Frugal Beekeeping with Used Beekeeping Supplies

How to Find and Clean Used Bee Equipment

Frugal Beekeeping with Used Beekeeping Supplies

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When our son first told us he was interested in starting beekeeping, one of the things we were concerned about was the cost of beekeeping supplies. We had to spend quite a lot of time looking through beautiful beekeeping catalogs and realized that this would not be an inexpensive venture.

So, we did what any parents would do, we started helping our son look for used beekeeping equipment. Now, finding used beekeeping supplies isn’t quite as easy as just going to the local thrift shop or looking through the classifieds but it isn’t super hard either. You just need to know where to look and what to look for.

Since we had spent time researching beekeeping supplies, we began a prioritized list of what we wanted. We also made note of the price for each item if we purchased it new.

Once we knew what we were looking for and about how much it cost new, we started looking for used equipment.


Where to Find Used Beekeeping Supplies

Our son’s first hive came from a local beekeeper. He was splitting a hive and offered our son one of them. This certainly isn’t a common way of getting beekeeping supplies, and we certainly would never have asked for such a generous gift. But it goes to show that most beekeepers are extremely generous and will do what they reasonably can to help a new beekeeper.

Antique or junk shops are great places to look for beekeeping supplies. Once you peruse the shop be sure to ask the owner if they have any used beekeeping supplies or if they know any retired beekeepers.

The last question, “Do you know any retired beekeepers?” is the most important question. We’ve come to realize that for the most part beekeepers have a hard time getting rid of their beekeeping supplies. Most of the time their children are not interested in bee farming, so their supplies go in the barn and wait for some new beekeeper to come along and put them to use again.

The county extension office and local feed stores are also wonderful places to ask if they know any retired beekeepers. These are places that depend on knowing people in agriculture—  both big and small — and keep tabs on cool things like beekeeping.

Of course, you can also check sites such as Craigslist and your local classified ads and even post that you’re looking for used beekeeping supplies but we’ve not found this route to be very productive.

There are a couple of things to keep in mind when purchasing used bee equipment. The first thing is that all hive equipment is not interchangeable. If you are going to use Langstroth beehives, then don’t load up on Warre hive frames or vice versa just because they’re at a good price. This doesn’t mean you can’t use a variety of hives in your apiary, we use both top-bar and Langstroth hives, but the more varieties of hives you have the more complicated it will be.

The other thing is that you don’t have to purchase all your beekeeping supplies right away. A hive, a beekeeper’s veil and a beekeeping smoker are really the only things you need to start beekeeping. You can wear a long sleeve jacket and long pants if you don’t have a full beekeeper’s suit. And you can make a DIY honey extractor to harvest the honey if you don’t have an extractor. It’s good to go slow and really think about what you need instead of trying to get everything at one time.


Cleaning Used Beekeeping Supplies

Once you get your used equipment, you need to make sure you clean it properly in order to make sure you don’t spread disease or pests.

How you clean the beekeeping equipment will depend on what the equipment is. For metal things like hive tools and honey extractors, you can just wash them with soap and water and pour boiling water over them. The boiling water will remove any wax or propolis.

Other items will take a little more work.

Hives and frames will probably be the most cumbersome to clean. First, scrape off any wax or propolis. If possible, put them in the freezer for a few days to kill any mites or wax moth eggs. Then scrub them with a solution of white vinegar, salt and water; one gallon water, one cup white vinegar and one cup salt. You can finish with a dunking or rinsing of boiling water. This will remove any remaining wax or propolis and rinse the cleaning solution off.

Used Bee Equipment

If you find a used bee suit or gloves be sure to check it for holes, any holes will need to be patched before you use the bee suit. Also, it’s also a good idea to launder them before using them.

Smokers can be tricky to clean. Some beekeepers scrape them out, wipe them and call it good. Some beekeepers soak their smokers in vinegar water (one cup vinegar per gallon of water) after removing the bellows. After soaking overnight the smoker can be wiped clean.

Have you used second-hand beekeeping supplies? How did you find it?

4 thoughts on “Frugal Beekeeping with Used Beekeeping Supplies”
  1. One of the things this individual does not mention in their article is AFB and EFB. American Foulbrood particularly is a very contagious and long-lasting disease (AFB spores have been known to show up on equipment/hives after 50+ years!!). It is freeze-resistant, resistant to very high temperatures, and most disinfectants. The only way to completely clean used equipment that you are unsure of its origins is to have it sterilized via irradiation which is expensive and hard to find. If you want to utilize used/second-hand beekeeping equipment, PLEASE PLEASE know its history and the beekeeper it is coming from otherwise you may end up having to destroy all of your hives because of a disease outbreak. Beekeepers and bees have enough challenges today without adding in diseases that for the most part (at least in my state-WV) we don’t currently have a lot of issues with. Even very OLD equipment can still have viable spores from these two diseases so please be careful and do your homework. Thank you and BEST OF LUCK in your beekeeping endeavors.

  2. DO NOT EVER GET USED EQUIPMENT that has HAD CONTACT WITH BEES. I agree wholeheartedly with J. Moris above. SHAME ON YOU backyard beekeeping for this horrible and irresponsible post. AFB spores are viable for well over 50 years, actually, 65 and counting. They can be in any woodenware, comb and even the smoker bellows, hive tools and gloves. If your hive gets it it must be burned in most states, bees and all. Vinegar and freezing are very silly tratments that do absolutely nothing. The only ‘cure’ for AFB is to burn, baby, burn! EFB can also lurk in equipment for years. The best first step, and a great Christmas gift, is to find a great beekeeping class, 8+ hours, before starting any beekeeping endeavor. Not only will you learn what it takes to keep your bees alive (a lot) but also what you do and don’t need.
    *** Editors – Please remove the original post.

  3. It should be noted that it is illegal to sell, trade, give or move any hive equipment in the State of Tennessee unless it contains live bees that can and must be inspected. American foul brood spores can lie dormant for decades and once bees are introduced they come to life and can spread quickly. The techniques mentioned in this article will not kill AFB and should be retracted.

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