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Gear for Growth

How much gear do you need to grow your apiary? Would you be disappointed if I told you "it depends"? Because it really does, of course. But I'm going to walk you though some considerations to help you build your equipment list for a year of apiary growth.


Consideration #1: Storage

Before you start buying a pile of gear, it's a good idea to plan for where you're going to store it. After all, it's only out in the field for a few months of the year. The rest of the time, it will need to be stored in a dry, pest-free location. This seems really obvious, but the amount of storage space we need seems to surprise us year after year.



Consideration #2: Equipment Size

When you start to buy honey supers in year two and beyond, you will need to make a decision about what size of equipment to use. Langstroth equipment comes in three sizes: shallow, medium, and deep. Brood boxes are most commonly deeps (this is probably the size of frames that came with your nuc).


We have chosen to use deeps as our honey supers as well because we like the flexibility of moving frames up and down (for example, if there's a beautiful honey frame in the brood box, or if your queen lays brood in your honey super). The downside, of course, is that deeps full of honey can weight 100lbs so if that's a deal breaker (or a back breaker) for you, then you will want to choose medium or shallow honey supers.


Consideration #3: How Many Boxes?


There isn't really a magic number of boxes per hive that you will need. It will depend, of course, on what size equipment you choose to use. It will also vary from season to season and region to region.


We almost always use 2 honey supers per hive, plus a 3rd on about half of our hives.


A nice "safe" number is 3 deep honey supers per hive (in addition to the two brood boxes). This is a good number to start with if you've got one or two backyard hives. As you get more hives, you can get away with having a bit less equipment per hive because you are not likely to need the same number of supers on every hive all at once.



This is my 5 year old son standing beside the

tallest hive we have ever had.


Consideration #4: Additional Hive Equipment


It is ALWAYS a good idea to have a full extra hive on hand in case you need to make an emergency split during swarm season. This might be that nuc box that I convinced you to buy earlier this month (read about why you need a nuc box here if you missed it), or it might be a complete hive set up. If you are running all deeps, you can get away 'borrowing' boxes from your equipment stash if you've got extra bottom and top boards ready to go.


If you have opted to use medium or shallow honey supers, then it is even more important for you to make sure you have a nuc box or addition hive set up on hand since it is a pain to get bees to move out of a medium box once they've moved in!



Having extra gear ready to use is even more important if you live remotely. Where we live, everything needs to be ordered in and we can count on it taking at least a week to arrive, and then whatever time we need to build it. That means that winter is the time for us to buy and build!



With these considerations in mind, what's on your wish list this winter? Let me know in the comments!

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