Beekeeping is a marvelous hobby that has been practiced for thousands of years. In modern society, the passion for keeping bees remains with many experienced and new beekeepers enjoying the art. However, the cost of beekeeping can easily reach into hundreds of dollars – especially during the first couple of years.
Beginning Cost to Start Beekeeping
The amount of money needed to set up your first hives depends on several factors. The common tools and protective gear represent a one time purchase. But, most new beekeepers begin with 2 or 3 hives. The total cost of beekeeping startup includes things needed by the beekeeper plus the per unit cost for each hive.
Buying Things for the Beekeeper
While there are many different expenses to consider for those wishing to keep bees, equipment for the beekeeper is probably the most variable.
Do you want the latest, greatest gizmos or just the bare necessities? Thankfully, the tools required to manage hives are actually few.
A basic bee smoker is needed to calm the bees and make hive inspections more pleasant. Using a smoker saves bee lives by reducing stinging episodes.
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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 two come in 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!
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.
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 new beekeeper is physically prepared to start managing their hives.
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.
Otherwise, protect your investment by spending a little more on beekeeper education for yourself. Beekeeping books and classes help prepare you for problems before they arise. It will not be money wasted.
Cost of Beehive Equipment
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- $175 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 hive 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 boxes?
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, queen marking tools, etc.
The beginner 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 beehive 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 for something you will never use.
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 in a package or a nuc colony. These prices range from $125 – $200 and up depending on location and availability.
Of course, you can save some money on beekeeping start up costs by hoping to catch a swarm of wild bees. However, there is no guarantee that this will occur. Most new beekeepers had rather buy bees and be assured of getting started this year.
Variable Beekeeping Expenses
Past setup, there are some other expenses associated with beekeeping. Colonies will usually 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 varroa control – even for the first year.
Future Costs to Expect for Maintaining Bees
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.
Saving Money on Beekeeping Expenses
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.
Is Beekeeping Profitable?
Beekeeping can be profitable but it depends to a degree on where you live and what type of product you wish to sell. Beekeeping is hard work. It is not a get rich quick scheme that is easy money.
If having your own hives is a dream, go for it. But, realize that it will likely be several years before you can hope to see a profit. And like any business, you must consider the legalities and challenges of beekeeping as a business.
Like most of life’s endeavors, beekeeping requires some hard work, training and money. As you begin your adventure, connect with local beekeepers. They are one of your best resources for understanding local conditions and finding the best local sources for bees and equipment.
This is not a one and done hobby. Successful beekeepers continue to learn and grow in expertise over the years. But in spite of the hard work, this is an experience that can not be explained in simple words. Bees are magical.