Number one on the list is protective gear. To tackle a hive of 50,000 bees, possibly not in the best of moods, you need to be confident you are well protected from stings.

This confidence will be reflected in your handling of the bees. Do not try to economise by buying just a hat and veil and wearing them with your old jacket and trousers – the bees will find several ways in you didn’t expect. Buy a proper beekeepers jacket with integral veil, or better still a full suit. With elasticated cuffs and the trouser legs tied over your wellie tops you can feel safe and relaxed. Cost £25 – £200+.

WBC Hive and National Hive

WBC Hive (left) and National Hive

Next you need a hive. The two most common types in the UK are the National and WBC.

Nationals hives are cheaper and easier to transport when necessary and a good choice for a beginner. I would usually recommend starting with Nationals.

You can save some money by buying hives ‘in the flat’ for self-assembly. Cost: Roughly £100 – £200 new with supers, frames, etc.

Tools: a smoker and hive-tool are essential. Say £30’ish new.

Finally: some bees. You can buy a hive (or ‘nucleus’ – an abbreviated hive) with bees, but most people begin with a swarm obtained through a society member, usually in early summer.

Later on you will need an extractor, to remove the honey from the combs. A relatively expensive piece of equipment to buy, but you may initially be able to borrow or hire the machine. Other bits and pieces may be purchased as and when.

Shopping List

National Hive. A basic hive consists of

  1. Floor (mesh type recommended).
  2. Brood box (deep).
  3. 12 deep frames (Hoffman self-spacing recommended – DN4).
  4. 12 sheets of brood wired worker foundation.
  5. Crown board.
  6. Roof.

To collect honey from your bees you will also need

  1. A queen excluder (to keep the queen down in the brood chamber).
  2. Super box (shallow).
  3. 12 shallow frames (SN1).
  4. 24 wide spacers.
  5. 12 sheets of super wired worker foundation.
  6. 2 Porter bee escapes (to clear bees from the super).
  7. A clearer board. This is a crown board with two holes to take the Porter escapes.

Use 15mm and 20mm veneer pins to put the frames together. The boxes may be bought ‘in the flat’ to save money. A waterproof glue and rust-proofed nails are a good idea.

Make Your Own Hive Parts

Plans from:

You can put the hive on bricks, or make up a stand from half-round wood, with four uprights banged in the ground, and two long, two short pieces to make a frame. Two to three feet high. The stand is particularly useful if you are not able to cut the grass and herbage very often.


  1. Hive tools. The hook-ended one (known as a J-Tool) is useful for prising up frames. The wide-ended one is good for prising boxes apart. Best get both.
  2. Smoker, medium sized one. Stainless steel if you can afford it.
  3. Smoker fuel. Collect egg boxes and well-rotted wood or sacking.
  4. A manipulation cloth (an old tea-towel will do) used to cover the open hive during examinations.
  5. A tool box to keep your bits in.

A full bee suit, wellies and a pair of household gloves. The cheaper gloves will do as they soon get stickied up and need replacing.

Equipment Suppliers Makers of quality low cost WBC and National hives in cedar and pine. National and other types of hive from a workshop in Tideswell in the Peak District, where they make beehives out of 1st grade western red cedar, high quality red deal or, when available, locally sourced western red cedar. Order online direct from the manufacturer. Manufacturers of bee suits and jackets.

Equipment Storage

Beekeepers Toolbox

Reject the tatty cardboard box and get yourself a decent tool box, like the one here in which you can keep a few spare frames and a smaller in the lower section and all your tools in the top.