Once upon a time, I thought the cost to start beekeeping was low. A few hundred dollars would get you a decent hive, basic equipment, and a package of bees. But all that has changed.
In a recent conversation on Bee-L (January 2019), people reported three-pound packages of bees with a mated queen averaging from about $130 to $185 before shipping. Some of the outliers hit $200. Of course, a lot depends on where you live because shipping live bees is an expensive ordeal. If you live closer to the package origin, you can usually get a better deal.
Starting with two hives
So if you start with two hives, which is highly recommended, the bees alone will probably cost at least $250. To that, you need to add the cost of the hives, some basic equipment, and consumable supplies.
I was going to figure out what it might cost to start beekeeping today, but the price and quality of merchandise vary wildly. I finally decided that calculating a number for you might be more of a disservice than a help, so I’m going to skip that part.
Apples and oranges
For a new beekeeper, the hive kits are extremely variable and hard to compare. For example, today a basic Langstroth hive at Mann Lake—which includes a telescoping cover, inner cover, 8-frame deep brood box, and a solid bottom with reducer–is quoted at $99.50 with free shipping on orders over $100. On the Flow Hive website, the Classic Cedar kit—which includes a gabled roof, inner cover, honey super with 6 Flow frames, brood box with 8 frames, screened bottom board, and queen excluder—is $699 with $49 shipping.
A new beekeeper can go to the websites, see the photos, and read the write-ups, but I think it is really hard for someone new to know what he wants or needs. To me, neither of these set-ups are ideal for beginners, and that is the problem with kits. But my point here is that, depending on what you want, just two simple start-up hives could cost anywhere from $200 to $1500, before bees.
And don’t forget, you probably want to put this new hive on a hive stand. You can make one easily enough if you have the tools and ability, otherwise add the cost of a hive stand to your tab. And don’t forget, you will most likely need some kind of feeder for each hive, especially to get the packages started in the spring.
Tools and equipment
Basic tools are the same. You can pay anything you want for bee suits, smokers, hive tools, and a bee brush. And again, it’s hard to know what makes you comfortable until you start doing it. Are you good with just blue jeans and a veil? Maybe a bee jacket would work. Or do you sometimes feel the need for a full suit? Only you can figure out the answer.
Many beekeepers also prefer to treat mites with a vaporizer, which can run from about $80 to $200 depending on type and features. And with that, you will need a 12-volt battery if you don’t already have one, a respirator, and gloves.
The consumable supplies aren’t so expensive, but you may need mite treatments, sugar, smoker fuel, and maybe a pollen supplement. The need for all of these things is variable, of course, and depends on your individual situation, but if you are budgeting for beekeeping, keep all of these possibilities in mind.
If it turns out you actually get a crop of honey, what next? If you are going to extract it, are you going to buy, rent, or borrow an extractor? Each option has plusses and minuses. And then you may want to filter the honey and put it in something like jars. If you are going to sell it, you may want labels. And on and on.
Back in September, an article in Countryside Network estimated the cost to start beekeeping at $500 for the first hive, and $300 for each additional one. Another site, PreparingYourFamily.com estimated $700 to $1000 for two hives, and a recent article in the came up with $700 for one and $1200 for two. You should read these if you are just starting, but I think all three leave out some of the things you will want to include in your plans.
The take-home message here is to plan accordingly. Like many endeavors, you may want to figure your costs and then double them, just to be on the safe side. I hate to see beekeepers run out of money before they do the things necessary to keep their bees healthy. Caring for bees isn’t much different than raising children or pets because unexpected expenses are bound to crop up. Knowing that extra expenses may arise goes a long way to being financially prepared.
Honey Bee Suite