Get what you NEED not what you WANT!
As beekeeping has grown in popularity, as well as the appreciation for our past, we are finding more and more alternative, unique and innovative beekeeping hive types and styles available. From free blueprints, to YouTube videos, our DIY culture there is a never ending rabbit hole you can fall in to when looking in to this stuff. So, here is my advice.
Start with something that is popular in your community. This tends to be Langstroth or Top Bar Hive in Canada, especially if the equipment is standardized within that community. BEFORE YOU LOSE YOUR S#*T, think about this for a second.
It is easier to learn from people who are used to using the equipment you are using, making finding a mentor easier
You can always do something different the following year
Can I smack you and remind you of why you are doing this beekeeping thing: It is to learn and commune nature, not to dominate it or become the RULER of a colony, or the coolest person in your club. Its all about LETTING GO OF EGO!
Once you learn to work bees, it doesn’t matter what hive type you move to as the bees are still bees. Its all about becoming comfortable with observing, critical analysis, note taking, and preparation. If you can get that down, you could keep bees in a clay pot!
For that fact, ask WHY are you keeping bees? Your answer can include a whole lot of things, but it should also include TO LEARN AND EXPAND MY UNDERSTANDING OF THE NATURAL WORLD. So, if you are planning on keeping a Warre beehive, or some other un-inspectable beehive, I want to remind you:
They are illegal to keep in Canada, because you can’t see if they are spreading disease, or for that fact why they died.
If you can’t inspect, then please tell me, how are you to learn from your bees? To me not inspecting your bees is lazy. And for those who say that it is because it is natural. BULL SHIT. We live in the 20th century and disease and hive health are issues (even with the best and most active organic standards) that every beekeeper needs to deal with. You are not exempt. The more people not inspecting their beehives, especially in an urban environment, the more beginner beekeepers are going to be facing diseases they can’t respond to for lack of experience and critical observations skills. This is a fact. This means more hive deaths and disease to hobby colonies, and the real threat of spreading to commercial apiaries.
If it is fancy, wait to buy it until you know what it is used for.
Have a management strategy in advance of buying new equipment. Things like fume boards, queen excluders, bee escapes, pollen traps, and other little add-ons are great, but need to be used properly at at the right time of year.
Standard langstroth beekeeping equipment from commercial outlets are pretty regular in their costs. Anything from $19-$24/box and around $.70/frame. You can get fancier with lids and bottom boards. Know this, solid pine of good weight and cut is better than any fancy new design out there. I would recommend buying from where everyone else buys from when you start. There are new places and outlets that are carrying beekeeping equipment these days (Williams and Sonoma, Peavey Mart, online stores and garden centres) and I recommend going IN to the store, seeing the quality of the products at these locations before you buy (unless it has a long and strong reputation). This is because there is a whole lot of CRAP out there.
How do you judge crap? Beekeeping equipment is farming equipment. If it feels flimsy or poorly crafted, it probably is. There is a saying, “There is no money in honey”. This means that beekeepers keep the equipment they INVEST in for over 10 years. Will what you are looking at last that long?
Top Bar Hive equipment isn’t as popular so its costs are higher (unless you build your own). So, have a look around and see who is offering what and where. Talk to the producer about what you want, and figure out a deal.