Are you considering raising bees for profit? Maybe you’re looking for an additional income stream, or you enjoy beekeeping as a hobby and wish to take it to the next level.
Either way, I know where you’re coming from. I began raising bees as a hobby but quickly decided to turn it into a revenue stream. If you’re wondering if beekeeping can be profitable, you’ve come to the right place.
Is beekeeping profitable? It can be. You can make an income from bees by selling nucs, whole hives, queens, honey, wax, and products from their wax.
There are upfront costs with the necessary equipment, and bees do require maintenance. Hives can also collapse unexpectedly. You have many income streams by raising bees, but there’s risk involved as well.
If you’re curious if beekeeping is profitable, there’s much you should know before deciding to dive into this business. I’m going to tell you how to start a beekeeping business, the number of hives you may need for certain income streams, what can determine or impact your profits, and much more.
Read on to make sure you have the full scoop on becoming a commercial beekeeper.
How to Make a Profit from Beekeeping
Beekeeping can be a profitable business. There are several ways you can make an income. Here are a few ideas:
Nucs are starter bee hives many people use to begin keeping bees, either for business purposes or as a hobby.
Many hobby beekeepers will purchase multiple nucs at the beginning of spring. This could be a viable source of income for someone hoping to make a profit from beekeeping.
The prices for nucs may vary depending upon your location. However, if you can catch swarms and split your own hives, you should be able to form nucs at little to no cost to you.
2. Whole Hives
Some beekeepers want to skip purchasing a nuc because it takes time for the bees to build up their numbers and begin producing honey.
In this case, beekeepers will pay a larger price to purchase a ready-made hive. If you have a high enough hive count where you can afford to sell whole hives, this would be another way to make money from a commercial beekeeping business.
3. Virgin Queens
New and established beekeepers frequently rely on commercial beekeepers to supply them with new virgin queens.
When beekeepers create splits to increase their hive numbers, they must have queens to go with the splits. If the beekeeper doesn’t know how to raise their own queens, they’ll purchase them from someone who does.
In other cases, certain queens have bad genetics. She makes for a “hot” or aggressive hive. By requeening the hive, it often calms things down. Buying a virgin queen from a commercial beekeeper is a great way to calm an aggressive hive and an income opportunity for you.
Honey from the grocery shelf is not the same as raw honey from the hive. Grocery store honey is sometimes cut with corn syrup to stretch the product and stock grocery store shelves.
For this reason, many people prefer to buy their honey from a local beekeeper. If you have enough hives, you could end up with excess honey.
Be sure to check the cottage laws for your area, but if the law allows, you can easily bottle and sell your own honey for a profit.
5. Bees’ Wax
At the end of the season, you’ll notice a rapid decrease in the number of bees in your hives. The worker bees literally kick the drones out of the hive because they’re another mouth to feed and don’t contribute much to the hive.
When this happens, you can begin shrinking the number of frames in your hives. If you don’t remove the honeycomb from the frames, it could get destroyed by wax moths while in storage.
Therefore, you can melt the honeycomb into bees’ wax and sell it to people who use it for a variety of purposes.
Related Article: What to Do With Honeycomb Wax
6. Bees’ Wax Products
If you have an abundance of honeycomb at the end of the season, melt it into bees’ wax, and make your own bees’ wax products.
Some people love the idea of using natural products, but either don’t have the time or knowledge to make them. Instead, they’d purchase the items from you, giving you another income stream from beekeeping.
7. Bee Pollen
You can purchase bee pollen online, but if you raise bees for profit, you could also use their pollen as another revenue stream.
Bee pollen is considered a superfood and is used to help with seasonal allergies, is considered an antioxidant, and is said to boost your immune system. Some people would prefer to buy pollen locally because they get to see where the product comes from.
8. Offering Beekeeping Classes
This is a huge income opportunity. The local community college in my area recently started beekeeping classes for adults and children alike. They were overloaded and had a waiting list.
If you consider yourself a knowledgeable beekeeper, consider sharing that knowledge for a reasonable price. There are many people who want a mentor to help them explore beekeeping.
Propolis is a natural glue that bees make to repair their hives. They mix their spit with honeycomb. It doesn’t sound great, but it could be good for you.
Like many other items bees produce, propolis is considered to have superfood qualities. It, too, is said to be an antioxidant and immune system booster. Therefore, people want to buy it, and it becomes another income stream for the commercial beekeeper.
10. Pollination Services
I was amazed when I met a commercial beekeeper who provided pollination services and made a quality living doing it.
Large farms need pollinators to help their crops grow. You need a trailer and a way to haul your bees. Once they’re loaded, you take your bees to farms and let them work for a few months.
When the farm is done with the pollination services, you pack your bees up, and take them home. Businesses pay a premium price for pollination services in most areas.
How to Start a Profitable Bee Business
If these income streams sound interesting to you, you’re ready to learn how to take commercial beekeeping from an idea to a reality. Here are the steps you should take to form your own commercial beekeeping business:
1. Know Your Stuff
This first step may seem obvious, but don’t attempt to launch a commercial beekeeping business if you know nothing about beekeeping.
Be sure you begin beekeeping as a hobby, learn as much about the trade as you can, and when you feel confident in your ability to manage hundreds of hives, you’ll be ready to launch your company.
2. Buy Necessary Equipment
There are certain types of equipment you’ll need for a profitable bee business. Don’t cringe at the list because, in comparison to starting any other type of business, the upfront cost is rather low.
Here are the items you should invest in when starting your own beekeeping business:
3. Know Where to Keep Your Bees
When you begin raising bees for a profit, you must have multiple hives. You won’t have room for this mass amount of hives on a small piece of property.
Therefore, it’s vital that you find a place to raise hundreds or thousands of hives. This could be land you own, or you may have to search for a place to rent. Either way, you must know where the headquarters for your business will be.
4. Have a Designated Work Space
When raising bees, you must have a place to work. You’ll need to make repairs to your hives, have a place to process honey, and fix or store your equipment.
If possible, you’ll want this workplace in close proximity to your bees for convenience.
5. Know the Laws
You can’t launch any type of business without first exploring the laws surrounding the business idea.
Be sure to check with your local officials to find out what is required of you as a commercial beekeeper. It’s also a good idea to become insured as a commercial beekeeper during this step of the process.
6. Order Your Steps
We’ve discussed above all the different methods you can use to form an income when raising bees.
However, you can’t do them all at once. Decide which idea you’d like to start with and develop a plan for it. Know which ideas will come next and in what order.
7. Market Your Business
The last step to starting a commercial bee business is developing and implementing a marketing plan. If the world doesn’t know you have a business, it won’t thrive.
Take the time to create business cards, sell your products at a local Farmer’s Market to get the word out, advertise in local stores and newspapers, be sure to post ads online, and consider starting your own website or YouTube channel.
Profits and Hives
Trying to figure out how many hives you need to turn a profit is a numbers game that will vary by each situation.
However, I wanted to provide a few numbers to give you an idea of what you may be looking at if you go into the commercial beekeeping business.
If you choose to keep bees for honey, each hive can produce anywhere from 20-60 pounds of honey per year. If this seems like a large variation in numbers, it’s because there will be large variations from year to year.
Things such as temperature, bugs, and weather will have a huge impact on the amount of honey a hive will produce, and these things are out of your control. Be prepared for your profits to change each year based on these factors alone.
If you choose to keep bees as a pollination service, you’ll need 20-50 hives per commercial farm. How many farms you provide services to will have an impact as to how many bees you’ll need to keep on hand.
Keep in mind, each hive (on a good year) should produce 5 additional hives each year. You may want to start with the minimum amount of hives you can afford and allow the bees to build each year to save money in start-up costs.
Your overall profit will depend upon how big of a business you start with, the amount of debt you carry for your bees and equipment, how much honey your bees produce each year, and your marketing strategy.
You should also consider if you want to pay someone to help you with this business. When you begin caring for over 500 hives, it’s reasonable to assume you’ll need help. If you don’t want this added expense to cut into your profits, you should reduce your number of hives and set a cap on the number of clients your business can carry.
If you’re okay with hiring help to potentially increase your profits, keep growing and crunching numbers to see if the investment is beneficial each year.
Risks of Operating a Commercial Bee Business
We’ve covered a lot of information about beekeeping for profit. I can’t leave you without providing a warning about the risks involved in this line of business.
The two greatest risks to launching this business are weather and hive collapse. If you take care of your bees, split the hives when necessary, feed them when necessary, and do all you can to battle the bugs that like to invade their hives, you should have a fair shot at starting a profitable business.
However, you aren’t in control of every aspect surrounding the business. The weather can provide huge hurdles. Fluctuations in the temperature can cause an issue with food supply for the hives.
High winds are another threat because, even with proper preparation, they can still knock over hives. You also can’t control the amount of bugs you have in your area on any given year.
Another common risk is the bees themselves. Sometimes you split hives and try to keep them healthy, yet the bees still leave. Other times, an entire hive will collapse with no explanation as to why. Bees are their own creatures. You can’t control them or the elements that surround them.
Take each of these risks into consideration when deciding if beekeeping would be a profitable business for you.