How Much Do Bees Cost? A Guide to Beekeeping Expenses

Welcome new beekeepers, and congratulations on starting your beekeeping journey! Setting up and maintaining an apiary is a fulfilling and meaningful act, but it does come at a price. 

Before you dive in, it’s essential to understand the costs of setting up a new hive and keeping your colony of bees healthy. After all, the cost of beekeeping in your first year will be much higher than usual due to the amount of beekeeping equipment you’ll need and the price of the bees. 

It’s tough to keep your honey bees happy when you run out of funds for hive tools and necessary beekeeping supplies. In this article, we’ll set you up for success by explaining the start-up costs of running a beehive, expected ongoing expenses, and more. Strap on your bee suit, and let’s get to learning! 

Choosing Your Buzz: Types of Bees and Their Price Tags

Purchasing a bee population is stressful, even for experienced beekeepers. Take a deep breath; the experts at West River Exchange are here to help. 

First, you should understand how bees are sold. Typically, you can purchase either (a) a package of bees, (b) a nuc or nucleus colony, or (c) one or more queen bees. A package contains about 2-3 pounds of bees with their queen. Single queens are typically purchased to replace a dead or lackluster queen from an existing hive. 

The best bee starter kit for baby beekeepers is a nuc colony. They come with a brood (baby bees), five frames, honey, pollen, worker bees, drones, and a queen. It’s a backyard beekeeping dream setup. 

While there are many, many different bee species, there are only three that beginning beekeepers should consider.

  • Italian: These premier pollinators are gentle with consistent honey production tendencies, even though they forage less on overcast days. 
  • Carniolan: Beekeeping associations agree that Carniolans are fantastic bees. They are slightly more aggressive but forage through all kinds of weather and are extremely hardy. 
  • Hybrid: Ideally, Italian/Carniolan hybrid bees are the best of both worlds. They have the hardy Carniolan nature combined with the gentle (and less swarm-y) Italian features. 

Here’s the thing: The price of nuc colonies for all the above bees ranges from around $150-$300. A solid hybrid nuc colony tends to be the most expensive, followed by the Italian and the Carniolan. Package bees are around $140-$190, and queens are about $35-$50 bucks a pop. 

The key differentiator is quality and breed. Local beekeepers can point you toward an ethical local bee breeder. These breeders should only ever allow for pick-up, as shipping bees in the mail is not advised. Would you like to be FedEx-ed to your new home?  

Ethical breeders enforce sustainable beekeeping practices that make for happy, bountiful bees. These bees are less likely to swarm, abandoning their new hive, and more likely to be productive honey producers. 

Laying the Foundation: Initial Setup Costs for Beekeeping

Before you truly start beekeeping, you must gather the equipment you’ll need in your first season and beyond. These tools come with a cost but remember, no money, no honey. It’s normal to spend a little dough before your first beekeeping season!

Here is the initial equipment you’ll need:

  • Protective Gear: A full beekeeping suit will run you around $200, but smaller protective gear, like gloves and a face mask, are around $20. 
  • Hive: Your bees need a place to live. A Langstroth hive box ($350+) is a good place to start. Most come with a hive stand, entrance reducers, inner covers, solid bottom boards, and dozens of quality frames. 
  • Tools: You’ll need specialized tools like a bee brush (~$7) to gently move bees and a bee smoker (~$35) to calm bees down safely. 

Total costs of your first hive, bees, needed tools, and equipment will range from around $500 to $800+. You can skimp on some items, but remember that purchasing quality equipment will ensure your initial investment lasts for years and years. 

The Hive’s Upkeep: Navigating Ongoing Beekeeping Expenses

Keeping bees happy and healthy is a full-time gig with some regular expenses. You’ll need to plan for regular hive maintenance, such as replacing about two frames per hive (~$5 per frame) per year, fixing damage to the hive, and improving the hive’s function. 

Your bees may need a little help in the off-season or after unexpected freezes. You can purchase special bee food supplements pre-made at around $25 – $35 per bottle or make your own with sugar and water. 

One of the most important functions of a beekeeper is pest control. Little varroa mites, hive beetles, and wax moths can wreak havoc on your bees. There are natural (and slightly less natural) methods of pest control, but it’s safe to budget about $40 – $100+ yearly, depending on the extent of the issue and the number of hives in your apiary. 

Beyond the Hive: Understanding Hidden Costs in Beekeeping

Now, we’ll discuss the sneaky costs of beekeeping. Bad storms, bees abandoning the hive, and unexpected pests can all become expensive fixes. Contingency planning is vital. We recommend keeping $300+ stored away for a rainy day. 

The costs you can expect (but most baby beekeepers forget about) are incidentals like: 

  • Transporting your new bees home
  • Repairing the hive at least once a season 
  • Paying for bee education

Local bee pick-up is the way to go, and someone will need to drive to a local apiary and bring the bees back home. Will you need to rent a truck? Pay for gas? Budget for this adventure. 

You can count on a bad storm every year that does some level of damage to your hives. Bees will attempt to fix damage to the hive on their own, but they will need a little help. 

Also, don’t overlook the importance of proper bee education! Don’t just wing it. Take beekeeping seriously and purchase helpful books and seminars for new beekeepers. 

Savvy Spending: Getting the Most Out of Your Beekeeping Budget

You’ve got a head for business, we can tell. To help you out, we’ve compiled a list of our best tips on how to make wise investments in beekeeping:

  • Choose the right suppliers.
  • Consider long-term benefits over short-term savings.
  • Join local beekeeping clubs for shared resources.
  • Research the best bees for your climate.
  • Remain attentive to your bee’s needs.
  • Keep a can-do attitude! 

Most beekeeping is just fun problem-solving and giving consistent care. A positive attitude and a caring community are a huge part of this. Plus, we’re pretty sure bees can sense when you’re in a dour mood. (They’re smart like that.)

Follow our tips, and you can stretch your bee budget and enjoy your new hive without breaking the bank. 

Start Your Beekeeping Dream with West River Exchange

Beekeeping isn’t free, but it’s a valuable investment and an incredibly rewarding hobby. New beekeepers get to watch their local flora thrive, produce jars of tasty raw honey, get useful beeswax, and watch their new hive thrive. 

At West River Exchange, we’re dedicated to supporting new and experienced beekeepers by providing quality bees and equipment at fair prices. Check out our premier honey bee guides to get you started, and reach out with any questions. 

Turn your beekeeping dream into a reality with West River Exchange.