The answer is simple: get some bee boxes and get some bees. In this day and age of beginning beekeeping, to, “get” means, “to buy.”
Actually, it’s a million-dollar answer to a million-dollar question as it’s a rather expensive hobby when starting from scratch. To buy a set of new boxes, and a unit of bees to fill those boxes, you can expect to spend around $300 to $350 per hive. And the common advice is to start with two hives, at a minimum, four hives if you can afford it.
You’ll also need some personal equipment for protection from stings, a few hand tools, a smoker and this will run another $200 to $250.
A lot of beginners do not buy a honey extractor, the device used to harvest the honey because harvesting honey the first year is the exception, rather than the rule, and smaller extractors start out at $150 (used) to $400 (new), and you’ll need a few extracting tools that can run you another $200.
Then plan on purchasing a few necessities, perhaps some medications for the bees, a couple of unique gadgets that catch your eye and you can toss in another $200 or so. The bottom line is usually a figure higher than what you expected, and typically higher than your spouse or partner had anticipated.
Yes, there are some cheaper alternatives and more economical options, but for the beginner lacking sufficient knowledge as to how all the equipment works and what they can expect, the consistent advice from experienced beekeepers like myself is to buy new. I'll broach the topic of used equipment in a later blog.
I am approached by countless people at the farmer’s markets where I sell my honey who are interested in keeping honey bees. When I rattle off the costs just to get started, they are aghast. For something perceived to be so, “natural” and “wholesome,” they had no idea it was this expensive. Sadly, the cost of getting started is a daunting hurdle and while it seems the spirit is willing, the bank account is weak.
If you really want to get started keeping honey bees, look at the cost as an investment rather than an expense, because there are many dividends to keeping honey bees.