Q. How much time does it take to manage a colony of honey bees?
A. For a beginning beekeeper and depending on the weather, a beekeeper will spend on average 1 hour every two weeks per hive during the months of March-October. During the months of November-February, the beekeeper will spend very little, if any, time actually inspecting the colony. In addition, the beekeeper might spend time removing and extracting surplus honey in the fall of the colonys first year, and in the spring and in the fall of the colonys second year.
Q. How much will it cost me to take up beekeeping?
A. Like any endeavor, there are more and less expensive ways to begin keeping honey bees. The cost would depend on choices you would make regarding (1) what hive components (boxes, frames, foundation, floor and covers) you would use to house your bees; (2) what tools and protective clothing you would use; and (iii) how you would obtain the starter honey bee colony (queen and bees) to put in your hive.
For the hive, tools and protective clothing, you can purchase a beginners kit from a beekeeping supply company for approximately $400. Such a kit would include fully assembled components for a 4-box hive, all the protective clothing and tools you might want to use, and a beginning beekeeping book. If you were motivated to assemble the hive components and elected to do without some of the items that would automatically be included in such a beginners kit, or if you elected to keep bees in a top bar hive you would construct yourself, the actual start-up costs could be brought down to the $100-200 range.
For the starter honey bee colony, the lowest cost option is to start with a honey bee swarm that you catch yourself (free) or you would buy from someone who caught the swarm. Another option is to purchase a package of bees from a honey bee producer which would consist of a newly-mated queen and approximately 10,000 unrelated bees. This is the most common way to begin a new colony and would cost in the $60-95 range. Finally, the more expensive option would be to purchase a nucleus colony which would cost in the $100-150 range. A nucleus colony is a fully functioning mini-colony, typically consisting of 5 frames of fully drawn-out comb filled with eggs, larvae and capped brood, pollen, nectar and honey, and a laying queen with approximately 10,000/+ of her own bees (daughter workers and son drones).
All these questions and more, are addressed in our classes in the beginning of each year.