How to prepare your family to survive and thrive in todays uncertain world

How Much Does It Cost To Start Beekeeping?

Yes, I’m still on my beekeeping kick. Today I want to talk about the economics of getting started with beekeeping.

The prices I am talking about in this post are appropriate for the Pacific Northwest, specifically Western Washington. Your mileage may vary depending on where you’re at.

Since the recommended minimum number of hives to start with is two, the math I’m going to use will reflect that. In some cases this means that I’m applying volume discounts for things like frames and foundation.

The Hive

For the hive I am costing out the expected body and super count for the first year. I am assuming two deep hive bodies and three western honey supers per hive.

For frames I’m using wooden frames with wax coated plastic foundation.

For each hive I’ll need two deep bodies, three western honey supers, 40 deep frames and foundation sheets, 60 western frames and foundation sheets, a screened bottom board, a telescoping lid and an inner cover.

The cost for this setup in my area ranges between $200 and $300 per hive.

Total Hive Cost: $400-$600

The Bees

Getting bees is pretty straight forward. You can readily get bee packages with a mated queen from any number of apiary supply stores or even from other beekeepers. Many beekeeping associations do large group orders of bee packages as well.

Rudy’s Note: A bee package is a simple box that has two screened sides, a feeder can, and a small cage to keep the queen segregated from the bees.

Packages come in 2, 3, and 4 pound sizes. The most commonly used package size around here is a 3 pound package, and I’m using that as my basis. Packages run between $80 and $100 each for a 3 pound package.

Total Bee Package Cost: $160 – $200

Tools and Clothing

Since we’re just getting started with beekeeping, we need to pick up tools and protective clothing. We need a hive tool, a bee brush, a smoker, a feeder for each hive, and a pair of gloves.

Protective clothing options are rather wide open. You can get a jacket or a full suit, or even just a veil. For purposes of this post we’re going to get a jacket and a veil.

All told this stuff will cost us between $140 and $200

Total Tools and Clothes Cost: $140 – $200

Total First Year Start-up Costs

Based on this math it looks like getting started for the first year is going to run me between $700 and $1000. Not cheap by any account.

To offset some of this cost, you can try to sell the honey your bees make. A hive in this area makes anywhere from 0 to 130lbs of excess honey a year, with the average amount looking like around 50-90 lbs.

Local raw honey goes for about $11-$13 a pound around here, so the average hive around here should in theory generate anywhere from $550 to $1170, assuming you actually sell it all and don’t keep it.

Rudy’s Note: These numbers are awfully optimistic for a first year beekeeper. If I got any sort of decent haul then I’d be pretty psyched. Getting 80-90 lbs a hive would be amazing. I don’t expect to get that much!

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6 Responses to How Much Does It Cost To Start Beekeeping?

  1. My husband and I started beekeeping last year. We found it quite fascinating and went out and watched them every day at first. After two months or so, they finally got some guard bees established and it wasn’t so fun any more. At first, I could just walk up in bare feet and bare arms and change the feeder jar. I don’t know what we’re going to do this year, those guard bees get right in our faces, and the jar has to be filled at least once a day! We can still hear a faint buzz of wings when we tap the side of the hive, so they ave survived the winter so far. In October, on an evening when it was going to frost, a bear came and knocked the whole hive over and wreaked havoc. My husband got it all stacked up just as it was getting dark – it was too dark to look and the bees were really, really riled up, so we couldn’t tell if the queen survived the carnage.

    We ordered another 3 pound package just in case, and are going to try a top bar hive this year. My advice is put a little electric fence around your hive! We did that after the bear incident and didn’t have any more trouble.

    A small request – could you please make you FB links open on a new page?

    • which FB links? I try to have most of my links open on a new page in general … I may have missed some. Do you have a sample?

    • When the bees get cranky, you can requeen with a gentle bee and it will calm them right down.

      I can see how they might be a bit upset about a bear coming to visit.

  2. My name is Tiffany Madison. I’m a 23 year old New Englander who is interested in bee keeping. This was helpful to give me some insight of what sort of things I need to plan for if I persue my interests. I live in a subruban town and I am not sure the zoning laws would permit to to have a bee hive in my back yard. What sort of legal information should I gather to secure my project?

    • Call the town or look up their ordinances on their website if possible. If you can’t have hives in your yard, I’m sure you can find someone else who can host them for you. Community gardens are often looking for bees.