A Beginner’s Foray into Beekeeping: Start-up Costs

The slender stalks of veronica swayed as I watched the honeybees clamber all over the purple spires, buzzing contentedly in the languid summer day. I remember idly wondering then, as I had begun gardening and discovered the joys of dirty fingernails, about how I could better entice bees into my vegetable garden or the difficulty in managing my own beehive. While far too many years have passed since that seed was planted, it has now finally germinated into a motley pile of assembled beehive parts in the garage, hours upon hours of bee videos, membership in a local beekeeping group, a subscription to a beekeeping magazine, and a neat little stack of bee-themed books next to my bed.

Perhaps, much like parenthood, I’ll never truly be ready to have bees. Ultimately, however, that path I embarked upon will round its corner and arrive upon its destination: a three-pound package of bees. I will shortly be the proud new parent to about 10,500 bees whose comings and goings will fascinate me, whose tireless efforts will benefit me, and whose births and deaths—though of utmost concern to me as I evaluate the health of my hive—will ultimately pass unnoticed.

I am certainly excited that my dream of beekeeping is about to come to fruition (much like my garden this summer!), but beekeeping is not a cheap hobby to begin even though the returns are manifold. A good friend of mine contends that a beehive should cost about $100 and be capable of being assembled in about an hour by a fifth grader—the IKEA of beehives, as he called it—because beginning a beehive is too cost prohibitive when the need for small-scale hobbyist apiaries to promote pollination of plants and genetic diversity of the bees is so exigent. While I certainly agree with him, the reality of becoming a beekeeper is much different, and there are definite start-up costs. We are fortunate to be in the financial position to afford starting a beehive.

We did save some money by choosing to build our beehive with premade parts rather than purchasing the hive preassembled. Here’s a breakdown of our start-up costs for keeping our first hive of bees. (Apparently, our price for bees was very good, so you would have to expect to pay more than we did.) You may decide that you would prefer more clothing than we purchased, but that tends to be a personal decision. I knew that I would struggle in a full bee suit to do just about anything in the August heat of Kansas, so we opted only to purchase a veil for each of us. While I had wanted to initially begin with gloves until I became more comfortable, I have not been able to find any that would fit my small hands; I figured I was more likely to anger bees through the clumsy handling of their home in oversized gloves than in my nerves at handling them without gloves.

The total cost for everything was $557 (including some taxes, which aren’t listed). At that cost, you have to be fairly invested in starting beekeeping to become a backyard hobbyist.

Bees $110
Hive bodies (2) $36
Frames for hive bodies (20) $24
Foundation for hive bodies (20) $28
Medium supers (2) $28
Frames for medium supers (20) $24
Foundation for medium supers (20) $28
Queen Excluder $10
In-hive feeder $30
Inner cover $12
Telescoping top $20
Bottom Board $12
Hive tool $11
Smoker $40
Primer/paint 28
Bee brush $7
Entrance Reducer $2
Veils (2) $36
NEKBA Membership $16
American Bee Journal Subscription $25

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