If you’re interested in becoming a beekeeper, one of the first questions you’ll probably ask is about the cost.
Is beekeeping expensive? And how much money do you need to buy all the equipment and start?
The answer depends a little bit on your definition of the word expensive, and what other hobbies you compare it to. If your hobby is riding motorbikes, for example, beekeeping is not that expensive in comparison. But if your interest is hiking, then you will probably think it is.
How Expensive Is Beekeeping?
Let’s look at the approximate cost across a few different countries to give you an idea of exactly how expensive beekeeping is.
In the U.S.A, beekeeping is a moderately-priced hobby, with startup costs typically ranging between US$220 and US$520, not including bees and a honey extractor.
In Canada startup costs are between CA$400 – CA$600; in Australia, you’ll have to spend between AU$350 – AU$550 to get started; and in the U.K. you need somewhere between £350 – £600.
The good news is that, once you’ve bought all the necessary equipment, there are very minimal ongoing costs you will need to cover.
|Startup cost (without bees)||US$220-US$520||CA$400-CA$600||£350-£600||AU$350-AU$600|
|Startup cost (with bees)||US$420-US$720||CA$650-CA$850||£600-£900||AU$650-AU$900|
Please note: these estimates do not include equipment used for extracting honey.
How Much Does It Cost To Start Beekeeping?
Let’s look at the basic costs you will need to get started, including the hive, tools, and of course, your bees.
These costs are an estimate only. The truth is prices can vary greatly, depending on the quality of equipment. I’ve tried to give an accurate estimate of costs in the middle price range.
It’s also important to note that the hardware costs (hive body, frames, base, and lid) are based on the most popular type of hive which is called the Langstroth hive. The hive body can hold either eight or ten frames. Here I am referring to an eight-frame hive.
Some of the hardware you purchase is less expensive if you buy it in pieces and assemble it yourself, which is why I’ve outlined the estimated cost for both unassembled and assembled items.
While you can actually get bees for free by capturing a swarm, it’s more common for new beekeepers to buy a nuc, or nucleus colony. A nucleus colony is a small colony of bees with a queen, housed in a small box, usually with five frames inside.
On at least four of those frames there will be brood, pollen, approximately 2,000 to 3,000 bees, and a laying queen bee.
No sugar syrup is provided, as the bees have stored their food as honey on the frames in the nuc.
Nucleus colonies are usually picked up by the new beekeeper from the seller, and sellers are often found locally.
How much do bee nucs cost?
Hive bodies (Boxes) or Supers
A hive body (box) is sometimes called a ‘super’, depending upon its position in the hive. Initially you will need to buy one of these to house your bees.
You can either buy them pre-assembled, or purchase a flat pack version and assemble it yourself. An unassembled one will typically cost less money.
The assembled hive bodies that are available in Australia are often wax dipped and painted. Wax dipping is a process which dries and preserves the timber of the box. The box becomes water repellent and lasts much longer. Painting the box helps it stay weatherproof.
How much does a hive box (or super) usually cost?
|Assembled hive box/super||US$25 – US$28||CA$18 – CA$30||£27 – £35||AU$54 – AU$56|
|Unassembled hive box/super||US$18 – US$20||CA$16 – CA$18||£26 – £31||AU$22 – AU$28|
Frames are the structures that slot into the hive and hold the wax upon which the bees build honeycomb for brood or honey.
Frames can be removed in order to inspect the health of the bees or to extract the excess honey. They can be bought with or without wax foundation and even with plastic foundation. The wax or plastic foundation has a hexagonal pattern imprinted into it which gives the bees a pattern on which to build their comb.
Frames without foundation of any sort allows the bees to build the comb to their own needs, but they will take longer to do so.
Like supers, frames can be bought either unassembled or assembled.
Here’s what frames typically cost:
|8X assembled frames||US$24 – US$30||CA$24 – CA$32||£35 – £50||AU$64- AU$72|
|8X unassembled frames||US$13 – US$14||CA$14 – CA$16||£14 – £17||AU$13 – AU$16|
Bottom Board Or Base
The hive body needs a base, with an entrance for the bees to come and go. A base provides protection for your hive from the cold ground and the elements.
A screened bottom board will provide ventilation in warmer or humid climates. The screened bottom board has a removable insert which you can take out to allow more ventilation.
How much does a bottom board cost?
|Bottom board||US$22 – US$40||CA$24 – CA$32||£19 – £31||AU$25 – AU$40|
The lid or cover on your beehive ensures your bees are protected from the weather and helps the colony to maintain a constant temperature which is necessary to keep the brood alive.
It’s best to get one that will last well in all sorts of weather. A timber lid covered in metal is a good idea. One with holes at either end that are covered with mesh help keep air circulating throughout the hive.
Here’s what a beehive lid usually costs:
|Beehive lid||US$25 – US$30||CA$28- CA$30||£17 – £51||AU$20 – AU$30|
One of the important tools a beekeeper uses when inspecting a hive is a smoker. It’s used by beekeepers because smoke helps to calm bees and diverts their attention to the protection of the hive and away from the beekeeper.
I recommend you purchase the highest quality one you can afford because it’s a tool you will use often, and should last for a very long time.
A smoker is comprised of several parts: a steel cylinder that holds the burnable fuel, the leather or vinyl bellows that keep the fuel alight and the lid from which the smoke issues. Many smokers have a heat shield around the outside that protect you from getting burnt.
How much does a bee smoker cost?
|Smoker||US$30 – US$50||CA$32 – CA$40||£8 – £65||AU$70 – AU$90|
While bees tend to be friendly, they will attack if they believe their hive is under threat. That’s why almost all beekeepers wear protective clothing such as a beekeeping suit.
A beekeeping suit is typically white because most bees associate dark colors with predators. Suits are usually made from layered fabric to stop a bee’s sting from getting through, just in case. It also comes with a hat and veil to protect your face, which is the most painful area to get stung.
I recommend a lightweight suit that’s breathable because it can get very hot underneath – especially when you’re moving around heavy frames full of honey!
Alternatively, if you don’t want to purchase a full-length suit, you could simply buy a beekeeping jacket. A jacket typically comes with included hat and veil to protect the sensitive facial area.
If you don’t wish to wear either, you can purchase a hat with veil separately, and just wear that with long-sleeved pants and a top to cover your skin.
Here’s what protective clothing usually costs:
|Bee suit||US$80 – US$160||CA$147-CA$160||£60 – £153||AU$70 – AU$210|
|Bee jacket||US$70 – US$120||CA$129-CA$143||£49 – £90||AU$60 – AU$100|
|Hat with veil||US$13 – US$31||CA$20 – CA$28||£7 – £24||AU$21 – AU$46|
Most beekeeping gloves are made from calf or cow leather and have a long sleeve (or gauntlet) with an elasticized top that prevents bees from crawling inside.
Although gloves provide good protection against stings, the thick material makes it difficult at times to manipulate components of the hive because feeling is lost.
Some beekeepers may decide to use thick rubber gloves or other protective gloves they have at home rather than purchasing a specialized pair, but these don’t provide a long sleeve for protection and there is the possibility of your wrists becoming exposed. Also, they tend not to offer the same level of dexterity when working in the hive.
Costs of beekeeping gloves:
|Beekeeping gloves||US$13 – US$28||CA$21- CA$29||£1.50 – £47||AU$20 – AU$42|
A hive tool is an essential piece of equipment for a beekeeper. It has multiple uses, allowing you to remove and clean the frames. It can be used to remove burr comb from the lid and top of the hive.
Here’s what a hive tool costs:
|Hive tool||US$7 – US$20||CA$10- CA$12||£5 – £15||AU$14 – AU$18|
Honey Harvesting Equipment
As a first-time beekeeper, you will be excited to extract honey from your hive and you may be wondering how to do it. You may not need to think about when first starting out, as it’s best to grow a strong hive before harvesting any honey. It takes a year or more to get honey from a new hive.
However, when it does come time to harvest honey, you could consider buying an extractor. An extractor makes removing honey easier, quicker and keeps the comb on the frame intact. It’s useful if you have more than one hive and many frames of honey to extract at once. If you join a bee club they often have extractors for hire.
However, an extractor is an expensive piece of equipment and is not the only way to harvest honey. If you only have a few frames ready for honey extraction, then you can use a sieve or strainer to drip and filter cut comb. This way is inexpensive and is a simple way to extract your honey. The disadvantage is this method is slower and doesn’t leave the comb intact for the bees to reuse.
Here’s what an extractor typically costs:
|Honey extractor||US$473-US$585||CA$336- CA$430||£179 – £742||AU$704-AU$1124|
Ongoing Costs Of Keeping bees
The ongoing costs of keeping bees will depend on whether or not you as a beekeeper wish to expand your enterprise. If you view beekeeping as a hobby and wish to keep only one or two hives then your ongoing costs are naturally lower than if you decide to expand your apiary.
How many hives you can manage at once varies from person to person and depends on the amount of time, money, and space you have to keep bees.
Most beekeepers start out with one hive and that’s a good way to go in your first season. I’d suggest after the first season when you are getting the hang of things to consider adding another hive.
Ongoing costs are very low, as your hives will last you for many years, particularly if you buy good quality equipment to begin with.
The following is the cost of extra hardware if you want to increase the number of hives you own:
|Extra super (box)||US$20 – US$28||CA$17-CA$23||£50 – £69||AU$28 – AU$54|
|Bottom Board||US$22 – US$40||CA$24 – CA$32||£19 – £31||AU$25 – AU$40|
|Beehive Lid||US$25 – US$30||CA$28- CA$30||£17 – £51||AU$20 – AU$30|
|Frames (10)||US $20 – US$40||CA$0 – CA$40||£21 – £63||AU$17 – AU$90|
In Summary… Is Beekeeping Expensive?
However, compared with most hobbies, beekeeping is reasonably inexpensive. However, it also depends on your definition of the word expensive, as well as the number of hives you decide to keep.
The more hives you have, and the larger these hives become, the more expensive beekeeping will be as a hobby. I recommend starting small to see if you enjoy beekeeping first, as you can always buy more equipment and bees later on.