Now let’s get into the clothing and equipment that you’ll need to handle your bees.
Begin with the basics of beekeeping clothing. Always have a veil for your face and wear clothing that will protect you from stings. Many styles of full beekeeping suits or beekeeping jackets are available for purchase from beekeeping supply companies. These may be best for the beginner. The average cost for these can range anywhere from $75 to $170. Overall, stick to white or light colors and a loose-fitting jacket or suit. Some beekeepers forgo gloves in order to manipulate the inside of the hive better, although for a beginner this is generally not recommended.
You will want to wear clothing both that will both protect you and that you don’t mind getting stained. Bees will produce waste that shows up as yellowish marks on your clothing, so you don’t want to be wearing your finest outfit. Protect your wrists and ankles. Tuck your pants into your socks and your shirtsleeves into your gloves. Wrap both your wrists and ankles with some type of band to secure your clothing in place.
Periodically wash your beekeeping clothing. Bees release a pheromone when they sting to alert other bees of an attacker. By wearing previously stung clothing, you are basically begging to be stung!
More experienced beekeepers (or those with thick skin) may not even need gloves!
Beekeeping Supplies & Equipment
Besides the hives (which we’ll discuss in the next article), there are three basic supplies you will always want to have when handling bees:
Smoker: Smoke, if used properly and not excessively, will help to calm bees. A small smoker is fine for a couple of hives. If you have 4 or more hives in your apiary, you may want a larger one. You want to produce cool white smoke. To do so, you can purchase smoker fuel or use dry pine needles in your smoker.
Hive tool: This is a device that is used like a lever to loosen frames and boxes. Most beekeepers have more than one hive tool.
Frame Grips: Frame grips are metal pincher devices used by many new beekeepers. They make it easier to remove frames from the hive with one hand. A useful tool to consider.
A hive tool, used to pry apart the frames of a hive. Photo by Robert Engelhardt/Wikimedia.
Where to Find Beekeeping Supplies & Equipment
Local suppliers of beekeeping equipment may be listed in the yellow pages of your telephone directory. Otherwise, you can contact the large, national beekeeping supply companies and request a catalog containing their equipment and prices. A quick search online will yield suppliers, too.
Here are some recommended beekeeping suppliers:
Dadant & Sons, Inc., 51 S. 2nd Street, Hamilton, IL 62341 [(217) 847-3324]; Dadant.com
Mann Lake Ltd., 501 S. 1st Street, Hackensack, MN 56452 [(800) 233-6663]; MannLakeLtd.com