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Author Topic: Most Profitable Part of Beekeeping Is?  (Read 8506 times)
UtahBees
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« on: September 22, 2007, 12:24:35 AM »

Hi Everyone -

I'm wondering for all us beekeepers out there, which activity has the best ROI, in your opinion? For the money spent in keeping bees, where do you see the highest return for that money?

When you harvest and sell:
  • Honey
  • Queens
  • Bi-Products (making candles out of wax, lip balm, selling propolis, etc)
  • Packages to beekeepers
  • Something else?

As a newbee, I'm just curious, as I'd like to get more hives next year (up to 2 more), and as I add on each year, I'd like to focus on a 'specialty'.

I'm also thinking of keeping some hives in a unique location (e.g. Hawaii) and selling the unique products (white honey) as a kind of novelty.

But all in all, I'm just a novice, and haven't had any experience with commercial beekeeping yet. Having just one hive has me addicted to get more, since its been all up-hill thus far. I realize there are some major challenges that I haven't even faced yet.

UtahBees
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rdy-b
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« Reply #1 on: September 22, 2007, 12:31:30 AM »

Almond pollination nothing comes close & it is not easy but best pay day RDY-B
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« Reply #2 on: September 22, 2007, 01:06:36 AM »

Hobby beekeepers will do better with honey and wax but can do all in the list 

its like there are 3 types of commercial beekeepers
Pollinators
Queen Producers
Honey and Wax Producers

now some pollinators can get some honey but most pollination plants dont produce much honey,
Queens producers use all the have to produce queens
Honey and wax producers put hive where they can get particular honeys, more varieties.

what some people dont know is that a lot of your package producers dont raise queens, these are pollinators that  buy queens and shake bee's from there own hives before they take them to pollination fields, they can shake bee's from there hives in early spring because the fields aren't ready yet, just more income, I know 3 here in Ga and know there are many more. now dont get me wrong apiaries like Hardeman's have enough hives to rise queens and shake bee's from, I was mainly talking about the smaller guys with 400-600 hives

now all of these can do some of all if they have the hives and help but mostly they choose one or maybe work in another but on a small scale.... that's just the way I have seen its

now on the  Bi-Products (making candles out of wax, lip balm, selling propolis, etc)
I am sure all can do this to a extent but on the health and skin care products, Burts Bee's is the only one I have heard that went this way.

you can make more money doing pollination but it cost more also and you are away from home too so it has it price and cost to deal with.

I am for staying at home and raising queens and selling nuc's.
« Last Edit: September 22, 2007, 02:15:51 PM by TwT » Logged

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« Reply #3 on: September 22, 2007, 01:19:13 AM »

As a hobby, probably the best bet is going to be honey producing.

There are a lot of people that get into niches, but the main product will be honey.  I don't find that candles are a big seller, and lotions and lip balms require mostly other ingredients with some wax and honey.

Queens and packages can work, but with only a few hives, this isn't very practical, you might make a bit, but not too much.

If you can find a marketing niche, you can go like crazy.  But most of us don't and our niche is really good honey.

Rick
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« Reply #4 on: September 22, 2007, 06:46:23 AM »

As a hobbyist, the best ROI in doing removals.  Most of the stuff you need you already have.  Maybe need to build a bee vac and buy a good ladder, but there is no fear of loosing your investment during a bad winter.   At worse, business may be slow the following year.   If you do AHB, you can make even more.
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« Reply #5 on: September 22, 2007, 10:23:59 AM »

It is an interesting subject when you look at all the different products a hive can generate. Right now I'll be glad to get ANY ROI.  grin
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« Reply #6 on: September 22, 2007, 10:49:20 AM »

Right now I'll be glad to get ANY ROI.  grin

I can agree with that!  grin

As a hobbyist, the best ROI in doing removals. If you do AHB, you can make even more.

Let's take this discussion one step further and ask the question:

  • What is required?
  • What is the typical charge?
  • How many days out of the year can you do this in your area?

So let's take honey production:

  • Required: Honey-producing beehives (a given), great timing sometimes, the extraction tools (found in your favorite catalog), bottling, a form of marketing or a customer base
  • Typical revenue: Quart - $9.50, Gallon - $30 (for typical honey, more for specialty honey)
  • Days? As long as hives have honey to take (Can someone give me your specifics with how many hives you have?)
  • Return: $xxxx/year (notice this is not ROI, but rather gross profit from sales)

Regards,

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« Reply #7 on: September 22, 2007, 11:06:13 AM »

Queens.  But if I raised honey I might do better some years.  Smiley  But actually the years that queens are hard to raise are the years I get no honey...
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« Reply #8 on: September 22, 2007, 01:10:42 PM »

Queens get the best ROI, but they require some of the greatest investment.
Pollination is second.
As a hobbiest removals, but that can be tricky and dangerous.

The best return however is something that won't put cash in your pocket. It's the knowledge you gain and the fun you get with having bees. You will learn about bees, plants, farming, seasons, and so much more. Not only that you get kids who look at you with huge eyes when you explain to them you deal with thousands of stinging insects.

Finsky and pdmattox probably do better financially than any of the rest of us on this board in regards to ROI. Finsky does not raise queens but his beekeeping hobby is dealt with through very strict financial guidelines. If it isn't making him money he isn't doing it. Finsky problems are now dealing with bumper crops of honey causing the prices to fall. We should all have such problems. Wink

pdmattox jumped into this with both feet in a move that did scare the crap out of most of us. he risked a lot and it is starting to pay off for him but his moves are not for the faint of heart. I had palpatations just listening to what he was doing in the beginning. I should cut into his profit margins by sending him my medical bills. Wink

When it comes to cost to profit these two are bar none doing the best. However I don't believe either of them has quit their dayjobs. Finsky may be retired not sure on that though. pdmattox still has another business he runs. Sleep is overatted.

Sincerely,
Brendhan

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« Reply #9 on: September 22, 2007, 02:08:56 PM »

"I might answer, does it pay to kiss your wife? to look at anything beautiful? to like a golden Italian Queen? to eat apples or gooseberries? or anything else agreeable to our nature? is the gain in health, strength, and happiness, which this form of recreation secures, to be judged by the dollar-and-cent stand-point of the world?" --G.M. Doolittle, Scientific Queen Rearing
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« Reply #10 on: September 22, 2007, 05:23:35 PM »

Everything about Beekeeping is profitable. I get all three: Knowledge, Experience and Greenbacks  grin
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« Reply #11 on: September 22, 2007, 05:49:41 PM »

So let's take honey production:
  • Required: Honey-producing beehives (a given), great timing sometimes, the extraction tools (found in your favorite catalog), bottling, a form of marketing or a customer base
  • Typical revenue: Quart - $9.50, Gallon - $30 (for typical honey, more for specialty honey)
  • Days? As long as hives have honey to take (Can someone give me your specifics with how many hives you have?)
  • Return: $xxxx/year (notice this is not ROI, but rather gross profit from sales)

Utahbees....man I like the way you think .  My dad says "if you gonna be a bear..........be a grizzly".  My thoughts exactly!  If you're going to go to the trouble of raising bees, why not make it worth your while, and maximize your return?........strictly a business approach.

Now I understand the business vs. art discussions with beekeeping.  I don't think you can keep bees, without getting into the non-monetary benefits of watching these amazing creatures, but I believe your question for this thread is for "most profitable", pertaining to the business aspects of beekeeping. As with any agriculture based product, I'm sure it would depend on the type of year you have.  It would compare to farming for profit.  Variables would effect it MUCH, like: weather, pests/disease, blooming/pollen season, etc...so it's not exactly a linear projection. 

I personally lean more toward selling bees, simply because you cann't have the other products you listed, without the bees.  A queen business is profitable if you've got the time, but timing is very important with queens, so large scale, you'd have to have help, or alot of time to work them. Looking at the bee nuc business, it's somewhat less regulated, especially if staying within your home State.  Just doing the math, if you had 500 hives, and just did splits every year and let them make their own queens. Doing the labor yourself , you could guesstimate it'd take you 2-4 days to split them all, depending on how fast you went. You'd just have the cost of the frames and boxes.  Using the wax cardboard nuc boxes would minimize your overhead, and you charge back the cost of the box (i.e. $5). 

Average price here for 5 frame nucs $75 (with box exchange. Add $5 for the cardboard box)

$80 x 500 = $40,000 every year, and still have 500 splits for your on hand stock for next year.  Oh yea.....and you get to keep your day job!

On the other, here's my two cents worth:

Pollination business: least amount of work, greatest amount of return.  If you got the hives, put them on trailers, then just pull and unhitch.  Miminum labor required.  Not many State regulations, unless you cross State lines.  Local business is easy! 

Honey production: more State Health regulations with raising & preparing honey for retail sale (see other threads).  More equipment needed, more labor needed to prepare. More labor needed to sale, if selling retail.

Other Bee products (wax, propolis, royal jelly, pollen) :  still some regulations with retail sales. Much smaller market for these specialty products, however locally near me, pollen is in great demand.  Homeopathic customers really like it for allergies.  More labor required harvesting these.

Dr/B
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« Reply #12 on: September 22, 2007, 05:53:55 PM »

ugh ugh i know which part is the most profitable.
it's when you realise you aren't gonna make a fortune so you sell your whole lot. ahahahahahahhahaha
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« Reply #13 on: September 22, 2007, 09:36:18 PM »

Thanks for the insight. I appreciate you all.

$40k extra per year selling 500 nucs isn't something to shy at. That's great! Especially if you can keep your day job, and just do that on some Saturdays, etc. That's more than I made in the stock market in the last 5 years - HAHA!

For pollination, what are some typical prices, and how many weeks or months can you have your hives out?

There's lots of farming here in Utah. Alfalfa, hay, corn, my uncle owns a peach farm, etc. I currently have my hive in a very small orchard down the street from my house. In exchange for letting me keep them there, the owner gets the bees pollinating. The owner of the orchard commented that he's never had as many and as beautiful fruit as he has this year. It might of course be a seasonal thing, but I'm proud that my bees have been a part of it all.

I'd like to put a plan together for next year to make this a profitable hobby. I love beekeeping and would probably do it full-time if I could figure out a great plan to make it work (given I have only had 1 hive and this is my first year!), but part-time is just as good for now.

Anyone know of gov't subsidies that come to bee "farmers"? I saw a piece on TV about how subsidies come to farmers who own special agricultural land, even if they don't use it for farming, like they're supposed to!

UtahBees
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« Reply #14 on: September 23, 2007, 08:25:57 AM »

Right now I'll be glad to get ANY ROI.  grin

I can agree with that!  grin

As a hobbyist, the best ROI in doing removals. If you do AHB, you can make even more.

Let's take this discussion one step further and ask the question:

  • What is required?
  • What is the typical charge?
  • How many days out of the year can you do this in your area?


Equipment:
Minimum stuff - Bee vac, Ladders,  hammer/pry bars,  circular saw
Other stuff - pole saw, roto-zip, scafolding, sawz-all
knowlegde - You need to understand how buildings are constructed and general engineering skills are also good because you usually need to modify your attack once you start opening up the structure.


Typical charge - each job is different, you have to account for things like height from ground, type of material you need to remove, etc.  I would say $250-300 is the average for a cut-out.  I get $50-75 for hornets/wasps/yellow jackets,  but they usually take less than an hour and I do them on the way home from work.   I also quote price on cut-outs as 4 hours and charge by the hour after that.   I've never had a customer complain about the cost after they see how many bees there actually are.  Of course you get those that think I should do it for free that I politely say best of luck and walk away.  Those aren't the people you want to deal with anyway.  Don't forget, you also get some nice feral colonies too.

How many days of the year - I usually start getting calls around April and continue through October.   The Spring and Fall seem to be the busiest.  Spring seems to be people that thought they would die over the Winter, and Fall seems to be the procrastinators that now need to get it done before Winter.  Once you get hooked up with a couple of exterminators (they don't like dealing with honeybees) and a few realtors,  you will be as busy as you want. 

Quote
$40k extra per year selling 500 nucs isn't something to shy at. That's great! Especially if you can keep your day job, and just do that on some Saturdays, etc.
Your not gonna raise and sell 500 nucs on just some Saturdays... tongue
Quote
I'd like to put a plan together for next year to make this a profitable hobby.

Until I started to do removals, it was touch and go each year whether I would be in the black or red.   Now that I do removals,  I have never came close to being in the red cheesy    I have moved most of my hives to HSC and Styrofoam boxes this year and still have some $$ to spare.   I have also gotten some great feral colonies to add to my stock.

Don't get me wrong,  removals aren't all peaches and cream,  but then again, there is nothing with beekeeping that doesn't have associated issues.
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« Reply #15 on: September 23, 2007, 11:37:23 AM »

Michael, I loved your quote from G.M. Doolittle.  Brought some very nice and fuzzy feelings to my soul.  Have a wonderful day, beautiful life we live.  Cindi
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« Reply #16 on: September 24, 2007, 07:42:30 AM »

I split the discussion on mead and distilling into a new post in an attempt to keep this post on topic.

The mead and distilling discussion can be found here -> http://forum.beemaster.com/index.php?topic=11348.0
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« Reply #17 on: September 24, 2007, 08:27:34 AM »

Quote
I split the discussion on mead and distilling into a new post in an attempt to keep this post on topic.

The mead and distilling discussion can be found here -> http://forum.beemaster.com/index.php?topic=11348.0


Now that is a thought, Robo!!

If you can distill some mead, and sell mead "whiskey" under the table, you can make some great profits!!! evil

 rolleyes
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« Reply #18 on: September 24, 2007, 11:58:05 AM »

I gave away more than I sold this year. I love to give it away. My most valuable element of breekeeping has been the knowledge I have learned. Also, my yard is more productive than ever. I have old apple trees that have been neglected and they didnt have fruit last year, but this year there are hundreds of apples, I get three or four timres the number of cukes, beans etc. Its truly an investment in my yard and it is worth it!
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« Reply #19 on: September 30, 2007, 11:50:24 AM »

In my case the most to least in demand in farmers market has been

Honey,
Lip balms and skin cream,
candles

best profit ...... lip balms, skin cream. Eg:lip tubes, $0.09 ingredients, $0.20 empty tube, $3.00 sell, not bad eh?

All year average would be lip balms and hand cream as it was very easy to get them into retail outlets at 50% retail price, and as I am in a cold climate prob. doesn't hurt either.

Candles were a great gift and although didn't make $$ saved a bunch not having to buy commercial gifts. As well 'candle' people will kiss the ground you walk on introducing them to a clean alternative to parafin candles.

FWIW    lol


cheers

peter
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« Reply #20 on: September 30, 2007, 12:04:24 PM »

Hey Robo,

I just ordered one of the BeeMax poystyrene hives. They look to me like such a good idea, esp. here where the temps. from season to season vary here from +40°C to -40°C

How do you like yours??

cheers

peter
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« Reply #21 on: September 30, 2007, 12:13:19 PM »

>How do you like yours??

If they made them in eight frame I'd use them more.  I tried to use them to overwinter "nucs" (ten frame medium hives) and the condensation wasn't so great.  On the other hand a friend near here has some in a full blown three box medium hive and they were ready to split in March.

If only they made them in eight frame boxes...
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« Reply #22 on: October 10, 2007, 10:40:41 AM »

Hey Robo,

How do you like yours??

Sorry Peter, missed this post.

I just started with them this Spring, so have no winter experience yet.  So far, I have really no major complaints about them,  I was skeptical at first, but decided to give them a try on Finsky's advise.  Painting was a pain until I started spraying instead of brushing.  I do notice more condensation as Michael mentioned.  I have a couple that I am using for double 5 frame nucs for this winter.  I have upper entrances and the capability to heat if needed. 

On a positive note, I am really pleased with the frame rest design,  they allow the bees to move under the frame tabs, so no smooshing bees.
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« Reply #23 on: October 10, 2007, 11:57:31 AM »

Hey Robo,

Thnx for reply.

As per my std. M.O. I agonized over the price ($280-300) shipping and taxes in but really fell for the insulating idea, esp. important here I think w/our 90°F summers and not unheard of -40°F spells in winter and decided to make my own 10 frame version (as M.B.post) using Dadent style frames but slightly modified as I subtracted 1/8 in. off the 'thickness' for S.C. regression.

Since you've had some experience with these and run a few would it be possible to get a few close up pics of the best points like the aforementioned frame lip/rest and any other 'high point'??

I am going to do the same as my horizontal hive which is a 1/4in ply skin w/1-1/2in styro lining for insulation. I was planning on dadoing out a 1-1/2 in wood strip on the top for a frame rest and leaving the outer skin 1/4in. 'proud' and recess the bottom 1/4in. so they 'lock' together.

I have a similarly built/insulated TBH and identical 3/4in. solid wood one to compare to the the insulated one, I didn't have it employed in the hottest part of summer as it is stocked w/a summer chimney removal, but especially in the fall seems that the ladies work longer and start earlier as I suspect the core temp. to be more constant. They also kicked out the drones 2 wks later which I take to support that hypotenuse....... but I've been wrong before    lol     I have both side by each in the city and even tho there has been a few 'soft' frosts and one (-5°C) hardish one they are still (both) pounding back the pollen and I'd suspect nectar. Country flowers have been gone for almost a month now with goldenrod and asters being the last.

Now busy making frame parts for I was anticipating 2 deeps for the nest and 4 meds. for the supers per hive. Do you think that would be sufficient??

The hard/long part is making all the jigs for the small ware but once done will carefully label and store together so the next one will be quite a bit easier and much faster.

Been taking pictures as I go and plan to add a 'D.I.Y.' page to the 'ooptecTBH' website as I cut down some surplus 1 X 6's for the Dadent Frames and figure the rest of the matl's will be somewhere in the $50-60 range.

$300 for pre-made is 60 pint jars or 80 lbs.of honey sales lost. Not that I'm doing it for a living but so far managed for O.P. to support hobby and I like it that way    lol

thnx
cheers 

peter
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« Reply #24 on: October 31, 2007, 04:13:21 PM »

For my neighbor, UtahBees . . . . thie is an old thread I know.  My experience in Northern Utah is that premium raw honey sells very well.  As I have underscored on my web page, I sell the old fashioned look, gussied up in mason jars with a chunck of comb in the wide mouth pints.  Those are all but sold out at $8.00 per, and the buyers get a reusable canning jar.  My quarts sold out at $14.00.  It will take me 2 more seasons to see black, but I have everything . . . 9 frame radial and all the rest.  Until I retire, I will enjoy selling my honey for top dollar around town, with an occasional online order.  I wish I had youth on my side like you do . . . . I'd try making and selling nucs.  Bee well . . . lets talk sometime.  JP
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