beekeeping equipment

Holiday gifts for beekeepers

It’s time for my annual list of holiday gifts for beekeepers. The items range from very inexpensive stocking-stuffers to more expensive “serious” gifts. If you are a beekeeper, you can print this list, stick it on the fridge, and hope for the best.

  1. Microscope with camera: a microscope of only 400x is enough to do your own Nosema testing, plus you get to see pollen grains and all sorts of interesting things that live with your bees (or with you). Even inexpensive microscopes now come with cameras that hook up to your computer, so you can keep a .jpg of that creature you’re not sure of. No serious beekeeper should be without a microscope. Don’t forget to order a box of glass slides as well.
  2. Hive-top feeders: I used these plastic one-gallon Ultimate Hive Feeders this year and loved them. Easy to fill, easy to see the syrup level, easy to clean. Two feeders will fit inside one medium super.
  3. BroodMinder: Monitor the temperature and humidity of your hive on your cell phone. You still have time to get these at the Indiegogo price.
  4. Vivaldi board: An inner cover, ventilated cover, and feeder rim all rolled into one. They can be used year round and can easily hold a Swienty feeder. My favorite, made by Greg at GSLongWoodworking in Oregon, has two ventilation ports in the bottom so ventilation can occur even when a feeder is in place. Check out his site for other cool bee stuff too.
  5. Swarm Commander. Swarm season is just around the corner and if you catch just one swarm with your bottle, you’ve more than paid for it over the cost of a package. I caught five swarms my first year of using Swarm Commander, and I’ve got plenty left for another year. The bottle has a two-year shelf life.
  6. Ventilated gabled roof: allows good weather protection and excellent ventilation. My favorite, made by Bill Castro of Bee Friendly Apiary in Maryland, is designed much like the attic space in a house and is beautiful besides.
  7. Bug Baffler: Much lighter and cooler than your average bee suit, the Bug Baffler is made of fine, durable netting and is extremely honey bee-resistant. I use mine a lot, especially for quick checks or on really hot days: Bug Baffler Insect Protective Mesh Shirt.
  8. Green bee suit: On those occasions when you want a heavier suit, I love these new green ones, all cotton with eight pockets. They run small, so be forewarned. Natural Apiary® Beekeeping Suit.
  9. Hardware cloth: A roll of #8 hardware cloth has endless uses around the apiary. Amazon stocks it in a ten-foot roll.
  10. Duct tape: can’t live without it necessity in the apiary. For variety in hive design, you can get tiger stripes and even leopard skin, but it doesn’t deter bears.
  11. Hive tool: these get lost. So if one is good, more is better.
  12. Essential oils, especially spearmint, lemongrass, tea tree, or anise: used for making dietary supplements for bees. My favorite source is
  13. Paint strainers, one-gallon or five-gallon size depending on the number of hives: these can be used for filtering honey or beeswax (or paint).
  14. Everclear: In the past I listed isopropyl alcohol, but I’ve changed to Everclear because it is non-toxic. You can use it for removing propolis from everything that’s not propolis. You can use it for making swarm lures from dead queens. And if you have some leftover, you can always drink it . . . in moderation, of course. You can find Everclear at your local liquor store in 151 or 190 proof, depending on your state laws.
  15. Sugar, white granulated in 10-, 25-, or 50-pound bag: for making candy boards, syrup, or candy cakes. Also useful for pie. If you can find extra-fine granulated baker’s sugar (also known as bar sugar) it dissolves super fast.
  16. Seeds, flowers or herbs: provide bee forage—choose flowers that are attractive to bees such as five-spot, bird’s eyes, baby blue eyes, or borage. A good source for heirloom seeds is the Hudson Valley Seed Library.
  17. Tree or shrub: serves the same purpose as above except feeds a crowd. Try cherry laurel, California lilac, or black locust.
  18. Velcro ankle straps: the little darlings really like tender ankles and legs.
  19. Mason bee condo or bumble bee house: once hooked by honey bees, there’s no turning back—all their relations become fascinating as well.
  20. Electric drill, an 8.0 amp 3/8-inch pistol-grip drill for assembling woodenware is about $60.
  21. Drill bits, extra long, of various sizes from 1/16-inch to 5/16-inch: allows the beekeeper to make his own bee condos.
  22. Countersink: I prefer screws over nails for assembling woodenware, and a countersink keeps the boxes from splitting at the holes.
  23. Hole saw and mandrel: Nice for those entrance holes you are going to drill in your honey supers. Also good for ventilation ports.
  24. Cross-cut saw: handy for many beekeeping projects. Stanley 20-045 15-Inch Fat Max Hand Saw
  25. Yellowjacket traps: for trapping . . . you guessed it . . . yellowjackets. My favorite brand, Rescue!, contains pheromones that will not attract honey bees.
  26. Florescent green spray paint: for marking drone frames, a useful tip learned from Randy Oliver.
  27. Fishing line, 50# test for wiring frames: it is still springy like wire, but it doesn’t kink or break. Forget melting it into wax, however—it doesn’t conduct electricity.
  28. Ratcheting tie down: for tying hives together, to each other, or to something else; they are good for hurricanes and earthquakes as well.
  29. Wood filler: to replace those chunks missing from your masterpiece.
  30. Butterfly net: a long handle is good for removing bees from inside your skylights or snaring flyaway queens. Also useful for annihilating yellowjackets. A variety of good nets can be found at the Educational Science Online Store.
  31. Double boiler: for melting wax; try to find one at Goodwill because it won’t be good for anything else after the first melt.
  32. Crock pot: an alternative to the double boiler for melting wax and a bit safer. If they already have a crockpot for cooking, don’t worry. The one for melting wax cannot easily be used for anything else.
  33. Bee brush: because a paint brush just doesn’t work.
  34. Propane torch: the no-nonsense method of lighting a smoker. Bernzomatic TS4000 Trigger Start Torch
  35. Air compressor: a small, three-gallon, 135 psi pancake compressor is about $100 and can save hours of time.
  36. Brad gun: although I use screws on my bee boxes, I use brads on the frames. A pneumatic 18-Gauge 2-inch brad nailer is about $80.
  37. Air hose: to connect compressor to brad gun, somewhat necessary to make the system work. About $10.
  38. Brads: several sizes, such as one-inch, three-quarters-inch, or five-eighths inch. If you are on a tight budget, just gift the brads. This will force the beekeeper to buy the rest.
  39. Uncapping knife: one of those things beekeepers skimp on, but they are really nice to have for extracting honey. Fristaden & Company Electric Honey Uncapping Hot Knife Beekeeping Tool with Stainless Steel Blade
  40. Honey Extractor: Now, you know I never extract honey, but if you’re into that, I’ve heard good things about this little two-frame hand-cranked extractor: BuildaBeehive Honey Extractor Spinner Constructed of High-Polished Stainless Steel with Turning Manual Hand Crank


Long drill bits in a variety of sizes and lengths can be found on Amazon.

*Note: This post contains affiliate links.


  • I tried the Bee Smart feeders. I have had more drownings with that system than any method I have used; I don’t recommend them at all. The channels are simply designed too deep and bees can’t get out of the syrup. I know it looks great and you can fit two inside a super and it is easy to lift out of the box for refilling, but too many bee drownings. I found that putting a (1/4 inch thick) loop of rope in both the inside and outside channel prevents the drownings, but it is a bad design in my opinion and I don’t plan on buying anything from Bee Smart again.

    • Bill,

      Maybe you have the old style? They recently received some substantial upgrades, two that I know about. I used them this past spring and fall and, at most, had a half-dozen floaters—not bad at all. I was very happy with them.

      • I bought them brand new this year (2015). I can only tell you what my experience has been. They tried to sell me the system that sits on top the hive and you drill through the upper cover, but I purchased the unit that sits in the super. Others may have found them successful, but I have not.

  • Rusty,

    I like your gift idea of a high end (sort of) microscope as a Christmas gift. I have been looking into a much less expensive hand held or bracket mounted digital microscope to aid me in finding one day plus old larvae for grafting. My concern is, is there sufficient light striking the bottom of the cells to identify day old larvae? Have you run any tests or have any knowledge if there is sufficient light? My eyes are 76 years old and need all the help they can get. Oh yes, and the eyes are originally from Pennsylvania, like yours.

    Bear Creek Steve

    • Steve,

      Yes, those Pennsylvania eyes . . . Whenever I graft I take the frames to my shed where I have a place to work and a light that I can aim in there. However, in the field you can use one of those headlamps that fits around your forehead and makes you look like some kind of extraterrestrial who, of course, all have headlamps. You can find the lights at camping and hunting places, like Cabela’s or REI or even LLBean. They are really bright, so if you get it aimed right, it should work.

  • Hi rusty , I’m moving in december is it better to wait till spring to move my bees ?? Or keep them were they are for now. And move them later ???

    • Sirius,

      You can do it either way. If it were me, I would move them in winter if I could do it without opening the hive. I like to move them in winter because you can keep them locked in for as long as necessary and they won’t reorient until the next warm spell. What I do is strap the hive together top to bottom, and then move it into a pickup with a hand truck or furniture dolly. It is nice and easy and doesn’t do much disturbance to the hive.

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