The first presenter discussed both the Langstroth hive and the Top-Bar hive. Prior to this class, I was only aware of the Langstroth hive, and purchasing those can get a little pricey. Not to mention, each super (the removable square box part of the hive that holds the frames where the bees build their comb) can weigh 60-70lbs or more (usually more). You can probably imagine the reason for my hesitation. After learning about the top-bar hive however, I realized that keeping a beehive wasn't such a lofty dream. A google search will provide you with multiple resources from which to purchase this style of hive, but it can also be built using scrap lumber if you have it (NOT pressure treated!) - so you can decide how much money you want to spend and do it within that budget, no matter how small. The construction plans are also easy to find online - for free. Of all the plans I looked at (there are several), the differences included only minor variations. I suggest looking at several different styles and decide which one will best suit your needs.
The next expense is purchasing the actual bees. This is one expense that is much harder to avoid. You can collect a swarm, you can trap a swarm, or you can purchase your bees. While the first two options are potentially free, they are hit-or-miss, especially if you have no experience. Rather than hope I could find free bees, I chose to purchase mine. If you go that route, the best source for purchasing bees is going to be locating a local beekeeper. If they do not have bees to sell, they will surely know another beekeeper who does. Local is always best because those are the bees that will be best acclimated to your specific climate, and most familiar with local pollen sources.
However one chooses to acquire their bees, there is always a risk that the bees will reject their new home for one reason or another. From what I understand, the risk is not so great that you should sit in fear and watch for them to swarm. But you should be aware that the possibility exist. I just acquired my bees on Sunday, so I'm still in that nervous phase of hoping they will settle in okay and decide to stay. So far they don't seem unhappy, and that is obviously a good thing.
I am a brand new, infant of a newbie at this, so I can't answer any hard questions yet. I do know though that honey tastes wonderful, a very large portion of the general food supply depends on bees for pollination, and the fate of honeybees is a bit precarious due to a whole host of possible causes. Whether you want to collect honey, or simply want to improve the health of your flower garden, vegetable garden, or fruit trees, keeping bees will make a big difference, both in your purpose for keeping them, and in the general health of your local bee populations.
Do any of you keep honeybees? I would love to hear about your experiences!