I first became interested in bees by attending local beekeeping club classes. These classes taught me information on bee biology, how to choose the right equipment, and how to set up my first two hives. There are free online courses available and excellent books on the subject, but I found that personal hands-on help was the most valuable. For those who have sat on the fence for years, my bee journey might help you take the next step. Most bee suppliers are sold out of bees by early March, so plan accordingly.
The cost of beekeeping
The initial cost of beekeeping can be steep, as you are paying for equipment and bees. But then it levels off. At a major retailer of bee equipment, you can pick up beginner kits for a complete setup for around $400 which includes tools, hive bodies, and equipment.
Bees could run you anywhere from $130 to $200 per colony, depending upon colony size. So, we are talking about $500 per hive and I suggest that you start with two. You are more flexible with two (a stronger one could help a weaker one) and you won’t be devastated if one doesn’t make it through the winter. The total cost just doubled but the advantage it gives you the first year is worth it.
The first spring of beekeeping will likely take more time than any other year. You will be installing new packages of bees, hovering worriedly over your new babies, and feeding them sugar syrup every day to get them going. See my posts on Installing Packages or Nucs of Bees or Honeybee Nuc 101.
Extraction of your long-awaited honey surplus will take a full day in the late summer. It involves removing bees and boxes, uncapping honey from frames, spinning the honey out, and the most time consuming of all-cleanup of a sticky mess.
A few hours are involved in fall and winter, wrapping your hives for the cold and feeding more sugar syrup. I am using a new product for wrapping called Bee Cozy which streamlines the winter process greatly. Over the entire year of beekeeping, I estimate that I spend at least 30 to 40 hours tending to them.