Starting out beekeeping can be confusing. With so many products on the market, it’s hard to distinguish the vital stuff from the non-essentials.
Researching how much it costs to start beekeeping is worth the effort. Beekeepers often become frustrated as the expenses continue to roll in after buying a hive. Overbuying unnecessary gadgets is also common, resulting in wasted money.
This guide provides a breakdown of hobbyist beekeeping costs. It’ll help you decide if keeping bees is right for your budget.
How much does starting beekeeping cost?
Beekeepers looking to start on a shoestring can expect to pay $420 in their first year. This covers tools, protective gear, a hive, honey bees, and consumables like smoker pellets and sugar. Total pricing may increase to $1,440 if high-end equipment, education, and insurance costs are factored in.
|Description||Low Estimate (USD)||High Estimate (USD)|
|Tools and bee suit||$95||$320|
|Bee package or nuc||$150||$250|
We based these estimates on surveying leading U.S. online beekeeping suppliers.
Tip: Save time and money by investing in a starter kit for beginner beekeepers. They cover most of your needs, including the tools, protective wear, and hive.
1. Beekeeping education
Expect to pay: $0 to $100
Knowledge is a formidable weapon for beekeepers. With it, your colony will likely thrive in the first season. Of course, you should head over to our Amazon and check out our eBooks (excuse the subtle plug).
While there’s a lot to learn, getting information doesn’t need to break the bank. Books are available from libraries for free, and online resources also have lots to offer.
Beekeeping classes are an ideal way to get hands-on experience and ask lots of questions. Expect to pay roughly $60 for a 1-2 day session in a group.
We recommend searching for a local beekeeping association. The annual joining fee may be as little as $10. Experienced beekeepers will happily give out knowledge for free during meetups.
Clubs often have training sessions, mentor programs, and scholarships. Joining also brings the reward of community and creating lifelong friendships.
Hint: Check out 23 tips for starting beekeeping on a shoestring.
2. Tools and protective gear
Expect to pay: $95-$320
Everyday items in the shed can replace almost any beekeeping tool. But in your early years of beekeeping, using purpose-built tools and equipment is best. To get started, you’ll need:
Smoker: An essential tool that pumps out smoke to calm the bees. Use it before inspections and during honey harvesting to reduce the chance of getting stung. The bulk of these tools range from $20-$100. Learn more about bee smokers here.
Hive tool: Another indispensable tool that levers, scrapes, separates frames, and more. They have different designs, like J-shape, L-shape, and Thumb hook. Many beekeepers opt for a J-hook, but they all have benefits, so get a selection if possible. Hive tools cost roughly $10-$20.
Bee brush: Bees often get in the way, so you need a way to remove them without causing injury or death to any bees. A soft-bristled bee brush is the perfect solution and costs around $10-$20.
Frame grip: While not essential, a frame grip is a low-cost gadget that makes extracting frames easier. Fumbling frames isn’t an ideal start to beekeeping, so a frame grip makes sense for beginner beekeepers. These range from $10-$20.
Queen clip: There may be times when you need to separate the queen from the rest of the colony. A queen clip or catcher is made from stainless steel or plastic. It is a simple, spring-loaded device that costs between $5 and $10 for a set.
Protective gear: All beginners should start with full protective clothing. That includes pants, a jacket, and a hat with a veil. Most brands range from $40 to $150, based on the quality and features.
Expect to pay: $125 to $200
A hive is typically the biggest investment for beekeepers starting. The dollars you shell out here will vary massively depending on factors like size, quality, brand, and type of hive.
We limited our research to a 10-frame Langstroth hive to keep things simple. This design is the most common, making it easier to get advice and source additional parts.
Of course, this hive style won’t be for everyone, so consider checking out our comparison guide of all the main types of hives.
We discovered that the average price of a 10-frame hive was $150. Manufacturers often build hives at different price points, from budget through to commercial grade. We chose unassembled entry-price level hives to help keep costs to a minimum.
This quote is based on a 10-frame hive comprising:
- Bottom board with an entrance reducer
- Inner and outer covers
- A deep brood box
- Ten frames with foundations
Winterizing the hive will take minimal effort if you live in a warm climate. Those in states that get snow will help the colony overwinter by adding insulation and a hive reducer.
4. Hive Stand
Expect to pay: $0 to $50
No matter where you keep bees, keeping the hive off the ground is essential. It helps keep moisture and snow away from the base of the hive. Pests like ants also have a tougher job getting inside the colony’s home.
Most beekeepers use cinder blocks or pallets to raise their hives. If you’re handy with tools, making a stand with wood or metal is straightforward.
If you have the budget, consider investing in an adjustable metal hive stand. They may cost up to $70, so these can get expensive if you plan to expand the apiary.
- If you’re in a snow-prone climate, allow 18 inches below the hive to give your bees the best chance of overwintering successfully.
- Honey supers and brood boxes may exceed 200 pounds, so ensure the stand can handle it.
5. Honey bees
Expect to pay: $150 to $250
You’ll need bees once the hive is set up and the tools are ready to go. In some areas where demand exceeds supply, they must be ordered well in advance.
There is a range of ways to get bees, including buying a package or nucleus (nuc). We go into details about how to get bees for your hive here.
A package of bees costs around $150-$200, while a nucleus will set you back $190-$250.
Expert tip: In year one, source bees from reputable suppliers of bees. You can save money luring a swarm or removing a feral beehive, but they could be highly aggressive. Experienced beekeepers may know how to deal with them, but newbies will be out of their depth.
Remember that there are different breeds of bee that offer unique strengths and weaknesses. Our budget is based on purchasing Italian bees, common in the U.S. Other purebred races of bees, like Buckfasts or Russians, may push the price up.
Expect to pay: $50 to $100
You should allow $50-$100 for ongoing beekeeping supplies to keep the bees happy and healthy. These expenses can vary a lot depending on the climate and location.
Bee feeding: you’ll need to factor sugar into year one as the colony establishes itself. With favorable foraging, your bees may only need sugar water for the first month. Hives that survive freezing winters may need slurry, candy, dry sugar, or fondant. Pollen patties are another option in times of food shortages.
Varroa mite treatment: while various parasitic insects and diseases can impact bees, the Varroa destructor is a common problem for beekeepers. Learn more about Varroa mite treatment here.
Smoker fuel: if you’ve got suitable dry plant material, smoker pellets aren’t needed. But many prefer the convenience of using reliable fuel to keep the smoker lit.
Paint: New hives often need a coat of paint. It’s a small cost but worth factoring into the equation.
7. Administrative costs
Expect to pay: $0 to $420
Beekeeping permits are required in some locations. They typically range from free to $20 annually.
From the outset, beekeepers should get advice from an insurance adviser. If you choose to take out liability insurance, this may cost up to $400 each year.
Commonly asked questions?
Do I need honey-extracting equipment in the first year?
In most cases, honey extraction equipment isn’t needed in the first year. Most hives will need time to get established, and harvesting their valuable honey resources too soon will make overwintering harder.
If there is excess honey in year one, we recommend manually scraping the comb into a large container and crushing the wax. Then strain the honey into jars.
Equipment like uncapping tools, honey sieves, honey buckets, or electric honey extractors can wait for year two.
Will I need to pay to protect my hive from other animals?
If you live in a state where bears are prevalent, you may need to invest $250-$350 in a small electric fence. Learn other methods of keeping bears away from the hive here.
Do costs vary depending on the hive I choose?
It’s well worth researching different hive designs as they vary significantly in price. A basic top bar hive has fewer parts than a Langstrong, meaning it will cost less to set up. At the other end of the spectrum is the FlowHive 2+, which is over AU$1300.
How much does it cost to keep other bee species?
A low-cost, hands-off way to start raising bees is to keep leafcutter, mason, or resin bees. You can buy a fancy bee home for these insects for less than $50.
How many colonies should I start with?
We recommend starting with 2-4 hives if the budget allows. This number provides backup bees in case some colonies fail.
Backyard beekeeping continues to gain attention as a hobby and source of income. If you’re contemplating becoming a beekeeper, one of your primary questions should be: how much does it cost?
While it might seem like a straightforward question, the answer is complex. The costs can vary depending on many factors. These can include the number and type of hives, the kind of bees, equipment costs, location, and even the specific goals of your beekeeping venture.
We have provided a breakdown of the potential costs you might incur as you embark on your beekeeping journey. These are ballpark figures, so we encourage you to do the numbers before jumping in.
In addition to online research, try to join a nearby beekeeping club. The information is invaluable, not to mention the potential for getting cheap second-hand beekeeping equipment and hives.