The world needs bees. Unfortunately, man hasn’t been too kind to the world so the bees need us to undo some of the damage we’ve already done.
Had we been a little less reckless, they probably wouldn’t need us, but now, they do.
The plight of the honey bee has attracted not only recreational hobbyists but also those who are raising bees for profit.
Some beekeepers find a middle ground and aim to do both. These cases beg the question: is it really possible to make money beekeeping?
The short answer is yes, and beekeeping for profit extends far beyond simply selling your own honey.
In fact, there are many ways to make money with beekeeping that most new and for-profit beekeepers aren’t aware of.
We often speak about what we can do for the bees, now let’s see what they can do for us. Below are the top 5 ways that you can make money from beekeeping.
1. Selling Bee Products
The first way to make a little cash is from selling what bees make naturally.
Honey is usually the first thing that pops into your mind when you hear beekeeping for the first time.
Production costs are very low, limited to labor and packaging. Raw honey is particularly popular in this era of health consciousness.
Without heat, honey is able to maintain the enzymes that provide you with added health benefits.
Most commercial honey is pasteurized to make it easier to package and stay in it’s liquid state longer.
Unfortunately, heating it above 104 degrees destroys the enzymes that give honey its unique nutritional value.
Honey flavor differs depending on the nectar source available.
You can find yourself in possession of premium honey because blooms in your area are different from those found anywhere else.
If you have an orchard or you specialize in berry production, such as strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries, your honey will have a completely different flavor than that of a keeper who relies on wildflowers.
Since everyone’s taste pallet is different, you are likely to capture the pallet of some who will be partial to the unique flavor of your honey.
Bees are designed to keep gathering nectar as long as the source is available. So don’t feel too bad about raiding their pantry.
A responsible beekeeper knows when to harvest and how much to take so that he leaves the bees with enough inventory to keep them going.
Honey harvesting can either be done using an extractor or the crushing method where you cut out the comb, crush it, sieve it and enjoy the honey.
If you have a flow hive, then the process is further simplified because you have honey on tap.
Once you’ve packed it, you’re ready to sell. The demand for honey is so high you are unlikely to have it in stock long.
Pollen is the main source of protein for the bee and also acts as a dietary supplement for us.
It has a higher market value than honey because pollen duty isn’t designated to all foragers. Pollen is only available in small amounts.
Responsible collection of pollen demands that you only set up pollen traps for a couple of hours a day, and do so for a few days a week, not throughout.
This is because the bees need pollen to raise brood, the babies of the family. If you take too much pollen, you are putting the health of the brood at risk.
Pollen is the one product that’s collected outside of the hive. All you need are these pollen traps. It’s a pretty simple process because the entrance to the hive is slightly obstructed making it necessary for the bees to shed their load of pollen before they can gain entry into the hive.
The pollen collects in a small trough below the entrance. After a few hours, you remove the screen and allow them to continue storing their own supply of pollen.
Fresh pollen is quite perishable so it is better preserved dry. Once you’ve collected it, you can either sell it fresh but packed well to lengthen its shelf life, or dry it and package it for sale.
Bees really know how to clean house, and their renovation skills are exceptional. They seal all the cracks and disinfect the hive with propolis.
Propolis like this one here is a sticky substance that is derived from the secretions of various trees and plants.
Propolis, being the hive disinfectant, is ideal for medicinal use. All you need to get is a propolis trap. The amounts are small but with a strong hive, you will have a good rate of production.
It is not as perishable as pollen making it easier to deal with and, as with most bee products, has more demand than supply making it even more valuable than the pollen.
This one goes hand in hand with honey but only makes financial sense in bulk. If you use an extractor to harvest your honey, then the honeycomb gets recycled and you wind up with very minute amounts of wax.
However, if you’re dealing with hundreds or thousands of hives, then you can harvest the honey and cut out the comb for rendering. Wax is quite light so you’ll need big numbers to make this venture worthwhile.
You don’t have to sell the wax in its simple form. The cosmetic industry has a great demand for beeswax to make various balms as well as hair products.
Let’s not forget about aromatherapy.
What would a bridal shower be without that spa pack with the scented candles? With wax, there’s so much more you can do with the raw material that can increase the value of your final product.
This is a relatively new medical treatment which is a form of apitherapy. Bee venom is being studied for its potential to treat arthritis and other conditions including phantom pains in amputees.
As science advances in this area, beekeepers will be able to provide a vital resource so it’s definitely an area worth watching.
For now, the treatment is administered by having bees sting the specific area of the body.
Unfortunately, this means that the bee is like a capsule. Once it’s used, it dies. Even so, new harvesting techniques are being developed so today’s beekeepers could have pharmaceutical hives in the future.
2. Selling Pollinator Services
Think healthy eating and terms like omega 3 start flying around. Once those omegas get going, we are pointed in the direction of nuts. In the land of nuts, one of the richest inhabitants is the almond.
Apart from the nut itself which is both delicious and nutritious, we have many other products such as milk and oils. Even though nuts do grow on trees, it’s not as simple as it sounds. Almonds rely 100% on cross-pollination for production.
The flowers were not designed to self pollinate as is the case with some vegetables. If the pollen of one flower doesn’t get to the pistil of the other, then there’ll be no almonds that year.
That’s why, every blooming season, the beautiful state of California imports thousands of bees from other states, such as North Carolina and puts the ladies to work.
At the end of the season, the bees are sent back to their homes and the beekeeper is rewarded with both a check and a uniquely flavored crop of honey.
With declining populations of bees, these kinds of services are becoming even more important for the supply of various horticultural products that depend on cross-pollination.
In the case of almonds, shipping is necessary because once the almond season is over, there’s nothing for the bees to feed on. It, therefore, makes it undesirable for almond producers to have their own hives because the bees could starve once the blooms die.
Other horticultural farms that could use these services may choose to outsource these pollinator services because they do not want to spend resources managing beehives. That’s where you come in.
They will be happy to provide a space for your hives and then management is up to you, and as a beekeeper, that’s the joy of the job. The ladies do all the hard work and you simply check in from time to time ensuring that all is hunky dory in the kingdom.
The added advantage with horticulture is that you don’t need to worry about nectar dearth because you will almost always have a food supply for your bees.
As a service to humanity, the presence and demand for your bees may keep pesticide use to a minimum and improve the quality of what we have going into our bodies.
3. Make Money by Selling Bee Equipment
Beekeepers, or beeks as they are sometimes referred to, are nature types and don’t mind getting their hands dirty.
That doesn’t mean we are all handy with a saw and drill. Companies such as Dadant have been in existence for decades mostly providing bee equipment.
Outside of the main hive components, there are other products you could offer.
Most DIY projects involve making extra features that don’t come with the original hive. That includes bee feeders like this one here, slatter racks, bee escapes, entrance reducers, robbing screens and many more.
Once you create a brand of credibility and quality, then you’ll be in business. Market research is easy to undertake.
You can start at the local beekeepers association and they are usually the first stop for their members when they are in search of a supplier or service provider.
4. Make Money by Selling Advisory Services
Beekeepers are born every day. Well, maybe they aren’t but the plight of the bee has reached far and wide and more people are responding to the call.
The major problem is that the first year of beekeeping is fraught with information overload or under-load and this usually leads to many mistakes.
As a seasoned beekeeper, you can provide advisory services to new beeks to help them start and establish their hives when they begin.
I believe that one of the reasons there aren’t more of us is because few make it past the first year. If the bees don’t survive the winter, many walk away from the project.
Sometimes, that guidance and encouragement from someone with experience will give that nudge and light that spark to motivate a new beekeeper to give it just one more try.
This is possible to do, even if you have a full-time job elsewhere because it doesn’t require more than a couple of hours with a client in a month or two.
A lot of this advice can be given remotely once you have done your initial visit so it allows for a flexible schedule.
5. Making Money by Becoming a Pollinator Seeds Supplier
Beekeepers aren’t the only people who love bees. Lots of people have pollinator gardens to provide nectar and pollen for honey bees and other bee species without ever wanting to own a hive.
To be honest, the honey bees probably need more of these kinds of people than they do beekeepers.
Seeds like these increase their food source without increasing the population density of bees, which ultimately reduces competition for food meaning more safe food for the bees.
You could decide to specialize in selling pollinator seeds and seedlings for beekeepers and non-beekeepers alike.
This allows more people to participate in saving the bees without worrying about putting on the hazmat suit that beekeepers are known for.
When we first started using bees for our domestic needs, all we wanted to get at was the honey. With time and science, we have found out that we can enjoy so much more from our six-legged comrades.
Who knew that one day, the reason many shy away from bees, their infamous sting, would be just the breakthrough arthritic patients need to handle the inflammation that causes so much pain.
It would seem that scientists have just scratched the surface with their discoveries, and with these advancements come new products and opportunities.
Saving the bees isn’t only good for the environment, or our health. It’s a great way to put a little cushion for your ever increasing expenses. As far as motivators go, that last one usually gets us moving.