Beekeeping has a long and storied history in Wisconsin, dating back to the early settlers who brought honeybees with them as they established farms and communities across the state.
Today, beekeeping continues to play an important role in Wisconsin’s agricultural landscape, providing valuable pollination services and producing high-quality honey and beeswax. At the heart of this thriving industry are the essential bee supplies that help beekeepers manage their hives, harvest honey, and support the health and well-being of their bees.
No matter where you are looking for beekeeping supplies in Wisconsin, we’ve got you covered.
Beekeeping in Wisconsin
Beekeeping is an integral part of agriculture in Wisconsin, a state known for its vast agricultural landscapes. In fact, Wisconsin ranks 16th in the United States in honey production, with 53,000 estimated bee colonies in the state.
Essential Equipment for Beekeepers in Wisconsin
Before you embark on your beekeeping journey, it is crucial to understand the essential bee supplies required for successful hive management.
- Hive Boxes: One of the fundamental building blocks of any beehive is the hive box. These boxes, also referred to as supers, serve as the homes for honeybees and their honeycombs. Hive boxes come in different sizes to accommodate various stages of bee colony growth. In Wisconsin, Langstroth hive boxes are commonly used, which allow for easy inspection and manipulation of frames. The availability of high-quality hive boxes is essential to ensure the comfort and productivity of honeybees.
- Frames: Within each hive box, multiple frames are suspended to provide structural support for the honeycombs. Frames not only support the beeswax combs but also serve as a foundation for brood rearing and honey storage. In Wisconsin, beekeepers predominantly employ wooden frames with a plastic foundation, offering a balance between strength and ease of use. Properly assembled frames contribute to the bees’ ability to construct a well-organized colony and facilitate beekeeping management.
- Bottom Boards: Acting as the base of the beehive, bottom boards play a crucial role in hive stability and ventilation. These boards provide an entrance for the honeybees, allowing them to come and go freely while defending their colony against intruders. In Wisconsin’s harsh climate, it is essential to choose bottom boards that can withstand temperature fluctuations and provide adequate ventilation for the hive. Proper ventilation prevents moisture buildup, keeping the bees healthy and productive throughout the year.
- Inner Covers and Outer Covers: Completing the structural integrity of the hive, inner covers and outer covers provide insulation and protection to the honeybees. Inner covers are placed directly below the outer cover and serve as an extra layer of insulation, preventing direct exposure of the bees to the elements. Outer covers, often made of durable metal or wood, safeguard the hive from harsh weather conditions, including rain, snow, and wind. These covers contribute to the overall hive survival and help maintain a stable environment for the honeybees.
Beekeepers need to have protective clothing to ensure their safety during hive inspections and honey harvesting. From bee suits and gloves to beekeeping boots and veils, we will explore the various options to help you make informed choices for your beekeeping journey.
Bee Suit: A must-have for any beekeeper, a bee suit provides vital protection when working with honey bees. Both canvas beekeeping suits and ventilated bee suits are readily available. Canvas suits offer excellent durability and sting resistance, providing maximum coverage against bee stings. On the other hand, ventilated bee suits are designed with a breathable mesh fabric, allowing beekeepers to work comfortably in hot weather conditions.
Gloves: Designed to safeguard your hands from stings and offer dexterity, choosing the right pair of beekeeping gloves is essential. Beekeepers can choose between goatskin bee gloves and cowhide bee gloves. Goatskin gloves are known for their exceptional tactile sensitivity, enabling beekeepers to handle delicate tasks with ease. Alternatively, cowhide gloves provide robust protection against stings due to their thick leather construction.
Beekeeping Boots: When tending to your honey bee colonies, protecting your feet is equally important. Beekeeping boots, specifically designed to keep bees from accessing your feet, are a vital addition to your beekeeping supplies. These boots typically feature a sturdy construction and protective padding to prevent bee stings. Comfort and ankle support should also be considered when selecting beekeeping boots.
Veil: A reliable beekeeping veil is essential for safeguarding your face and neck from bee stings. These veils typically consist of a fine mesh that allows for excellent visibility while ensuring bees cannot reach your skin. Some veils come attached to beekeeping suits or jackets, while others are detachable, offering flexibility to suit individual preferences.
Many times, you can purchase a combo pack of a bee suit and bee gloves at a discount.
Please note: Your beekeeping suit or beekeeping jacket should come with a veil included.
Here, are some of the essential beekeeping tools that every beekeeper in Wisconsin should have in their arsenal. From the smoker to hive tools and queen marking tools, we will cover all the necessary equipment needed to thrive in the world of beekeeping.
- Smoker: One of the most vital tools in a beekeeper’s toolkit is the smoker. The smoker is used to calm honeybees during hive inspections, making it easier and safer for the beekeeper to work with the bees. This essential tool produces cool smoke that masks the alarm pheromones released by guard bees, helping to pacify the colony and reduce the risk of stings. The smoke also triggers a feeding response in the bees, resulting in them filling up on honey, making them less inclined to sting. A beekeeper should always carry a smoker and extra fuel to effectively manage their hives.
- Hive Tool: Another indispensable tool for any beekeeper is the hive tool. This versatile tool is used to separate and pry apart hive components during inspections. It helps in loosening frames that are stuck together with propolis, a sticky resin-like substance produced by bees. With a flat blade on one end and a curved hook on the other, the hive tool is perfect for lifting frames, scraping off excess propolis, and removing burr comb. Its sturdy construction ensures that beekeepers can efficiently dismantle and reassemble their hives without causing any harm to the bees or the equipment.
- Bee Brush: While the smoker and hive tool serve functional purposes, the bee brush primarily caters to the care and well-being of the bees. This soft-bristled brush allows beekeepers to gently move bees away from specific areas during inspections without causing harm or stress. It helps keep the bees calm and prevents them from getting unnecessarily crushed or injured. Whether you need to gently remove bees from frames, boxes, or other areas where they may be clustered, a bee brush is an essential tool to maintain harmony between beekeepers and their precious honeybees.
- Queen Marking Tools: Queen marking tools are crucial for identifying and tracking the queen bee within a colony. These tools typically consist of a small, colored plastic or metal marker that can be carefully applied to the queen’s thorax. This marking helps the beekeeper to easily locate and follow the queen during hive inspections, reducing the risk of accidentally harming or misplacing her. The color code system established by beekeeping associations provides vital information about the age and year of the queen, allowing beekeepers to monitor their colonies’ health and longevity effectively.
In order to maintain a healthy and thriving bee colony, beekeepers must ensure that their bees have access to a consistent and reliable source of food. While bees primarily collect nectar and pollen from flowers, supplemental feeding may be necessary, especially during times of scarcity or when establishing new colonies.
Hive feeders are essential beekeeping supplies that help beekeepers provide the necessary nourishment to their bees. These feeders can hold various types of supplemental food, such as sugar syrup or pollen substitute, which are readily consumed by the bees. By providing an accessible and controlled source of nutrition, hive feeders ensure that bee colonies have the energy they need to thrive, produce honey, and increase their population.
- Entrance Feeders: Entrance feeders are one of the most commonly used hive feeders among beekeepers. They are typically placed near the entrance of the hive and allow bees easy access to the supplementary food. This type of feeder consists of a small container or tray that holds the food, with small holes or slots that restrict the bees’ access to prevent drowning. Entrance feeders are simple to use and monitor, making them a popular choice for beekeepers of all levels of experience.
- Boardman Feeders: Boardman feeders are another widely utilized type of hive feeder, particularly favored by beginner beekeepers. Similar to entrance feeders, they are designed to be placed at the hive entrance. These feeders consist of a small plastic or glass jar with tiny holes or slits on the lid, allowing bees to access the food easily. Boardman feeders are often used with commercially available sugar water mixes and can hold a relatively larger volume of food compared to entrance feeders.
- Top Feeders: Unlike entrance and Boardman feeders, top feeders are placed directly on top of the hive, typically just beneath the hive’s outer cover. They are larger in capacity and can hold significant amounts of food, making them suitable for feeding larger colonies or during times when a significant supplemental food source is required. Top feeders often come with floats or caps to allow bees to access the food without the risk of drowning. This feeder type enables beekeepers to provide ample food without repeatedly disturbing the hive.
- Division Board Feeders: Division board feeders are unique feeders that are placed within the hive itself, dividing the brood chamber. They are designed to be inserted between frames, allowing bees to access the food from inside the hive. Division board feeders are particularly useful when the exterior conditions are unfavorable, such as during cold or rainy weather. By providing food directly inside the hive, this feeder type minimizes the bees’ exposure to external elements and ensures their nutritional needs are met.
When it comes to harvesting honey from beehives, extraction equipment is crucial. The following tools and apparatus are commonly used by beekeepers for effective and efficient honey extraction:
- Honey Extractors: A honey extractor is a device designed to extract honey from honeycomb frames without damaging them. It works by centrifugal force, spinning the frames to separate the honey from the comb. There are different types of honey extractors available, including manual and electric models, each with their own advantages.
- Uncapping Tools: Before placing the frames in the honey extractor, it is necessary to uncap the cells to release the honey. Uncapping tools are specifically designed for this purpose. These tools come in different forms, such, uncapping knifes, electric uncapping knives, and uncapping forks. Beekeepers can select the tool that suits their preferred uncapping method and hive setup.
- Honey Filters: After extracting the honey from the frames, it is essential to filter it to remove any impurities or debris, ensuring a high-quality end product. Honey filters, also known as honey strainers or sieves, are fine mesh screens that trap unwanted particles while allowing the honey to pass through. By using honey filters, beekeepers can ensure their honey maintains its purity and clarity.
- Food Grade Buckets: Once the honey has been extracted and filtered, it needs to be stored properly. Food grade buckets are ideal for storing honey, as they are designed to meet strict food safety standards. These buckets are made from food-safe materials and have airtight lids, ensuring the honey remains fresh and free from contaminants. Beekeepers can store their harvested honey in these buckets until it is ready for packaging or consumption.
The state association is the Wisconsin Honey Producers Association.
Buying Bees in Wisconsin
Where to buy bees and nucleus hives (nucs) in Wisconsin?
One of the best places to purchase queen bees, packaged bees and nucs is your local bee club.
Engaging with a beekeeping club can greatly enhance your knowledge, skills, and overall experience as a beekeeper.
Here is a list of local bee clubs in Wisconsin:
- Brown County Beekeepers Association
- Central Wisconsin Beekeepers Association
- Chippewa Valley Beekeepers
- Dane County Beekeepers Association
- Dodge-Jefferson Beekeepers Association
- Door County Beekeepers Club
- Dunn County Beekeepers
- Fox Valley Beekeepers Club
- Head of the Lakes Beekeeping Association
- La Crosse Area Beekeepers Association
- Manitowoc County Beekeepers Association
- Milwaukee Waukesha Beekeepers Association
- Oneida County Beekeepers Association
- Ozaukee & Washington County Beekeepers
- Polk Burnett Beekeepers Association
- Racine Kenosha Beekeepers Association
- Rock County Beekeepers
- Sheboygan County Beekeepers Association
- St Croix Beekeepers Association
- Walworth County Bee Club
- Waupaca County Beekeepers Association
Wisconsin Beekeeping Laws
The Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) regulates the apiary industry in this state.
It is vital to maintain the health and sustainability of honeybee colonies while adhering to legal requirements.
Here is an informative overview of the DATCP’s Apiary Program and the regulations that beekeepers in Wisconsin must follow.
What is the DATCP’s Apiary Program?
- The DATCP’s Apiary Program is responsible for safeguarding the health and wellbeing of honeybee colonies and promoting best practices in beekeeping across Wisconsin.
- It works closely with beekeepers, industry stakeholders, and researchers to develop and implement policies that ensure the vitality of honeybee populations.
Registration and Permitting:
- Beekeepers in Wisconsin are required to register their apiaries with the DATCP. This enables the program to track the number and location of honeybee colonies in the state.
- Registration provides essential information for disease surveillance, pest management, and emergency response in case of disease outbreaks or other potential threats to honeybees.
- Additionally, certain operations may require a permit from the DATCP. These include bee breeding facilities, queen and package bee producers, and those engaging in commercial pollination services.
Honeybee Disease and Pest Management:
- The DATCP’s Apiary Program plays a crucial role in monitoring and controlling honeybee diseases and pests.
- Regular inspections are conducted to identify and control diseases such as American foulbrood (AFB), European foulbrood (EFB), and varroa mites that can significantly impact honeybee colonies.
- Beekeepers are required to report any suspected or confirmed cases of these diseases to the DATCP for immediate action and assistance.
Equipping yourself with the necessary supplies is crucial for successful beekeeping in Wisconsin. From the essential components of the beehive to protective clothing and various tools, each piece plays a vital role in ensuring the welfare of both the beekeeper and the bees.
Remember, investing time and effort in selecting quality equipment will greatly contribute to your beekeeping journey, allowing you to thrive in this age-old practice that so beautifully connects humans and nature.
What are bee supplies and why are they important for beekeepers in Wisconsin?
- Bee supplies refer to various tools, equipment, and materials necessary for maintaining bee colonies and practicing beekeeping. They include items such as beehives, frames, protective clothing, hive tools, feeders, and more. These supplies are essential for beekeepers in Wisconsin to effectively manage their hives, ensure the health of their bees, and optimize honey production.
Where can I find reliable bee supplies in Wisconsin?
- There are numerous places to find bee supplies in Wisconsin. You can check out local beekeeping supply stores, agricultural supply centers, or even online platforms dedicated to beekeeping equipment. It’s important to choose reliable sources that offer high-quality products to ensure the success of your beekeeping venture.
Do you need a permit to keep bees in Wisconsin?
- While state-level honey bee hive registration or licensing is not required in the State of Wisconsin, those importing honey bees or used beekeeping equipment into Wisconsin have a reporting requirement.
What types of beehives are recommended for beekeepers in Wisconsin?
- For beekeepers in Wisconsin, Langstroth beehives are widely recommended due to their versatility and compatibility with local beekeeping practices. These hives consist of stackable boxes with removable frames, making them easy to manage, inspect, and harvest honey from. They also allow beekeepers to utilize various management techniques, such as honey production or queen rearing.
How should I choose beekeeping protective clothing?
- When selecting beekeeping protective clothing, prioritize safety and comfort. Look for a full-body suit or jacket made of durable, lightweight fabric that provides ample protection against bee stings. Ensure that the clothing has a veil or hood that securely covers your face and neck, as those are particularly sensitive areas. Additionally, gloves, beekeeping boots, and a hat can further enhance your protection.
Do I need any specific tools for beekeeping in Wisconsin?
- Yes, several tools are essential for proper beekeeping in Wisconsin. These include a hive tool for prying apart frames and boxes, a bee brush for gently moving bees, a smoker to calm the bees during inspections, and a bee feeder for supplemental feeding when necessary. Each of these tools serves a unique purpose and aids in carrying out necessary beekeeping tasks
Does the City of Madison require a beekeeping license?
- Yes, you must get a honeybee license annually. Get your license before April 1 of each year, or within 30 days of acquiring honey bees.
What types of beekeeping feeders are available?
- There are different types of feeders available for beekeepers in Wisconsin, depending on their specific needs and preferences. Common options include entrance feeders, division board feeders, and frame feeders. Each feeder has its advantages and disadvantages, so choose the one that best suits your beehive setup and feeding requirements.
How can I protect my beehives from harsh Wisconsin winters?
- Protecting beehives during winters in Wisconsin is crucial for hive survival. Ensure that your hives have proper insulation by wrapping them in insulating materials or using hive wraps.
- Additionally, consider providing supplemental food sources, such as sugar syrup or fondant, to ensure the bees have enough food to sustain them throughout the winter months.
Are there any legal requirements or restrictions for beekeeping in Wisconsin?
- Yes, beekeeping in Wisconsin is regulated by the state’s Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP). You may need to register your beehives with the DATCP and comply with certain guidelines and protocols to prevent the spread of diseases or pests. It’s important to familiarize yourself with the specific regulations in your area before starting or expanding your beekeeping operation.
When should I start beekeeping in Wisconsin?
- Spring is the best time to start, but you can start researching and buying beekeeping supplies in the winter months. Then you will be prepared to purchase bees in early spring.
- Remember, beekeeping practices can vary based on specific locations and beekeeping goals. It is advisable to consult local beekeeping associations or experienced beekeepers in Wisconsin for more precise guidance and to adapt to regional conditions.
What should I look for in a beekeeping supplier?
- When you are looking for the best beekeeping supplies in Wisconsin, it is important to keep a few things in mind. First of all, you want to make sure that the beekeeping supplies you purchase are of the highest quality. It is also important to make sure that you are buying supplies from a reputable beekeeping supplier.