How much do honey bees cost? There is no accurate answer to this question – the range is from free to a few thousand dollars a swarm. In this article, we will explore how to get bees for free, how to get paid to get bees, and finally how to buy bees.
Getting Paid To Get Bees
In many cases, people are willing to pay you money to remove bees from places they are not wanted. In terms of getting bees, these bees are the best option when you startup. You actually get paid to get bees!!
Bee removals are a great way to learn about bees because you are being paid to take bees away. You have to open a building wall, or cavity, or other places the bees chose to make a nest. Then you can cut the combs out and remove the bees.
In this way you learn a lot about how a hive works, you get to “mess up” a beehive that is not yours yet. This is way better than messing up one of your hives that is in a box.
Catching Bees For Free – Freebees
When you catch a swarm, this is the least work that you ever have to do to get bees for free. Place empty boxes that have had bees in them near a big apiary or another place where beekeepers have a lot of hives. You will be able to catch the occasional swarm that gets thrown out of a badly managed hive.
In parts of the world with African/Africanised bees, you can place “catch boxes” up tall trees. I have seen beekeepers trap thousands of hives this way. I personally have caught a few hundred hives this way in my life.
If you are working with European Honeybees it is a good idea to medicate any wild swarms you catch for Varroa and other diseases.
Unlike when I started doing this, you can now watch lots of videos on youtube such as these awesome guys here.
Buying A Hive
If you cannot get paid to get bees, or catch some FreeBees, then buying a hive is probably the next easiest way to start keeping bees. Beekeepers often retire and sell hives. Or need some cash – look on Facebook and ask around in groups in your area.
The price can range from a few dollars from a kind old person who just wants to help you out, to a few hundred dollars for a strong good hive from a commercial beekeeper.
If you cannot find full beehives for sale, you can often buy a split hive from a commercial operator. These nucleus hives typically sell for around $100-$200 depending on the area you are in. In many cases, if you offer to help an older beekeeper, who has a lot of hives, they may agree to pay you with bees instead of money.
Once your nucleus hive is strong, you can migrate it to a full beehive. Nucleus boxes make excellent catch boxes, so you can repurpose this box to catch “FreeBees”. If the nucleus box doesn’t catch FreeBees you can always use it to make a split from your established hive the next spring. This will save you throwing out a swarm and giving somebody else FreeBees.
Buying A Package Of Bees
You can place an order and buy a package of bees. These will be shipped in a box, together with a queen. You can then install your package like this.
How To Advertise To Get Known As A Bee Remover
As we mentioned above, getting paid to remove bees is great when you start beekeeping. However, I would suggest for your first few removals, do not charge – you are going to make such a mess, that charging will just add insult to injury.
Once you have removed a few hives and built up some experience, you can start promoting yourself as a “Beeperson”. In my early beekeeping days, I performed hundreds of bee removals. During spring, the phone at my parent’s house (olden days with landlines) would ring five times a day in spring, asking for “the bee man”.
When you start removing bees you stop being you – as in your name – and become the “Bee Lady” or the “Bee Man”. Most people will not remember your name. They will even save your number in their phone as “The Bee Lady”.
I think this harks back to when we were a simpler society. The Bee Person in the clan was probably a god-like character that could stick their arms in holes and pull out the sweetest nicest stuff our ancestors could get. In a way, they were legends. And when you are the Bee Person – you become a legend of note.
I had the privilege of teaching young Perry to become the Bee Lady of my town. Here you can see her crawling around under floorboards and removing bees. Note her showing the house owner the magical African bees under her floor.
Bee work is a bit about showmanship. If you are this mythical character that can work with bees you need to create a bit of impact. When I started I loved to walk around in my bee suit, making smoke and a whole commotion, then doing the bee removal.
In the early days, the bees would normally get angry, and I would get stung a lot. In the end, when you go and ask for a payment, it really helps if you look a bit beat up, and stung by the bees. Swollen hands, scratching the stings out and showing that you took thirty stings for them, helps people reach deeper in their pockets.
As I got better at working the bees I reached a point where I would work the bees in my shorts and a t-shirt and ask the clients to come and watch – sometimes I would give them a suit and then they felt special. Letting them have some honey straight out of the hive always scores points.
The bee removal client sees you take out heaps of combs – most will be brood and pollen and gunk. However, a few combs will be honey. Ask them to bring a plate and cut some chunks of comb onto the plate. Watch as they often have their first-ever taste of fresh comb.
At the end of the removal, give a little lecture on the brood, show the baby bees and the pollen and wax and explain how all that stuff works. People love bees. They get so excited about it. I have had at least twenty people for who I removed bees, that became so excited that they actually asked me to teach them how to keep bees.
That first lesson, about showmanship, sounds a bit psychopathic, as you are putting on a show to get paid. However, remember, beepersonship, is about being a legend – practice being exciting and crazy and interesting, and do not be scared to charge for it. Lawyers charge for their time. Doctors do. Why should beekeepers climb up ladders, get stung, and do bee removals for free?
So the fourth lesson is the most important. Bees are part of our ancestral DNA. It is in our heads somewhere that bees are amazing. And we did not have money in the times of our ancestors. This is why for some or other reason people think beekeepers do things for free.
It is very important to dissuade people of this opinion.
We hope this helped you understand how much honeybees cost! Best of luck catching bees! I did this for twenty years of my life and really enjoyed it. I am glad I did not fall off a roof or burn myself in a tree, or a thousand other things that could have gone wrong. The lessons have been real, and I am excited about the lessons you will learn on this journey. Remember – at the end of the day – it is all about the fun.
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