I’ve moved this post to the head of the line again due to a spike of local interest in beekeeping from articles such as this one from The Overcast: All The Buzz About Local Honeybees.
THE FOLLOWING WAS UPDATED ON APRIL 08, 2014. NEW TOTALS FOR THOSE ABLE TO MAKE THEIR OWN HIVE PARTS WERE ALSO ADDED.The following is a rough cost estimate and guide for setting up a bare minimum honey bee hive on the island of Newfoundland in
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 couple of suppliers of nucs on the island. (You can contact me for the email address.)
Okay then, here’s the one-shot hypothetical order for anyone interested in starting up a single Langstroth hive in Newfoundland in
2012 2014. It’s everything you’ll need for your first summer, fall and winter of beekeeping. (Note that the prices listed for each item are from 2012. The updated 2014 prices are slightly higher, but I don’t have time to update all those images. The updated 2014 totals are accurate, though.)
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. You might also want to order the higher quality Dadant smoker instead at about the same price.
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. Rubber gloves provide a cheap alternative that works well most of the time.
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 the awful shipping costs to Newfoundland, the grand total of the order comes to $419.76:
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 $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 $719.76.
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.
Now if you really want to go cheap and remove non-essential items — leather gloves (use dish washing gloves instead); queen excluder; frame rests; bee brush; entrance reducer — and you have the ability to make all your hive components (everything except frames), the total before the cost of the bees and miscellaneous items comes to $268.76:
It’s not too hard to make bottom boards, inner covers and outer covers, but building deep supers can be a little tricky and expensive if you don’t already have the proper tools (e.g., table saw with dado blade), so here’s a total that excludes all the hive components except for the deeps and the frames: $316.63:
So depending on what you can build yourself, the costs will range anywhere from $568.76 to $719.76 for the first hive. If you’re lucky enough to get free bees from a local beekeeper (a savings of at least $200 per hive), even better.
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, follow the photo back to the original post; check out my YouTube videos; 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. 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. 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. I know how beekeeping can seem all wonderful and harmonious with the natural world, but that’s a 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.
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.