Best Beekeeping Kits

Updated July 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

30 Models Considered
6 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
97 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.

Buying guide for best beekeeping kits

Last Updated July 2019

There are few common creatures more fascinating than bees. These industrious insects work nonstop visiting flowers and collecting nectar and pollen to feed themselves and their young. In the process, they pollinate thousands of agricultural crops that we enjoy, from apples, melons, and almonds to onions, carrots, and tomatoes. Bees also produce honey and other substances that humans like to eat and use in other items such as candles and skincare products. And beekeeping isn’t just big business — it’s also a popular hobby. If you think you’d like to tend your own hives, you need the right beekeeping kit.

That’s where BestReviews comes in. We have the information to get you started with your own beehive or two, from the tools you need to the price you can expect to pay. When you’re ready to buy, check out some of our favorite beekeeping kits, too.

In 2019, researchers published a study that showed bees can do math, despite the fact that bees have about a million neurons (compared to a human’s 100 billion)!

Beekeeping tools and gear

Beekeeping doesn’t require a huge amount of gear; after all, humans were tending (and raiding) hives millennia ago without any gear at all! And bees aren’t fussy: they have been living contentedly in hives made of tree stumps, mud, straw, pottery, and rock since the species evolved.

But today there are several pieces of equipment that make beekeeping easier, more convenient, and safer for the beekeeper and the bees. For instance, beekeepers no longer need to (or want to) kill bees in order to harvest the honey. You can purchase these items individually or several together in a kit, representing potential cost savings. Here are the main components of beekeeping from the ground up.

Hive

Hive stand: The hive or kit you buy may or may not include a stand made of wood, metal, or even recycled plastic. You can make a simple one out of scrap wood, wooden pallets, or cinder blocks or even set the hive on an old tree stump. The point is to keep the hive off the ground where it is susceptible to dampness, predators, and pests like, mice, skunks, and ants.

Bottom board: This is the base of the hive and also the entrance. A screened bottom board helps with ventilation and mite control.

Hive body: This is also called the brood chamber, the structure that holds ten frames of comb in place. This is where the colony stores honey and pollen, lays eggs, and rears brood (larvae and pupae). The hive body is usually wood, but there are some new food-grade plastic versions, too. As the bees reproduce and fill the frames, you add another hive body on top where the bees can store honey, called a honey super (see below). If you think you’ll be expanding your beekeeping venture, make sure the hive can be expanded by adding another super. Also check whether your hive comes pre-assembled or you’ll need to put it together yourself.

Frames: These look like wooden window frames and hold the honeycomb sheets. The average hive or super holds ten. In 1852, Lorenzo L. Langstroth, a Philadelphia school principal considered the father of modern beekeeping, patented the movable frame. The Langstroth hive is still considered the standard, although people haven’t stopped trying to improve upon it.

Foundation comb: This is a sheet of plastic or beeswax that’s wired into the frame. The foundation is imprinted with six-sided cell shapes onto which the bees secrete wax to build their honeycomb. The queen lays eggs in the cells, and the workers use other cells to store honey or pollen. Using foundation comb is efficient because the bees don’t have to secrete as much wax to build the cells and so can produce more honey. The resulting comb is also neater and more evenly filled. Pre-assembled frames and foundations are the most convenient for the beginning beekeeper.

Queen excluder: This screen (metal or plastic) goes between the brood chamber and the super to allow worker bees through and keep the larger queen from laying eggs in honey supers.

Super(s): Honey supers are additional wooden boxes added on top of the hive body that contain frames and foundation. This is where the bees store honey and where you harvest the honey so you don’t disturb the brood chamber. If it’s a good season and the nectar is flowing freely, you can add more supers. Don’t forget that honey is heavy! Ten deep frames of honey can weigh as much as 90 pounds. You can buy shallower supers that are lighter when full of honey.

Hive cover: There are a couple choices: migratory (flat) or telescoping, which is covered with aluminum to provide further protection against the elements (but it requires an inner cover to prevent the bees from using propolis to glue the telescoping cover to the hive).

Entrance reducer: This piece fits between the brood chamber and bottom board to control the size of the hive entrance. It can be used in the winter to make the entrance smaller so the hive stays warmer.

Feeder: There are certain times when you might need to feed your bees, such as when natural food is scarce, in winter if honey stores are low, or to attract a swarm. There are a few different types of feeders for inside, on top of, or at the entrance to the hive. The type you need will be determined by the circumstances and the type of hive you have.

DID YOU KNOW?

It takes nectar from about two million flowers to make a pound of honey.

Tools

Spacing tool: Langstroth also discovered that honeybees leave 3/8 inch between combs, called the “bee space.” If there’s a larger space between the frames, the bees will fill it with comb; a smaller space and the bees will fill it with another secretion called propolis, a resinous, gluey substance they use to fill holes and gaps in the hive. When you’re setting up your hives, the space between the frames is critical, and this steel tool helps you evenly and accurately space them.

Hive tool: Yes, you’ll need to open the hive! You use this indispensable and versatile steel tool to remove the hive cover, clean off propolis, and pry the frames out of the hive. Hive tools come in various shapes and sizes.

Smoker: This is a metal can with attached bellows that you use to blow cool smoke over the bees to distract them or calm them down. Calmer bees are less apt to sting you as you collect honey or do other work around the hive. Beekeepers in ancient Egypt used torches and smoldering cow dung, but, fortunately, there have been some advances in this area. Smoker fuel now includes cotton, pine needles, burlap, lavender, dried coffee husks, and dry leaves. Note that smoker fuel is not always included in kits that contain a smoker. When using a smoker, test the smoke on your hand first to make sure it isn’t hot — you don’t want to singe your bees.

Bee brush: You use this wide, soft brush to gently sweep bees out of the way, such as off the hive, frame, or comb. You’ll find brushes with wooden or plastic handles and with boar, horsehair, or synthetic bristles. You can use a soft paintbrush in a pinch.

Frame grip or lifter: This tool looks a bit like two pairs of pliers connected by a luggage handle. You use this tool to grab a frame and lift it out of the super one-handed. It provides a better grip than your gloved hand (and keeps you from getting honey all over your gloves).

Queen catcher: Sometimes you need to move or work with the queen, and this tool that resembles a plastic hair clip lets you pick her up gently without harming her.

Queen marking cage: It’s important to know the queen’s age and to be able to locate the queen in a hive of thousands of bees. A marking cage lets you trap her and mark her with a special pen without harming her. There’s no rule about marking, but there is an internationally recognized code that includes, for example, white for years ending in one and six and green for years ending in four and nine.

Uncapping knife: This serrated knife is used to cut off the wax caps from the hive frames before extracting the honey. Some knives are electric and heat up to make cutting through the wax easier.

Uncapping fork: This tool has stainless tines and a plastic handle and is used to uncap sunken areas of the comb without damaging them.

Spur wire wheel embedder: This tool resembles a miniature pastry cutter and is used to connect the foundation to the frame.

Honey extractor: Some kits include a hand-cranked device that looks like an oversize ice cream maker. Common ones hold two frames at a time. Cranking the handle spins the frames, using centrifugal force to extract the honey.

Honey strainer: Straining removes any bits of wax or other particles from the honey before bottling.

Protective clothing

Bee veil: You will of course need protection for your head and neck. Some beekeeping starter kits include a bee veil, but you can find many different varieties to buy separately.

Bee suit: A beekeeping suit isn’t an absolute necessity; indeed, some experienced beekeepers don’t wear them. But wearing one is a good idea if you’re just starting out or you’re allergic to bee venom. You will have to purchase this separately, but some suits and jackets come with the bee veil and even gloves.

Gloves: Sting-resistant gloves that reach up to the elbow are important because you’ll be handling the hive parts and the bees. You’ll find leather, canvas, rubber, and plastic-coated canvas gloves, some ventilated, with hook-and-loop closures or elastic around the arm for a tight fit. Look for gloves that provide good dexterity so you can handle the hive parts without harming your bees.

Almost everything you need but the bees

You’d be hard-pressed to find a more comprehensive beginner beekeeping kit at this price. It includes not only the hive body and ten frames with wax foundation but also a smoker, hive tool, leather gloves, Alexander bee veil, and a helpful information book. All of this comes from a respected company with decades in the business.

Beekeeping kit prices

Tools only: Depending on what is included, you can expect to pay from about $18 to $40 for an assortment of tools for keeping honeybees, not including a hive or the bees.

Tools and hive: More comprehensive kits that include a hive as well as tools range from about $175 to $400, and the kits at the upper end of that range might include items like a manual honey extractor and strainer, too. 

Solitary bees: You can find very inexpensive kits for solitary bees for about $20.

Bees produce honey, of course, but other bee products that also make their way into foods, medicines, and beauty products include royal jelly, propolis, and beeswax.

Tips

  • Join a club. There are local beekeeping clubs in many cities, counties, and states across the country. You’ll find experts to answer your questions, and many groups provide classes for beginners.
  • Check the ordinances in your municipality before you set up a hive. It would be courteous to notify your neighbors, too. They might want to help by planting pollinator forage in their yards!
  • Plant pots, window boxes, or a garden to attract the pollinators in your area. The Pollinator Partnership offers free planting guides tailored to different regions in the United States and Canada.
  • Put out dishes of water for wild bees. Bees need sunshine and water to drink. In the summer, bees need water to cool the hive. However, bees can drown trying to drink from deep water. Use a shallow saucer or flowerpot base and put a few wine corks or stones in the water that the bees can stand on to drink.
  • Don’t go overboard with hives or gadgets, and have fun. Buy one or two hives to start, not a dozen. Stick with the basic equipment. And don’t think you’ll be able to quit your day job and support yourself by selling honey and beeswax in a year! Beekeeping, like keeping any animal, can be unpredictable. Just enjoy yourself and the bees.

Enjoy native bees in your yard

You don’t need a big hive, lots of tools, or even protective gear to enjoy the bees that already live in your neighborhood. This affordable little kit includes a fir house and wildflower seeds to attract solitary mason and leafcutter bees. Kids will enjoy learning about these industrious creatures, and you’ll be helping the pollinators in your area.

Other products we considered

There are plenty of choices when it comes to beekeeping tool kits, and we wanted to point out a few more. Perhaps you already have your hive and protective gear and just need some equipment to get started. Most bundles of five to eight tools are very affordable at less than $40, but they aren’t all the same. Pay close attention to which tools are included and the quality. The Magnificent BEE Beekeeping Starter Kit includes a large smoker, uncapping fork tool, hive tool, bee brush, frame grip, extracting scraper, and bee feeder — good-quality tools for the beginning beekeeper that take the guesswork out of what to buy.

A budget-friendly set of eight essential tools is the Toogoo Beekeeping Tools Kit, which adds a queen catcher and queen marking cage to the mix. And if you already have most of the beekeeping tools you need, the VIVO Honey Harvesting Beekeeping Starter Tool Kit is an affordable set of five tools geared toward harvesting the honey, including a frame holder, horsehair bee brush, uncapping fork, serrated uncapping knife, and double-sieve honey strainer.

DID YOU KNOW?

Bees can see ultraviolet light, but they can’t see red.

Honeybees (Apis mellifera) are social insects that can’t survive alone. But most of the world’s 20,000 or more species of bees are solitary.

FAQ

Q. Do beehive kits come with bees?
A.
No. You must order the bees separately. Bees raised in southern states are shipped north in the spring, usually late April. About 4,000 bees weigh one pound. You can expect to pay about $200 for a three-pound box of bees, including the queen.

Q. Do I need to paint the hive?
A.
You should paint your hive to give it some protection against the elements. Paint the exterior with white water-based (latex) paint. Do not paint the exterior a dark color because it will make the hive too hot for the bees in the summer.  Do not paint the interior.

Q. Where should I put my hive?
A.
If your hive is at your home, you might first want to check with your neighbors and let them know that these are gentle, hardworking collectors of honey and not wasps or yellowjackets. Your neighbors might even plant a few bee-friendly flowers in exchange for some honey!

You should position your hive carefully because bees need certain conditions to survive. For instance, they need to be able to keep the interior at a steady 92°F to 95°F for the health of the brood. Here are a few guidelines:

  • The hive should be placed facing east or south so it receives morning and evening sun, but depending on your local climate, you might need to protect it from hot midday sun.
  • It should be near a source of water if you don’t provide water in shallow dishes.
  • It should be near adequate food sources. Bees forage in a radius of one to one and one-half miles from the hive.
  • The hive should be protected from the wind, perhaps in a corner sheltered by bushes or a fence.
  • Tilt the hive slightly forward so rainwater can drain off and not collect inside and cause rot.
  • The hive should be out of the reach of animals, such as racoons, mice, skunks, honey-loving bears, and curious dogs.
The team that worked on this review
  • Bronwyn
    Bronwyn
    Writer
  • Eliza
    Eliza
    Production Manager
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer
  • Melissa
    Melissa
    Senior Editor

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