Beekeeping Costs

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A marvelous hobby, the cost of beekeeping can easily reach into hundreds (or thousands) of dollars – especially during the first couple of years. For those of you considering the hobby, it is a good plan to have an idea of what beekeeping costs to expect. Planning your budget ahead of time is the best way to be prepared.

Beekeeper checking a new hive.

As with any new adventure, it is the startup that represents the major investment. Someone new to beekeeping will need to acquire all the beekeeping supplies and equipment they need to care for their colonies.

How Much Does it Cost to Start a Hive?

The amount of money needed to set up your new hive depends on several factors. The total cost of beekeeping startup includes bees, beekeeper tools and the actual hives.

Some of the costs are multiplied per unit cost for each hive. On average, expect to spend a $200-$300 dollars as the bare minimum per colony of honey bees that you wish to have.

You do have more choices regarding the needed tools and types of protective gear. Thankfully, these represent a one time purchase-they last for years.

Then, you need the actual hives for the bees. Most new beekeepers begin with 2 or 3 hives. The more hives you have – the more money you need to budget.

And don’t forget to plan ahead, if you know you plan to get or buy honey bees – let your family know. Give them a copy of a list of gifts for beekeepers. They will likely want to buy you little things as you go along and have no idea what to get.

Buying Beekeeping Tools-Supplies

While there are many different expenses to consider for those wishing to keep bees, supplies for the beekeeper is probably the most variable in cost. You can spend a little money on your beekeeping supplies or go all out for top of the line.

Do you want the latest, greatest gizmos or just the bare necessities? Thankfully, the tools required to manage beehives are actually few. 

Basic Tools

A basic beekeeper’s smoker is needed to calm the bees and make hive inspections more pleasant. Using a smoker saves bee lives by reducing stinging episodes. 

Smokers are available in different sizes, styles and price points.  Proper care and cleaning of your smoker means it will last for several years.

The only other tool that is a necessity is a hive tool. These come in different several different lengths, shapes and materials. The most basic flat hive tool is readily available for under $15 and it also will last a long time – if you don’t lose it!

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Bee smoker and beekeeper clothing.

Expense of Beekeeper Clothing

Every beekeeper needs some type of protective wear. The most important item is a beekeeper’s hat and veil to protect your face from stings. These can be had for a small amount of money – usually less than $30.

However, if you wish to go for even more protection, a bee jacket or even a full bee suit can be bought. The price for suits and jackets covers a wide range from $50 to several hundred. 

In many cases, you get what you pay for. Cheaper beekeeping wear will do the job but is not as sturdy and will not last as long. 

A good quality beekeeping suit can be washed or at least cleaned – the less expensive options must be handled very carefully to prevent ruin.

Beekeeper gloves or something similar are good items for beginners to consider. Some of us experienced beekeepers still wear them too. You don’t have to purchase regular bee gloves, nitrile ones work too.

With the basic tools and protective gear, the beginning beekeeper (himself/herself) is physically prepared to start.

Singles start up beehive.

Beekeeper Education

I know many may say this is overkill but I can not agree. After spending hundreds of dollars for all the things you need for your bees – don’t skimp on educating yourself.

If you have an experienced beekeeper who has the time to train you – that’s great. Most people do not have someone with enough available time to teach them all they need to know.

Protect your investment by spending a little on beekeeper education resources (online classes). The many available books for beekeepers and online classes help prepare you for problems before they arise. It will not be money wasted.

New packages of bees for a hive.

How Much Do Honey Bees Cost?

There are many ways to get a colony of honey bees for your hive. Most people end up buying bees or a bee family. The most common method is to start with a package of bees.

Others may have the opportunity to purchase a nucleus colony. Prices range from $125 – $250 and up depending on location and availability.

Check with local beekeeping associations, some of them offer special group purchases. You can also order bees from suppliers all over the country.

Of course, you can save some money on beekeeping start up costs by hoping to catch a swarm of bees

However, there is no guarantee that this will occur. Most new beekeepers had rather order live bees and be assured of getting started this year.

Chart infographic of the costs of basic beekeeping startup equipment image.

Cost of Setting Up the Hives

Of course, we cant really discuss how much it costs to start a beehive without considering the actual hive parts. This is be a bit variable depending on the type of beehive you choose to use.

While the cost of beehive equipment does vary a bit, you will likely not see a wide range of prices. Using the industry standard Langstroth hive with 10 frames, you can expect to pay between $100- $250 per unit.

When starting a new colony you need: a bottom board, deep super (with frames and foundation), inner cover and top for each hive. An entrance reducer is usually included and is very useful (though you can use a regular stick).

The actual cost of a beehive depends on whether or not you buy it already assembled or put it together yourself. Also, do you purchase painted equipment ready to go or paint or decorate your own bee hives with painted designs?

Most beekeepers find that placing their boxes on a hive stand is very useful. You can purchase commercial version or make your own hive stand using materials you may already have on hand.

Hive Kits Can Be A Money Saver

Many suppliers sell beehive kits. They contain the basic hive components plus some extras such as a bee brush, pens used to mark a queen bee, etc .

The beginner beehive starter kit can be a way to save money-if it contains the items that you want to use. Check to be sure that the size and style of the included components in the hive kits fit what you want in your apiary.

Also, kits are notorious for including things you may not really need for a while. Make sure you are not paying a lot for something you will never use.

Ongoing Beekeeping Expenses

Past setup, there are some other expenses associated with beekeeping. Your colonies may need to be fed at some time during the year. 

Making sugar syrup is an easy task and you can purchase feeders or make your own mason jar bee feeders. Fancier more expensive options are available if you desire to buy them.

Pest management, especially in regard to Varroa Mites, is an expense that can not be overlooked.  For most of the varroa treatment methods, you with pay more for each treatment or you pay more for a special tool and less for the chemicals.

An oxalic acid vaporizer can be expensive (though there are cheaper models) but the oxalic acid is inexpensive. Other types of varroa mite treatments cost more per hive but don’t require special tools.

Either way, be sure to include a bit extra in your yearly beekeeping budget for feeding sugar water and varroa control – even for the first year.

Extra Equipment Costs

Be prepared for future expenses in managing your hives. If you want to increase hive numbers next year, of course you will need money for more equipment and bees. 

For the beekeeper interested in honey production, the purchase of a honey extractor is a possible expense. Of course, extracting honey is not the only way to harvest – you may choose to delay the cost of an extractor for a few years.

And, there are hundreds of interesting gadgets and gizmos that make beekeeping more interesting.  Most of them are not things you must have but they are fun to experiment with.

Reducing Beekeeping Costs

The many costs of beekeeping can seem a bit overwhelming. However, most of the items do last for years and do not have to be purchased each season.

Some tools and supplies can be purchased from people that no longer want to keep hives. This might be a good way to save money. However, always be cautious and consider the risks of buying used beekeeping equipment

Used wooden wear, honeycomb etc can spell disaster. Old comb can carry diseases such as American Foul Brood and remain infected for 50 years or more.

FAQs

Is beekeeping an expensive hobby?

The cost of beekeeping involves purchasing several items including the tools and equipment needed. With an average per hive cost of between $250-$400 for set up

Does beekeeping pay for itself?

If the beekeeper invests time and effort into learning good management techniques, a small apiary can produce enough income to pay for itself.

Do beekeeping costs increase or decrease after the first year?

The first year is normally the most expense for the new beekeeper. Most of the tools and equipment will last for several years. After that, the main expenses involve feeding and pest management unless the beekeeper wants to increase hive numbers.

A Final Word

Beekeeping involves some investment of cash. Beekeepers can make an income from honey bees. But, it is not a get rich quick scheme. If having your own hives is a dream, go for it. But, be realistic in your expectations. If you are considering beekeeping as a business, you must also consider the legalities involved. Like most of life’s endeavors, beekeeping requires hard work, training and money.

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