One of the things we’re often asked is how much it costs to buy a hive or set one up. The answer to that isn’t as simple as a figure or a ra...

Setting up your own hive

By | Monday, January 11, 2016 Leave a Comment
One of the things we’re often asked is how much it costs to buy a hive or set one up. The answer to that isn’t as simple as a figure or a range of dollar values because the hive itself isn’t actually where all the costs reside.

That being said, we do encourage more households to keep bees in the backyard. Bees in the neighbourhood can do so much good and commercial beekeepers are more inclined to place hives on farmland and remote areas where they can keep several hives together for efficiency. Bee populations in urban areas are significantly depleted and a single hive doesn’t require much space. A mature hive can introduce upwards of 50,000 bees into the area and service a radius of three kilometres or more.

So if you’re thinking of becoming a hobbyist beekeeper then these are the start-up costs to consider:
  • A beesuit or equivalent protective equipment. We recommend the modern all-in-one overalls rather than half suits and complicated veils. You’ll feel far more confident all sealed in. New, these can be purchased for $80NZD on TradeMe but beware of the quality e.g. plastic zips, and from official suppliers between $130 and $190, depending on colour and style. Children’s beesuits are also available.
  • Leather gloves: unless you’re around bees all the time and build up tolerance, you should wear gloves. It is inevitable when lifting frames and boxes that you will squash a bee or two every time you work the bees. Fabric and rubber gloves will not be sufficient. Leather is best, long sleeved. We prefer the vented variety because you get very hot in the midday summer sun. Anywhere from $25 to $40NZD per pair.
  • A hive tool for working with the bees. That propolis is super-sticky and separating the boxes and prising out frames requires specialist equipment. If you’re only getting one, be sure to get the ‘J’ type variety with the hook. $12 to $22NZD depending on style and construction.
  • A smoker - at some stage you will annoy the bees either because you’re inspecting the brood chambers or stealing their honey. $20 to $100NZD depending on size. You’ll also need a supply of sacking to smoke the hive, it calms the hive but don’t over do it. Less is best.

In New Zealand it is also a legal requirement to register and regularly inspect your hives. Although registration itself is free, a small fee is charged per apiary site to help fund the National American Foulbrood Pest Management Strategy Agency. We keep bees in five locations and therefore pay for five apiary sites. You are given a unique registration number which must be displayed at each apiary, on at least one hive. You also require annual American Foulbrood inspections and the subsequent submission of a summary of the inspection.

If you’re only looking after a single hive, then we suggest borrowing or hiring an extractor and related equipment when it’s time to harvest. If you have more than a couple, it may be worthwhile buying your own equipment which adds to costs and storage as appropriate.

Beekeeping has consumables: each year you will need to inspect your equipment and replace perished frames, boxes, floors and lids. You also need to treat for varroa mite pre and post season.

Finally we get to the cost of buying the bees themselves. I checked prices today and you can acquire a small starter nuc for $320NZD but this doesn’t include any actual hive equipment except around five frames. A ‘ready to go box’ kit can be purchased for around $150ND. To buy a more mature hive complete with bees, boxes, frames, floor, lid and roof can be around $650NZD.
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