If you’re new to beekeeping, shopping for equipment can be a little off-putting. Should you get deep or medium brood hives? What about a honey super? Solid or screened bottom boards? With all the options, brands and terminology, you might find yourself doubting if this whole beekeeping thing is worth it. Well, we’re not only here to convince you that it is, but to give you a bit of guidance along the way. Eventually you’ll be able to answer all these questions on your own, but in the mean time, we’re here to help you get the ball rolling.
The quickest way to get up and running with your first beehive is to buy a beekeeping starter kit. As most kits include everything from a brood box to a smoker, you won’t have to worry about gathering up all the essentials. That being said, there are quite a few options out there, with varying features and included supplies. So, as any friendly beekeeper would do, we’ve looked through each one to assess their price, what they include, and what people have to say about them. Here’s our top three!
(Note: This selection isn’t ranked in any particular order. Each kit has its own benefits, which we’ll make clear in the accompanying descriptions.)
1. Mann Lake 10 Frame Beehive Kit
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Mann Lake’s beekeeping starter kit made it on our list. They’ve been in the beekeeping business for over 30 years and clearly take pride in what they do.
What really makes this kit stand out from the crowd is that all its parts come fully assembled. This is a huge benefit for a first-time beekeeper, as assembly requires additional tools and at least some hands-on experience working with the various parts of a hive.
This beekeeping starter kit includes a single deep hive body (9¼”), complete with 10 frames containing waxed RiteCell® foundation. It also comes with pretty much everything you need to start your hive: a bottom board, telescoping cover, veil, smoker, leather gloves, and a handy beekeeping guide.
The only concern with have with this kit is its size. As it only includes a single brood box, you’ll eventually need to purchase a second for your bees to expand, as well as super for your honey. However, your bees will have plenty of room to work with for the first few months, and it’s usually not expected to see any honey production until after the first year (especially for a brand-new hive).
2. BuildaBeeHive Delux 10 Frame
If you’re the type that likes to plan a head, this beekeeping starter kit from BuildaBeeHive might be a better alternative. Instead of a single deep brood box, this kit comes with two medium supers to give your bees room to expand.
For the most part, deciding between medium or deep brood boxes is just a matter of preference. While mediums do have less square footage, they can be considerably easier to carry. They also make life easier when it comes to adding a honey super, as most veteran beekeepers will recommend using a medium in this case. Having the same size supers for your brood and honey means you’ll be able to freely interchange the frames.
This kit also comes with two additional pieces that the Mann Lake kit doesn’t include: smoker fuel and an entrance feeder. The smoker fuel is pretty self explanatory, and is something that is easy enough to come by. The entrance feeder, on the other hand, is something you’ll definitely want to pick up if the kit you purchase fails to include one. This simple device will keep your bees fed when nectar is running low. While not quite as versatile as a hive-top bee feeder, entrance feeders are a lot easier to use, making them great for first time beekeepers.
3. Honeybee Headquarters Beekeeping Starter Kit
Coming in at #3 is Honeybee Headquarters’ hive kit. While a little more on the pricier side, this kit includes three boxes in total, ensuring you have ample room to grow your hive. The third box—a medium 10-frame super—is what really makes this kit the full package. When the time comes, this super is what you’re bees will use to store honey (which we all know is one of the main reasons you took up this hobby!)
What makes this kit particularly great for beginner beekeepers is that it includes a full jacket with veil. While most veteran beekeepers won’t bother with a jacket, wearing one can go a long way in easing your nerves.
One thing we did notice was missing from this kit—considering it includes a honey super—is a queen excluder. This metal or plastic rack features gaps that are large enough for your worker bees to pass through while restricting your queen bee. When placed between the middle and top super, it prevents your top frames from being used to lay eggs, giving them the sole purpose of storing honey. We’d recommend picking one up at some point—they’re very useful.
Runner-up: BuildaBeeHive 8-Frame Starter Kit
Let us first mention that Buildabeehive has quite a few options as far as kits go. Since we did this list to help narrow down your decision, we chose not to include all of them here. However, there is one other starter kit they provide that isn’t quite like the rest we’ve covered. Whereas the above kits all include 10-frame boxes, this kit offers an 8-frame alternative. The main benefit here is going to be the reduced weight. A medium 8-frame box will average about 20 percent lighter than its 10-frame counterpart, making is much easier to carry. Some beekeepers will also suggest that 8-frame hives grow faster, as bees have a tendency to build upwards rather than outwards. With the second brood box that this kit includes, you might find your colony matures more quickly.