Necessary items not listed below are nails, screws and tools needed for assembling the hives; Mason jars or large pickling jars for inverted jar feeding; 40-80kg of granulated sugar for mixing sugar syrup and candy; paint for the hives; and the R5 hard insulation and Type 15 or 30 asphalt felt used for wintering the hive. (Again, see our How-To page for more info on all that.) Those extra items will come to about $100.
Then add $200 for a nuc box (i.e., the bees) from the one supplier of nucs on the island. (You can contact me for their email address.) You may have better luck getting your bees from another NL beekeeper instead. (I know someone who might be able supply nucs by 2013.) But let’s just assume the bees will cost about $200 no matter where you get them.
Okay then, here’s the one-shot hypothetical order for anyone interested in starting up a single Langstroth hive in Newfoundland in 2012. It’s everything you’ll need for your first summer, fall and winter of beekeeping.
Bottom Board. (See the How-To page for info on building your own.)
Deep Supers (x2):
Frames (Deep) (x20):
Foundation (Deep) (x20). You can save $22 by going foundationless. But it’s not something I recommend for beginners in Newfoundland at this point in time.
UPDATE: Go with black foundation if possible instead of the white foundation shown here. It’s easier to spot young brood on black foundation. Learning how to spot young brood is important.
Inner Cover. (See the How-To page for info on building your own.)
Top Cover. These things weigh a tonne. They’re expensive to ship. It’s more economical to build your own after a certain point.
Frame Rests (x4). These aren’t necessary, but it’s easier to remove sticky frames when they’re resting on metal frame rests instead of wood.
Frame Feeder. (See the How-To page for more info on using frame feeders.) Also known as division board feeders, thinner single-frame-sized feeders are available that some may find easier to use.
Entrance Reducer. I use blocks of wood for entrance reducers, but I did like having a real entrance reducer when I started up my first hives.
Queen Excluder. You won’t need an excluder until the second summer, and even then you might not want to use it, but it’s nice to have around just in case.
Hive Tool. Various types of hive tools are available, but this one is good enough to get started.
Frame Gripper. You don’t necessarily need a frame gripper. We often use our hands to pull out frames. But a frame gripper definitely comes in handy at times. I wouldn’t skip this one.
Smoker. You can spray your bees with a fine mist of water and sugar instead of using a smoker. It’s less disruptive to the bees and it often works better than smoke. But the bees don’t always play nice, especially in the fall, and that’s when you’ll be glad to have a smoker close by.
Bee Brush. We avoid our bee brush because it usually makes the bees angry. (Our brushing technique could probably use a little work.) We might use it to brush off a couple of bees here and there, but for a large number of bees on the frame, a quick downward shake of the frame usually knocks most of them off more gently.
Bee jacket. The traditional bee hat and veil with a denim shirt works. So does the full-body bee suit (and it’s only about $10 more than the jacket). But on hot summer days (or beekeeping weather), you will cook in a full sized bee suit. I strip down to minimal clothing when I put them on. The bee jacket can get hot, too, but it’s much less of a hassle to put on and take off. Bee suits made from a thin, cooling wicking material are available, but they’re not cheap.
Gloves. Some people don’t use gloves. Some people don’t use veils either. I’m not one of those people.
Pollen Supplement (x2). You will need pollen supplement to make pollen patties that will be used to feed the baby bees in your nuc hive all summer long (only for the first summer). A little anise extract doesn’t hurt either. You will also probably add pollen to the hives in February to get the queen laying early for the spring. (See the How-To page for more info.)
After taxes and shipping, the grand total of the order comes to $377.34.
You may want to double up on the hive tools and the protective clothing if you’re not the solitary type. You might also decide to do without certain items, or you might make some of the hive components yourself, but I’d say somewhere between $350 and $400 is about right for the bare minimum hive components, protective clothing, bee food and hive tools. Plus $200 for the bees and at least another $100 for sugar, nails and other miscellaneous items, and your grand total comes to $677.34.
Knocking that total down isn’t too hard if you can build some of your own hive components. But chances are you’ll end up spending more money than you anticipated anyway. So I’d say $700 is realistic, and about $400 for every additional full hive probably isn’t too far off either (assuming you have to buy a nuc every time). If you eventually expand past, say, four hives, you can split your hives up on your own and save the $200 cost of a nuc per hive. But that’s down the road if you go that far. (I’m not there yet.)
For a more detailed guided tour of beekeeping and how to get started, again, check out the How-To page; look at the pictures on the Photos page, and if anything grabs you, following the photo back to the original post; or read about us building our first hive and work your way through subsequent posts up to today. It covers a lot of ground.
And finally, I’d like to discourage as many casual beekeepers as I can by saying don’t get into beekeeping unless you’re in love with it, not just the idea of it, but actually doing it. Please don’t fall for the “let the bees be bees” hokum (like I almost did). That’s a laissez-faire attitude that may work for beekeepers in sunny climates, but in Newfoundland it’s a great way to kill your bees. If you decide to keep bees in an artificial habitat — a wooden hive box — then it’s your responsibility to keep them alive and healthy, too, and that won’t happen by letting nature take its course and leaving the bees to fend for themselves. (I stole some of that from Honey Bee Suite.) If you don’t care about the bees — if you haven’t spoken to or met with at least one experienced beekeeper and researched everything you can about bees and beekeeping beforehand — then maybe beekeeping isn’t for you. Don’t be fooled by the Zenfully peaceful and relaxed vibe coming off some beekeepers. They’re like that not because they have bees, but because they’re doing something they love — that just happens to be beekeeping. I’m serious. I know how beekeeping can seem all wonderful and harmonious with the natural world, but that’s a somewhat deceptive image. It is wonderful (and nightmarish at times), but it’s also a responsibility that requires commitment, especially in a place like Newfoundland where the bees need extra care to do well. Got it? Good.
P.S.: The second year of beekeeping in Newfoundland (after your first winter and spring) — when you finally get to harvest some honey — requires more hive components and some additional equipment. I’ll get to later.