Queen Bee Prices: Factors and Considerations

How Much Do Queen Bees Cost?

The queen bee is the most essential member of every honey bee colony. She lays up to 2000 eggs per day to maintain population levels and produces pheromones that regulate the cohesive functioning of the hive. Requeening colonies by replacing old queen bees with new ones helps prevent swarming and boosts egg laying productivity. For beekeepers, being able to purchase high quality mated queen bees from reputable breeders provides genetic diversity and vigor. But what is the typical cost to buy a queen bee?

This article covers the factors that influence queen bee pricing, including:

  • Breeding and selection costs for breeders
  • Transportation and shipping considerations
  • Traits influencing desirability like genetics and age
  • Supply and demand fluctuations
  • Differences between commercial operations and hobbyists
  • Methods for purchasing queens
  • Saving costs by rearing your own queens

Understanding what goes into producing viable mated queens and being able to evaluate quality helps beekeepers balance value and budget when buying these essential colony leaders.

bees landing on a red beehive

Expenses for Queen Breeders

Professional queen bee producers incur a number of costs that factor into pricing:

  • Labor for grafting larvae into specialized queen cells and attaching them to frames
  • Maintaining select stock with desired genetics for breeding
  • Feeding larvae copious amounts of royal jelly to stimulate development
  • Keeping drone populations strong to mate with new queens
  • Caging, labeling, and carefully shipping mated queens
  • Medical treatments and health monitoring for quality assurance
  • High queen losses during mating flights or shipment
  • Specialized equipment like queen castles for mass rearing
  • Research into genetics and breeding advancements

These intensive inputs mean quality queens are not simple or cheap to produce.

Transportation and Delivery Costs

The logistics of safely getting mated queen bees to customers also affects pricing:

  • Specialized postal shipping with temperature controls and “live bee” handling is more costly.
  • Expedited 1-3 day express delivery is generally used to get queens swiftly.
  • Pickup at the breeder’s apiary avoids shipping fees but requires customer travel.
  • Wholesale discounting applied for large bulk orders to distributors.
  • Overseas import/export requirements may increase costs between countries.
  • Insurance to cover losses during shipping.

Even local pickup requires meticulous packaging to protect queens during transport. Long distance delivery warrants premium services to prevent losses.

beekeeper taking out beehive

Variables Affecting Queen Bee Value

Several factors influence perceived queen quality and price:

  • Age – Newly mated queens under 6 months old generally offer prime fertility and longevity. Older overwintered queens often get replaced.
  • Genetics – Breeds valued for traits like gentleness, honey yield, and disease resistance have higher market value.
  • Source reliability – Breeders with proven reputation for quality command a slight premium.
  • Supply and demand – Early spring glut and late summer dearth periods may lower prices slightly. Queens get more scarce and costly as summer peaks.
  • Testing – Queens certified disease-free, marked, and laying worker brood fetch higher pricing in the $40 to $50 range typically.
  • Fertilization – Virgin queens are much cheaper around $15-$25 but carry risk until confirmed mated. Already mated and laying queens provide surety.

For buyers, verified healthy mated queens from reputable producers represent the best investment.

Variations Between Commercial and Hobbyist Costs

Prices often differ based on the scale of the beekeeping operation:

  • Commercial apiaries purchasing queens in bulk volumes of 100+ can get discounts driving the average cost per queen below $25.
  • Smaller sideliner or hobbyist beekeepers buying fewer than 10 queens at a time may pay $30 to $45 per queen shipped.
  • Custom premium queen lines advertised for specific traits like varroa mite resistance or enhanced honey production can run $50-$60 each even for hobbyists.

Volume discounts allow commercial operations to requeen large numbers of hives cost effectively. Hobbyists pay a bit more for the convenience of smaller, individually-shipped orders.

bees harvesting nectar from a flower

Purchasing Options

The method for obtaining bees also changes pricing:

  • Online or mail ordering often offers convenience but a potential markup.
  • Directly from the breeder saves but requires pickup or shipping arrangements.
  • Local beekeeper clubs or associations sometimes sell queens as fundraisers at discounted rates.
  • Beekeeping supply shops may act as distributors for queen producers they partner with. This simplifies acquisition for hobbyists.
  • Established customers known to a breeder may get special pricing not advertised publicly. Developing relationships pays off.

Shopping around through different purchasing channels can help buyers take advantage of periodic sales, promotions, and incentives that may reduce costs.

Rearing Your Own Queens

For large operations, rearing even a portion of queen needs internally may offset purchase costs:

  • 10-20 grafted queen cells can be created from a single breeder queen.
  • Doing your own larvae transfers and cell protection eliminates labor fees.
  • Enables self-sufficiency and year-round production rather than reliance on seasonal shipments.
  • Reduces risks associated with transit when matings occur right at the home apiary.
  • Provides full control over the queen rearing timeline.
  • Allows tailoring genetics to specific needs and preferences.

However, the learning curve is steep. Novices often see high losses until mastering the delicate process. Purchasing remains less labor intensive.

bees harvesting honey


The costs involved in selecting, nurturing, and safely delivering quality mated queen bees to beekeepers means queen prices typically range from around $25 on the low end to $60 at the high end. While expenses can be reduced by rearing a portion of your own queens, buying from professional breeders allows hobbyists access to prime genetics and fertility at a reasonable price. With bee populations facing threats, the value of maintaining colony vigor through optimal breeding stock merits the investment. A robust queen propels colony success.