April 2019 Introduction: When I first wrote this post (in 2012 and revised in 2014), I had to order all my beekeeping supplies from Beemaid in Manitoba. I never had a problem with anything I purchased from Beemaid. The hive components, smokers, bee jackets, pollen patties — everything was top quality at a good price. But shipping from Manitoba was expensive, usually clocking in at around 40% of the total cost before taxes. Crazy.
Today, fortunately, G & M Family Farm in Freshwater sells all the beekeeping supplies most new beekeepers would ever need to start beekeeping in Newfoundland — and that makes it much more affordable than it was when I got into beekeeping in 2010.
Many people in Newfoundland over the years have ordered from Country Fields out of Nova Scotia, but I always found I got a better deal from Beemaid even after the shipping costs. The best deal I ever had was from Lewis & Sons out of Manitoba. Had I discovered them years ago, I would have saved a fortune. Large bulk group orders from them (several hundred pounds) even today might cost less than ordering locally. But generally speaking, G & M seems like the way to go.
Here’s what my first standard Langstroth hive looked like back when I started:
I don’t have time to completely rewrite this post, but I have done a quick breakdown of the cost of starting up two hives if I bought everything from G & M today, and the grand total after taxes comes to $1,440. That includes the price of two nucs and all the hive components (unassembled) for two full hives, including a feeder for each hive, plus a smoker, gloves, hive tool and veil for one person. That doesn’t include the cost of shipping, though I get the impression that the cost is minimal on the Avalon portion of the island, but I’m not sure.
(I assume the prices on G & M’s website don’t include tax, so I calculated for tax on all the items except the nucs, which I believe are not taxed because they’re considered livestock. But again, I’m not sure. I’ll tweak all the numbers afterwards if I have it wrong. If I do have it wrong, my numbers are off by about 13%.)
The cost for a single hive (unassembled and with a feeder) is $351 after taxes + $285 for the nuc = $636. Double that for two hives. (The Newfoundland Bee Company at NFBeeCo@gmail.com in Pasadena also sells nucs and mated queens for about the same price.)
The cost for a smoker, gloves, veil and hive tool is $167 after taxes. It’s about $100 more for a full beesuit instead of the veil. (Lighter items such as beesuits might be cheaper to order in from Beemaid. It might also be worth taking a peek on Amazon for some deals.) And this is the cost of the bare minimum requirements. It’s always good, perhaps even essential, to have the components for a full hive in storage after the first year because it doesn’t take long for the colonies to grow and run out of room. However you look at it, for someone starting from absolute scratch, $1500 for two hives seems to be about right.
All of this might seem a little high, but I’m pretty sure I paid twice as much when I started out in 2010 and had to ship everything in from Manitoba (so it’s getting better). The start-up costs are pretty steep for some people, but the good news, I guess, is that the costs go down after the second or third year (in theory, anyway). First of all, if all goes well, the colonies will build up on their own and you won’t have to buy nucs anymore. Maybe some mated queens, but no nucs. Certain hive components such as bottom boards, inner covers and top covers are cheap and easy to make. All you need is some wood and a handsaw and minimal carpentry skills. The D.E. Hive sold by G & M is an excellent hive design, but the bottoms and the tops of the hive are expensive compared to those of a standard Langthroth hive. The homemade standard Langstroth components might reduce the costs by about $100 per hive. But no matter how you look at it, beekeeping ain’t cheap. Not for working class slubs like me anyway. The good news — and this really is the good news — is that raw honey sells for about $12 a pound (or more) and it doesn’t take long to recoup the start-up costs by selling honey.
So here’s the original post from 2012 that was revised in 2014, slightly rewritten for 2019. The prices are all off, but as an inventory of what’s required to get a few hives on the go, it’s not a bad list. I’ll chime in here and there with some extra info when needed…
I order all my beekeeping supplies from Beemaid in Manitoba. Their prices are so low that even with the expense of shipping half way across Canada, it’s still cheaper than ordering from any suppliers I’ve found in Atlantic Canada. The cost savings for beekeepers able to make their own wood components are even greater. (Check out my How-To page for information on building certain hive components.) But assuming someone has to start from scratch and order all the necessary beekeeping equipment and hive pieces in one order, the cheapest and simplest option is to go with a single Langstroth hive with conventional frames and no honey super.
April 2019 Comment: Two hives are much better than one, though. If the bees in one hive are slagging behind, you can steal from the strong colony to boost up the weaker one. When you’re stuck with one hive, if something goes wrong and you don’t have spare parts or extra brood to steal from another hive, you’re hooped.
Necessary items not listed below are nails, screws and tools needed for assembling the hives; 40-80kg of granulated sugar for mixing sugar syrup; a spray bottle for misting the bees when a smoker isn’t necessary; mesh for mouse and shrew proofing hive entrances in the winter; paint for the hives; and the hard insulation and Type 15 or 30 asphalt felt used for wintering the hive for those who wish to winter their bees that way. (Again, see my How-To page for more info on all that.) Those extra items will come to about $100.
Not including the cost of the nuc.
April 2019 Comment: Something that should be obvious but maybe isn’t to everyone: It’s illegal to bring honey bees onto the island of Newfoundland, whether through a retail supplier or in the back of your truck. Honey bees in Newfoundland have never been exposed to Varroa mites nor most of the diseases that are affecting honey bees around the world. They require exceptional protection. With the correct permits, honey bee packages can be imported from Western Australia, but that’s not what I call exceptional protection. I’m dismayed that the NL government supports importations when it could easily provide beekeepers with the resources to build up Newfoundland honey bee colonies in a self-sustaining and guaranteed safe manner by using local disease-free bees.
Okay then, here’s the one-shot hypothetical order for anyone interested in starting up a single Langstroth hive in Newfoundland in 2014. 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 from my original order.
Bottom Board. I build my own board boards these days (see the How-To page for info) because they’re cheap and easy to make, but having a few “real” bottom boards starting off is nice.
April 2019 Comment: The bottom board for the D.E. Hive sold by G & M is $55. I have no problem with the D.E. Hive. It’s a beautifully designed hive. But a standard Langstroth bottom board is way cheaper and really easy to make.
Deep Supers (x2): I’ll never have the patience to build these, so I buy them.
Frames (Deep) (x20): These are way beyond my ability to build myself, so again, I buy them.
April 2019 Comment: Extra deeps (or deep supers or hive bodies) and frames are great to have around. So are inner covers, bottom boards and top covers — basically the components for another hive. I already said this, but having a little extra stuff around comes in really handy at times, especially after the first year. There’s nothing worse than needing room for the bees to grow and not having it.
Foundation (Deep) (x20). Save $22 by going foundationless. I would also 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. These are fairly easy to build too, but I guess it’s nice to have a “real” one as template when starting out.
Top Cover. These things weigh a tonne. They’re expensive to ship, but it’s good to have a properly built cover, again, to use as a template for building them at home.
April 2019 Comment: The inner covers and top covers sold through G & M are different because they’re designed for the D.E. Hive which looks similar to a standard Langstroth hive except it’s turned 90 degrees so that the bottom and top entrances are built into what would normally be considered the long side of a Langstroth hive. (My write-up on the D.E. Hive explains all the differences.) The D.E. Hive also has what’s called a vent box on top, which adds to the cost of the hive but provides ventilation similar to my ventilation rims. Again, there’s nothing wrong with the D.E Hive (I’d recommend it for anyone who can afford it), but cheaper options are available if necessary.
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. Also known as division board feeders, thinner single-frame-sized feeders are available that some may find easier to use. (See the How-To page for more info on using frame feeders.)
April 2019 Comment: G & M sells what’s called a chimney feeder and a German style feeder. Both can be used instead frame feeders. Each feeder has its pros and cons. They all get the job done.
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. The entrance reducer is used when the population is small. The reducer comes off once you see the bees are being slowed down by the reducer.
Queen Excluder. I didn’t need an excluder until my second summer, and even then I didn’t use it much, but I use them every summer now.
Hive Tool. Various types of hive tools are available (I particularly like the so-called Italian or J-hook hive tool), but this one is good enough to get started.
Frame Gripper. I often use my hands to pull out frames, but a frame gripper definitely comes in handy with frames that are heavy with honey and especially when frames are glued to the hive with wax and propolis. I wouldn’t skip this one.
April 2019 Comment: G & M doesn’t sell these yet, but they’re easy to find on Amazon. Don’t get a cheap one, though.
Smoker. I usually spray my 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 I’m glad to have a smoker close by. I prefer the higher quality Dadant smoker over the one shown here.
April 2019 Comment: The smoker sold at G & M is pricey. Even though much cheaper ones can be found on Amazon, if you stick with beekeeping, you’ll love having a quality smoker on hand.
Bee Brush. I avoid using the bee brush because it usually makes the bees angry. (My brushing technique could probably use a little work.) I 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. (UPDATE: I don’t use a bee brush anymore.)
Bee jacket. The traditional bee hat and veil with a denim shirt works for me. So does the full-body bee suit (and it’s only about $10 more than the jacket). But on hot summer days (a.k.a. beekeeping weather), a full sized bee suit cooks me like a Sunday roast. I strip down to minimal clothing when I put it 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 mesh material are available (I have one and I love it), but they’re not cheap.
April 2019 Comment: The full beesuit is overkill. It’s just too damn hot. I still have a couple on hand for when I need to dig into the occasional big mean hive, but these days I usually get by with the veil hat sold through G & M. I have a ventilated bee jacket as well (purchased through Beemaid), but I’ll tell you right now the ventilating material barely makes any difference. When it’s over 20°C, I’m soaked in sweat no matter what.
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. I left my leather gloves outside for a week last summer and they got so moldy I threw them out and haven’t replaced them.
April 2019 Comment: When my bees look grumpy or start to get defensive, I put the gloves on. Starting out with nucs, though (with a small number of bees), it’s pretty easy to go gloveless, and it’s fun to feel the bees crawl all over your hands. Just move in slow motion and everything should be okay.
Pollen Supplement (x2). I use pollen supplement to make pollen patties that will be used to feed the baby bees in my nucs all summer long (not everyone feeds pollen in the summer, but I have my reasons). A little anise extract doesn’t hurt either. I sometimes add pollen to the hives in late winter to get the queen laying early for the spring. (See the How-To page for more info.)
April 2019 Comment: I just buy protein patties from G & M now because it’s cheaper and easier than shipping in the powder.
After taxes and the awful shipping costs to Newfoundland, the grand total of the order comes to $419.76:
April 2019 Comment: All the prices and calculations after this are way out of date, but I’ll leave them in for… posterity?
All of this is only a rough guide to how I would start up my first beehive if I had to do it all in one order and couldn’t build anything myself. Some people would want to double up on the hive tools and the protective clothing if they’re not the solitary type. Some might also decide to do without certain items, or make some of the hive components on their own, but I’d say $400 is about right for the bare minimum hive components, protective clothing, bee food and hive tools. Plus $200 (to $250) for the bees and at least another $100 for sugar, nails and other miscellaneous items, adding up to a grand total of $719.76, or somewhere in that ballpark.
Knocking that total down isn’t too hard for people who can build some of their own hive components. But I think it’s fair to say that most people end up spending more money than 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 that each hive is started with a purchased nuc). The cost of nucs is removed at a certain point for anyone who can split their hives.
Now if someone really wants to go cheap and remove non-essential items — leather gloves (use dish washing gloves instead); queen excluder; frame rests; bee brush; entrance reducer — and they have the ability to make all their 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 for anyone (like me) who doesn’t 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.
I’ve also noticed that Beemaid (in this example) calculates shipping online, but they will package the components for each order as efficiently as they can so that the actual shipping costs are often considerably lower than the online estimates.
So depending on what a new beekeeper can build on their own, the costs will range anywhere from $568.76 to $719.76 for the first hive. If they’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 on how to get started, check out the How-To page and my YouTube videos; or read about me building my first hive and go through subsequent posts up to today. It covers a lot of ground.
All of the above only includes everything I used to get through my first year of beekeeping (beginning in 2010) and it worked well for me many times over. That’s the experience I’m speaking from. In the second year, I bought two honey supers (or medium supers) for each hive (because I started with two hives), plus frames and foundation for each super. I bought some extra deeps and more frames for them, because it’s always good to have spare parts for expanding colonies and other unanticipated events. I also had to buy jars for storing my extracted honey (using another beekeeper’s extractor). There’s more, but most beekeepers will probably know enough before their second year to know what they’ll need for that year. Good luck.