The easiest way to get everything you need is to get yourself a beekeeper starter kit. These are, as they sound, prepackaged bundles that contain the basic equipment or supplies you need to start your own hive. I’m going to show you my personal picks, but first here’s a lesson in starter kits.
What to Look for in a Beekeeping Starter Kit
Beekeeping starter kits are meant to make it easy to set up your beginner hive. They will also remove the hassle of purchasing individual components. A bonus is that, more often than not, setting up this way is more affordable.
Regardless, there are a few considerations you should keep in mind before you purchase one. Starter kits aren’t made equally, and depending on the manufacturer, you could get more (or even less) than you bargained for. So let’s look at the most important factor in all of this: what should a beekeeping starter kit contain?
Components of a Beekeeping Starter Kit
Regardless of the make, there are a few basics you shouldn’t do without. Most beekeeping starter kits will have them covered, but you should double-check. It’s not the end of the world if a starter kit is missing one or two of these; it just means you’ll have to find them elsewhere.
If you’re willing to shop around, and perhaps spend a little bit more to compensate for what’s missing then you won’t have a problem. Still, it’s better to buy a complete starter kit, especially if you’re a total newbie.
Typically, beekeeping starter kits include:
- A hive kit: This is where your bees will live. Starter kit hives usually have 8-10 frames.
- A bee smoker: Used to calm bees. Bee smokers disrupt their pheromones, so beekeepers can go into hives with a lessened risk of being stung.
- A hive tool: You can use this to maintain and inspect your hive.
- A telescoping cover, inner cover, and entrance reducer: Think of covers as roofs for your hive. Entrance reducers help to ensure that rodents and other invaders can’t access your hive.
- Protective gear: At the very least, starter kits should include a veil and gloves.
- An instruction manual: Some manufacturers will throw in a handy book for you to learn from and refer to.
Considerations When Choosing a Beekeeping Starter Kit
You really shouldn’t buy the first starter kit you see. You might find that what’s inside it doesn’t suit you, or that it’s not good enough for beekeeping. Since your beekeeping starter kit is to get your hive going, you don’t want to get off on the wrong foot.
Some starter kits will come with extras that may not be necessary for you personally. Others could be produced from cheaper or incorrect materials. Know what to look out for.
When shopping around for a starter kit, you’ll have a choice of materials. Traditionally, beehives are made of wood, but synthetic material is on the rise.
Each material that’s available to you will have its pros and cons. Plastic hives, for example, are quite durable and don’t require maintenance. They won’t rot, sweat, splinter, or develop mildew. There is no setup required when building, and are safest from wax moths and other predators.
Problems with plastic include warping in the heat, and limited use of standard beekeeping tools. There is also a risk of your bees rejecting plastic. If your hive becomes infected, plastic cannot be burned. Lastly, it’s non-biodegradable and therefore not an environmentally-friendly choice.
Wood is preferred by beekeepers, as it’s the most natural option. Bees take to it easily and without fuss on your part. Since it’s the standard of beekeeping, it’s easy to come across and is usually affordable.
Still, wood has its drawbacks too. Wood degrades over time and is vulnerable to weather damage, splintering, warping, and collapsing. Wax moths can chew their way in. Another complaint when it comes to wood is the time you’ll have to invest in assembly.
You could also go for synthetic wood hives, which are a blend of plastic and wood fibers, designed to be biodegradable. They have all the benefits of plastic hives, with the simplicity of wooden ones. They’re growing in popularity, but aren’t exactly the norm yet. This means that they could be tricky to find, and costly to buy.
If you’re considering buying a beekeeping starter kit, you’re probably ready and eager to jump right in. Before you do, you have to make sure that you’re actually allowed to keep bees.
In the United States, the federal government imposes no beekeeping regulations on civilians. The exception to this is control over which bees are imported into the country. In place of this, beekeeping is regulated by your state.
Unfortunately, this means that there is no master rulebook you can follow. You’ll have to look into it depending on your location, local laws, and state-level legislature.
Some beekeeping starter kits will have extra components that you might not need. For example, some will offer bee smoker fuel, others won’t. Some include bee brushes to help you get bees off of your body, clothes, or beekeeper suit. Perhaps your beekeeping starter kit will contain a hive stand—something nice, but entirely unnecessary.
As you gain experience in beekeeping, you will come to realize what’s useful (for you) and what you can do without. Don’t be tricked into buying bigger, flashier beekeeping starter kits, just because they have more elements.
All you need are the basics listed above. While some extras can make a difference, they may not be necessary when you’re just starting out. Less really could be more here.
Once you’ve settled on what you’re looking for, shopping for a starter kit will be so much simpler. It’s well worthwhile putting in the research now, so that you don’t make a mistake and buy a starter kit that won’t suit your beekeeping goals.
At the end of the day, when you’re starting out, there is room to experiment and learn. Here are some of my favorites. I think you’ll like them too.
Best Prepackaged Beekeeping Starter Kits
Prepackaged beekeeping starter kits are the easiest and fastest way to get yourself up and running as a beekeeper. You might find that over time you’ll want to collect more (or different) tools.
These starter kits eliminate the struggle of shopping for individual pieces in the beginning. They’ll save you time, money and effort.
This Mann Lake product is, in my humble opinion, the best starter kit you can find. It’s a high-quality, well-thought-out kit that will jumpstart your beekeeping, no matter your skill level. Each component in this kit is made in the USA. What stands out is that it comes preassembled, so you won’t have to wrack your brain setting it up.
This kit includes a 9.625-inch assembled hive, with 10 assembled wood frames. You also get a waxed foundation, a painted bottom board, and an entrance reducer, as well as a telescoping cover and inner cover.
For safety, leather gloves and a veil are included. Other tools include a hive tool, smoker (with guard), and a book, “Starting Right With Bees.”
The Mann Lake starter kit is an excellent choice for absolute beginners. It’s brought to us by a leading and trusted manufacturer in the industry. The design of this kit is top-notch and goes above and beyond in creating a suitable environment for healthy bees.
I like that this starter kit gives you a taste of traditional beekeeping. The interior has more space than you’d expect, which is great for airflow and temperature control. Most importantly, you will save a lot of time (and stress) because you don’t have to build it yourself.
- It’s preassembled
- Some parts are pre-painted
- 10 frames are included
- You get all the basics
- The book you get with this one is really useful
- Mann Lake is one of the best brands in beekeeping
- It’s excellent in both quality and design
- The hive can withstand extreme weather and won’t deteriorate as quickly in rain or sunshine
- It’s spacious, ideal for hive control, colony expansion, and your own growth as a beekeeper
- It’s the smartest choice for beginners
- You have to invest in other hive components (feeders, for example) separately
- If you want bigger hives you’ll have to buy, and possibly build, more hive boxes yourself.
This starter kit is marketed as a beginner’s starting point, but it’s good enough for professionals too. It’s made of excellent quality materials and isn’t lacking in components. In fact, you get some handy extras in this one.
The Little Giant kit includes 10 frames and a foundation, both of which are preinstalled. You get gloves and a veil for safety, a hive tool, and a smoker. Extras include smoker fuel, a bee brush, a frame feeder, and a handy book, “Beekeeping for Dummies.”
It seems that this kit has everything you need and more. It’s perfect for serious beekeepers who don’t want to spend extra time gathering each piece. It might not be the easiest starter kit to grasp, but it’s still a top-quality choice.
- It’s a great choice for both beginners and seasoned beekeepers
- It has a lot of space for colony growth
- It contains all of the basics as well as useful extras, like a feeder and a bee brush
- It’s not preassembled
- Parts are made by different suppliers, which could pose a problem later if they need to be replaced
Here is another one that is great for all skill levels in beekeeping. Although they’re not as well known as bigger brands, the Magnificent Bee is well on its way to becoming a standard.
This starter kit includes a smoker, uncapping fork tool, frame grip, extracting scraper, bee brush, and feeder tool.
The kit is strong, made from wood, plastic, and stainless steel. It’s designed to be durable. All of the materials are of excellent quality. To further prove this, there’s a 100 percent satisfaction guarantee.
The Magnificent Bee has focused on convenience and ease of use. You get all of the basics, it’s made to be lightweight, portable, and simple to use, carry, and stow.
- The tools included in this kit are great for beekeepers of all experience levels
- Made from good quality stainless steel, wood, and plastic
- It contains all the basic tools you need to efficiently manage a hive
- The tools are lightweight, portable and conveniently sized
- This kit includes tools only—you will have to buy and set up the hives yourself
- Safety gear is not included
Best Beehives for Beginners
As you can see with the Supplies starter kit above, sometimes starter kits won’t include essentials, like beehives. These are good if you’d rather have more control on the size, quality, or materials of your hive. If that’s the case, take a look at my favorite beehives.
To start off, you don’t want to bite off more than you can chew. This Busy Bee’s -n- More set is perfectly sized for beginners. The quality is fantastic, especially considering that these boxes are handcrafted.
Both the box and frames are made with superior pine. Although assembly is required, it’s pre-cut and easy to put together, with glue included. They’re also made by Amish craftsmen in the USA.
This kit includes 16 brood frames (9.56 inches by 19 inches) and eight super frames (6.625 inches by 19 inches). You also get 24 plastic foundations, a telescopic cover, inner cover, and bottom board.
- It’s an ideal size for beginner beekeepers or starter hives
- Wood pieces are made of pine (the preferred material in wooden hives)
- All the basic components of a hive are included
- Pieces are pre-cut for ease of assembly
- Assembly is required, although clear instructions are included
- Only glue included for assembly, nails or screws need to be purchased
If you’re looking for more of a challenge, consider this 20-frame complete kit from Honey Keeper. It’s designed to keep you busy (without overwhelming you). This one is great if you’re ready for a bigger hive.
You get a 20-frame hive (10 deep, 10 medium), and two super frames, one deep and one medium. It includes a bottom board, entrance reducer, inner cover, and a queen excluder. There’s also a preassembled telescoping roof.
The foundation is made from unwaxed fir wood, and the frames are made with white pine. Assembly is required, but it’s made easy. Honey Keeper even throws in the heavy-duty nails you need to set it up.
- A complete kit with all the essentials included
- Great for beekeepers who want bigger hives than the standard beginner
- Frames are made from excellent quality pine wood
- Heavy duty nails are included to make assembly a breeze
- Assembly is required
- It might not be suitable for absolute beginners, who will probably find eight or 10-frame hives easier
This is an excellent choice if honey collection is one of your priorities or goals. As above, it’s got 20 frames, so it gives you more than enough to work with. They’re constructed with strong, high-grade materials. This hive is designed to maximize hive health.
It includes 10 deep frames, 10 medium frames, and an unwaxed hexagonal foundation. You get a telescoping roof made from galvanized metal too. It also comes with an entrance reducer and a bottom board.
Additionally, this kit includes a queen excluder and inner cover. It’s a traditional Langstroth-style beehive box.
- Excellent hive for honey production
- Designed to maximize hive health
- This truly is a complete set, with every piece of essential equipment you need
- It’s got 20 frames—a great beginners’ choice if you’re looking for more of a challenge
- Assembly is required and might prove difficult, since it lacks an instruction manual
Best Beekeeper Suits for Beginners
You’ve had a look at starter kits, beehive kits, and even a beekeeper toolkit. You don’t want to put any of those to use if you are unprotected. Newsflash—bee stings hurt—a lot. If you want to decrease the risk of experiencing that agony, you have to get a beekeeper suit.
They don’t only protect you from direct stings. They prevent bees from crawling into your clothing (and stinging you later). If worn correctly, they also assist in keeping bees calm while you work. I recommend the following suits.
Natural Apiary makes great quality, stylish beekeeping suits. They’re good for beginner and seasoned beekeepers alike. They’re also affordable and have come to be a favorite among amateur beekeepers.
This suit is made from a mix of cotton and polyester. It’s a fully zippered suit, with a hood (or fencing) veil included. It has velcro fastenings for extra security around your wrists and ankles.
Natural Apiary has an excellent reputation. Still, there are some considerations when looking at this suit. For one, it’s not as breathable as a mesh suit will be, so you might get hot in the suit.
Although this manufacturer has various designs, darker or patterned suits are not recommended. The quality is the same, but bees are easily aggravated by darker colors. Stick to the plain white, it’s safest.
- This is an affordable option in which quality isn’t compromised
- A preferred hood veil is included
- The zippers are hassle free
- It has handy pockets
- The bodysuit is machine washable
- Since it’s made from mixed materials it’s not 100 percent sting proof (although, no suits truly are)
- It’s not as breathable as other suits
- Pay attention to sizing; it could be inaccurate
- It also comes in dark colors, which is a rookie mistake in beekeeping
This may not be a top-quality suit, but it’s still efficient at protecting you from stings. It’s a fine choice if you’re a beginner, or if you find full suits to be uncomfortable. It’s also an affordable option if you’re willing to forego full protection.
It’s made from a lightweight fabric that is breathable and effective at keeping you cool. The round hood is excellent for full vision while beekeeping, and it’s attached to the jacket with a zipper.
It also has a large pocket in front, which could prove to be useful for smaller tools. The wrists are elastic for extra security and tightness. A drawback is that you can only wash this by hand.
- It’s much cooler and more comfortable than a full body suit
- A round hood is included
- It’s a money saver
- It’s tight around the wrists for safety
- It’s not a full suit, so only your upper body is protected
- Not machine washable
What Other Equipment Might You Need When Starting Beekeeping?
Beekeeping starter kits are great for absolute beginners because they contain what you need to get started. You don’t need previous experience to set them up or utilize them. All you need is some dedication and a willingness to research what you should be doing.
This means that they’re the best solution if you want a quick start in beekeeping. What happens afterward, when you find you want to continue beekeeping? These starter kits aren’t designed to assist you beyond square one.
There’s more you could invest in, and if you want to be a serious beekeeper, you’ll need the following when your hive grows.
Beekeeping starter kits are limited in their protective gear. Most of them will only supply veils and gloves, as you can see in my recommendations above. I’ve already covered a few full-body suits, but even these don’t protect your feet.
Rubber safety boots are your best bet. They protect your feet from stings, and your suit will fit comfortably inside them. It’s best to cover yourself from head to toe, otherwise, you’re still at risk.
Some starter kits will include a feeder, but if your selection doesn’t, you should invest in one separately. Feeders are used to help your hive when your bees struggle in collecting their own resources.
It could be a lifesaver and will be worth your money and time.
A Queen Excluder
Just in case the starter kit doesn’t have an excluder in the pack, I’ve listed it here. You can’t go without this if you’re looking to harvest honey.
Queen excluders are so named because they prevent your queen bee from laying eggs in your honey frames.
Supers and Extractors
As above, if you want to take up beekeeping for honey, you need honey supers. They’re the main component in collecting honey. You place them right above the excluder, and you can think of them as walls that collect surplus honey.
Extractors are self-explanatory. You use them to pull your honey supply out. These are only necessary if you are managing a large hive or heavy honey production.
An Uncapping Knife
Collecting honey will be an effort without this tool. We use this to remove wax so that we can access the honey cells beneath it.
Again, this is only a priority if you want to produce honey. Regardless, it’s one of the handier tools you won’t want to be without.
A Bee Brush
Again, I have already covered this, but not every starter kit will give you one. Bee brushes are useful because they gently remove bees from your suit.
Sure, you don’t need one, but it’ll be better for you and your bees if you have one around.
I know that bees aren’t equipment, so to speak, but I’ve heard stories of people who think that bees come with starter kits. Imagine that!
While it would make starter kits more interesting, I don’t think shipping live bees from the internet as part of a kit is a fantastic idea. You’ll have to acquire your bees separately (and legally, but that should go without saying).
There are two common methods of acquisition. Package bees have a queen, workers, and a feeder to start off with. Nucleus hives (or nucs) are half-sized colonies. You’ll receive comb, workers, a queen, and brood.
Package bees are safer. Nucs have more of a risk of carrying disease because of the honeycomb.
In either case, contact your local beekeeper or beekeeping association for information on how to order healthy bees.
When Should You Think About Upgrading Your Starter Kit?
Starter kits are meant to be just that—starters. They’re supposed to give you a foundation to build on, but they won’t last for your entire beekeeping journey. How can you tell when you’ve outgrown your starter kit, and where do you go from there?
There are a few tell-tale signs that you should move away from the basics your starter kit can offer.
If, at any time, you realize that the tools supplied aren’t efficient enough, don’t hesitate to build onto your starter kit. For example, if it’s missing a bee brush and you feel that you need one, invest in one. The same applies to feeders, queen excluders, entrance reducers, and all the extras you can think of.
You might also find that your reason for getting a starter kit no longer supports your goal as a beekeeper. Say you began beekeeping because you enjoy observing bees, but now wish to produce your own honey. If your starter kit didn’t set you up for honey production, you are at full liberty to move away from it.
Your bees can also tell you when it’s time to grow. Your hive has to support your bees. If your colony outgrows the starter boxes it began in, you have to make a plan to upscale. If you don’t, your bees will suffer.
If they have too little space they could start swarming, and might even completely abandon the hive you’ve provided for them. It’s better to prevent this by monitoring your colony. If you can tell that they are running out of space, you should get more boxes before your colony falls apart.
You should also make an effort to monitor your own habits. The more time you spend beekeeping, the more you will become aware of your own shortcomings, struggles, or problems.
If your starter kit simply isn’t adding to your experience or solving any problems you have, there is an array of tools and methods available to you that might help. Don’t be afraid to take the next step, by choosing the ones you like, need, or just want to try your hand at.
It’s always recommended that you upgrade your safety gear. Starter kits don’t usually give you full suits. Investing in one will be life-changing. Trust me, it’s well worth the extra money.
Don’t feel obligated to make do with the safety equipment you got with your starter kit. If you find that you’re getting stung often, or that your veil and gloves aren’t strong enough, upgrade them.
Lastly, it might sound obvious, but if your starter kit is faulty, don’t keep it. If it succumbs to time and shows obvious signs of wear and tear, you’ll have to either repair or replace it.
The key here is to keep in mind that you don’t have to commit to one brand, style, or method in beekeeping. Experiment and find your own feet. When it’s time to upgrade your starter kit, why don’t you try something new? You never know what will come of it.
Starter kits are an excellent and affordable way to enter the world of beekeeping. They’re put together so that even the most inexperienced beekeeper can have a setup that they understand and can easily work with.
If you’re interested in beekeeping, but unsure of where to begin, consider investing in one of the great beekeeping starter kits we reviewed. You’ll have everything you need to get up and running. Except for your bees, of course, which you’ll have to acquire separately.