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10 Ways to Make Money from Beekeeping Even If You Have Just a Few Hives

Nov 24, 2020

It's possible for even a beginner backyard beekeeper to make money from beekeeping. It might be a few years until you can quit your day job, but, hey, if you can make enough money to buy a nice extractor, why not?

There are a lot of ways you can generate income as a beekeeperand I've tried quite a few of them. In this article you'll learn what you can realistically expect with just a few hives, what worked for me and what didn't.


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How to Make Money Beekeeping

Selling Honey

The easiest way to make some cash is to sell your honey to friends, family and co-workers. A simple email and social media post is often times enough. If your work is ok with it, have some for sale in the break room or see if your church will let you sell some in their cafeteria or office. If you're like me and feel weird about asking people you know if they want to buy your products, then sell at a market. I prefer to pay a little extra and sell at a festival or holiday fair over the weekly markets. People buy a lot more during the holiday season and honey is one of those gifts that's nice for someone when you don't know what to get them. Everyone likes food, right? If you do sell your products during the holiday season, make sure you have a nice gift basket option. It doesn't have to literally be in a basket, but offer some kind of three pack of your different honey variations/confections or a nicely packaged little basket with some of your products. One apiary used to have different names for their baskets. There was the realxation basket and it had a tin of tea, a couple jars of honey, a lavender scented beeswax candle and a salve. 

You can increase your honey sales by making specialty products that sell at a premium cost like comb honey, infusions or confections (cinnamon, vanilla, chili peppers and cacao are common ones).

honeycomb in jar of honeyIf you have more than a few cases of honey, contact local food stores. You make less per jar selling to stores, but wholesale accounts are the number one revenue source for my bee farm and the honey farm I used to work for. I would start with the food co-ops and small health food stores. Most food stores markup a product about 30%, so account for that when pricing your honey. Check out my video on how to price your honey.

honeycomb on display at restaurant

A frame of our honeycomb at the Halekulani Resort breakfast buffet

If you have a lot of honey, instead of selling by the jar, you can sell it by the bucket to restaurants, bakeries and hotels. You make even less per ounce, but you save SO MUCH time not having to fill and label every little jar. For more about selling wholesale, check out my how to sell honey wholesale video.

 


Cottage Food Laws

Cottage Food Laws allow you to sell honey and other low-risk foods without needing a certified kitchen. Learn more about cottage food laws in our FREE business of beekeeping class. Click here to learn more.


  

Selling Candles & Other Beeswax Products

beeswax candles

Once you have some wax rendered (what we call when you melt and clean the honeycomb so that it is a solid block of wax free of dirt and bee parts), you can make beeswax wraps, candles, soap and body products. 

If you want the greatest payoff, then I recommend making beeswax candles. They have a high profit margin because you don't have to buy much. All you need is string and a candle mold. I've made a lot of beeswax candles for my own busienss and for another apiary I worked for and I wil say that it was a waste of money making a bunch of different candle molds. I found that the cutesy candle molds aren't big sellers. It's a much better investment to buy a set of plain, pillar molds and add different scents and colors to the candles instead of buying a bunch of different candle mold designs shaped like skeps, flowers and shells.

  


Tip!

People love scented candles! At first, I didn't add scents to my candles because it's expensive and the scent dissipates over time, but the first time someone does when they see a candle is smell it. Buy some popular scents in bulk to save money and add a scent to your candles!


 

You can also use your honey jars for candle making. Check out my video on how to make beeswax candles in containers for some tips. Putting a candle in a container is a great option if you don't have a lot of wax because you usually add 30% coconut oil to the beeswax so that it doesn't shrink in the jar. The jar also makes the candle look bigger and will hold the scent longer than a free-standing candle. 

If You Don't Have A Lot of Beeswax

Body products don't have as high of a profit margin because it's mostly oils and butters and very little beeswax, but if you don't have a lot of wax, body products and beeswax wraps are the product for you. Chap stick (or lip balm) is a really big seller, but you can also make soap, salves, body butters, and lotions with beeswax. Wellness Mama has a lot of great beeswax lotion recipes. Make sure the wax you use in cosmetics and for food-related products was not in the hive when you treated for mites! 

Beeswax wraps are another popular beeswax product. They are a more eco-friendly alternative to using plastic wrap and have a high price point. 

You can also sell blocks of pure beeswax to people who make candles and body products. I've never had much luck selling pure beeswax. I can't compete with the prices on amazon, but if you see a demand for it, give it a shot!

You Can Buy Beeswax

beeswax block

I want to address this importor syndrome people sometimes have when it comes to beekeeping. They feel like they can't buy beeswax or honey from someone and sell it because it's not from their bees. There's nothing wrong with buying honey and beeswax from other apiaries! Don't lie to people and say it's all from your farm, but you don't have to limit yourself to selling just what you harvested that year. Many farms buy in bulk from other farms and sell it under their label. To keep your costs as low as possible, instead of buying online, contact loal apiaries first. Many of them are happy to sell their beeswax in bulk for pretty cheap.

Selling Bees

Beekeepers can sell a nuc, a package of bees or queen bees. Most people with a small bee farm sell nuc's. They're much easier to put together. All you need is a nuc box, which you can purchase online. I like to use the waxed nuc boxes. They're about $10 a piece and I don't have to coordinate with people to drop it back off at the farm.

When selling bees, you want to make sure you have good genetics. Don't rush to sell nucs or word will spread fast that your bees are poor quality and you won't be selling much. 

When selling nucs, I've found that there are three ways to find customers - post an ad on craigslist, ask the local bee assoc. to post your contact info on their website or hold a beekeeping class. When you offer a bee class, after the class is over, some students will be ready to buy bees and they'll be looking to you for their source. Even a short, $5 class at your local rec center is often enough to generate customers.

 

beekeeping class on Big Island of hawaii

Beekeeping Classes

Beekeeping classes are a great way to generate income in the Spring and Summer. 

If you don't have the experience to offer an in-depth class, you could also offer bee/farm tours for the general public. The bee farm I used to work for offered beekeeping tours to the general public. These are great because it's not just for beekeepers, but anyone who wants to learn about bees, so there's a greater audience to sell to, they're shorter, and you don't have to give people a suit and veil. 

beekeeping tour hawaii

Me giving a beekeeping tour at Big Island Bees

If you're not interested in having people stop by your bee yard, but like educating people about bees, you could also write an ebook and self publish it or start a beekeeping podcast and accept donations from your listeners or get advertising.

Here at our bee farm we give beekeeping classes (obviously!) and also have a podcast. However, I chose to not take on advertising or accept donations from listeners. We simply use it as a way to teach people about bees and spread the word about our classes.

  


Tip!

Before you start selling or reselling honey, check with your county's laws to see what's required of you, what needs to be on the label and if there's any restrictions on reselling honey another farm's farm or selling your honey out of state.


 

Pollination Services

Many commercial beekeeping operations rely heavily on making an income from pollination services. Whether or not you will be able to find a farm interested in this service depends on where you live. Here in Kona, there's a lot of queen breeders and most farmers get pollination for free, but in most of the U.S., farmers will pay quite a bit for pollination. This service is great for beekeepers that have at least 50 hives. I wouldn't recommend offering pollination services if you're a small bee farm because if a farm sprays and kills a yard of your bees, it could destroy your apiary. Pollination services also requires a large truck to transport and, ideally, a forklift to move the hives. 

 

Bee Swag

beekeeper shirt giftOnce you are already selling some of your honey and wax products, a great way to increase your final sale is to make what I call "bee swag". This may be a sticker, t-shirt or other product not made by the bees but is related to bees or honey. At our farm, we sell t-shirts, onesies and magnets with our logo on it. These items are good sellers, especially during the holiday season when people are looking for fun and unique gifts for beekeepers.

Get Paid to Keep Bees

At our farm, we get paid by a hotel to keep bees for them. They keep the honey, we keep the bees. It's a great, steady income. The client gets to advertise that they're helping the bees and they can share a jar of honey with their logo on it with their guests. In addition to hotels, resorts, restaurants, B Corps, botanical gardens and retreat centers are all great places to contact about this service.

Some businesses might not need the honey, but would love to say that they have bees on the property. to get that first client, offer to keep the bees for free on their property in exchange for them paying for the bees and equipment and you give them a case of honey each year. There are a variety of ways you can work out compensation so that it makes sense for the client and for you. If you're just getting started, this can be a great way for you to not have to spend so much getting started.

One piece of advice! Don't undermine how much work beekeeping is. It only takes 20 minutes to inspect a hive, but sometimes there are problems and, of course, honey harvesting is usually an all day project. Make sure you are compensated for your hard work! With m first client, I forgot to include the time it took to harvest the honey. The client also expected me to label all the jars! Overestimate how many hours a month you spend beekeeping, because I can guarantee there will be tasks you forgot about that will come up later. 

Bee Removals / Cut Outs

Personally, I hate doing cut outs (when you remove a wild hive from their location). It almost always ends up taking all day, I find it difficult to do without someone helping me, you often have to cause damage to someone's house to get to the bees and sometimes requires a tall ladder. It's just too much. That being said, some people love it and I'm grateful that these people exist so I don't have to do it! 

How much you charge for your removals is up to you. It can vary quite a bit depending on where you live, how big and established the hive is and where it's located. One thing I've found when doing removals is that people lie! Seriously. They say "no, it's not too high up." I get there and I need a 8' ladder. They say the bees just got there and I see a huge hive that's been there all summer(granted they just maybe didn't notice them until recently). Also, sometimes people think it's honey bees, but it's wasps. I used to ask them to text me a video from as close as they could comfortably get so I didn't waste my time driving there.

Having a bee vacuum and at least one person to help you out is incredibly helpful. If your bee club offers bee removal services see if you can get on the list to help out.  

Pollen

honey bee with pollenI have never sold pollen, because I live in a humid climate where the pollen gets moldy in the traps really fast, but it is another product you can harvest from the hive. Just remember that there may be different criteria for selling this product in your county. For example, you may need a certified kitchen. Also, pollen has a shelf life, so make sure you do your research and harvest it properly before you sell it.

 

honey bee hive

How Many Hives Do You Need to Make a Profit?

I found that 20 was a good number for me in order to quit my job. I was able to easily manage 20 hives on my own. I would take 1 day to inspect them all and they weren't all in one spot or even close to my home. 

One person should be able to manage up to 50 hives on their own, in my opinion, especially if they do not have another job other than beekeeping. If you can't manage 50 hives, you should really look at your inspection practices and the other ways you're spending your time. If you're spending all day at a farmer's market, you better be making at least $800 on average to make it worth that day. Otherwise, look for wholesale accounts or start selling online and drop the market.

All you need is at least 2 hives to start selling honey and beeswax products. I would wait until you have at least 5 hives before you start offering beekeeping services to businesses.

I wouldn't start offering beekeeping classes or selling nuc's until you have at least 20 hives.

 

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