For novice beekeepers especially.
The questions keep coming, as is normal this time of year, about how to go about getting beekeeping equipment, what type of hive to get, and what do I think of acquiring used equipment. So in this post I’ll talk about proper equipment and what I think of new equipment vs. used.
New equipment – battle tested
By far the best hive equipment you can get is from an established beekeeping supply company that has been supplying the beekeeping industry for years. The whole crux of beekeeping is being able to pick up and take out honeycomb so we can observe what’s happening in the hive. In this way, by observation, we can ascertain how to best serve the honeybees, to help then remain happy and healthy. Any equipment that is not made to match exactly how honey bees build, will prove to be useless.
Companies exist that have been making hives for years such as Dadant and Brushy Mountain. These are the two companies I get my Langstroth hive equipment from. It’s worth the investment.
Last year I picked up some supers handmade by an Amish gentlemen. The workmanship was superb. Although everything looked correct, the dimensions were off by literally a quarter of an inch. To the honey bees, close is not good enough, and I ended up with a mess. I augmented the design and made the supers work, but it was barely worth it.
Even though I paid nearly nothing for the equipment, once the bees start building outside of the frames you could end up with a beekeeper’s nightmare.
Save yourself the hassle. You can order from the two aforementioned companies, find another reputable company that has been in business for a while, or order directly from me.
New equipment – not battle tested
If you are thinking of getting equipment, either Langstroth or top-bar hives, from a place that has not been selling and testing the hives for years, then I suggest do not do it. The honey bees build their comb precisely, and we know what they need to guide them to build in a movable comb hive, like the Langstroth and top-bar.
Homemade beehives that look sort of like a Langstroth hive or a top-bar hive may be way off measurement-wise, and cause you a lot of heartache and extra work in the long run. Other types of hives more popular in Europe and other parts of the world, like the beehaus and WBC hives, may be fun, but also just as difficult to get replacement parts for.
Used equipment, like on Craigslist
Used equipment is always dangerous because of any diseases that may be inherent in the old boxes, frames and comb. If you don’t know the person you’re getting the old equipment from, then you really have no idea why the seller may be getting rid of their equipment, or why their bees died in the first place.
What you purchase used may also be grossly incomplete and may need more repair to them than might be worth doing. Repairs can take more time, as well as be more expensive, than buying the new equipment and assembling it yourself in the first place.
When in doubt, ask a local beekeeper for his or her advice!
And have fun!