Does beekeeping fit your pocketbook? A significant financial investment should be expected at the outset of your new adventure.
That said, living things tend to grow and multiply faster than is required to just replace their existing population. This is what makes agriculture profitable, and bees are no exception.
Some beekeepers will expect to make a profitable return on their investment. Others will just expect to cover their costs. Some are satisfied to simply provide a delightful and wholesome product for friends and family, to enjoy the outdoors, to support pollinators, or to interact with their bees.
Remember that “Agriculture is risky business.” There will be some years that are far better than other years in terms of production. Be careful of expectations and use the good times to offset the bad.
The expenses involved in beekeeping fall under three main categories: 1. Initial cost for each beehive; 2. One-time investment in tools and equipment; 3. Yearly operation costs. We will discuss the many options available and ways to reduce costs in the section on beekeeping equipment (Types of Hives, Hive Assembly). For the purposes of this lesson, the numbers below should provide a feeling for the amount you should be prepared to spend getting started, based on 2016 prices.
- Initial per-hive cost, including the hive, hive stand, and the bees themselves, might be between $250 and $550. Two hives between $500 and $1,100, etc. Buying in greater bulk would reduce the cost per hive. Shipping is not included. There are ways to build a beehive for almost nothing if you have scrap lumber around. We’ll cover more on that later.
- One-time costs for equipment and tools, including a small honey extracting set-up, range between $375 and $1,500. This does not include electric fencing for bear protection. You can harvest honey without an extracting set-up no matter what kind of hive you have, but there are significant advantages to extracting. We will cover more on this later.
- Annual maintenance costs per hive are usually minimal for small beekeepers, involving sugar, pollen supplement, pest control, grounds maintenance, and perhaps a queen or two. Packaging for your hive product and involvement with beekeeping organizations or publications can add to this cost, but be well worth the expense.
Never underestimate the potential of a healthy bee colony. Small investments to insure colony health can make the difference between significant loss and significant profit.
- Weak hive survival = $0 gross annual income
- Strong hive survival = $500+ gross annual income
- Be extremely careful of good deals on used equipment. Demand proof of state inspection showing the equipment to be free of honey bee diseases.
- If you desire to make your own equipment, be careful to follow standard dimensions exactly, or you could end up with a very discouraging mess. More details on this will be covered in the section on types of hives and hive assembly.
One way to determine cost effectiveness of hobby beekeeping:
1) Calculate current annual spending on honey or bee products (i.e. “what are we spending each year for honey?”)
2) Determine if beekeeping expenses can be maintained at or below that cost, or how many years it will take to pay off the initial investment with reasonable expected yearly harvests based on the market value of those harvests.
“For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?”