This is a general rundown of the time and money that a removal costs a beekeeper and why there is a fee for this service:
1) Transportation: Getting from point "A"piary to point "B"ee removal and back. This requires a vehicle. Fuel and upkeep (parts, tires, registration, insurance, etc.).
2) Removal Equipment: Most of the time this is a one time expense and if equipment is cared for can last a long time. Some beekeepers are more talented than others and can make some of the items, but in the end it all costs money. Most all beekeepers that do removals have a bee vacuum, on large removals I sometimes even have more than one vacuum going. These vacuums are custom made so that they do little to no harm to the bees as they are being removed and transported. Protective gear such as suits, veils, gloves. A smoker and multiple other tools for removal depending upon location of the hive. It is possible to need ladders, scaffolds, saws-all, portable generators, carpentry tools, the list goes on. Heck, I have even used a pick ax at a few removals.
3) Liability Insurance.
4) Time: Drive time, talking with homeowners and discussing bee hive prevention, setting up equipment, opening area to expose the hive, gently removing the bees, transferring comb, honey, brood, clean up of location, setting up the bees in their new home. Then the truck, suit, glove, vacuum hose, and tools all need cleanup from the sticky honey. This all adds up to quite a bit of time........a small job may take only three to four hours while a nightmare sized hive removal may be days.
5) need a bottom board, hive body, frames, cover, and a feeder. This equipment can run up to $150. Sometimes less, but that wouldn't factor in cutting, building, assembling, or painting the new home. Requeening costs another $25-$35. Ninety-eight percent of feral hives in Southern Arizona are Africanized Hybrid Honeybees. We change the genetics to a more manageable European Honeybee stockline by replacing the old queen.
6) Feeding: The removal is in a type of shock. Many factors such as the health of the hive prior to the removal, the time of year, and how much energy it takes for the bees to establish inside their new home will determine the amount of feed required. The bees need to clean the house, fix the comb that was moved from their old place, remove any brood and bees that died, and build more comb while starting to forage the new area. Not to mention Mother Nature also has an effect on the hive during the relocation, high winds, continuous rainy days, extreme temperatures all put more stress on the hive. They will need to be fed sugar syrup and protein supplements until established then as needed for the rest of the time the hive is managed for health and longevity by the beekeeper.
7) Colony Health: Mite treatment varies in cost and is done with prevention in mind. All of my incoming hives are treated and then kept on a preventative maintenance schedule. This all costs money.
Depending on the time of year the hive was removed will greatly depend on when the hive will possibly start turning a profit. On average it takes one to two years before a beekeeper will see rewards from all the time and money spent on this one removal. This is not the only reason some beekeepers choose not to even do removals.
The other reason is after all that time, after all that back breaking work, after all those expenses......the hive may leave. Sometimes no matter what the beekeeper does to make the best home possible, something happens and the hive absconds.
Swarms are slightly different. Expense number two and three are practically nonexistent. This is why I (and some other beekeepers) don't charge for swarms hanging in a tree at arms reach. We take the risk that the hive will be of future benefit to our apiary due to the fact that not much energy was used to acquire the new hive. Why should we collect swarms and not just leave them be? Well, that's another article. Again this is just a general rundown. Many issues such as safety, containment, ill bees from pesticides or other reasons of poor health require more care.
In the end, Home and business owners receive peace of mind knowing the bees are gone. A sense of relief knowing that by having the bees relocated the owner provided safety and security to their family and neighbors. Not to mention how governing agencies, HOAs and insurance companies frown upon keeping an unmanaged beehive in your house. Lastly, the removal saved the bees which are not just a benefit to our food production, but a requirement for without them to pollinate, 1/3 of our food would disappear.