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Beekeeping Equipment

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This topic contains 5 replies, has 4 voices, and was last updated by  Teri Hannigan 4 years, 1 month ago.

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    Rob McFarland

    Beekeeping Equipment

    Langstroth hives (often called Langs) are modular boxes containing 8 or 10 frames. Lang hive boxes come in three sizes—deep, medium, and shallow—and are designed to take advantage of bee space. Bee space is an idea put forth by many and patented by Reverend Lorenzo Langstroth; it posits that bees will not build comb in an area smaller than 1cm or 3/8 inch. Bees will build comb if the space is larger than 3/8 – 1/4 inches, and glue it together with propolis if smaller. If properly spaced, frames in a Langstroth hive allow for perfect bee space between combs. This allows the beekeeper to selectively manage the hive with minimal disruption.

    In order to help ensure that combs are nice and straight, conventional beekeepers use wax or plastic foundation in each frame. The idea is to provide the foundation from which the bees can draw their cells, which in theory saves the bees time and effort, limits the amount of drone comb and allows the comb to be reused after honey extraction. The drawback is that the wax used to make the foundation is contaminated with chemicals used to treat bees for pests and diseases. The alternative is to use starter strips which are wax-coated tongue depressors glued into the groove on the underside of the frame’s top bar. Starter strips serve as a comb guide, encouraging bees to build their combs within each frame. Watch how to make starter strips.

    I’m not afraid of bees so why do I have to wear a bee suit & veil?

    Being stung in the face is no fun at all. Stings elsewhere (i.e. on your hands) are tolerable, but stings to the face can be quite unpleasant. Bees are incredibly perceptive of compounds in the air and can detect the CO2 in our breath and zero-in on its source (Read: sting you in the kisser).

    Why do I need a smoker?

    Smokers are an essential tool when opening a bee hive. When bees sense smoke, they gorge themselves on honey in the event that they’re going to have to pick up and leave to establish a new colony elsewhere. Bees that are busily eating honey can’t be bothered with the beekeeper poking around the hive. Secondly, the smoke masks the bees alarm pheromone, preventing them from launching a coordinated defense.

    You can use any dry, organic material in your smoker and a good tip is to make sure flames aren’t shooting out the top when you puff the bellows. Beekeepers have to be hyper-vigilant when using a smoker not to cause a fire with an errant ember. It pays to be prepared and carry a fire extinguisher just in case. Watch why my smoker is my best friend.

    The hive tool

    The hive tool is like a 9-in-1 tool that’s been specially designed for hive work. It’s an essential tool for beekeepers because it enables us to scrape and pry our way through the various beekeeping tasks. The scraping end allows you to remove excess propolis, wax, burr comb, and swarm cells. The prying end allows you to crack open the lid, separate hive boxes, and pry frames loose.

    The bee brush

    Brushes are used to gently remove bees from frames. A leafy branch or feather can be used as alternatives.


    We would love to help you become an urban beekeeper!

    STEP 1: Find a local beekeeping community to join!
    Hands-on experience and education before getting your own beehive is very important. If you live in Los Angeles we would love to have you join us:

    Below are a few of our favorite books:
    Practical-Beekeeper by Michael Bush

    Plan-Bee by Susan Brackney

    Complete Idiots Guide to Beekeeping by Dean Stiglitz

    STEP 2: Get your gear!
    Below is a list of the basic tools/gear we recommend to get started as an urban beekeeper. You can purchase these locally at a beekeeping store or online.

    FEATURED ABOVE: 10 frame assembled medium hive body and medium super with a regular bottom board with foundationless frames.
    Item numbers: 986Z, 990BZ, 751, 495, 775, 713, 673 (you will have an option to choose what sizes you would like) – these items can also most likely be purchased locally at your nearest beekeeping supply store.

    Los Angeles Beekeeping Supply Stores (always a good idea to call ahead)

    Los Angeles Honey Co – 1559 Fishburn Ave, Los Angeles 90063 | (323) 264-2383

    Pierce-Mieras Manufacturing – 2536 Fender Avenue, Ste. A, Fullerton 92831 (714) 447-3855 (ask for “Ray’s Special” aka foundationless frames)

    The following (or similar) items you can purchase anywhere:–Pockets/dp/B0000DYVAJ/ref=sr_1_1?s=hi&ie=UTF8&qid=1307589956&sr=1-1

    The bee-friendly plants, as well as a water source you can pick up from your local nursery. The water source featured above is a terra cotta saucer (20? or so) and some red river rocks or Mexican beach pebbles. Simply fill the saucer with the rocks and some water – this will serve as your bees water source and must be set up before getting your bees.

    *If you would like a honeylove patch for your beekeepers suit – you can become a MEMBER of HoneyLove or purchase one through our etsy shop!

    STEP 3: Get your hands sticky!
    The single best way to learn is to get some hands-on mentoring: before you get bees, while you have bees, and then pay it forward and become a mentor!

    You can join us at the HoneyLove Sanctuary the 3rd Sunday of each month in Moorpark, CA—check the events page for full details on how to join us!

    Keep us posted on your honey bee adventures—we would love to see photos from your apiary! Yay bees!!


    Teri Hannigan

    I have a Langstroth 10-frame deep box that I don’t need anymore (with 4 frames). Anyone want to trade for a 10-frame medium?


    Teri Hannigan

    I’ve been borrowing a neighbor’s fencing style suit for inspecting my hive, and now–despite cost considerations–I’m looking at getting my own suit or jacket. Is there a particular brand y’all prefer? Do I need a full suit or can I get away with a jacket and jeans with velcro leg straps or gators? I don’t want to be penny-wise and pound foolish, but I’m also not getting into the cut-out business or anything extreme–that I know of! I just need something to wear while tending and inspecting my hives.

    Thanks in advance for your advice.


    susan rudnicki

    HI, you are looking at “gaiters”, not gators, and these are sold on-line— try to get a light color or they will be a stinging magnet for annoyed bees. I have a jacket from Sherriff, in England, because it has a very fine mesh veil. I also have a full suit from Brushy Mountain, back East, that is best for cutouts or dealing with angry hives. It is made of heavy duck material, and since I don’t sweat much, not a problem. People who want the most coverage but the most breathable and cool suit go to Pigeon Mountain for the synthetic, breathable fabric suit. One thing about synthetics is they will melt if they touch the smoker, so you get holes burned in it.
    If you are only going to wear a jacket, be aware that leaning over can expose your backside to stings if it hitches up and bees occasionally crawl in by the bottom elasticized opening. I wear light colored, loose pants when using my jacket. Finally, if the drone genetics of your hives eventually shifts to a more aggressive brood strain, you may get bees for which you wish you HAD a full suit. There are no guarantees that the docility will always be the same.


    Teri Hannigan

    Ha! If I was in Florida I guess they might be “gators”! Thanks–you’ve given me lots of good info. I’ll probably invest in a full suit, one that won’t melt!

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