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 a couple hundred dollars to put towards an extractor, why not?
There are a lot of ways you can generate income as a beekeeper. You can sell the products you harvest from the hive, you can sell your beekeeping skills or you can sell bees and their pollination services.
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.
Making Money your First Year Beekeeping
Selling Your Honey
If you have some honey to spare, 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.
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).
If you have more than a few cases, contact some local food stores to see if they'd like to carry your honey. You make less per jar this way, 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.
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.
Making Money Beekeeping When You Have 3+ Hives
Selling Candles & Beeswax Products
Once you have some wax rendered (what we call when you melt and clean the honeycomb into a solid block of wax), you can make beeswax wraps, beeswax candles and body products. Chap stick is usually a big seller, but you can also make soap, salves, body butters, and lotions with your beeswax. Wellness Mama is full of great beeswax lotion recipes.
If you want the greatest payoff, then make candles because you don't have to buy other products except string and a mold (and these are pretty cheap!). The only down side is that candles require a lot of wax.
When selling body products, you have to purchase labels, containers, and the oils and butters you're mixing with it, so your profit margin is much less, but if you don't have a lot of wax, body products and beeswax wraps are a good option because they don't require a lot of wax. Just make sure the wax you use in cosmetics and for food-related products was not in the hive when you treated for mites! This should be the wax from when you were extracting.
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!
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 and offer 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 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.
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.
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 a lot of your hives. Pollination services also requires a large truck to transport and, ideally, a forklift to move the hives.
Once 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 that much honey but would be willing to help pay for the cost of equipment if you share some honey with them and do all the beekeeping work. There are a variety of ways you can work out compensation so that it makes sense for the client and for you.
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, there's pests and honey harvesting. Make sure you are compensated for your hard work! My 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.
I, personally, hate doing cut outs (when you remove a wild hive from where ever they are located). 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 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 can comfortably get so I didn't waste my time driving out there just to see that they're not bees.
Having a bee vacuum and at least one person to help you out is incredibly helpful, especially at first. If your bee club offers bee removal services see if you can get on the list to help out. See how more experienced beekeepers do it before you do it alone.
I have never sold pollen, for quite a few reasons, 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.
This is something I know very little about. However, I have sold bees to someone who used them in their venom therapy. Again, make sure you know what you're doing and what your county laws are for this service as well as liability issues.
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.
- ubersuggest is a great tool to see how popular a product is. Type it into the search bar and it will tell you how many people search for that phrase in google every month.
- Printful is a company that will print t-shirts on demand as people order them. It connects with shopify.
If you're thinking about starting your own bee business, check out our Selling Honey and Bees blog category for more tips on selling more of your products from the hive.
Once you have some products, here's an article about how to price your honey and other bee products.
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