infrequently asked questions

Bottom line: how much does the average honey bee cost?

When your three-pound package of bees arrives, aren’t you just dying to know how many bees are in there? You know your cost per pound, but what is your cost per bee?

According to The ABC & XYZ of Bee Culture, European honey bee workers on an empty stomach number about 4000 to the pound (or about 8800 bees per kilogram). On the other hand, well-fed workers—which you hope you are getting—number about 3000 bees per pound (or roughly 6600 bees per kilogram).

Since some bees in your package are probably well-fed and some are hungry we can split the difference and call it 3500 bees per pound. Multiplied by three, this gives you 10,500 bees per three-pound package—most of which will die over the next few weeks. So let’s say you paid $75/package. Your cost per bee—dead or alive—is about $75/10500 or 0.71 cents per bee.

However, this calculation does not consider the mated queen that came with the package. So let’s deduct $20 for her and recalculate. Your price per semi-well fed worker is now $55/10500 bees or 0.52 cents. Two for a penny . . . such a deal.

But this calculation doesn’t consider any postage, cage fees, or taxes . . . and my cost estimates are based on 2010 prices. Those girls are getting pretty spendy, so you better take very good care of them!


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    • It comes out to 0.0071 dollars/bee or 0.71 cents per bee. I converted dollars to cents without writing out all the steps. If you think of $75 as 7500 cents then divide by 10,500 you get 0.71, which is cents/bee. We end up in the same place, which is two for a penny.

      • You haven’t the slightest idea how to do math kid…. 10,000 bees by your math would cost $7500 genius.

          • Your mistake here was in not showing all your work, which apparently left some readers very confused. 🙂
            Also, every package I’ve bought has cost a LOT more than $75. not even counting shipping and taxes.
            Also also, everyone knows that bees cost blood, sweat, and tears!

            • Roberta,

              Yes, you are probably right, but I don’t like to talk down at my readers. I assume most of them know that a dollar is equal to 100 pennies, but maybe not.

              When I wrote the original post (01-14-2011), packages here were $75. Perhaps I will update it to the “modern” era. Time flies when I’m not paying attention.

  • Much cheaper still if you go out in spring and collect swarms! Add in the husband who builds hives for me, and save even more. 😉

    In fact, I’ve never bought a package of bees. The whole thing seems complicated and a bit strange to me as a result. I’m learning more about it, but intend to keep on with the swarms when possible. Gotta learn to split a hive next spring, though…missed capturing a swarm in my own hives because I didn’t know how to do a split even when I knew it was a good idea.

  • That would be SO awesome if you’d write about how to do a split! I’m not terribly far from you, down in SW Washington, so my time of year is probably similar for most things too.

    Your blog is the only one I get in my email that I absolutely always read. 🙂 In fact, 99% of the time, it’s the only one I read, period. So thank you!

  • You note, “well-fed workers—which you hope you are getting—number about 3000 bees per pound (or roughly 6600 bees per pound)”.

    I believe that in the second notation “roughly 6600 bees per pound” you may have desires to say, “roughly 6600 bees per kilogram”.

    Yes, i know, nit, nit, nit, pic, pic, pic…

    Good information. Thanks for sharing!

    • Rick,

      Thank you so much for catching the error. You are absolutely right, of course! I fixed it.

  • Bees absolutely love the Blue Mist Spirea (also known as Dark Knight). Might be a good one for your very useful list. Thank you for that!

  • Great stories. I try and read them all, but I’m not sure I have yet. Do you thunk you’ll ever label or caption the various non-honey bee bees on the home page? That would be nice.

    • Anne,

      Thanks for a good idea. I added it to my list of website tweaks (which is already long). I tend to do these things in the slow season, but if I can figure out how, I will do it sooner.

  • Just purchased four frames of bees for 80 euros, I provided box, frames and wax. Commercial beekeeper provided bees after three weeks.

    That’s 20 euros per 6000 bees plus a queen which can cost as much if bought alone.

  • Sorry fella,
    Your bee price is wrong per bee.
    Even if you change it to 7500 pennies per 10500 bees,
    You end up with .71 of a penny.
    Here, do it backwards if you are having trouble.
    If you are saying each bee is 71 pennies then 71 times 10500 equals 745,500 pennies.
    745,500 divided by 100 (to calculate into dollars) equals $7455 dollars.
    Are you seeing your error now?
    It would be $7455 for 10500 bees!

    • Fella,

      No, I don’t see my error, but I certainly see yours.

      If you want to use pennies, that’s okay, but you have to convert properly. You are two orders of magnitude (a factor of 100) off.

      You say that 7500 pennies divided by 10500 bees is .71 of a penny. That is correct so far.

      But then you say 71 times 10500 is 745,000 pennies. That might be true, but the number you need to use is not 71 pennies but .71 of a penny (which you just said, but apparently forgot).

      You see, .71 cents is not the same as .71 dollars. An amount of .71 dollars is 71 cents, but .71 cents is .0071 dollars. This is why you are 100 times off.

      An initial estimate is always helpful. If you look at your first statement, “Even if you change it to 7500 pennies per 10500 bees” you can easily see there are more bees than pennies, so each bee will cost less than a penny—not more—and certainly not 71 times more.

      My post stands as written.

  • I just read all the comments in wanting to get into a personal hello and commercial beehive production honey. It had me confused for a while but I figured it out and I will have to say everything was very well said and explained. What’s the number of bees that you would want to start a small personal commercial honey farm? How many hives hive would you need for 40,000 to 50,000 bees and would that be enough? How many quarts of honey could you get from 40 to 50 thousand bees?

    • Joe,

      If you have never kept bees, you should start with just a few hives to see if you like it. About 40,000 to 50,000 bees live in an averaged-sized hive in the spring and summer. How much honey depends on a lot of things, including where you live and what the season was like. There are no guarantees. I think the US average is around 40 pounds per hive, which would be about 13 quarts.

  • I enjoy reading about bees and hives, very very interesting. I am not in the hive business , but I plant to attract. Thx for the insights and info.

  • Okay all ya math is terrible… its 75 dollars per 10500 bees. So 75/10500= .0071 dollars or .71 cents per bee (each bee is a little more that half a penny.. not 71 cents per bee.. if it was 71 cents per bee then multiply 71 cents by 10500 bees.. u see it would cost $7,455 for 3 bls….. so u need to correct ur article. It cost .71 of a penny per bee egg aka 3/4 a single penny

    • Alex,

      Your math is fine, but your reading, not so much. The end of my third paragraph reads: “Your cost per bee—dead or alive—is about $75/10500 or 0.71 cents per bee.” We came to exactly the same number.