Starting Costs For Beekeeping

It’s essential for any beginner beekeeper to set up a budget, as starting up can be pretty expensive.

Your first year will cost more than your other year as you need to buy more equipment and prepare yourself.

Starting Costs for Beekeeping: A Beginner’s Guide

However, everyone will have different starting costs. It would be best if you considered numerous factors when you begin, but we will discuss that later.

We recommend looking closer at our beginner’s guide to understanding beekeeping starting costs so sudden expenses will be clear to you.

With the help of our beginner’s guide, we can help you know what charges you should consider depending on the items and equipment you need to invest in. 

What Will Affect Your Starting Costs?

Before you start beekeeping, consider what factors may affect your starting costs. As we mentioned earlier, everyone has different aspects they need to consider when they begin.

Here are some of the most significant factors you need to consider when arranging your budget.

The Number Of Beekeepers

Do you plan to do beekeeping with friends or family? If you do, you may need to buy more than one set of protective equipment.

Generally, you won’t need to invest in multiples of every item, even if you’re working in a group.

It would help if you considered how many pieces of protective equipment you need, such as protective suits, gloves, or jackets.

If you’d like to know more about beekeeping protective gear, feel free to take a closer look at what you need below. 

The Configuration Of Your Hive

The most popular type of hive for beginners is the Langstroth hive. Beginners will find Langstroth hives easier to arrange as they have a modular design.

These are the easiest to find among equipment suppliers, and there will also be more experienced beekeepers familiar with this design who can mentor you to get the best of your ability. 

You’ll also be able to get more honey as you can add more boxes, which are also interchangeable so that you can purchase items from different manufacturers.

This also allows them to have multiple methods you can consider when you want to extract honey and transfer the honeycomb, brood, and food stores between your hives when they’re needed. 

However, these aren’t suitable if you have limited physical strength or storage space; we recommend choosing a suitable alternative, such as Warrè and Top Bar hives instead.

Warrè hives are similar to Langstroth hives, consisting of vertically stacked boxes. However, Top Bar hives are a single selection of horizontal bodies.

We’ll help you discover how much a hive will cost by helping you identify which one you should choose. 

The Number Of Colonies You Have

In a perfect world, you could begin your beekeeping journey with only one colony and hope that nothing ever goes wrong.

However, there are many reasons that you may lose a colony. Unfortunately, these aren’t always in your control either.

Instead of starting with one colony and taking the risk of starting from scratch, consider getting two colonies to increase your odds. 

While getting two colonies is expensive, it is a better option when you’re starting so that you can ensure that you won’t lose everything.

If you lose it all, it can be harder to start again, so it’s better to make the investment now than worry about losing everything in your first year.

The Type Of Bee Package You Start With

There are two main formats of bee packages, and the type of package can vary in price. You’ll find package bees arriving in a small box, and they will also have a caged queen.

When they move into the hive, the package bees will transfer to your hive en masse after they make themselves comfortable in their new colony.

You can also get a bee nuc, otherwise known as a nucleus colony. These colonies are small and newly started.

You’ll find that these are the more expensive option, as a nuc will arrive with five frames, including the queen, bees, nectar, comb, and so much more.

As it is already a mini-hive, you may also be able to find a local nuc of bees that were overwintered. Having an overwintered nuc can improve your gene pool and increase your bees’ odds of surviving the winter.

If you want to ensure your bees survive the winter, invest in the more expensive overwintered nucs.

Starting Costs for Beekeeping: A Beginner’s Guide

Generally, a nuc is suitable for anyone uncomfortable with handling your bees, while package bees are better for those with more experience. 

Location Of Your Hives

The weather is a significant factor that may affect your hives, especially if you expect a snowy winter.

If where you’re living has a higher snowfall than average, you’ll need to invest in a stand to ensure that your hive doesn’t get buried under. You’ll also find that if it’s cold, your bees will struggle to survive, so you’ll need to be prepared.

While some beekeepers will only invest in tar paper to prevent the wind from getting into the hive, this will only work for some.

If you know that it will be cold, you’ll need to invest in more equipment. Generally, winterization costs can vary depending on how you plan to invest.

You may not have to invest much in a warmer climate, but in colder areas, you may want to add between $50 to $75 onto your starting costs to ensure you’re prepared. 

If you want to know more about how to protect your bees in the winter, we recommend consulting local beekeepers.

They will have more experience with your specific climate and can give you more advice on the equipment you need to protect your bees. 

Protecting Your Hive from Animals And Pests

You’ll need to protect your bees from any animals and other pests that may be interested in your hives.

A significant problem that you’ll have to deal with is Varroa mites, as these destructor mites can destroy your colony.

So, you’ll need treatments to protect your honey bees. However, we’ll go into further options for treating Varroa mites in a separate section.

You’ll also need to protect your hive from small animals such as mice, skunks, and raccoons.

Depending on where you live, bears may also be a significant problem, as they love honey and bees. We will offer you some suggestions to protect your bees from different types of animals in a separate section.

Beekeeping Equipment You Need

Before you start beekeeping, you need to invest in the correct equipment and gear to ensure you work safely.

While you may have seen beekeepers on Youtube without protective gear, they will only be doing so as they are more comfortable and experienced with bees.

Beginners should have the correct equipment, as if you’re not sure how to handle bees, you may accidentally get stung. 

Protective Gear

When looking at protective gear, you should get a complete bee suit, or a special bee jacket if you don’t want a suit.

You’ll also need a veil to protect your face from any stings. Not all suits will have a veil in their suit, so you should make sure that you have one if you need it. Lastly, you’ll need some gloves to ensure you don’t get stung.

You can find many different beekeeping suits on Amazon and through specialty retailers. All suits are built for different sizes, and there are also children’s sizes available for those who want to invest in a new pastime for the whole family.

The type of beekeeping suit you look at will vary in price. A full suit can vary in price and can cost as low as $20 or as high as $350.

It all depends on the size you choose and what features are included in the suit. If you get one for $20, you can begin with a more affordable selection and build up to a more expensive one later.

You’ll find that more costly suits have more features, and you may even find a ventilated suit if you live in a warmer climate. 

You’ll also find beekeeping jackets vary, with the most affordable being between $10 and $15 or the highest price at $250.

All beekeeping jackets have different qualities; most of them also come with a veil or hood to protect your face.

However, you should decide based on your own judgment, as you may not be comfortable with the thin texture of some jackets if you’re anxious about getting stung.

Starting Costs for Beekeeping: A Beginner’s Guide

Some suits and jackets already come with beekeeping gloves, (see also: Best Beekeeping Gloves)but if they don’t, you can also buy them separately.

You may find some high-quality gloves for under $10 and $50. However, this will only be a concern if you don’t have gloves arriving with your suit or jacket.

Overall, the cost of gear depends on which equipment you select. We hope that by including an estimate of the price range of the kit, you may be able to handle the starting costs.

If you need help deciding which gear to choose, we recommend checking with local beekeepers to see what they recommend.

Beekeeping Tools

There are a few must-have tools that all beginner beekeepers need to start. You’ll need a bee smoker, a hive tool, and a bee brush.

However, it would be best if you also considered that a smoker will require pellets or fuel to ensure that there is still plenty of smoke available, so we recommend including this in your costs.

A bee smoker is essential for anyone who needs to calm their bees before accessing the hives. If your bees aren’t accustomed to being handled, they may feel threatened.

However, a bee smoker will calm the bees enough that you can manage them carefully. You can find a bee smoker on Amazon for as little as $20, going up to the highest price of $100.

However, most of these higher-range smokers are made of stainless steel or a part of a more comprehensive starter kit(see also: Best Beekeeping Starter Kits By Budget). 

Once you buy your bee smoker, you need to check the price of pellets and fuel. Some smoker fuel may use jute burlap smoker fuel, while others may require smoke pellets.

Some smoker fuel you can get for $5, but the jute burlap fuel may cost between $20 and $40 depending on how much you purchase.

A hive tool costs roughly $6 or $7 at the lowest starting price. These hive tools are designed to help you separate your boxes, pry out frames, hive bodies, and honey supers, and scrape wax from the boxes and frames.

This is easily the most essential tool you can have in your arsenal. Best of all, the most expensive ones are only $10 at their highest point.

You can quickly get two if you need a spare or if you just want to ensure that anyone else has one available when checking the hives.

Lastly, we have the bee brush. These are equally as essential as your hive tool, as you can use the brush to gently brush any honey bees off your frames to inspect them.

If you want to brush any bees off of you, you can gently do so with this or remove any dirt from your hive boxes.

They generally cost around $7 on Amazon, with the highest price being $17. However, these are usually made with different bristles or arrive in a collection with your hive tool.

As you can see, the smoker will be your most expensive investment, but otherwise, your other tools will only cost more depending on the quantity you buy.

Your Hive

Most beginners use Langstroth hives, so we’ll be focusing on them in this section. These hives are made of boxes which are stacked vertically, with an identical width and length.

Each box will then have frames and a foundation where your honey bees can build their wax comb.

These are often categorized by their width, the amount of frames they can hold, and their depth. In fact, these deep boxes are otherwise known as brood boxes, while medium boxes are known as honey supers.

However, other hives are known as Warrè and Top Bar hives. Warrè hives are also vertical hives and were designed to mimic the way honey bees build their comb in the wild. All these boxes are square and the same size.

When inside, they’re like a tree hollow that bees will find familiar. Warrè hives are only used with top bars, while the frame can contain two side bars and no bottom bar.

Generally, the hive bodies sit atop a quilt box, and unlike Langstroth hives, any new boxes are added to the bottom of your Warrè hive. 

If you want a horizontal hive, you should consider a Top Bar hive. This is the most common type of artificial horizontal hive.

When making a Top Bar hive, you’ll need wedge-shaped bars that hang across the top of the cavity, which allows the bees a starting point to move down to the comb.

Then, the hive body has a slope along the sides, so the bees don’t attach the comb here but to the center instead.

Starting Costs for Beekeeping: A Beginner’s Guide

While the top can be flat, they’re usually gabled to allow plenty of air space, and it can be easier for you to remove the cover without completely doing so.

However, due to the popularity of the Langstroth hive, we’ll be focusing on the Langstroth hive due to its widespread usage among beekeepers around the country. 

Langstroth Hives

Depending on the tools you have available, you can either build your own Langstroth hive or buy one online.

Generally, it’s more difficult to gauge the price of a hive you would make at home, so for the sake of this article, we’ll identify what price you would be thinking of with a Langstroth hive online.

A complete box can cost between $125 at the lowest price and will typically contain one deep box and one medium box at that price.

However, there are some boxes with only one layer, which can be better for beginners.

However, you can get more expensive Langstroth hives, for a maximum of $329, that have a slightly different design. If you need any more frames, they can be purchased for a little over $30. 

Generally, if you wanted to build your own, you would need to spend between $260 and $275 and mix and match with different suppliers. If you do want to make your own, you will need to purchase the following: 

  • A bottom board
  • A deep brood box
  • A medium box
  • An inner cover
  • A telescope outer
  • A migratory outer
  • A frame
  • A foundation

You will then need to put them all together, so you need to ensure you know how to build one if you’re not sure how we recommend sticking to buying one online.

Buying Your Bees

There are two main formats to buy your bees. You can either purchase package bees, which are in a small box with a caged queen.

The colony will adapt to her, and then you can move them into the hive when they’re ready. There are also nucleus colonies, which are colonies that have already started.

These are mini-hives which consist of five frames with the queen and bees already there. However, they are the more expensive option.

Bee Package

The type of bee package you buy depends on the location, season, and whether they need to ship to you. If you want to get a bee package, you’re looking at an average price of $174.

However, these aren’t perfect for beginners, as you may need to handle your bees immediately. If you’ve never handled bees before, it’s better to go with the more expensive bee nucs.

Bee Nucs

Nucleus colonies are better for beginners to install in their hives, as they won’t require you to build a new colony.

The colony is already established, which makes it easier for your bees to create their home in the hive.

While they are more expensive, the average price tends to be in the range of $202. However, overwintered nucs that have already acclimatized to winter will cost an average of $250. 

The type of colony you choose depends on how comfortable you are when you begin handling bees.

If you’re uncomfortable, you may invest in a bee nuc, and then look into getting a bee package in the future.

Preparing For Winter

In the previous section, we talked about the cost of overwintered bee nucs. If you’ve never raised bees in winter before, that can be a benefit as it increases the odds of your colony surviving.

During this season, you may also want to invest in a stand if you don’t already have one, especially if you expect heavy snowfall. If your hive is too close to the ground, it may get buried. 

If you get a Langstroth hive, you may be able to find a stand for a minimum price of $40 and the higher price of $150.

However, a more expensive stand may contain more than one and may also be more elevated than others.

Another excellent reason to have a stand is due to the risk of ants being interested in sneaking into your hive.

If you want to prevent this, putting your hive higher could increase your chances of stopping them from coming in.

Earlier, we mentioned that preparing for winter can cost you, on average, around $70 or $75, but you may be wondering what other items you may need.

One of the best ways to ensure your bees are safe is by insulating your hive. Consider placing a screened board with sugar bricks in them so that way your bees will have more food inside the hive. You can also include burlap so that any condensation is absorbed. 

You can also purchase a Bee Cozy, which is a wrap that you put around your hive to ensure it stays insulated and prevents wind from blowing around your hive.

Starting Costs for Beekeeping: A Beginner’s Guide

It will also reduce the heat rate from falling, making it perfect for keeping them warm. You can find them on Amazon for $45. 

If you live in a harsh winter climate, you want to be prepared, as you don’t want to lose your colony due to the elements.

If you lose them, you’ll have to start over again, so consider this if you’re unsure about what you need to protect your hive.

Protecting Your Hive

You don’t only need to protect your hive from the elements, but you also need to protect them from animals and pests.

Earlier, we mentioned Varroa mites which can destroy your colony. You’ll need to learn how to handle them, or else you may have to replace your entire hive.

There are many treatments available that can help you handle Varroa mites and prevent them from harming your honey bees.

You can purchase some Oxalic Acid to stop them for $10. However, you can also use a Varomorus Durable Oxalic Acid Vaporizer to eliminate the mites before they destroy your colony, which will cost roughly $50. 

Varroa mites are the biggest threat to honey bees and can wipe out an entire colony. They carry several viruses that can kill your bees, and they only reproduce in a honey bee (see also: How Do Bees Reproduce?)colony. So, you need to protect them from these threats. 

You need to keep protecting your hive from Varroa mites, so on average, you will pay, at most, $25 a year to defend your colony. However, this is better than letting your bees get destroyed by them, as it will cost even more to replace them.

Protection From Animals

Now that you understand the danger from Varroa mites, we can discuss other issues you may have.

You can elevate your bee hive to prevent animals from coming into your hive to make a nest for themselves. For example, mice are one of the biggest culprits for going into the hive and living there in the winter(see also: Ultimate Guide To Winterizing Your Hives). 

Skunks and raccoons will go to the hive to either build a shelter or try to get to the bees and honey.

These animals can also irritate your bees, and then they will become more irate as you look after them. However, they can also knock your hive down, which can either damage your hive or the bees inside. 

We recommend buying some ratchet and lashing straps to keep your hive together if it’s overturned.

You don’t want your bees to escape the colony, and these can also be used to hold your bee covers over them in the winter.

Ratchet straps vary in size, with the most affordable being $5. However, we recommend you choose the slightly more expensive $20 ones to ensure that you have high-quality supplies. 

Your lashing straps should cost at least $10, and by combining these with your ratchet straps, you can be confident that rodents won’t get into your hive.

If you want a more extensive selection, it may cost you between $30 and $40, but then you will always be prepared for any backup scenarios.

While lashing and ratchet straps will protect your bees from smaller creatures; they won’t do much if you have a bear going after your hive.

As we know, bears love honey, and they would love to get their paws on it. They also enjoy bees as well, so it’s best to protect them, especially if you know that bears live in your area.

A typical fence will deter any smaller animals from getting near your hive, but you will need more power to keep bears away.

While it is more expensive, you will likely need an electric fence to stop them. You can get an electric fence in the range of $200 and $300.

Although it looks like a shocking amount, you may want to pay that price instead of the cost of all your bees and equipment again.

Other Costs

You also need to consider other costs included here, so you should have them in your budget.

If you want to paint your hive, you should find the type of paint that you want to use and consider how much you’ll need.

Books are also helpful, especially for beginners. Buy or borrow books from your library about beekeeping (see also: Best Beekeeping Books)to maximize your knowledge and learn everything you can.

Beekeeping requires a lot of learning, so remember to educate yourself before you invest in your equipment.

Don’t forget food to feed your bees. It’s best to get some sugar and pollen patties to feed your bees. The cost of these will depend on where and how much you buy them.

Always pay attention to the amount you buy, as this will also be a regular expense when you’re going to look after your bees.

You can also consider buying a frame holder too, which you can keep for your hive inspections to ensure they’re within reach.

Usually, you can expect a frame holder to cost between $10 and $30. However, you shouldn’t have any issues going into a more affordable price frame for this item, as they are only an add-on.

There are also optional clamps to grip and lift your frames, however, these may only seem tempting when you’re not used to your bees.

Overall, these may prevent you from being confident with handling them. If you are very uncertain about lifting your frames with your hand, we recommend getting one for around $10. 

What About Honey Extracting Equipment?

In your first year, we recommend ignoring your honey-extracting equipment. Honey-extracting equipment will cost at least $150, and you want to ensure that your bees survive the winter first.

You want to focus on growing your colony before you start attempting to harvest them. Instead, you should factor your honey-extracting equipment into your second-year costs.

Even if your bees are productive, you don’t need to use the equipment until later. If you do want to try honey, extract your frames and scrape them into a container.

Then, you just need to crush your wax and honey and strain the liquid honey into a jar. That will allow you to have a taste of honey instead of investing too much too soon.

Cost Of Time

We’ve mainly discussed how much money you will spend on beekeeping, but there is one other cost you must consider: time.

You need to spend a lot of time studying, assembling equipment, inspecting your hive, and ensuring you maintain a perfect environment for your bees.

Beekeeping isn’t always a walk in the park, and you should consider the amount of time you spend.

The time spent looking after your bees is worth it, and you’ll gain a newfound appreciation of your bees.

As your hive grows, you’ll be able to sit back and relax in the winter months as your bees rest.

However, during the rest of the year, you need to remain vigilant, so take your winter as the time to sit back and put your feet up.

Saving Money On Beekeeping

If you’ve been looking at our guide and watching the numbers add up, you may be interested in buying a starter kit or even a used hive.

Please don’t be tempted by these tools. Starter kits may include most of the items you need, but you can’t guarantee that they’ll be of high quality.

They may also be missing some things, or you’ll think that they’re a great deal and discover you need to buy more as your colony grows.

You shouldn’t be tempted to buy a used bee hive, either. While purchasing a readily-assembled hive is fine, buying a used hive can put your colony at risk.

All hives need to be cleaned thoroughly, as you don’t know why the hive is being sold. It could be due to a Varroa mite infestation, so there may still be remnants remaining.

If you do buy one, you should find a used hive from a reputable beekeeper and not one you find online.

How Much Does Beekeeping Cost For Beginners?

Now that you’ve been through the article and you’ve taken notes on what you need to buy, you may want an overall sum to identify your budget.

Overall, we would say that you’re looking at an estimate of $760 to start your new hive. However, those aren’t the only costs that you need to consider.

While there are ongoing costs for items you need to replace, you need to factor in any unexpected expenses.

Even the best beekeepers can find themselves losing bees in the winter. It’s not unusual, and it’s actually normal, which is why we recommend investing in two colonies.

If you do lose your bees, you need to replace them, so you should remember to include them.

These expenses haven’t been included to discourage you from beekeeping. We only include these factors so you know what you need to expect.

However, as you gain more experience, you’ll learn more about how to keep your bees in the best shape.

Summary

Beekeeping costs can cost a lot. You won’t only spend a lot of money on your equipment and gear but time too.

While it can be daunting, this is a learning experience that you can’t ignore. We hope that with the help of our guide, you can be prepared for any and all expenses that will come your way. 

If you need any more answers, feel free to check out our other articles to learn more about starting beekeeping.

Beekeeping is a fun pastime which the whole family can enjoy together, and it is also great for couples too.

Thomas Callaghan
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