beekeeping for beginners
Beekeeping for Beginners

How Much Does a Bee Hive Cost?

Welcome to the fascinating world of beekeeping! Whether you’re an aspiring beekeeper or simply curious about the costs involved, understanding how much a bee hive costs is a crucial step in your journey. Beekeeping is not only rewarding for nature enthusiasts but also vital for our ecosystem. In this blog post, we’ll explore the various expenses associated with beekeeping, from the hive itself to essential equipment and maintenance.

This post is all about how much a bee hive costs.

beekeeping for beginners

How to Start Beekeeping

This guide’s purpose isn’t a full how-to on how to start beekeeping. Instead, I’ve put together this blog post just to explain the estimated cost on how much you could possibly be spending to get started. Beekeeping isn’t the easiest hobby. There’s quite a bit to learn if you want to manage your hives, and remember, you’re caring for live beings. Knowing the initial start up cost for beekeeping may be part of the equation to help you decide whether you want to go down this path or not. Or maybe it’ll help you decide as to whether this is the right moment to start or to wait.

In any case, I hope this helps you in making that decision and gives you a nice rundown.

How Much Does a Bee Hive Cost?

You may or may not know that there are different types, or styles, of beehives to choose from. Which one you choose is entirely up to you, or you can simply construct your own beehive. The most common styles of beehives are: Langstroth, Top-Bar, Warré

Note: All pricing listed below are estimates. Thoroughly research the hives before diving in, along with shopping around and asking about prices when purchasing bees.

The Breakdown: Different Types of Beehives

There are different types of beehives. They all have their advantages and disadvantages, and different uses. The centerpiece of your beekeeping venture is, of course, the bee hive. The cost of a bee hive can vary widely based on several factors, such as the type of hive, the material it’s made from, and whether you choose to purchase a pre-assembled hive or build one yourself.

Langstroth Hive

how much do honey bees cost
Langstroth Hive

This is the most popular choice amongst beekeepers and designed by Rev. Lorenzo Langstroth in the 19th century. Langstroth hives (pictured below) come in all different sizes. The design features individual boxes stacked upon one another with removable frames on which the bees build their comb.

This type of hive has the following 8 components* inside, which are not exactly noticeable on the outside:

  1. An outer cover
  2. An inner cover
  3. Honey super
  4. Queen excluder
  5. Deep super
  6. Bottom board
  7. Frames
  8. Stand

*See the Beekeeper Beehive Terminology section to learn more about these components.

Pros and Cons of the Langstroth Hives

Although Langstroth hives are one of the most popular hive designs among beekeepers, but like any beekeeping equipment, they come with their own set of pros and cons. Let’s explore the advantages and disadvantages of using a Langstroth hive.

Pros of Langstroth Hives
  • Versatility: Langstroth hives are available in various sizes and configurations, making them adaptable to different beekeeping goals and bee colony sizes.
  • Standardized Design: The design is standardized, making it easier to find compatible equipment and components. This consistency simplifies maintenance and replacement parts.
  • High Honey Production: They are known for their excellent honey production capabilities. The modular frame system allows bees to store honey in removable frames, making honey extraction more manageable.
  • Ease of Inspection: The removable frames in these types of hives allow beekeepers to inspect the colony without disturbing the entire hive. This makes it easier to monitor the health of the colony and manage pests and diseases.
  • Population Control: They provide better control over the bee population. Beekeepers can add or remove boxes as needed, which helps prevent swarming and overcrowding.
  • Easy Expansion: Beekeepers can expand the hive vertically by adding more boxes, making Langstroth hives scalable to accommodate growing colonies.
Cons of Langstroth Hives
  • Heavy Lifting: Fully loaded Langstroth hives can be heavy, especially during honey harvest. This can be a physical challenge for some beekeepers. A deep super can weigh at least 50 pounds and up to 70 pounds!
  • Cost: The initial cost of Langstroth hives and associated equipment can be relatively high compared to other hive types. However, their long-term benefits often justify the investment.
  • Assembly and Maintenance: Langstroth hives may require more assembly and maintenance compared to some other hive types. This includes periodically replacing frames and ensuring proper hive ventilation.
  • Stress on Bees: When beekeepers remove frames for inspection or honey extraction, it can temporarily disrupt the hive, causing stress to the bees. Proper techniques and timing can mitigate this issue.
  • Risk of Pest and Disease Spread: Because Langstroth hives are easy to inspect and manipulate, there is a risk of spreading diseases and pests between hives if proper precautions aren’t taken.
  • Hive Space Management: Beekeepers need to carefully manage the available space in Langstroth hives to prevent colonies from becoming too large, which can lead to swarming.

Langstroth hives offer many advantages, including high honey production, versatility, and ease of inspection. However, they come with some drawbacks, such as the potential for heavy lifting, initial costs, and the need for regular maintenance. Choosing a hive type ultimately depends on your specific beekeeping goals and preferences, but Langstroth hives remain a popular choice for many beekeepers due to their proven track record and adaptability.

A basic hive with one deep box can cost anywhere from $100 to $200, while larger hives with multiple boxes can range from $200 to $300.

Top-Bar Hive

how much does it cost to start beekeeping
Top Bar Hive

This type of hive is a horizontal design in comparison to the Langstroth that is vertically stacked. It’s considered a more natural and less intrusive way to keep bees, making it an attractive option for beekeepers who prefer a less interventionist approach. They consist of a single long box or trough with wooden bars laid across the top. Instead of using frames with built-in foundation sheets, like in Langstroth hives, bees build their comb freely from the wooden bars, which hang down from the top of the hive. They’re  designed to encourage bees to build natural, hanging comb and the bars maintain the correct bee space (the gap bees need for movement between combs) to prevent attachment of comb to the hive walls.

One of the primary philosophies behind top bar hives is minimal intervention. Beekeepers using this type of hive often disturb the bees less frequently, allowing them to exhibit more natural behaviors. Hive inspections are therefore typically limited to routine checks for disease, pests, and to ensure adequate honey storage.

Pros and Cons of Top Bar Hives

Top bar hives offer a unique approach to beekeeping, emphasizing natural comb-building and minimal intervention. However, like any hive design, they come with their own set of pros and cons. Here’s a breakdown of the advantages and disadvantages of using a top bar hive:

Pros of Top Bar Hives

Natural Comb: Top bar hives encourage bees to build natural comb without the use of pre-manufactured foundation sheets. Some beekeepers believe that natural comb is healthier for bees.

Minimal Intervention: Beekeepers using this type of hive often disturb their colonies less frequently, allowing bees to exhibit more natural behaviors. This can reduce stress on the bees and may lead to more resilient colonies.

Simplicity: They are relatively simple and easy to construct, making them beginner-friendly. They don’t require as much equipment as other hive types, such as Langstroth hives.

Lower Equipment Costs: Beekeepers using them may spend less on initial equipment, as they don’t need frames, foundation sheets, or expensive honey extractors.

Lightweight and Portable: Top bar hives are often lighter and more portable than vertical hives like Langstroth, which can be advantageous when moving hives or transporting them to different locations.

Less Honey Processing: Harvesting honey from them involves cutting and straining natural comb, which some beekeepers prefer. It allows them to enjoy unprocessed, raw honey.

Space Efficiency: These hives can be placed in small spaces or even on rooftops, making them suitable for urban beekeeping.

Cons of Top Bar Hives

Lower Honey Yields: Top bar hives generally produce less honey compared to Langstroth hives. The natural comb can be more fragile and prone to breakage during honey extraction.

Limited Hive Manipulation: They provide less control over the colony’s expansion. While bars can be added to accommodate more bees and brood, it’s not as precise as adding boxes in a Langstroth hive.

Harvesting Challenges: Harvesting honey from them can be more labor-intensive and time-consuming, as each comb must be individually harvested, cut, and strained.

Reduced Colony Population: The hives may not support larger colonies as effectively as Langstroth hives, which could limit the amount of honey produced.

Space Requirements: Although they are suitable for small spaces, they require enough horizontal space to accommodate the bars, which can limit placement options.

Less Standardization: The design of top bar hives can vary, and they are less standardized compared to Langstroth hives. This can make it harder to find compatible equipment and resources.

Potential for Cross-Comb: If not properly managed, bees in top bar hives may build comb that crosses bars, making hive inspections and honey harvesting more challenging.

Overall, top bar hives offer a natural, less intrusive approach to beekeeping and are often preferred by beekeepers who prioritize minimal intervention and the health of their bees. However, they may yield less honey and require more effort during honey extraction. Choosing a hive type ultimately depends on your beekeeping goals, preferences, and willingness to adapt to the unique characteristics of top bar hives.

These hives are more affordable, with prices typically ranging from $185 to $300. They are a great option for beginners and those on a budget.

Warré Hive

how much do bees cost
Warré Hive

A Warré hive, pronounced “war-ray,” is a type of beehive design developed by French beekeeper Emile Warre in the early 20th century. The Warré hive is known for its simplicity and focus on mimicking the natural behaviors of honeybees. It is sometimes referred to as the “People’s Hive” due to its accessibility and ease of use. Here are the key features and characteristics of a Warre hive.

Warre hives are vertical hives, consisting of multiple stacked boxes. The bees build their comb downward from the top bars, creating a natural vertical structure. Unlike Langstroth hives with frames and foundation sheets, Warre hives use top bars as comb guides. Bees build their comb naturally from these bars, which can be lifted for inspection.

The Warre hive uses a method called “nadiring,” where new boxes are added beneath the existing ones as the colony expands. This simulates the bees’ natural tendency to build their brood nest downwards. At the top of the Warre hive stack, there is a unique component called a “quilt box.” This box is filled with straw or other insulating materials and serves as a form of insulation and moisture control for the hive.

Warre hive philosophy emphasizes minimal intervention. Beekeepers using Warre hives typically inspect the hive less frequently and aim to disturb the bees as little as possible. They’re also supposed to minimize swarming activity by allowing the hive to expand downwards in the hive.

​​It’s important to note that while Warre hives have gained popularity among natural beekeepers and those interested in low-intervention beekeeping, they may not produce as much honey as Langstroth hives and require a different approach to beekeeping management. Beekeepers interested in Warre hives should thoroughly research and understand the hive’s principles and practices to successfully maintain healthy colonies.

The Pros and Cons of the Warré Hive

Warre hives, with their focus on natural beekeeping and minimal intervention, offer several advantages and disadvantages for beekeepers. Here’s a breakdown of the pros and cons of using a Warre hive:

Pros of Warre Hives
  • Natural Comb Building: Warre hives encourage bees to build natural comb without the use of pre-manufactured foundation sheets. Some beekeepers believe this leads to healthier bees.
  • Simplicity: Warre hives are relatively simple to construct and manage, making them beginner-friendly. They don’t require frames or foundation sheets, reducing equipment costs.
  • Minimal Intervention: Beekeepers using Warre hives often disturb their colonies less frequently, allowing bees to exhibit more natural behaviors. This can reduce colony stress and promote resilience.
  • Vertical Hive Design: Warre hives mimic the bees’ natural behavior of building comb downward. This reduces the need for frequent manipulations and swarm prevention measures.
  • Nadiring: The method of adding boxes beneath the existing ones as the colony expands (nadiring) helps reduce the colony’s swarming tendencies.
  • Swarm Control: Warre hives are designed to minimize swarming by allowing the colony to expand downward, providing the bees with more space.
  • Insulation and Moisture Control:The quilt box at the top of the Warre hive stack provides insulation and helps control moisture, contributing to a healthier hive environment.
  • Healthier Comb: Warre hives often encourage smaller cell sizes, which can contribute to healthier bees and potentially fewer issues with Varroa mites.
  • Simplified Harvesting: Harvesting honey from Warre hives involves lifting entire boxes, which can be less disruptive to the colony compared to individual frame extraction in Langstroth hives.
Cons of Warre Hives
  • Lower Honey Yields: Warre hives generally produce less honey compared to Langstroth hives, making them less suitable for commercial honey production.
  • Limited Hive Manipulation: While Warre hives provide more natural beekeeping conditions, they offer less control over the colony’s expansion compared to Langstroth hives.
  • Challenging Inspections: Inspecting Warre hives can be more challenging, as it involves lifting and replacing heavy boxes, potentially leading to more disruption and stress for the bees.
  • Potentially Smaller Colonies: The design of Warre hives may not support larger colonies as effectively as Langstroth hives, which could limit the amount of honey produced.
  • Space Requirements: Warre hives require vertical space to accommodate additional boxes, which might limit placement options in certain settings.
  • Limited Equipment Compatibility: Warre hives are less standardized than Langstroth hives, which can make it challenging to find compatible equipment and resources.
  • Learning Curve: Beekeepers using Warre hives need to adapt to the hive’s unique principles and practices, which can require a learning curve.

These types of hives can range from $100 to $500.

In summary, Warre hives are an excellent choice for beekeepers who prioritize natural beekeeping methods and minimal intervention. They can lead to healthier bees and reduced swarming tendencies. However, they may not be ideal for those seeking high honey yields or commercial-scale beekeeping. Choosing a hive type depends on your beekeeping goals and your willingness to work within the principles and practices of the specific hive design.

Flow Hive

A relatively popular hive is what’s called a Flow hive. A Flow Hive is a modern innovation in beekeeping equipment designed to make honey harvesting easier and less disruptive to the bees. It was invented by father-and-son team Stuart and Cedar Anderson in Australia and gained significant attention for its innovative honey extraction method.

What is a Flow Hive though? 

Flow Hives typically consist of stackable boxes like traditional Langstroth hives, allowing beekeepers to add more boxes as the colony grows. However, it differs greatly from Langstroth. 

The hallmark of a Flow Hive is its unique honey extraction system. It consists of special frames with partially formed honeycomb cells and a key-operated mechanism.

Flow frames are the heart of the Flow Hive. They contain cells with partially formed honeycomb. When it’s time to harvest honey, the beekeeper turns a key, which splits the cells, allowing honey to flow down and out of the frames into a collection trough. Honey can be extracted in a very fun, cool, and unique way. The harvested honey flows into a collection trough or jar via a honey tap, which makes it easy to access and bottle the honey.

The hive is designed to minimize disruption to the bees during honey harvesting. Unlike traditional methods that involve opening the hive, removing frames, and extracting honey manually, the Flow Hive allows honey to be collected without disturbing the bees as much. 

What’s also interesting is that many Flow Hives feature an observation window, which allows beekeepers to monitor the bees and observe honey filling the frames without opening the hive. Again, this causes less disruption to the bees. 

It’s often praised for its convenience. Honey extraction is a less labor-intensive and more straightforward process, making beekeeping more accessible to beginners.

The Pros and Cons of the Flow Hive

The Flow Hive presents several advantages, with the most prominent being its groundbreaking honey extraction method. Unlike traditional beekeeping, which involves labor-intensive processes like uncapping frames and operating centrifugal extractors, the Flow Hive simplifies honey harvesting to an unprecedented degree. Beekeepers can now obtain honey with minimal disruption to the hive. This innovation is particularly appealing to beginners, as it makes beekeeping accessible and less intimidating.

Beyond ease of use, the Flow Hive greatly reduces the stress imposed on the bees. Traditional methods often necessitate opening the hive, removing frames, and exposing the bees to disturbance. In contrast, the Flow Hive allows honey to flow directly from the frames into a collection trough, permitting the bees to carry on with their daily activities undisturbed. The result is colonies that are more relaxed, leading to healthier and calmer bee populations.

The inclusion of an observation window in many Flow Hive models further enhances the beekeeping experience. This window provides beekeepers with a unique opportunity to peer inside the hive without the need for invasive inspections. Beekeepers can observe the bees and honey production process, gaining valuable insights into colony health and activity. This feature adds an educational and interactive dimension to beekeeping.

The modular design of the Flow Hive, akin to traditional Langstroth hives, allows beekeepers to expand the hive as the bee population grows. The stackable boxes provide ample space for honey storage and accommodate the needs of a thriving colony.

Despite its merits, it’s essential to consider the drawbacks of the Flow Hive. The primary concern for prospective beekeepers is the initial cost. The investment in a Flow Hive, including the hive itself and specialized Flow frames, can be notably higher than traditional beehives. Beekeepers must be prepared for this upfront expense. Depending on the size of the hive, they can cost anywhere from $519 to over $1,000. However, if you factor out the additional money that could be used to extract honey from traditional frames, it may make sense. 

While honey extraction becomes more accessible, beekeeping remains a skill that demands knowledge of hive management, bee health, and bee behavior. Beginners and experienced beekeepers alike must commit to learning these fundamental aspects of beekeeping to ensure the success of their colonies.

The convenience offered by the Flow Hive can have unintended consequences, such as neglect of other critical beekeeping duties. Regular hive inspections, pest management, and seasonal care should not be overlooked, even with the simplified honey extraction process.

Moreover, the ease of honey extraction may inadvertently lead to overharvesting. Beekeepers should exercise caution and avoid removing too much honey at once, as it can stress the colony and impact its ability to endure challenging periods, like winter. In addition, when the honey is being extracted and the key is turned to open the frames, the honey comb is technically being broken open. 

In conclusion, the Flow Hive revolutionizes honey extraction with its unparalleled simplicity and reduced bee disruption. However, it demands an initial financial investment and necessitates beekeepers to strike a balance between convenience and responsible hive management to maintain the health and well-being of their bees.

What Else You’ll Need

Protective Gear  

Your safety is paramount when working with bees. Protective gear, such as a beekeeping suit, gloves, veil, and smoker, will cost you around $50 to $150. Investing in quality gear is essential for a comfortable and safe beekeeping experience.

beekeeper suits and equipment
bee suits

How much do honey bees cost? Bee Packages or Nucleus Colonies

To start your bee colony, you’ll need bees. Bee packages or nucleus colonies can cost between $100 and $200. The price may vary depending on the number of bees and the time of year.

How much does a queen bee cost?

If a queen bee is needed, in the event the queen bee dies for example, costs anywhere from $25 to $50. 

Beekeeping Equipment for Beginners

Beekeeping involves various tools and equipment, including hive tools, a bee brush, feeders, and honey extraction gear. These additional items can add up to $50 to $100 or more, depending on your preferences. For example, a honey extractor can either be manual or electric. The type you choose will vary in price. Manual extractors vary between $129 to $500. Electric extractors range from $200 to $1,500. However this cost can be ignored if you belong to a beekeeping association. Associations may have extractors to borrow. 

Ongoing Expenses

Beekeeping isn’t a one-time investment. You’ll need to budget for ongoing expenses such as bee food, medications, and replacements for worn-out equipment. These costs can vary but are typically around $50 to $100 per year.

Education and Training

Investing in beekeeping courses or books is essential for success. While this isn’t a direct hive cost, it’s an important expense. Courses may range from $50 to $300, depending on the depth of knowledge provided.

Beekeeper Beehive Terminology

best bee hive frames
frame with foundation
  • Outer cover, also known as a telescoping cover, is the top cover of the beehive. It keeps the elements out of the hive, similar to how a roof on a house. So think of it as your beehive’s roof.
  • Inner cover is another cover that is placed between the outer cover and a box. It acts as a form of insulation for the hive and prevents the bees from connecting the frames via the honeycomb to the outer cover.
  • Queen excluder is either made of plastic or metal. The excluder consists of small holes that the queen cannot fit through, but allows all the other bees to pass through. It prevents the queen from entering another part of the hive so she does not lay eggs in that portion. An example of this would be placing the queen excluder between the brood chamber and the honey super. With this set up, the queen cannot leave the brood chamber and go into the honey super. 
  • Honey Super, or shallow box, is a smaller box that is usually used for honey production. It has smaller frames than those that are found in a deep super.  A queen excluder would be used so eggs are not laid in this box, and makes it easier to remove honey from the hive.
  • Deep Super is a large box that can also be called a brood box or brood chamber. It has larger frames than those found in a honey super. On these frames, you can find a combination of things: honey, bee bread, young bees, and bee brood.
  • Frames are used for the honey bees to build their honeycomb and give an organized structure to the beehive. The frames can either have foundation or no foundation. If no foundation is used, there are metal wires that can be found strung across the frames.
  • Bottom is the bottom of the hive. Each beekeeper has a different setup and it will depend on a number of factors. The bottom of the hive can have a screen that filters out anything that falls down, which can range from bee pollen, pests,
  • Foundation is used to give the bees a head start in the hive to make honeycomb. The foundation is either made from plastic or beeswax and provides a base for the honeycomb. They are able to build it on something instead of completely starting from scratch.
bee hive frames plastic
frame for honey super

The cost of a bee hive can vary widely, but a reasonable estimate for getting started with a basic Langstroth hive and essential equipment is between $300 and $500. Remember that beekeeping is a fulfilling hobby with the potential for honey production and pollinator support. While there are initial expenses, the rewards are well worth it both for you and the environment.

Before embarking on your beekeeping journey, carefully consider your budget and objectives. With proper planning and a genuine passion for beekeeping, you can enjoy this wonderful hobby without breaking the bank. Beekeeping not only offers delicious honey but also contributes to the conservation of these essential pollinators. 

Happy beekeeping! 🐝

This post was all about how much does a bee hive cost.

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