If you're thinking about getting bees, you might be looking at all the equipment in the beekeeping shop (or website) and wondering what you actually NEED and what is just nice to have. We were lucky to buy a lot of gear pretty cheaply from an older commercial beekeeper who wanted to get rid of all his beekeeping gear, and we have gradually figured out what its all for and what we need to keep. Here's what I think you need first up and what you might need in the future.
Hives and bees
You are going to need at least one hive box and if your hive is productive you will need to give them more space in the form of a "super" pretty quickly. In Australia you typically buy a nucleus hive or "nuc", and depending where you buy it, you may need to provide the nuc box as well (more info on buying bees). You will need enough frames to fill your boxes (see building frames and wiring frames here). This is assuming that you've decided to use Langstroth hives and there are other options available, more information here.
Equipment for inspecting hives
We have a "bee bag" which is an old sports bag where we keep everything we need for inspections. Beehives need to be checked every couple of weeks in spring through autumn and less often in winter. You will need:
Protective gear, at least a veil, but most likely also gloves until you are confident
A hive tool for opening the hives and removing frames
A smoker, including lighter and fuel - we keep ours in the metal bucket, not in the bee bag!
A small container to keep burr comb that you remove from the hive (this can be melted down to beeswax when the container is full)
A notebook and pen to record what you find when you open the hives, as you get more hives or inspect less frequently this is one of your most important tools for managing your bees
First aid supplies, including antihistamine tablets and ointment, cold packs and aloe vera, just in case your or someone with you has a bad reaction to a bee sting
Small hive beetle traps if they are a problem in your area (and management for other pest or diseases that may be an issue for you)
hive tool and smoker
Pete modelling the protective gear you will need at first
a few first aid supplies just in case
Equipment for extracting and storing honey
This depends how many hives you have and how much honey you expect to produce. If you only have a few hives you can use the crush and strain method of extraction, or find someone else with a spinner who will let you borrow it. We have a small two frame manual spinner, which is great for 10-20 hives. As you get more hives you will eventually need a larger motorised spinner. You also need a strainer and buckets to keep your bulk honey. Sally explained it really well in her interview with me here. Don't spend too much money on this part until you know how many hives you will have and if you really like beekeeping, as you don't need to extract honey right away.
A bee brush and escape board are also really handy for getting the bees off the honey frames!
Do you keep bees? What else would you say is essential equipment when you first get started?