leave that to a more experienced beekeeper (contact your local beekeepers’ guild to find such a person), and perhaps he or she will help you start a hive with the captured swarm.
2 hive stands, one for each hive The stands raise the hives off the ground. Made from scrap two-by-fours, each is 161/4 inches wide, 20 inches long, and 1 foot tall and has an open top. We painted our stands with white latex paint.
8 sturdy square plastic food containers 32-ounce size. About $4 for 4 containers at a grocery store.
Terro ant bait About $7 for a package of 3 units at a nurs- ery, garden center, or hardware store.
Apiguard For treating varroa mites. About $31 (enough for 10 individual treatments).
Formic acid Also for treating varroa mites. About $40 (enough for 10 treatments) from Mann Lake Ltd.
2 feeder tops, one for each hive These boards hold upended jars that dispense sugar syrup down into the hive to feed the bees. To make a board, trim a thin piece of plywood to fit on top of the hive. Then cut a hole with a diameter slightly smaller than that of the feeder jar lid (see below). Put the board on top of the hive. Set a filled jar over the hole, lid down, so that it completely covers the opening.
2 (1-quart) glass jars and lids Punch several small holes in each lid with a nail to create feeder lids, fill the jars with sugar syrup, and then screw the lids on the jars. Any large clean glass jar will do.
10 cups (about 41/2 pounds) granulated sugar You need this sugar to make the sugar syrup for the feeder jars. About $7.50 for a 5-pound bag at a grocery store.
Powdered sugar Used to control mites. You will need 1 cup per brood box per hive per week for as long as you are dusting for mites (see Pest Control, page 43). About $2 for 2 pounds at a grocery store.
Wooden spoons About $2 each at a cookware store. Bench scraper Also known as a pastry scraper. From $8 online or at a cookware store.
Large glass bowl About $9 online or at a cookware store.
Cheesecloth About $4.50 for 2 square yards at a hardware store or cookware store.
Large stainless-steel strainer About $25 for a good sturdy one (we like OXO brand) at a cookware store.
Honey jars and lids About $9 per 24-count box of 3-ounce hexagonal jars and about $6 per 12-count box of 6-ounce hexagonal jars from Mann Lake Ltd. (We used 5 boxes of the small jars and 2 boxes of the larger jars to bottle 31 pounds of honey.)
5-gallon food-grade plastic bucket with 11/2-inch honey gate Bubbles and foam rise to the surface and the pure honey settles to the bottom, where it can be drawn from the honey gate (a kind of faucet). About $19 from Mann Lake Ltd.
GENERAL WEB SITES
WEB SITES ABOUT CONTROLLING VARROA MITES
BOOKS AND PUBLICATIONS
- The Hive and the Honey Bee, edited by Joe M. Graham (Dadant & Sons, 1992)
- First Lessons in Beekeeping, by Keith S. Delaplane (Dadant & Sons, 2007).
- The Backyard Beekeeper, by Kim Flottum (Quarry Publishing Group, 2010).
- American Bee Journal, $24.95 per year (monthly publication); 51 South 2nd Street, Hamilton, IL 62341, 217/847-3324.
- Bee Culture: The Magazine of American Beekeep- ing, $25 per year (monthly publication); 623 West Liberty Street, Medina, OH 44256, 800/289-7668.