Beekeeping Gear on bench surrounded by flowering plants.

Essential Beekeeping Gear for South Florida + Tropical Climates

When you first start beekeeping, there are many things you need to learn. One of the most important is learning about the necessary beekeeping gear for your future bees. There are many different types of beekeeping gear available online and locally, which can differ depending on your geographic location. We are located in South Florida (where we purchase most of our gear from South Florida Bee Supplies) so the beekeeping gear we will be talking about is well suited for sub-tropical or tropical climates!

Beekeeping Gear for Hot + Humid Climates

Palm Pike Apiary is located in South Florida, which is known for its year-round sunny weather. What many don't know is that we are a sub-tropical climate, with hot, humid, and very rainy summers. We also have cool and sometimes dry winters. These key seasons are our wet and dry season and beekeeping through both can be tricky. There are many different types of beehives, such as a Top Bar hive or a Langstroth. The most commonly used in the United States is the Langstroth Hive. This is a simple box that allows beekeepers to easily remove frames and add/remove boxes as needed for production. The Langstroth Hive contains a bottom board, deep box, medium box, frames within each box, inner cover, and an outer cover.

Screened Bottom Board, NOT Solid!

The bottom board is, of course, the bottom of the hive. The best type of bottom board for South Florida is a screened bottom board, which allows for proper ventilation within the hive. This keeps the colony healthy and allows them to spend less time cooling the hive down in Florida’s very high temperatures. It also helps during those very humid months! A solid board will allow for moisture to build up within the hive, which is exactly what disease, pests, and mold love. If you live in a colder climate, you may want a solid bottom board.

Next is usually a deep box, which is used as a brood chamber where the queen will lay eggs and the worker bees will nurse the new generation of bees to adulthood. All of the hive boxes contain frames for beekeepers to pull apart and inspect the hive to make sure it’s healthy. Frames can either contain foundation or be foundationless. Above the brood chamber, you can begin stacking boxes as your hive grows.

Metal Queen Excluder, NOT Plastic!

If you’re interested in honey production, a queen excluder should go over the brood chamber so the queen cannot get into the upper boxes and lay eggs. A queen excluder will make it easier for honey processing. By adding the excluder you will only have honey in your supers. Supers are the boxes above the brood chamber for the bees to store honey. The best queen excluder for our very hot climate, is a metal queen excluder. Plastic excluders will warp due to heat and will not last long.

After the queen excluder, you can begin placing your honey supers during a nectar flow. Typically, medium boxes are used for honey supers since they are smaller and will weigh less. A medium honey super can weigh anywhere from 60-80 lbs, while a deep honey super can weigh anywhere from 100-120 lbs during a nectar flow.

Telescoping Cover, NOT Migratory!

The final piece to your hive puzzle is the top! In South Florida, we use a telescoping cover since we have high temperatures. This cover contains a metal top that helps reflect the sun from the hives. With this cover, your hive won't get as hot as it would with a regular wooden cover, which means the bees will spend less time cooling down the hive. Telescoping covers also contain an inner cover which helps with ventilation within the hive.

Your hive should be elevated from the ground to allow for better ventilation. This also helps to keep pesky critters from creeping into your hive to eat your bees or honey. This is actually a huge problem in South Florida where we have an abundance of Bufo Toads. These toads will hang outside the hives eating any bees at the entrance. Elevated hives also make hive inspections a lot easier since you do not have to bend over too much. You can purchase a hive stand or you can elevate them using cinder blocks and wood. The ladder is our preferred method since it is cost effective.

Ventilated Suit Because HEAT + HUMIDITY!

The next type of equipment may be one of the most important for beginner beekeepers, protective gear. When first working with bees, it’s important to wear protective gear for your face and hands. Light colored clothing that is also breathable should be the first choice as bees do not like dark colors and the less you sweat the more comfortable and calm you will feel. A veil and gloves should be priority. The best defense against stings is a bee suit or jacket. In South Florida, the temperatures reach well into the 80-90s almost year round, so a ventilated jacket or suit will be the best purchase. These ventilated suits and jackets usually have multiple layers that are sting proof. Gloves are always good to wear until you become comfortable handling frames of bees.

Essential Tools That Make Beekeeping Easier!

Finally, once you have your hive equipment and protective gear, you will need tools to work with bees! A hive tool is a necessary tool to pry open your boxes and move frames around. The tool also comes in handy with scraping burr comb and propolis off the edges of the hive.

A smoker is used to mask the alarm pheromone which bees will release when there’s a big intruder in their home. It also causes the bees to engorge on honey, as they will believe there is a fire nearby which means they may need to flee their home. This calms the bees down even more. However, the main reason we use smoke is to help move the bees around. The bees will move away from the area you're puffing smoke. This is useful during hive inspections and adding/removing boxes from your hives.

These items are all the essential beekeeping gear we use at our apiary! There's a phrase that says "Ask 5 beekeepers the same questions and you'll get 6 different responses!" This phrase can be applied to all aspects of beekeeping, even beekeeping gear. So while these items work very well for us, it might not work for your apiary. We encourage all new beekeepers to trust their gut and try things for themselves, as well as ask other beekeepers in their area what works for them. If you're interested in beekeeping books, we have a post on the top 5 books that helped us when we first started beekeeping! We hope this post helps all new beekeepers learn about beekeeping gear so they can confidently purchase what they need. Thanks for reading!

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