Frugal Beekeeping with Used Beekeeping Supplies
How to Find and Clean Used Bee Equipment
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.
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?