Can you really make money keeping bees? Beekeeping can be a nice sideline business to supplement your income, and some pros are able to make it their full time career. You can get started with a single hive and a colony of bees for less than $500, making beekeeping one of the more affordable animal related start-up options.
While honey is a top source of income for beekeepers, there are several different ways to make money with bees. Here are seven of the best ways to monetize your beekeeping operation
Ok no surprise here—honey is the most popular bee related product by a landslide. One hive of bees can produce anywhere from 20 to 60 pounds of honey each year depending on local conditions. If you’re trying to visualize that, a full gallon of honey weighs 12 pounds. Under ideal conditions and with careful management, it is possible for a hive to produce even greater amounts. And why settle for just one hive when you could have several on your property? You’ll already have the beekeeping equipment, and hive maintenance only takes a few hours per month.
The price of honey (per pound retail) has almost doubled over the past decade and shows no sign of slowing. Honey was $7.01 per pound in July 2016 according to the National Honey Board, up from $3.88 in July 2010. That means a single average hive could yield $420 of honey at current prices (and that’s not even taking into account other bee related products that could be marketed). Honey is a great source of income for beekeepers and requires minimal preparation to be ready for retail sale.
2. Beeswax Products
Beeswax is another popular product that can help beekeepers turn a profit. If you don’t have an interest in creating beeswax products you can sell the raw beeswax to hobbyists and crafters. Popular beeswax items include candles, soap, lip balm, moisturizer, hand cream, and more. This product must be melted and filtered to remove any impurities, but it can sell for about $15 per pound depending on the quality and wax color. Beeswax products command top dollar, so if you have an interest in crafting it could be worth your while to start a sideline business selling candles or balms on Etsy.
3. Bee Pollen and Propolis
One of the latest nutritional trends is supplementing the diet with bee pollen granules. Proponents claim that eating this “super food” will boot immunity, minimize seasonal allergies, and provide antioxidant benefits. A pound of bee pollen granules has a retail price of $15-$20.
Propolis is something you probably haven’t heard of, but it is a sticky resin substance derived from plants that bees use to seal and protect the hive from disease-causing agents. Those who believe in “the power of propolis” say it can be used to boost immunity and treat cuts or sores. It is also used in the manufacturing of a wide variety of products including chewing gum, cosmetics, and car wax.
4. Commercial Pollination Services
There are actually many farms that pay to have hives relocated temporarily to their fields to provide pollination services. The hives are usually contracted to be on site for a short period of three to five weeks to accomplish their task. The “rental fee” per hive reported by almond producers spiked sharply from $76 in 2005 to an impressive $157 in 2009. Most farms seeking pollination services are located in states like California, Texas, and Florida. The crops that have the highest demand for pollination services are almonds, sunflowers, and canola. The USDA reported that the pollination industry was a $655 million dollar entity in 2012.
5. Starter Hive Kits for New Beekeepers
Some beekeepers find an extra source of income by providing starter kits for new hobbyists. Those with moderate technical skills could consider building hives for sale—an average hive structure (without bees) retails for around $200. More complicated or novelty themed hives sell for much more. You could also consider offering a convenient all in one starter package that includes the hive, bees, and some necessary equipment (like the smoker and safety equipment). Bees can be legally shipped through the U.S postal service in special screened shipping containers, so you are not restricted to local customers.
There are two ways to buy and sell bees: as a “package” or as a “nuc.” A “package” consists of three pounds of bees plus a separately contained queen. A “nuc” (nucleus colony) which is 3 to 5 frames of bees in a box, with a laying queen, already producing honeycomb and larvae. A package of bees sells for $90-$100, while a “nuc” of bees sells for $125-$135.
6. Tours and Training
Beekeepers can also profit from offering training classes, internships, seminars, tours, books, and educational videos to aspiring beekeepers. You can also include a “start up” package including the hive and bees along with the training course, making your beekeeping operation a one stop shop for the new hobbyist. Visitors to your beekeeping operation will also be likely to purchase any “gift shop” items you might have for sale.