Most beekeepers take up beekeeping as a hobby. But as they get into it, they wonder if it can become profitable.
And it’s a perfectly reasonable idea… Especially if you produce too much honey than you consume or give away!
So what does it take to make money from beekeeping, and is it worth exploring as an income stream?
Is Beekeeping A Profitable Business?
Beekeeping is a profitable business, but it cannot be started overnight. It takes time to build up your colony numbers and get your processes, procedures, and logistics in place to support the business operation. Space, equipment, and transport will be your most significant beekeeping cost factors.
There are many types of beekeepers in the industry, from hobbyist beekeepers to commercial.
A few beekeepers who start keeping bees for recreation, or people wanting to get into this practice, may consider it a business opportunity. But the biggest question is, “what does it take to grow your beekeeping hobby into a profitable business?”
Of course, hobbyists can make money from their beehives, and the expenses can be kept relatively low. Still, the income earned from the bees will probably only cover the costs of maintaining a few hives.
To turn your beekeeping into a profit-generating enterprise, you must carefully plan your operation’s growth.
Can You Turn A Beekeeping Hobby Into A Profitable Business?
You need to investigate several considerations when planning to convert your beekeeping hobby into a business.
Hobbyist beekeepers already have the essential gear and equipment. But there are other aspects you must be aware of to scale up your operations.
- Space. How much space do you have available to house your apiary? Suburban locations generally limit the number of beehives you can have on your property, and these numbers may not reach profitable levels.
- Transport. If you have distributed apiaries, you must have an appropriate vehicle to drive between sites to transport hives and equipment. Fuel and vehicle maintenance costs are also a factor for consideration.
- Building your own hives and accessories. Most professional beekeepers make their own beehives and frames to keep production costs low. However, there is an initial cost outlay for tools and equipment and building jigs to make specific beekeeping tasks quicker and more efficient.
- Storage facilities. The occupied hives out in the field are not the only hives you need to own. You must have brood boxes, honey supers, and nucs in reserve to replace supers when harvesting, housing new bees, or trapping new swarms. All this equipment must be stored somewhere until it is needed.
- A honey room. Processing large quantities of honey will require a dedicated space cleaned to food processing standards. It must be bee-proof to prevent bees from troubling you when you process the honey!
- Additional labor. Beekeeping is physically tiring; servicing, maintaining, harvesting, and transporting 100 hives or more will be laborious and challenging to do alone.
Please don’t take any of the above as negative!
Beekeeping can be a wonderful profession 🙂
I only raise these points to increase your awareness rather than dissuade people from expanding their beekeeping to profit-generating levels!
How Much Do Beekeepers Make?
Many beekeepers make a good living from their business, but large-scale professional beekeepers generally make the highest profits.
You can work on your bee business as a side hustle until it makes enough profit to support you and your family. Still, you need to know ballpark figures to establish if this is a venture you should pursue.
Beekeeping is a diverse activity when it is done commercially. Most people think that beekeepers make money from selling honey. But the truth is that this aspect is only a small part of a beekeeper’s income!
According to the Economic Research Institute, the average income for a beekeeper in the US is a little over $49 000 per year. This is an average, which means you can certainly make more than this if you apply yourself and diversify your beekeeping operation.
Beekeepers can make money in the following ways:
- Honey. Harvesting and selling honey is one of the primary income streams in beekeeping. Raw unpasteurized honey can be sold for a higher price than processed store-bought honey.
- Beehive products. Beeswax, propolis, and pollen can be harvested and sold to various industries that use these items in their products.
- Pollination services. Hire your bees to small and large-scale farms or local nurseries to increase crop and plant yield. This is one of the most lucrative income streams for beekeepers that can fetch up to $150 per hive per month placed on site. The beekeeper also benefits from any honey produced by the colonies over this time.
- Bee removal services. Removal of problem bees from public areas or urban and suburban settings is a service that can be charged for. And the beekeeper gains a new colony that can be put into production!
- Make beekeeping equipment. Producing beehives, frames, nucleus hives, and other beekeeping equipment can be manufactured for sale.
- Raising swarms for purchase. Raising honey bees to sell as packaged bees can be a profitable income source for beekeepers.
- Raising queens for sale. Many beekeepers need new queens to replace old, ailing queens or queens that have fallen to predators or disease. Some beekeepers raise queens to meet this demand.
- Training other beekeepers. Once you have gained experience as a beekeeper, you can set up courses to train aspiring beekeepers or hobbyists who want to start beekeeping.
How To Raise Bees For Profit
Many professional beekeepers make a good living by raising bees for profit. Replacing lost swarms for other beekeepers, supplying swarms for new beekeepers, or selling replacement queens to beekeepers can be an active part of your beekeeping business.
Transporting the bees with minimal casualties will be your biggest concern. It would be wise to supply your immediate area before venturing further afield.
To include this profit center in your beekeeping business, you must establish the need for this service in your area. Packaged bees typically sell for between $125 and $150.
Packaged queens typically sell for $25 to $40 per queen, but queens with specialized characteristics can sell for between $70 to $100 per queen.
How Much Honey Can You Expect From Each Hive?
The honey yield you get from each hive will vary depending on the colony’s size and how good the production season is that year.
Strong hives can make up to 100 pounds of honey yearly, while average hives can make between 60 to 80 pounds in a good season.
Smaller colonies and poor seasons can see you harvesting between 25 to 30 pounds of honey from the hives each year.
This fluctuation in production has led beekeepers to work on lower averages for honey yield. Most beekeepers work on an average of 30 to 40 pounds of honey from each hive annually. Weaker hives will make less, but stronger hives will make more, balancing the production to the average.
The selling price for natural, pure, raw honey is around $20 per pound. This can net you an income of about $600 to $800 per hive per year for honey sales.
How Many Beehives Do You Need To Make A Living?
Most professional beekeepers keep in excess of 200 hives to make a decent income. In my beekeeping association, you are considered a hobbyist if you have less than 100 hives 🙂
You can make an income from 100 hives, but it will be a modest income. The minimum number of beehives to make a living as a beekeeper would be 200 hives, with the ideal being 300 to 350 hives.
How Many Beehives To Start Out With
You can make a profit from a single beehive! But if you want to make your beekeeping prosperous enough to support you and your family, you would need at least 200 hives.
However, most beekeepers start at a different level. It takes time to build up your apiary and bee colonies to this level.
I suggest starting with 20 hives and doubling your beehives each year. This strategy will put you close to the 200 hive mark in the space of 3 years.
To Sum Up
Beekeeping can be a profitable activity for the hobbyist or professional beekeeper. The hobbyist can produce enough income to make it pay for itself. In contrast, professionals can make a good living from beekeeping.
Beekeeping is worthwhile if you take it seriously and put in the required time, effort, and research!