Beginner's FAQ: Do I Need to Do A Beekeeping Course?

Are you wondering if it is essential to do a beekeeping course before starting beekeeping? Our short answer is – YES. In this post we’re going to explore why it is essential for anyone who wants to go into beekeeping the do a course and then also what to look for in a beekeeping course.

Why Should I Do A Beekeeping Course?

You may think that you are fully invested in taking up beekeeping as a hobby, however until you properly get your hands into a hive you will not know what it is like to have bees. Some of our course attendees even believe that they already understand what it is like to have bees flying around you, crawling on your hands and stinging you, but once they get to the practical session of our course, they just freeze up (or they run away).

Reading all the materials and books that you can on beekeeping can be extremely useful, but you really have to get hands on experience to understand your capabilities, sometimes frames, supers or brood boxes are heavier than you think.

All hail the mentor (don’t mimic that manual handling)!

What to Look For in A Beekeeping Course

We’ve personally been running beginner beekeeping courses and tasters for quite a few years. They’ve developed, regressed and changed dramatically because we are always trying to give our customers what they want. We take feedback very seriously and it’s helped us time and time again to try and create a good value and unforgettable experience.

Practical Handling & Group Size

I couldn’t stress enough the importance of the beekeeping course to allow you to handle the bees yourself. Obviously not without the teacher initially, but we all need to build up the confidence to adequately handle bees eventually independent of others. A good course should not have a huge group (depending on how many teachers there are). For example, on our course we have two teachers with a maximum of 5 students in each group for the practical handling session. This allows for each person to have a good amount of time looking through the bees themselves with a chance to discuss with the teacher.

Rob being surrounded by the students because Becky is taking the photo!

Handling Different Frame Sizes

If a course specifically allows you try out different equipment sizes then that will give you an excellent idea of what will suit you as a beekeeper. You may find that you need the smallest/lightest kit, i.e. the national, obviously this comes with downsides such as less space to lay for the queen and therefore you have to be on your toes to prevent swarming. The commercial and langstroth have shorter lugs which may be more difficult for some people to handle, so it is advantageous to be able to handle them when they have been fully pulled and filled to give you a realistic idea of using them practically in the future.

Different sizes of frames

Handling Different Breeds

It is quite rare to find a course that explicitly states that it attempts to show you different strains of bees. There are a lot of different strains on the market and the information given to you can be a little overwhelming to say the least. Therefore, being able to practically handle different strains will allow you to see subtle differences in temperament and prolificness.

Colour variation of the worker bees in a single nuc

We do our best to keep our colonies showing a different variation of the strains, however colour is not always the best indication of the strain! For example the Buckfast has been crossed with so many different strains that the colour variation is not always predictable. Needless to say that most of the queens that we use are open mated, meaning the queen is free to mate with any drone, this means that there can be a mix of genetic material within each queen’s lifespan.

Little Extras

Some beekeeping courses add a little something special for your day. for example River Cottage and The London Honey Company provide lunch. For us, we always try to make a honey cake to eat during our tea break, a honey tasting and we also give everyone a 12oz jar of honey to take back home with them.

Our range of honey

Alternatives to a Beekeeping Course

The only reason to not do a standard one or two day beekeeping course is going through some different avenues. However the principle is the same, that you have some practical experience before getting your own bees.

Go to the Local Association

A lot of beekeeping associations run introductory beekeeping courses throughout the winter, this leads up to a handling session in spring. This can often be very good value of money, bear in mind you will also have to pay the fee to join the association to begin with. This varies greatly between the associations so it is best to contact them directly. Either way, it is a great way to grow as a beekeeper as you have many experienced beekeepers guiding and supporting you on your journey.

Shadowing a Mentor

Does your neighbour have bees? Maybe they’ve had bees for years! Having a mentor is a great way to learn with very little time pressure as well as building a lifelong friendship. One on one training is an incredible opportunity to learn but one thing we may say is that don’t take everything they say as ‘gospel truth’ there are many different approaches to beekeeping and it is always great to incorporate new methods as you learn.

Volunteer at a Beefarm

If you live near a bee farming business maybe they would be willing to take a volunteer. That way you can learn on the job as well as having the added benefit of seeing many different colonies in a short space of time. Actually our very own Sian learnt this way from a bee farmer in London!

Here’s to all the new beekeepers of 2020 ready to bloom!

In Summary

It’s clear to see that we are extremely pro-course! Not just because we are selling a beekeeping course ourselves but because we have had a lot of experience giving advice to new, hobbyist beekeepers. We just despair when we get a phone call for advice and they are oblivious to even the basics of beekeeping (like not knowing what eggs look like!) and yet here they are with a struggling colony of bees and it is almost impossible to give accurate advice when the caller cannot even explain what appears to be wrong with the colony.

Beekeeping is a huge responsibility, not just to the health and wellbeing of your bees, but to your fellow neighbours and other beekeepers in your proximity. Beekeeping has a lot to it, and there’s no way that you can learn all of that from a book, likewise you can’t learn everything just by handling bees! It is most certainly a combination of both, but if you’ve had zero experience looking after bees (or getting stung) then it is essential to do a course or gaining some practical experience before investing in this new hobby. Remember, bees are not just for a season, they are hopefully for life!

Season Update: Backaches & Headaches

It’s official, the team and I are overworking ourselves to the point that we’re almost broken! Only physically though, we’re all mentally hanging in there (‘Speak for yourself!’ – Sian). During this time of the year Sian and I are usually holed up in the office ensuring all our nuc and queen orders are all on the spreadsheet, doing our sales analysis and Sian is undergoing the long process of last season’s analysis of our nuc and hives productivity. However, with Gabriel still in New Zealand there is a lot of prep work left to do for the upcoming season, you know the drill, making frames, boxes, rewaxing frames and cleaning.

Another huge job that we’ve undertaken is redoing our honey room floor which has been causing us endless headaches last year. We removed all of our equipment from the honey room and now the yard is looking pretty cramped, hopefully it’ll be all spick and span before Gabriel’s return. It’s taken us about a whole day for Sian and I to manually scrape off all the paint before I had to acid wash the floor, then wash the floor multiple times. Now our backs are hurting and we’re feeling old. Rob helped us for about 30 minutes before calling it quits and he continues to work like he’s a young man!

Lambing season is upon us so Rob has been on his flock’s beck and call so we may see less of him the next couple of weeks. So far 4/98 have been born!

The first two twins!

We attended last night’s wonderful talk by Chris Bird at Andover Beekeeper’s Association. Another huge turnout which was really lovely, some new faces too. Chris spoke about tree and plant health, diseases and pests threatening them and the implications of importing and planting non-native varieties. We held a raffle and I won Sian this little mug, she was extremely excited! She will now have to drink coffee more often in the office and stay motivated when doing her analysis of last year’s season!

‘Bee Happy’ Mug that we won!

We’ve been keeping up with our fondant feeding, we’ve noticed certain hives going through the feed extremely quickly so we’re doing our checks fortnightly now. Another huge job to make our work a little easier by converting to a traffic light system with our bricks as well as pinning all of our nucs to indicate which breed of queen are in the nucs.

Ensure you have feed on your colonies! They’re looking strong!
Traffic Light Bricks

Not much of an update really, but we do hope that everyone is enjoying the relatively mild weather that we’re experiencing too.

Beginner's FAQ: What Should I Do During a Hive Inspection?

There are a number of things you need to keep in mind when doing a hive inspection. This can appear a little overwhelming at first, but once you are inspecting your hives regularly this becomes second nature. Each of these elements on the list are equally important as if there is anything out of sorts with even one, then your hive will become less productive and healthy.

Queenright

It is essential to ensure that your hive is what we refer to as ‘Queenright’ meaning that your colony has a normally laying queen. At certain times of the year your queen may go off lay, usually during periods of dearth or as the weather gets colder. Except in those times it is not exactly essential to physically see your queen, it is usually fine to just spot eggs. Once a honeybee egg is laid it stays in this stage for 3 days, therefore if you see eggs then you can be assured that your queen was present at a minimum of 3 days ago.

Always check for the presence of queen cells too, these can be swarm cells which is related to the ‘space’ element of checking your colony.

So how can you tell if your colony is not queenright? Well, of course if there is no presence of eggs… But also, not quite that simple! Workers are also capable of laying eggs but they are unfertilized, meaning they will only produce drones and you may also get a drone layer, a mated queen that has run out of her sperm stores.

The topic of identifying queenlessness in your colony is far too extensive to discuss here but we will soon be going into that in another post!

Can you see the Queen?

Stores

No matter how frequent your checks are, you should be thinking in advance how much stores your colony has, and is it enough to sustain them until you visit them again. Take a look at the young larvae, do they have a good amount of royal jelly, or are they looking dry?

This is of course all in conjunction to which point in the season it is. Is there a strong nectar flow on? Is there going to be poor weather? Is there a lot of brood in the colony (more mouths to feed)? These are all questions you need to ask yourself to ensure that you can estimate if they have enough stores. You must remember that the stores don’t just refer to the honey, but also to the pollen present in the colony. Without adequate stores of the protein packed bee bread, the colony would not be able to feed the worker larvae the optimum amount.

So how much stores should you needf or a full sized colony? Most beekeepers ensure that they have at least two full frames of honey in the brood box. This is taking into account that usually on brood frames the brood nest will be surrounded with a good amount of stores too. This should be sufficient until the next weekly check.

Commercial brood frame, note the stores at the top of the frame

Disease & Pests

The topic of disease and pests is so vast that it needs an entire blog post dedicated to it as well. We will just briefly discuss the importance of detecting disease early on.

During your hive inspection it is important to inspect larvae carefully, they should be well formed (clearly see their segmentations) and pearly white. Anything out of the ordinary is worth having a closer look, such as trying to spot any similar instances throughout your brood frames or taking photos and showing a fellow beekeeper, if you want to revisit the same frame later on, you can use a queen marker or even your hive tool to mark the top bar of the frame.

How is the pattern of your sealed brood? Is it a good and consistent pattern or is it pepperpot-ish?

Also have a look at the floor, are there a lot of dead bees that the colony are struggling to manage? Or are there plenty of dead bees outside in front of the hive? You will always have a few dead bees outside the hive, as you gain experience it will be clear when the amount is abnormal. Do your adult bees look healthy overall? Are their wings deformed or do your bees look hairless and shiny?

A few bees here with deformed wing virus

In the case of varroa infestation, the damage of colony collapse can be averted as long as you treat before your mite levels are growing beyond your colony’s control. You can manage your detection by proactively doing a mite count, whether this is by sugaring, alcohol or observing using your varroa floor.

If you’re not well versed in the various diseases and pest damage then always get a second opinion from an experienced beekeeper.

Space

When doing your hive inspection you must be thinking about the space available for the bees. The moment you take your crown board off you should be able to see if there is a suitable amount of space, are bees visible on all of the seams (the space between the frames)? Are the bees starting to build wax through the porter escapes and up through the crown board and into the roof?

Spreading the brood

It’s not only about giving the bees enough space to expand, it is also imperative to not be giving the bees too much space before they are ready. A smaller colony may not have enough strength in numbers to keep the temperature constant throughout the hive and as a result they cannot keep the brood from chilling.

On the other end of the spectrum, the lack of space pushes the bees to start thinking about swarming! All beekeepers want to avoid their colony from swarming because it takes a lot longer for a colony to become productive again, that’s not taking into account the risk that the virgins may not come back from their mating flight. Rule of thumb is that 1 frame of capped brood will become 3 frames of bees so as you’re going through your hive consider whether or not you may need to add supers.

The bees taking their expansion in their own hands and building in a deep roof instead of waiting!

In Summary

I hope that gives you a good idea of the four main elements to keep in your mind when going through a colony. I realise it seems that there is a lot to remember, but these do become second nature as your beekeeping experience builds up so anything out of the ordinary will stick out like a sore thumb.

When first starting out it is always best to have a good mentor who can assist you when you’re going through your colonies, they may be able to spot things that you miss. Before you know it, you’ll probably become a mentor to a beginner beek yourself!

Rob was initially my mentor before becoming my business partner!

Season Update: January Blues (but not really)

Hello everyone! The team and I hope that you all had a lovely New Year and are looking forward to the beekeeping season ahead. It has been extremely mild over the winter (she says whilst the temperatures have plummeted over the weekend) and whilst inspecting our colony’s feed situations last week the girls have come out to greet us, as well as spotting a few bringing pollen back to their homes.

The workers looking far too busy for January, they may be bringing pollen from the catkins

It has been quite exciting being back after some time off, as some of you may know I had a short time away in Bulgaria snowboarding and only escaped with a few minor injuries! We’re receiving more and more nuc orders now we are into 2020 so if you would likes bees from us this year please don’t leave it to late to get your orders in.

We are really trying to be more in tune with social media (our facebook, instagram & twitter). We started our in depth ‘Beginner’s FAQ‘ with our first post being an analytical piece ‘How Much Does it Cost to Start Beekeeping in 2020?‘ which has already proved to be extremely popular! We’re so pleased that there is more interest in our blog which has always been present but not the most viewed part of our socials, we’re hoping that our experience as bee farmers will be able to help others in the long run.

Sian and I headed to our first talk of 2020 at our local beekeeper’s association which was very illuminating! The talk was called ‘Wings, Stings and Other Things’ and involved honeybee dissection to show us honeybee anatomy and it was absolutely brilliant. James Donaldson manipulated the honeybee to show us how the wings and stinger operates and talked us through the digestive system, I think I can say for the whole of the association that we all learnt something new!

Me trying my hand at carefully dissecting a honeybee

We’re now looking to attend a microscopy course this year to enhance our skills as beefarmers, not just to advance our understanding of honeybee anatomy, but hopefully to analyse our own pollen and possibly diagnose diseases (though fingers crossed we’d not find the need for that!)

We had a huge(ish) overhaul of our unit and decided to move some of our shelving units upstairs and move our glass jars downstairs (yes we were stupidly carrying box after box of jars up and down the stairs). It is certainly much more spacious and is making it much more of a pleasure to work there.

Rob refitting our shelving upstairs (Sian’s bunkbed)

Our Rob is currently in Spain where it is unfortunately raining! Can you imagine? After all that rain here he thought he could escape to warmer climates but the rain had followed him! He is only away for a week but that means no collections from Headley until 27th January.

A terrified looking commercial brood box D:

To those who haven’t started feeding fondant, please make sure that you continue checking the weight of your hives, in the warmer weather the colony can burn through their stores super quickly. We always recommend putting a pack of fondant on at this point in the year. If your bees don’t need it you can remove it wehn you do your spring checks and wrap it back up again. However it may save your colony if they do need it! Remember some weight can be attributed to late flowering ivy which the bees may not be able to break down since it sets so solidly in the cells.

We hope things are looking good for all our fellow beekeepers and bee farmers, fingers crossed for minimum winter losses.

Becky

How Much Does it Cost to Start Beekeeping in 2020?

Maybe it’s your new year’s resolution. Or maybe you’ve been champing at the bit to become a beekeeper for years. Nevertheless an important question needs to be answered, how much does it really cost to start beekeeping? Here we’re going to completely breakdown the costs you can expect to incur if you’re going to go for shiny new equipment and completely prepare yourself for a lifelong hobby.

Beekeeping is a fascinating hobby to have, and I’m not just saying that because I’m a beekeeper too! The team and I are constantly asked questions about our career because looking after bees compels children as well as adults. Honeybees are wondrous creatures that bring a lot of joy to their keepers and there are many reasons why people get into beekeeping initially. It may be that you are passionate about the environment and want to promote a little bit of biodiversity in your area. Maybe you love honey and desire jarring your own harvest. Either way, with bees I find that people either love keeping them or they hate it! So if you fall into the former, prepare yourself for a lifelong hobby as not many quit unless they cannot physically look after them anymore.

So hopefully you’re reading this because you’re seriously considering taking up beekeeping as a hobby but you’re unsure of the costs involved. Let’s just say, beekeeping is not a cheap hobby, at least not initially. Thankfully enough most beekeeping equipment is reusable and we completely encourage that (as long as hygiene standards are kept up – but that is a whole other blog post). Let’s just break it down, don’t worry if you’re not familiar with what everything is at the moment, but believe me – you need all of it!

We’re going to assess the cost of equipment using the cheapest sized hive – the British National* Please note prices are correct at time of publication.


Complete Hive Price

Inspecting some of our hives

Becky’s BeezzzsBee EquipmentThorneMaisemoreAbeloNational Bee SuppliesPaynes
First or Second Grade?FirstSecondFirstFirstSecondFirstFirst
Price Inc Frames?NoYesNoNoNoYesNo
Cedar or PineCedarPineCedarCedarCedarCedarCedar
Queen Excluder TypePlasticPlasticWired FramedPlasticPlasticWiredPlastic
Roof Depth8″4″6″8″4″6″4″
Flat Packed or AssembledFPFPFPFPFPFPFP
Complete Hive Price£241.94£149.00£224.70£240.47£125.00£285.00£240.00

First or Second Grade? First grade bee equipment is the highest classed wood used in making frames, hives, floors and roofs. They have less knots making them easier to construct and less likely to split when nailing. Second grade equipment also doesn’t necessarily fit together perfectly unlike their First Grade cousins. We have to emphasise that unless you are an experienced carpenter we do not recommend buying second grade equipment, or you may just be throwing your money away.

Cedar or Pine? We have to say that buying Canadian First Grade Cedar (also known as Western Red Cedar on some sites) is the best option in the long run. Pine needs to be treated so that it doesn’t rot, whilst cedar doesn’t need to be treated at all. If the material is Cedar but not Canadian it is going to actually be British Cedar, which is extremely knotty and only used in Second Grade equipment.

Queen Excluders? In terms of efficient cleaning, plastic queen excluders are the most long lasting and easiest to clean, though in our opinion they are a lot less attractive than the wired framed queen excluder. You do have to be careful with the plastic queen excluders because they can snap, a hole bigger than the bee space renders your queen excluder useless. The wired framed queen excluder has a bee space, but make sure you match it to rest of your kit because a lot of brace comb on a wired queen excluder is just a nightmare to clean however you can buy a tool to assist with cleaning. We normally wouldn’t recommend the wired queen excluder without a frame, because it is more likely to get warped. With both plastic and wired unframed you do not get a bee space so again you need to take this into consideration when making this choice. No bee space will mean that the excluder will sit directly onto the top bar of the frames for a hive with bottom bee space.

Roof Depth? In our opinion getting a deeper roof is the better choice because it is more versatile and provides more insulation in the winter months. With deeper roofs you can easily put a feeder and fondant on without exposing the crownboard to pests and the elements. It is also a lot weightier so you can rest assured that your roof will not fly off in high winds.

Flat Packed or Assembled? All of the companies above supply their equipment flat packed. As a beekeeper you don’t need to have carpentry skills, most hives will come with assembly instructions but if they don’t you can easily find instructions on most beekeeping supplier sites. In order to save money it is always wise to buy flat packed and it also means that you will learn how to construct your own equipment. It is never that complicated although initially it can be a little time consuming depending on your skills (which is why we always recommend first grade equipment). If you really don’t want to assemble any of your equipment, National Bee Supplies, Maisemore and Thorne provide an assembly service, ranging from £50.41 to £110.00 (price in assembling complete hives only).

Final Recommendation? Is it a bit cheeky to recommend ourselves? Well in terms of price and quality considering all of the above options, we do believe that we at Becky’s Beezzzs as well as Maisemore and Thorne have the best price for the complete hive. National Bee Supplies does a great deal that includes frames and foundation but we’re going to go more in depth with that in the next section.

Average Price for Complete Hive: £215.15


Hoffman Frames & Foundation (Flat Pack)

Here you can see a mix of the Hoffman and Manley Frames (inc plastic spacers)

Becky’s BeezzzsBee EquipmentThorneMaisemoreAbeloNational Bee SuppliesPaynes
First or Second Grade?FirstFirstFirstFirstFirstFirstFirst
10 x British Standard Frames£15.90£14.22£16.50£15.90£10.00£15.75£16.56
10 x British Standard Foundation£12.48£12.60£11.20£12.48£11.80£8.76£13.20
30 x British Standard Super Frames£38.70£42.66£49.50£47.70£30.00£47.25£49.68
30 x British Standard Super Wired Foundation£23.67£26.25£20.70£23.67£22.50£20.85£25.92
Gimp Pins (500g)£10.60£7.25£3.00£8.47£5.00£8.95£9.60
Complete Price£101.35£102.98£100.90£108.22£79.30£101.56£114.96

First or Second Grade? Unless you’re a commercial bee farmer you’d probably won’t want second grade frames. As explained earlier, you’re definitely better off having first grade frames for easier construction.

Hoffman or Manley? When perusing the sites you might see codes such as DN1, SN1 or DN4 and SN4. This is referencing the type of frame, Hoffmans are self spacing frames, so you don’t need any other kit. Manley frames have straight side bars, therefore you need to buy plastic spacers that slip onto the lugs or alternatively buy castellated spacers.

Gimp Pins (Frame Nails)? Don’t underestimate the importance of buying good frame nails, we implore you to try a few brands, but cheap and brittle frame nails can turn an easy task into frustrating hours of work!

Final Recommendation? There is not much variance in price amongst the big equipment providers. Abelo is the cheapest by a huge margin, I cannot vouch for the quality as we have not bought this particular product, but we have bought their assembled frames and no complaints on our end!

Average Price for Frames & Foundation: £101.32


Spring Nuc of Bees

Can you believe this nuc didn’t swarm?
Becky’s BeezzzsI Want BeesSipa Honey BeesBSHoneyMaisemoreBee EquipmentThorne
Number of Frames6665656
Queen TypeBuckfast or CarniolanUnknownBuckfastBuckfastUnknownBuckfast or CarniolanUnknown
Offers Postage?YesYesNoYesNoYesNo
Total Price£230.00£240.00£249.00£220.00£240.00£235.00£265.00

Number of Frames? A little self explanatory, the nuc generally comes as 5 or 6 frames although you can buy nucs of just 3 or 4 frames. We used the most popular 5 or 6 frame for our comparison and you can clearly see which are better value for money. Most nucs come with 2 frames of stores no matter if they are on 5 or 6 frames, so the main difference is how much brood you will get, and doesn’t it sound better to get 4 frames of brood?

Queen Type? We used to provide the option of having Ligustica or Mellifera headed colonies too, but this unfortunately led to problems within our operation so we now only offer Buckfast or Carniolan similarly to Bee Equipment. Other companies did not state the breed of bees they offer, and the others only offer Buckfast.

Postage? We understand that not everyone can come and collect their nuc, but we do always encourage that our customers collect, there is so much less risk involved. We want to sell ourselves above others, but try going local too, possibly within your association – that means less fuel used and the bees will have a shorter, therefore less stressful journey (just ensure you are three miles away, as the crown flies, from the nuc’s original site or all your flying bees will return there!).

Final Decision? We offer the best priced 6 frame as well as offering the choice between Buckfast or Carniolan headed colony but your local hobbyist beekeepers may sell for a fraction of the price so always be on the lookout for a good deal – do note that they may not be as strictly inspected, and you do want to ensure you have good healthy disease free bees on frames that are new or just 1 year old. They may also not have traceability or the same record keeping details as nuc producers.

Nuc of Bees Average Price: £239.85


Suits & Tools

Becky in her kit
Becky’s BeezzzsBBwearBJ SheriffThorneMaisemore
Beesuit (Fencing Veil)£112.99£112.99£162.00£136.00£110.00
Hive Tool£10.00£10.50£10.49£10.00£11.38
Smoker£29.00£27.50£29.99£17.50£30.77
Disposable Gloves£6.50£6.50N/A£5.00N/A
Total Price£158.49£157.49£202.48£168.50£152.15

Beesuit? I tried to get the most similar looking beesuits on the market to compare, and there is a £52 price difference from Maisemore’s to BJ Sheriff’s. There are some subtle but important differences such as thickness of the material and ease of cleaning. Both BBwear and BJ Sheriff manufacture their beesuits in the UK, and we at Becky’s Beezzzs are proud stockists of BBwear’s fantastic beesuits, the team wear them throughout the summer and they have lasted for years. Our apprentice also has a BJsheriff suit, provided for free by them as they help to sponsor the Beefarming Apprenticeship Scheme.

Hive tools? Generally hives tools don’t have that much of a difference in the quality, basically if they do the job then it’s fine.

Smoker? Your smoker is going to be your best friend in the future and it is imperative that you get an effective one. We stock an amazing German Manufactured Rauchboy smoker, it has an internal chamber and I have to be honest we have tried many smokers on the market and none stand up to this one. There are a lots and lots of different smokers available, many of them being manufactured in China and to be honest they are not the greatest of quality. We suggest you find and buy a quality smoker, maybe go on recommendation from a experienced beekeeper, and stick with it.

Disposable Gloves? We recommend that our customers get used to using disposable gloves when handling bees instead of thick leather gloves. They’re definitely less protective in terms of stings but they are much better in reducing the risk of spreading disease in addition to making it easier to go through your hives swiftly (or maybe it’s just me that is extremely clumsy with thick gloves on?) This may be less of a concern for those with only a few colonies. If you are really not comfortable starting with a nitrile glove and feel you do need a little more protection on your hands then try starting with a marigold type washing up glove, these are thicker than nitrile. Alternatively wear leather with a nitrile glove over them. Remember though, most stings occur because we crush the bees!

Final Recommendation? A little difficult to have a fair comparison of total costs since BJ Sheriff and Maisemore don’t supply disposable gloves but you can always mix and match your order.

Average Suits & Tools Price: £161.49


Treatments & Feed

Feeding time
Becky’s BeezzzsPaynesThorneMaisemoreAbeloNational Bee SuppliesBee Equipment
Apilife Var£5.80£6.24£6.00£6.82£6.00£5.90£4.90
Apistan£4.00N/A£4.60£5.04£3.98£4.38£3.98
Syrup£26.00£29.40£29.00£29.00£25.00£23.95£18.75
4 Pint Rapid Feeder£5.50£6.98£3.50£7.01£5.50£4.95£3.40
Fondant£5.25£6.80£6.75£6.46£5.00£6.75£4.95
Pollen Patty£4.40£4.80£4.00£4.00£5.00£4.75£3.75
Total Price£48.95£54.22£45.55£55.81£48.49£48.49£37.74

Treatments? The price of this is going to vary every year, but you will have to pay for two treatments a year (ideally with different active ingredients). The prices above are shown for 1 treatment per colony and some of the treatments are sold in packs enough for 5 colonies. Apistan is an example of this, there are 10 strips per pack so you can expect a full pack to cost 5 times what is quoted above.

Syrup and Feeders? You may not need syrup every year if you always make sure to leave a good amount of honey in the colony, in your first year you are likely to feed syrup to encourage your nuc to pull their foundation frames when hiving them. We usually experience a period known as the “June Gap” each year, this is not necessarily in June, and feeding syrup maybe necessary at this time also. Across the companies they are all 12.5kg jerry can of Ambrosia syrup except for Bee-Equipment which is a 14kg jerry can of Invertbee Syrup. And if you’re feeding syrup, you will need a feeder.

Fondant and Pollen? In the winter you may need a pack of fondant and pollen to ensure your girls get through. Hefting is not an exact science of course, so we always recommend to put fondant on even if you think they have plenty of stores (the weight could be Ivy for example, which they will find extremely difficult to break down if it has set hard through the winter).

Average Price of Treatment and Feed: £48.46


Honey Extracting and Jarring

Our Jarring Machine

In your first year it may be wise to be cautious with how much honey you remove from your hive. Your goal first and foremost is to keep your colony strong, with plenty of stores to welcome the spring in your second year. In any case, as a hobbyist you won’t be likely to buy an extractor or any other heavy machinery, you may invest in some muslin or a double strainer. You may also find quite a few jars knocking about in your cupboard ripe for reusing, so it’s unlikely you’d buy a gross of jars straight away.


Memberships & Courses

The Cult of Beekeepers!

It is always recommended that you join your local association and do a beekeeping course before buying your own bees. We always ask prospective beekeepers if they have been on course before we sell them bees. We have had many customers attend our beekeeping courses with us who have been on order and who are so excited to get their bees but then when they’re with us during the practical handling portion of the course it’s just not what they were expecting. We have also had customers who bought a lot of equipment from us only to find they were dangerously allergic to stings. If you do a course first you will know for sure that beekeeping is for you before you commit to buying any equipment.

Becky’s BeezzzsRiver CottageBuckfast AbbeyThe London Honey CoSurrey BeesForestry England
£90.00£155.00£110.00£150.00£100.00£70.00

Association membership costs approximately £30 per annum, this varies of course so check your local association’s website. And if you want more personal and ongoing support with beekeeping then most associations do beginner beekeeping courses throughout the winter.

Average Price of Membership & Courses: £142.50


So How Much Does it Cost to Start Beekeeping?

Itching to get started?

Well, adding all of the average costs up, we get to a grand total of £908.84. Of course by reading this post you can see quite a range in terms of the cost of equipment, courses, clothing and tools, less difference when it comes to feed, treatments and nucs so you can really choose where to save your money.

It’s in our view that you would want to invest in good quality equipment that you can re-use year after year, if you are looking after your kit you shouldn’t have to replace them for a long time. Another of our top tips is to really look local for as much as you can, people are constantly selling secondhand equipment so you can really save money this way. But, do be careful buying second hand, this is one way of spreading disease, so make sure you sterilize any second hand kit you buy before you put your bees in it.

I hope this gives you more of an idea of what you can be looking to spend before getting knee deep in the beekeeping world. Remember that the initial costs are quite high but as long as you look after all of your kit then you shouldn’t be looking at many ongoing costs. Beekeeping is a highly rewarding hobby that many people enjoy, so please start checking out some of the stores referenced here and start looking forward to getting involved!

Total Average Cost: £908.84

External Links (we may be biased but we’re not sponsored by any of the following companies mentioned in the post :D)

Abelo

BBWear

Becky’s Beezzzs

Bee Equipment

B.J. Sheriff

Buckfast Abbey

BSHoney

Forestry England

I Want Bees

Maisemore

National Bee Supplies

Surrey Bees

Sipa Honey

The London Honey Co

Thorne