Keeping honeybees is a very old craft, and an absorbing hobby for all ages. An advantage of keeping bees compared with other livestock is that they do not require daily attention. During the summer, inspecting colonies once a week is normally sufficient and throughout the winter bees do not need regular attention.
What will it cost?
How long is a piece of string? We can adopt the 2010 Rolls Royce or the 1970 rusty Mini approach to motoring. Similarly we could spend more than £500 or less than £100 to get established in beekeeping.
One way to start is to buy a beginner’s outfit These typically comprise a complete hive with frames and foundation, a smoker, Veil, gloves, hive tool and feeder. Cost is typically in the region of £250
Hives and frames are sometimes available as ‘budget grade’ at reduced prices. It is also possible to save cost by buying softwood hives rather than Western Red Cedar. Generally speaking, top quality equipment is more attractive to the eye, easier to handle, parts fit together better, require less maintenance and last much longer.
Enquire locally if any equipment is for sale. Hives are sometimes sold complete with bees for £100 to £150 per hive. A good buy but there could be all sorts of things wrong with the bees. If possible ask an experienced beekeeper to inspect them for you before you buy. Moving hives with bees takes skill and can be tricky.
Making hives is simple for a joiner or woodworking enthusiast but parts must be accurately made. Plans are available.
When buying bees locally, ask the seller if thay have recently been inspected by a Fera Bee Inspector. Bees adapt over the years to the local environment. A local beekeepers might be prepared to deliver and settle the bees in and hopefully will provide some after sales service (advice and help).