I was very lucky when I found that the Susquehanna Beekeepers Association sponsored a “short course” in beekeeping at the local community college. I attended and the instructor is was great. When I looked at the beekeeping catalogs, I thought that I had to have all those things to get started. One great thing that the instructor did was let us know that all that stuff was not required. Since few beginning beekeepers get honey their first year, there is a much smaller amount of stuff that is required to get started.
Since the beginners toolbox post was well received, I decided to put together a post talking about some decisions I made as a new beekeeper and what equipment I ended up getting.
I’ll start off with the hive bodies. I had to decide on either 8-frame or 10-frame hives. The 8-frame hives are lighter when filled, but 10-frame equipment is the standard. Another decision is using 2 deep hive bodies or 3 medium hive bodies. I decided to go with 10-frame equipment since everything is readily available. I also decided to go with 3 medium hive bodies. Part of the reason for this is the weight of a full super. A full deep super weighs about 90 pounds, I don’t want to have to lift those. But my main reason I went with medium supers is to standardize my equipment. Old time beekeepers have deeps, mediums and shallows, they also have frames for each of these. I don’t have the space and don’t really want to deal with all that different equipment.
The hive boxes need to have frames in them. I was lucky to find that one of Susquehanna Beekeepers Association members had extra medium frames he wanted to sell. They were unused and he put a decent price on them. So I bought them. What I bought was pretty close to these standard wooden frames with foundation. The alternative to these are plastic frames with foundation or using frames without foundation. I really like the idea of using no foundation, but since this was my first year, I didn’t want to have the hassles of the bees building the comb where I didn’t want it. With foundation, the bees have a place to start.
The next decision was about the bottom board of the hive. While a hive does not require a bottom board, not having a bottom board leaves the entire bottom of the hive as an entrance. This makes it difficult for the bees to defend. Since I wanted a bottom board, I had to decide between a solid bottom board and a screened bottom board. The old timers mostly have solid bottom boards. But in recent years, screened bottom boards have entered the market. Screened bottom boards allow mites to fall through the screen when knocked off the bees. They also allow better ventilation to the hive. Because of these reasons, I went with a screened bottom board. My bottom board has a solid board that I can slide in. This gives the best of both types of bottom boards.
The last parts of the hive didn’t take much thought. An inner cover isn’t required, but it helps manage the bees. The main reason for the inner cover is to keep the bees from building a lot of burr comb on the lid of the hive. On the other hand, a cover is required to close off the top of the hive to the elements. There are some good looking covers available. The picture to the right is an English garden hive. I think this is a very good looking hive. But that top cover costs about $70. Since I wanted to start as cheaply as possible, I couldn’t do that. I went with a standard telescoping hive cover for about $20. The standard cover has a metal covering, so it provides the same protection as the garden hive cover does. It just doesn’t look as nice as the garden hive. I would have probably gone with a garden hive if I has to put my hives out where they are seen by many people. But I’m happy with my standard white hives.
That’s the main components of my hives and some of the reasons that I went with what I got. Any questions, feel free to ask.