How to raise bees for honey

One of the most popular hobbies these days is beekeeping. It’s not just a fun activity but also an environmentally friendly pursuit that can fetch you some money. And the incredible thing is that it’s quite easy to acquire the skills required to pursue beekeeping or apiculture to get honey.

The key to the world of beekeeping is preparation. Learning about bee management and setting up an apiary is essential before you start working with the bees. There are many organizations to help you get started. But read more to gain elementary knowledge about apiculture and its opportunities. 

How to start a raising bees in brief

While you won't get rich on a per-acre basis raising bees for honey, it's a no brainer addition to your farm if you're already growing flowering plants. The bees themselves will pollinate your orchard or vegetables while producing honey, which you can then sell on.

You can get started for around $1,000 per acre, and you'll make your money back within the first year or two.


Profitability

Ease to produce

 Time Required

raising honey bees for your farm

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The business opportunity for honey

The market for honey

Besides giving you an easy way to experience the beauty of nature, beekeeping can prove to be a lucrative hobby. You’ll be able to sell pure honey and other products related to bees. If there’s sufficient demand in your area, you can even rent your bees for the pollination of commercial crops.

Your customer base will have two main categories - those looking to buy honey, and those interested in beeswax. Initially, you’ll have to concentrate on individual customers and sales. But once you gain some reputation, you’ll be able to sell to restaurants, food stores, etc. who’ll repeat their bulk orders. 

Honey has recently gained massive popularity as a natural and healthier alternative for sugar and other artificial sweeteners. It also has its uses in the medicinal and cosmetics industries because of its antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, and moisturizing properties.

In 2019, the market for honey reached a massive 606.2 million USD across the world. It is expected that the market value will reach 923.6 million USD by 2025! So, you can understand that the market for honey is expanding. Manufacturers now use innovative strategies to gain leverage in the market.

Investors, too, are funding manufacturers so that they can enhance the natural production of honey, adopt new marketing strategies, launch new products, develop value chains, etc. A company with a stronghold in the art of apiculture, a well-targeted audience, and good investors, has a bright future.

Honey bees around the web

Honey itself has been steadily growing in popularity over the last ten years as consumers look to replace sugar.

honey search trend

Perhaps more interestingly, honey water is growing massively off the back of the detox movement. Honey water is a honey and lemon based drink.

honey water search trend

And everyone loves to instagram bees. Over 3.5m posts with the primary hashtag #bees.

And if you're looking for bee-related fun facts, Pinterest is your go to.

bee facts on pinterest

How much can you make raising bees for honey?

Raising bees for honey can reap big profits, though the amount will depend on the location and quantity of honey produced in your colonies. On average, you can expect a sale of a pint of honey for $10, and a quart of it for $17. If you sell the produce to bulk packers, you’ll be able to sell at different prices, as opposed to selling at retail or wholesale costs.

Don’t forget to reduce the costs while maintaining the quantity yielded from each beehive. This will help to increase your profits. Also, pay attention to the packaging of the beehive products as it matters in this business. To increase your sale, the packaging should be attractive, food-safe, and preferably clear. Its label should offer all the details they might be looking for.

How many bee colonies per acre?

Every beehive needs an acre of land for complete support. But you must remember that this area should have plenty of flowering plants so that there’s an abundance of nectar for the bees to feed on. Bees are usually willing to travel as far as 2 miles from the hive for nectar.    

A colony of two stories with 20 thousand bees can pollinate an acre of fruit trees. However, in cold or wet weather conditions, one colony in an acre may not be enough. So, it’s ideal to maintain two colonies in an acre for adequate pollination even in bad weather.

How long does it take to start making money from Apiculture?

Usually, bees take 12-20 days to make wax. You can also harvest honey in 4-6 months from a new beehive. But it’s best not to collect any of it in the first season. Some beekeepers extract honey and wax from the hives early, but it’s better to wait the first year out for improved quality.

You see, bees have to produce wax and build combs for the storage of the honey they make and for laying eggs. The time taken by them depends on the location, available flora, and weather. Now, at the time of harvesting honey, you’ll need to remove the wax caps, too.

However, if you skip the process of harvesting in the first year, it will give the bees more time to build stronger combs. The collection method will become a lot easier, and the honey you’ll extract will also taste better. Such colonies will yield honey for a long time in the future. 

where to sell honey

Where can you sell honey?

Once you harvest the honey from the hive, you’ll be able to use a number of avenues to sell it. You can try the following:

  1. Farmers’ Market: Farmers’ markets are a great platform for selling fresh produce, including freshly extracted honey. You can sell directly to local customers.  
  2. Festivals/Exhibitions: Look up local events that will allow you to book a stall and display your products. Sell as much as you can at big events to cover your costs.
  3. Social Media Platforms: Social media platforms are not just for advertising. You can also sell there. Facebook and Instagram offer options to set up shops!  
  4. Website: Setting up e-commerce sites is quite easy these days. So, you can create your own website where you can display and sell your honey. 
  5. Etsy: One of the most popular platforms for small entrepreneurs is Etsy.com. With more than 15 million members, you’ll easily find customers. 

Eventually, when business kicks off, you can start a physical store on your land or rent a place to sell your honey.

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Cost to get started selling honey

As we mentioned earlier, it’s a good idea to start with two hives. For this, you can expect an expenditure of $100-250. Plus, there’s the cost of hives, equipment, supplies, etc., which differ widely. As a new beekeeper, you can find starter kits on various websites, which may cost anything between $100 and $700, depending on the type of brood box, number of frames, inner cover, etc.



Don’t forget that buying the hive and the bees is not enough. You will also need beekeeping equipment, prep the hive, get yourself protective clothing, and more. The total startup cost to apiculture might be anything between $400 and $1500. Then there are honey extraction machines that can set you back $200-250. You’ll also need to spend on packaging and marketing.

Want to learn more? Here are a few books we'd recommend.

What's the ROI of raising bees?

To calculate the return on investment in the beekeeping business, you need to consider the total investment, revenue earned and the cost incurred, including depreciation, and earnings after taxes. You’ll arrive at the EAT after subtracting the cost incurred from the revenue and the tax amount. The ratio of the EAT to your total investment will give you the ROI percentage.

For instance, if you have two colonies in an acre, an average ROI might be as follows:

  • Total Investment - $864
  • Annual Revenue - $648
  • Annual Cost - $18
  • Depreciation - $12.8
  • Tax (25%) - $154.3
  • EAT - $462.9

ROI (EAT/Total Investment X 100) - 53.58% 

Your ROI will change from year to year, depending on the variables like revenue and cost. The sale of beeswax extracted from hives will also make a significant contribution to the revenue. 

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Get started raising bees for honey on your farm

Land required to raise honey bees

As mentioned earlier, an acre of land should ideally have one colony - or two, to ensure sufficient pollination even in cold and wet weather conditions. In fact, insurance policies for crops often demand two colonies in one acre of land before settling claims for bad crops.

It might sound like you can add lots of hives on your farm if you have a large land area. However, that’s not a good idea. However, most beekeepers prefer not to install more than 35 hives in a single piece of land. That helps to increase the yield of honey from each colony. 

start keeping bees on your farm

Honey bees on your farm

Conditions for raising honey bees

To get the best out of your apiary, maintain the following conditions for it:

  1. Plant three or more types of flowering plants that bloom in different seasons to provide food to the bees all through the year.
  2. Provide a source of fresh and clean water. You can place a water container and refill it. Place pebbles and twigs for the bees to sit on. 
  3. Ensure that the hive is placed in a well-lit area with plenty of sunlight, and yet there’s shade from harsh afternoon lights.
  4. Ensure that the hive location is protected from extreme weather conditions like rain, storm, or snow to protect the apiary. 
  5. Leave a sunny, uncultivated spot on the farm for the native bees for burrowing or nesting. It should be near a source of branches, reeds, mud, and water.

How long does it take to harvest honey?

The time taken to harvest bees will vary from hive to hive. If you can place your order by January or February, the bees will arrive by April. That’s plenty of time to prep your land and your hive. Once the bees are in their colony, they start working really hard.

It can take anything between a week and two months for the bees to fix their new home or draw out combs, as needed. After that, they start making honey, which takes about 4-6 months. You can harvest it at this time, or wait the year out and get better quality honey in the next season. 

What you need to get started raising honey bees

First, you need to have your land for beekeeping ready. Next, get the hive and the bees. Now, you need to get a few things that are essential for beekeeping. Check out this list:

  1. Hive stand to place your beehive
  2. Inner and outer covers to protect the bees and the hive
  3. Frames and combs to place inside the hive
  4. Smokers to prevent getting stung
  5. Bee suit, shoes, and gloves for your safety
  6. Hive tool to remove frames or take apart the hive
  7. Queen catcher to keep the queen bee separated while working
  8. Essential oil to attract bees
  9. Feeder to provide food to bees when there’s no bloom
  10. Queen marker to make it easier to spot the queen
  11. Flowering plants to put around the hive

These are basic equipment that you need to get started with this unique hobby. By the time you reach the second season, when it’s time to extract honey, you’ll also need a honey extractor and a beeswax extractor. 

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Get started selling

Set up a website

Honey bees, combs, and hives are gorgeous, so it shouldn't be hard to build a stunning website to promote your farm. As ever, we recommend Carrd.co, because it's so easy. You can sign up here. For a get started guide, you can have a look here.

If you'd like some help with this, we'll happily build out a site and social presence for you. Just click here.

Pick a name

If you'd like to get yourself a new domain name for your site, we recommend Namecheap. It's, well, the cheapest!

If you don't like the look of anything you find there, you can click here to search for your own.

Get set up on Etsy and Amazon

Etsy and Amazon are the two most popular retail marketplaces for pampas grass decor, so you want to make sure you sign up with both of them.

Etsy:

Amazon:


Ready to get started? We can help

We'll build a website for your smallholding or hobby farm

If you want to make more money from your smallholding or  hobby farm but don't want to deal with any of the techy bits, we can help build you a website, set up your social pages, and make sure your analytics are buttoned up.. 

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