We are often asked, especially by students on courses how much it costs to start the fabulous hobby of beekeeping.
As with most hobbies the answer depends upon how deeply you want to go. However, there are certain things you will need and every new beekeeper needs to purchase these. Unfortunately much of the cost of beekeeping is up front and so it is always advisable to go on a course which allows you to handle bees before you decide to take the plunge. If you are interested in our courses you will find details at www.cotswoldbees.co.uk/courses/ Following on from that you will need the following equipment:
There are many different types of hive and there are many different materials. We recommend that all hives should be made of wood and the cost of your hive will depend upon your choice here. The best, but also most expensive are made from Western Red Cedar. These hives will last a lifetime without any treatment at all. If you want to save money you can buy a soft wood hive but these will have a much shorter life and will need treating to stop them rotting and / or warping.
We recommend that you use either a WBC or a National hive. There are plus and minus points with each.
The hive on the left is a WBC and is the traditional design which everyone associates with a beehive. It is the most attractive of the two designs but because it contains a “hive with a hive” it is also the most expensive. A complete flat pack WBC in Western Red Cedar will set you back £448.12 (2019 prices). If you want it assembled that will be another £111.22 and if you want it painted white another £100.00 (2019 prices). These prices include all the inner parts which are a queen excluder, frames and a crown board all of which are essential.
The National hive on the right is less expensive coming in at £361.36 in flat pack form or for another £116.85 you can have one completely assembled (2019 prices). Again these include the inner parts.
It is possible to save considerable amounts of money here by buying in soft wood but we do not sell this sort of hive as we worry about the longevity.
All beekeepers require a beesuit and as with hives the quality and price varies considerably.
We recommend the basic suit from BBWear which is very good quality and will cost £112.99. You can buy suits as less than £50 but in our experience you tend to get what you far for.
Many people will recommend buying expensive gauntlets but we are not keen. Whilst these gauntlets give excellent protection they restrict your ability to feel what you are doing. Because they are made of leather they are also difficult to clean properly. We recommend simple washing up gloves (the yellow ones are excellent). They give you protection but also allow you to feel what you are doing and they are very cheap at around £2.50 Once they get dirty you can wash them and also periodically you can cheaply replace them. Just remember to use new ones as the bees do not like the smell of used gloves.
Bees have a habit of gluing everything together and so in order to carry out inspections of your hive you will need what is known as a hive tool.
There are many different designs all of which do the job very well. The one above which is the type we use an recommend costs £11.95 (2019 prices).
AND FINALLY THE BEES
The cheapest way to get your bees is to catch or be given a swarm. This has the advantage of being free but you do not know what your are getting in terms of temperament or health.
If you buy from a reputable breeder you will get a queen with a known history and good bees. A nucleus of bees will consist of five or six frames of bees together with a properly mated queen and the correct balance of brood (developing bees) and stores of food.
From us a nucleus will cost £220 (2019 prices) and most breeders charge a similar amount.
Money can be saved by buying a package of bees which is similar to a swarm but with a known queen and bees. These are not suitable for beginners as they do not contain any brood or stores of feed.
DO I NEED ANYTHING ELSE?
Whilst beekeeping is like any other hobby in that there are hundreds of toys the above are the essentials. It is useful to have equipment to extract your honey but most beekeeping organisations have equipment that you can borrow or hire.
The above covers all the equipment that you need to start.
We hope you enjoy your beekeeping.