I hope that the chairman of my local BKA- MidBucks – Frank won’t mind me including some of his memories from the latest newsletter. I hope he will be encouraged (a) that we read his newsletter and (b) that we find things so interesting we wish to share them.
Here are his words:
Taking advantage of a lull in the beekeeping year, I have just spent a few days clearing out my office. In the process I came across some old copies of magazines and brochures from suppliers going back to the early 1970s. It was very interesting to see how much
beekeeping cost in those days compared with prices today.
The price list I found was the 1972 list from Taylors of Welwyn who, at
the time, were one of the largest beekeeping suppliers in the country.
They were eventually taken over by Thornes.
A fully assembled National hive consisting of solid floor (they didn’t
have open mesh floors in those days), brood box + frames, QX, two
supers + frames, cover board and roof cost £32.20.
The average price of the same equipment today from three of the
largest beekeeping suppliers is £337.00. Sounds an awful lot more but
you have to consider how much the value of money has changed over
this time. The RPI in November 1972 was 22.37; in December 2011
it stood at 239.4. So, at 2011 prices the hive from Taylors of Welwyn
would have cost £344; a remarkably similar amount.
However if we compare the cost of bees we get a very different picture. Today, as in 1972,
all the major suppliers provide nucleus colonies. It is well known that companies like Thornes are among the most expensive places to buy bees. Nevertheless, the same would have held true for Taylors in the 1970s so the comparison is valid.
Taylors sold 4-frame, 6-frame and 8-frame colonies at costs of £8.20, £10.60 and £11.80
respectively. The average 2011 price from the big suppliers for 5 or 6 frame nuclei was £215 – almost double the equivalent 1972 price.
The law of supply and demand is almost certainly applying here. The large number of new
beekeepers and the high levels of winter losses over the past few years have driven up prices.
Maybe in these affluent times we are prepared to pay more to get started or to replenish lost stocks; I do wonder how many beekeepers would have been prepared to pay £10 in 1972!
I read today about someone in his second year who has 10 hives and hopes to expand. I am starting to get beekeeper envy for those who don’t seem to have to count the cost as much as I. It made me think about my best buys. I have found an unlikely item very useful and anticipate it could be even more so at times.
It is a plastic square deep tray – useful for putting above or below supers full of honey during the process of retrieving them from the hive and whilst they are waiting to be extracted. In the winter when I am short of space I can pile empty supers somewhere a little sheltered outside and put the tray upside down on top. If I collect a swarm or am using oddments of supers /broodboxes then it makes a useful roof. Underneath honey buckets it helps avoid some of the problems from honey dripping down the side. I have to say this is one of those spur of the moment purchases which have worked out well. I thought I purchased this from Maisemore for about £7 but I cannot verify that at the moment. Just found this – it was from Parkbeekeeping – £7.45 plus VAT.
My other best buys are recycled wood stands from Fragile Planet (they have a system and give 10% discount to BKAs who have a number to quote when they have registered) and the lovely skep I bought from a maker for about £15 – these seem to cost between £60 and £90 most places. I think mine was a second – slightly lopsided he said but I cannot tell.