Beekeeping requires quite lot of equipment, and when your just starting out it can be expensive to purchase everything you need as new equipment. One way to reduce the initial setup costs is to purchase used beekeeping equipment.
Although used beekeeping equipment is not as easy to find as other used items, it is available. It can be found both online and offline. However you do need to know what your looking for, and actually inspect the items prior to purchasing. Its not as simple as chasing a particular brand, as you might do if your looking at buying other used equipment.
While you might like a particular brand there are more important considerations like the possibility of pests and diseases contaminating the used equipment. Some pieces of equipment are more prone to problems than others so it may be best to purchase some items new and others as used equipment.
Items of used beekeeping clothing are easier for a beginner to asses. If the fabric of the bee suit is sound and there are no holes, it is just a matter of making sure that is is thoroughly clean and sterilized. A used beekeepers hat and veil holds little risk of contamination again make sure that the veil is sound, has no holes and clean it thoroughly.
More commonly available than used clothing are pieces of used honey processing equipment. There is some risk of contamination if the equipment, such as an extractor was used to process honey from a diseased hive.
After the honey has been extracted it is a common practice to return the now empty combs to the bees for reuse. If you are using pre-owned extracting equipment that has not been thoroughly decontaminated, there is the possibility of infecting your bees. Any used beekeeping equipment needs to be thoroughly decontaminated prior to use.
The most difficult pre-owned equipment for a beginner to purchase safely is a hive either with or without bees. Only purchase a hive from an apiary that has been regularly checked for exotic and endemic pests and diseases.
Ask to see the testing history and request a honey culture test before purchase. Also inspect the hives for any signs of pest and disease. You can also request a vendor declaration that will provide some assurance.
All this testing and inspection may seem a bit extreme but some bees diseases such as American Foulbrood Disease are transferred by spores which are difficult to kill as they are not susceptible to drying out or boiling water and can remain active for up to 40 years.
Consequently unless you know the vendor well, buying a used hive is not generally recommended for beekeepers who are just starting out. If you have any concerns about a second hand hive it’s probably better to start out with a new hive.
There are other ways to make starting out as a beekeeper less expensive, particularly if you are handy or inventive. There are plans available to build your own hive if you have some skills in wood working. There are also online videos showing how to make very effective and low cost honey processing equipment from easily accessible bits and pieces.
Remember too that you don’t have to get everything all at once. You can start with just the basic beekeeping supplies and purchase other supplies such as honey extracting and processing equipment when you need it.
Buying used beekeeping equipment can save you some money on start up costs if you are careful to only purchase good clean equipment from a disease free apiary. You don’t want to start out buying pest and disease problems. Used equipment is not the only way to save on start up costs, be inventive.