How Much Does It Cost To Start Beekeeping? (Comprehensive Guide)
Beekeeping is a great hobby, homesteading activity, or a potential business.
But there are costs to starting beekeeping that every aspiring beekeeper should be aware of to budget correctly.
In this article, I’ll examine the financial commitment required to start beekeeping and what equipment you need…
How Much Does It Cost To Start Up Beekeeping?
Starting beekeeping can cost between $700 and $1300, but most are one-off rather than continual costs. These are average costs, and new beekeepers can cut start-up expenses by opting for simpler beekeeping methods while they get established.
Keeping honey bees is a rewarding and satisfying activity, and I recommend anyone interested in beekeeping try it!
Before you get going beekeeping, you need to count the financial cost to establish your beekeeping operation. Beekeeping is a “gear-intensive” activity, which requires that you have a minimum amount of equipment to:
- Take care of your bees,
- protect yourself,
- and harvest honey from the hives.
Fortunately, much of the equipment lasts a long time. It can sometimes last a lifetime, depending on the quality of the equipment you purchase.
As you get into beekeeping, you will learn how to minimize your costs by making some of the equipment yourself, but as a beginner, I recommend you start with commercially available products.
This will get you started faster and give you an excellent foundation to build your beekeeping operation. Next, we will examine the equipment needed to get going, the cost of populating your hive with bees, and additional ongoing costs you can expect.
Costs Of Beekeeping Equipment And Supplies
Beekeeping requires a range of equipment to care for the bees, keep you safe while beekeeping, and some additional equipment to extract honey from the hives.
I have broken down the costs into these broad categories to give you an idea of how much it costs to start beekeeping.
PPE For Getting Started Beekeeping
PPE, or Personal Protection Equipment, is one of the most expensive parts of beekeeping. Fortunately, most of the equipment is well-made and will last many years of beekeeping.
The extent of the beekeeping PPE you purchase will depend on the area in which you raise bees and the type of bees. For example, bees in some parts of the world are more aggressive than others, but on the whole, in the US and Europe, the bees are relatively docile.
However, from a confidence standpoint, I recommend that new beekeepers start with a full bee suit until they feel comfortable working with their bees and can decide on the level of protection they want to use.
The following are the recommended minimum beekeeping safety gear that I suggest you start with as a beginner and the associated approximate prices.
- Beekeeping suit. A full bee suit is recommended and costs up to $75.00 – $150.00
- Beekeeping gloves. Some bee suits come with gloves, but a second pair is recommended. Leather beekeeping gloves are the best option and cost $20.00 – $30.00
- Boots. You can use hiking boots you already have or purchase beekeeping boots for $70.00 – $90.00.
- Gaiters. Gaiters are secured above your boots to prevent bees from crawling into your boots and stinging your ankles. The cost of beekeeping gaiters is $20.00 – $40.00.
(Note: this article includes affiliate links to Amazon)
Gaiters are not always necessary, and you can easily make your own. Still, as a beginner, they help to keep the bees out of the top of your boots.
In my experience, angry bees often target areas of the human body where the blood flows close to the surface of your skin, such as near joints such as ankles. The body heat from these areas probably attracts the bees to target these locations.
Tools For Beekeeping
Beekeeping only requires a few tools, but the tools designed specifically for beekeepers are indispensable when working with your bees.
- Hive tool. The hive tool is used to pry open beehives, separate frames inside the hive, and assist in extracting frames from the hive. The are several hive tool designs, but my preference is the J-hook hive tool, and the cost can range between $10.00 and $20.00.
- Smoker. A bee smoker is one of the most essential tools for the beekeeper and helps to calm bees down before the beekeeper opens the hive to work inside. The cost of a smoker can range between $20.00 and $40.00.
- Bee brush. A soft bristled bee brush is needed to gently brush bees off the frames and the beekeeper. Bee brushes are relatively inexpensive, costing between $10.00 and $20.00.
- Queen clip. A queen clip is used to secure the queen while you perform tasks in the hive that could injure or kill the queen. The queen clips range from plastic to stainless steel and come in sets that cost between $8.00 to $10.00 for a 5-piece set.
- Frame grip. A frame grip is unnecessary, but it makes extracting the frames from the hive easier, especially for beginner beekeepers. Frame grips cost between $7.00 and $15.00.
You can buy beekeeping starter kits with all these tools, but there is no certainty of the quality of all the equipment in the bundle. These starter beekeeper bundles cost between $55.00 and $70.00, depending on the components in the kit. However, these kits can help lower the start-up cost for new beekeepers.
Equipment For Housing Bees
Housing your bees is the next cost consideration for a. You need beehives to contain your bee colonies and provide them with a structured environment.
- Beehive. A single, complete Langstroth beehive, including a brood chamber and honey super, can cost between $120.00 and $170.00.
- Frames. Frames are where the bees build the comb in the hive. You will need additional frames for each beehive to make harvesting easier. 10-frames set with foundation sheets cost between $35.00 and $70.00.
- Foundation sheets. Foundation sheets are consumable and must be replaced periodically. You have the choice of plastic or wax foundation sheets. The costs range between $40.00 and $55.00 for a box of 30 foundation sheets.
Cost Of Equipment For Extracting Honey From Beehives
Equipment to extract honey is often an aspect of beekeeping that beginners overlook. Extraction gear can be simple or complex, but I recommend that beginner beekeepers opt for the simple option of manual extractions rather than commit to the financial expense of an automated extractor.
The simplest extraction method is to manually uncap the comb, cut the comb from the frame, and let the honey drain from the comb using gravity. This method requires minimal gear and keeps start-up costs lower.
- Uncapping tool. The uncapping tool removes the wax caps on the honey cells in the comb. The cost of an uncapping tool ranges from $8.00 for manual versions to $200.00 for electric versions.
- Honey sieve. A honey sieve is necessary to strain impurities from the homey to prepare it for consumption. Stainless steel honey sieves are the best options, costing between $20.00 and $25.00.
- Honey bucket with honey gate. A food-grade bucket with a honey gate is necessary for bulk storage and dispensing your honey. The cost of a honey bucket ranges from $35.00 to $45.00.
Cost Of Bees
Now that you have your gear to start beekeeping, the next step is to populate your beehives with bee colonies. You can approach this part of beekeeping in several ways, some more cost-effective than others.
You can purchase colonies from another beekeeper or breeder, purchase queens, or capture wild swarms and populate your hives with these wild-caught bees.
The cost of purchasing a colony of bees can be quite expensive. You can save costs later in your beekeeping career by splitting your colonies to increase your hive numbers. However, purchasing a swarm is the fastest way to start beekeeping.
When purchasing a bee colony, you can buy packaged bees for between $140.00 and $175.00, or a nucleus colony with brood frames, for between $150.00 and $200.00.
You may occasionally need to purchase a queen if your colony’s resident queen dies or you split a colony. Queen bees generally cost between $25.00 and $40.00.
Catching wild swarms costs zero, which is a cost-effective way of getting your first colony. Still, the season must be correct, and some knowledge of capturing swarms is necessary for this method.
Additional Beekeeping Costs
There are some hidden costs in beekeeping, some of which are necessary, but others are optional. For example, joining a beekeeping association is not always needed. Still, in some areas, it is a legal requirement for all beekeepers.
Membership fees to a beekeeping association can cost between $15.00 and $30.00 for an annual membership, but the costs vary. Check locally.
Permits are required for beekeepers in some locations, but the cost of the permits ranges from free to about $20.00 for an annual registration fee.
Liability insurance is the minimum insurance beekeepers should invest in. The costs can be from $350.00 per year to $400.00 per year. This cost works out to about $30.00 to $33.00 per month.
These additional costs can add between $45.00 to $83.00 to the start-up costs for a beekeeper.
Summary Of Costs To Start Beekeeping
To summarize the costs you can expect to get started beekeeping, I have listed each in the table below as a quick reference:
|Expense||Type of Cost||Cost|
|PPE Beekeeping Gear|
|Bee suit||Once-off||$75.00 – $150.00|
|Gloves||Once off||$20.00 – $30.00|
|Boots||Once-off||$70.00 – $90.00|
|Gaiters||Once off||$20.00 – $40.00|
|Hive Tool||Once -off||$10.00 – $20.00|
|Smoker||Once-off||$20.00 – $40.00|
|Bee Brush||Once-off||$10.00 – $20.00|
|Queen Clip||Once-off||$8.00 – $10.00|
|Frame Grip||Once-off||$7.00 – $15.00|
|Equipment For Housing Bees|
|Beehive||Once-off||$120.00 – $170.00|
|Frames||Periodic||$35.00 – $70.00|
|Foundation sheets||Ongoing||$40.00 – $55.00|
|Uncapping tool||Once-off||$8.00 – $200.00|
|Honey bucket with honey gate||Once-off||$35.00 – $45.00|
|Honey filtration sieves||Once-off||$20.00 – $25.00|
|Cost Of Bees|
|Either Package bees||Once-off or every time you start a new hive||$140.00 – $175|
|Or Nucleus Colony||Once-off or every time you start a new hive||$150.00 – $200.00|
|Queen bee||Occasional||$25.00 – $40.00|
|Fees and Insurance||Ongoing||$45.00 – $83.00|
Using these figures as a baseline will cost a new beekeeper between $700 and $1300 to get started. Remember, most of these expenses do not continue throughout the season. Instead, they are once-off costs to get the equipment necessary to get you up and running as a beekeeper.
(Keep in mind that at some point, you can also begin to make some money back by selling your honey and other hive produce).
Starting beekeeping is a costly exercise, but the rewards are well worth the effort and the outlay!
Once you have gained some experience and knowledge on the topic, you can reduce many expenses by making equipment yourself or eliminating some gear that may be unnecessary for your style of beekeeping.
If you are thinking about keeping bees, take my word for it and jump in, it is one of the most rewarding and interesting hobbies you can enjoy in your backyard or homestead!