If you’re just getting started in beekeeping, you might not think anything of the price of your beekeeping supplies. On the other hand, you might find it hard to swallow many of the associated costs.
One of the biggest costs beekeepers incur each year is bee packages to replenish hives lost during the previous season or to get new hives started.
The approximate going rates (2018) for a 3 lb. package of Italian or Carniolan honey bees is a staggering $125-$140 per package.
Estimated prices for some retailers for the 2019 season will be as high as $200 for a 3 lb. bee package.
Assuming those prices stand, this represents up to 60% higher bee package costs than in 2018 making this the single largest price jump for bee packages in beekeeping history.
But bee package costs haven’t always been this high which begs two questions:
- What did they used to cost?
- Why are they so expensive now?
Read on to find out!
The information below might seem to be a message of doom and gloom, but the objective here is not steer you away becoming a beekeeper. On the contrary, we’d love for everyone to be a beekeeper!
Rather, the purpose of this post is to be very transparent and realistic about what you should expect before you get into beekeeping.
The last thing we want is for you to be uninformed about the costs you’ll incur and thereby endanger you or your family financially.
With that in mind, let’s take a look some historical information on bee package costs.
Historical Prices of Bee Packages
Prices for bee packages and other beekeeping supplies have been steadily on the rise over the past 5-10 years.
When we began doing beekeeping back in 2004, we could get 3 lb. bee packages for just $17 per package.
Think about that for a second: $17 per package!
That puts today’s bee package costs at 635-724% higher than in 2004. That’s an INSANE price hike in just under 15 years!
Imagine how many more beekeepers would be joining the club if they could get bee packages for just $17.
How many more friends, family, or acquaintances would you push to do beekeeping for that price?
Case In Point
If you’ve been doing beekeeping for a while, you’ve probably lamented this increase in bee packages costs and along with other beekeeping supplies.
You might also be thinking the same thing as Steven, a beekeeper who posted in an online beekeeping forum last year (2017), who was getting back into beekeeping after a 2 year break.
Here’s what he said:
"I was completely surprised by how much prices have gone up for 3# packages of bees…When I first saw the prices this year I laughed because I thought the company was out of their mind. After checking a few other places, I realized that [that] seemed to be the going rate."
~ Steven Trevort
Steven is certainly not the only beekeeper who has been taken by surprise at the rise of beekeeping costs.
New and experienced beekeepers alike are finding that beekeeping is an increasingly difficult hobby to maintain financially.
These rising beekeeping costs are one of the main reasons so many new beekeepers quit.
How Have Bee Package Costs Changed Over Time?
There is precious little historical information to show what bee package used to cost.
However, we’ve managed to dig up a few sources that have cited prices for bee packages in past seasons.
We’ve taken what information we were able to find and combined it with our past prices for bee packages to create this chart. This will give you a visual representation of the changes over time:
*Note: if you are aware of any other sources that can provide more information on historical bee package costs, please share the information in the comments below so we can add them to this chart.
Why Do Bee Packages Cost So Much?
All of this information is fine and dandy, but the real questions are:
- Why have bee packages become so expensive?
- Why are bee package costs still rising?
The Short Answer
The short answer to these questions boils down to 4 main things:
- Increased interest in beekeeping drives prices up as resources become scarce
- Beekeeping supply companies have noticed this increased interest and are trying to get as many dollars out of the industry as they can
- Diseases, pests, and other similar problems have taken a toll on the availability of honey bees and have driven up the expenses of producing them
- Great beekeeping supply companies and apiaries are in short supply and more beekeepers are purchasing supplies (including packages) from those great companies. As a result, the demand for good supplies from good companies increases the scarcity of good supplies, further driving prices up
*Note: in the future, we’ll go more in depth into the economic theory behind the forces that are causing beekeeping supply prices to rise. If you’d like to get notified when we release that information, sign up to receive our newsletter.
Based on historical trends, you can reasonably expect prices for bee packages and beekeeping supplies to continue rising over the next several years.
As such, you should plan accordingly and make sure the hobby is still within your budget.
The Value Of Beekeeping Still Outweighs The Costs
At the end of the day, the reality is that beekeeping is not an inexpensive hobby.
If you’re looking for an inexpensive hobby, you might try something like knitting or speed cup stacking instead.
However, keep in mind the disclaimer at the top of this post. The purpose of this post is not to convince you to avoid doing beekeeping because it’s expensive.
Quite the opposite, beekeeping is one of the most rewarding activities you can do personally or with those you love. We recommend it to everyone because it’s been such a good activity for our family.
Keep in mind that, there are dozens of hobbies that are more expensive and far less valuable than beekeeping (take monster truck rallies for instance).
By becoming a beekeeper, you can truly make a difference for the world and you can have a ton of fun doing it.
Beekeeping is an expensive hobby. However, just because a hobby is expensive doesn’t mean it isn’t worthwhile.
Beekeeping is one of the most worthwhile activities our family has ever participated in.
Now It’s Your Turn
What do you think? Are bee packages priced too high? Do you think that beekeeping is worth the costs & risks? What are the biggest benefits you've experienced as a beekeeper?
We love hearing from you so please, share your thoughts with us in the comments below!