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Author Topic: Ca$h in on bees!  (Read 6180 times)
out4trout
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« on: March 30, 2008, 04:14:34 AM »

this is a very general question and i know there are way too many variables to mention, but i was curious, all things being equal...decent year for the bees and all that, ability to market and sell everything you harvest, ect...how many hives would you need to make some money?  how many to make $10k, $20k, $50k...
what about if you through queen rearing and nuc selling in the mix?
if you were starting out and wanted to grow as fast as you could, and make money (turn a profit) as soon as posible what would your strategy be?
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Bee-Bop
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« Reply #1 on: March 30, 2008, 08:50:08 AM »

Personally, I would take a few years and get some subject education and experience.
Then set down and take a hard look at the subject.

I know, this isn't the way people want to do things these days. It should be only a computer click away !

Bee-Bop
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pdmattox
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« Reply #2 on: March 30, 2008, 09:23:56 AM »

Fist off I think the first year will be build up and then the following january if hives are still strong you could send them to the almonds. then when they come back you could split up and make nucs to sell. You will still have a couple of honey flows that you could capitalize on as well. There are other ways and  practices.
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Michael Bush
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« Reply #3 on: March 30, 2008, 10:17:21 AM »

I think the important thing to realize is that it's farming.  One year you have a bumper crop and the price is good. Another year you have a bumper crop and the price is terrible.  Another year you get no crop and have to feed them.  Another year you get an small crop... etc. etc. etc.

It is NOT a steady income.
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Michael Bush
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randydrivesabus
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« Reply #4 on: March 30, 2008, 11:15:16 AM »

In addition to MB's excellent advice I would like to add that you need to treat it like a business meaning that before you start you need to do some kind of business plan. How much equipment will you have to buy? Where will you get the money to do so? Where are you going to put all those hives? Where are you going to sell your products? Is there an available labor force? Is there an available labor force that would want to work bees, process bee products, etc?
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out4trout
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« Reply #5 on: March 31, 2008, 05:37:04 PM »

thanks for the posts!
really i plan on starting with 4 hives...hoping one or two will survive the winter and maybe getting up to as many as 10 or so hives over the next 5 years.  the question i posted above was not one comming from a man "looking to get rich" on bees.  i asked the question purely from a curiosity standpoint.  hypothetically, what would someone do, or what is the best way to do this...what have people done...just wondering what others are doing, how they make money doing it, how they do so much with so little, ect.  i guess i was trying to start a disscussion, not so much quit my job, liquidate my savings and buy bees...
just curious is all!!  Smiley

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Michael Bush
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« Reply #6 on: March 31, 2008, 10:08:51 PM »

It's like buying stock.  It depends on how well the company (the bees) do and what the price on the market (the honey price) does.  Some years you CAN'T make any money.
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Michael Bush
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KONASDAD
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« Reply #7 on: April 06, 2008, 11:06:48 PM »

I started w/ 2 hives(one deep when started) in May 06. Firts year, I got about 4 gallons from the two. They survived winter, and the next year, I got 19 gallons from the two, started three nucs and used three extra mediums to expand my nucs for winter. That was aproximately another 90lbs9 or more) of honey I didn't extract, but all 5 hives survived winter, which was the goal. I sold all of my honey easily, had to buy 2 5gal pails from a frind just so I had honey on hand. I spent far more than I made. I averaged just over 5.50/lb which is more than most beeks get for honey. Probably could have sold it for more, but I needed it to go fast just for word of mouth advertising, and I give away a lot of honey as promotionals. As for a profit, not likely to occur for another year or so. Expenses flatten out w/ time and honey quantities (should) will expand w/ time. If that happens, I will hopefully have positive cash flow, but it will never replace my day job.
If you make your own woodenware, borrow an extractor( i do) and keep costs down, you will get into the black quicker than I am. Business cards, fair table rentals, websites, signs etc add up. Its a lot to absorb(fiscally) the first year for me, but it is very worth while endeavor. The hard part is charging friends for honey. My friends dont see it as a business, but a hobby only. I give them the first one, but they wont buy a second. Just as well, I sell it to strangers instead. So, keep bees for the fun, and if it grows, start to sell and expand slowly. All the other suggestions are also very good advice as well.
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peggjam
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« Reply #8 on: April 07, 2008, 02:56:08 PM »

You can either make honey, or build numbers, it is hard to do both.  If the weather was perfect, and the flows on time, maybe.  As MB says, it's farming, and nothing is a given.  Forget the almonds, perfect way to not only lose your bees, but also your life savings rolleyes.
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Paraplegic Racehorse
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« Reply #9 on: April 07, 2008, 03:57:15 PM »

All the previous advice is great. Read it. Use it. If you want to do this as a side-line, supplemental income, it's still all to the good. If you want to keep bees as a full-time agri-business, you definitely need to do your research, as suggested. Also note you will probably not be able to get any sort of business loan or grant for this.

That said:

Let's work the numbers, shall we? Let's ignore pollination contracts, because not all of us can have them (there's no notable market for pollination except in the contiguous 48 states). We'll assume that you get an average harvest of, say, 100 pounds of honey and five pounds of wax per hive (not unreasonable, but perhaps a little high. Anyway, they're nice, round numbers.) Let's also assume honey and wax prices stay steady at $2.00/lb and $4.00/lb respectively. Note that this is an awful lot of assuming, here.

Using those numbers, we can reasonably expect, in an average year, about $220 per hive. So, to gross just over $10k, you need to have about 50 hives.

Sort of. First-year hives output, essentially, zero. Expect 20% hive-loss, annually, assuming you don't get struck by CCD. So, you need closer to 60 hives to gross that same $10k. For each $10k you want, double that number of hives.

If you are building your numbers, you are probably not getting a harvest of any notable size. This, of course, depends on how aggressively you're expanding. Example: my initial plan was to start with 15 hives and expand to about 500 in five years. That's pretty aggressive. I like that plan and will probably stick pretty close. I don't expect a harvest of any size until year FOUR. That means three to four years of effectively ZERO income from my apiaries.

Now, factor in your expenses. Fuel, maintenance and repairs for your truck, forklifts, etc. Feed: sugar or corn syrup, honey (feeding back some of your hard-earned crop?), pollen supplements, medications, etc. Woodenware can be built or purchased; in the end it costs about the same to build as to buy. Packages and queens. BeeQuick or whatever you use on your fume-boards. Day-labor costs for those days you need an assistant. None of these are equity expenses. Yes, I know you could consider the woodenware and bees, themselves, as equity expenses but they are so short-term that is better to consider to them as expendables, like fuel, feed and medications. None of these can be readily predicted with any certainty. Still, it's probably safe to assume that numbers-building years will consume approximately 150% of your otherwise-expected gross (remember, building years will generate no actual income, so this is 100% outlay). Once established, you are probably safe expecting these numbers to be in the range of 35-50% of your gross.

More expenses: Bee suits, hive tools, smokers, trucks, forklifts, extractors, settling tanks, filters, bottlers, packaging, labels, etc. These can get really expensive, fast. BUT these are equity costs. These are items you should expect a very long life out of. If you buy the big-ticket items used, you can keep these costs down below $10k pretty easily, but you'll wind up spending more, in the long run, on maintenance and repair.

So, the reality is: Just like any traditional soil-based agri-business, you should probably not expect any kind of profit for 10-15 years. Which means, you need to think big and you need to plan long-term. You need to be thinking at least five years ahead and probably keep loose plans out to 20 years.
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peggjam
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« Reply #10 on: April 07, 2008, 08:29:25 PM »

"So, the reality is: Just like any traditional soil-based agri-business, you should probably not expect any kind of profit for 10-15 years. Which means, you need to think big and you need to plan long-term. You need to be thinking at least five years ahead and probably keep loose plans out to 20 years.'

If you don't make enough to offset expenses, within 3 years you shouldn't even bother.  You diffently need to make enough to offset all expenses within 5 years, or you'll be broke(unless you only have a few hives, in that case you'd be alright).
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Moonshae
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« Reply #11 on: April 07, 2008, 09:36:35 PM »

If you don't make enough to offset expenses, within 3 years you shouldn't even bother.

And if you're (in the US) planning on declaring a loss to the IRS, You'll need to turn a profit for every 3 of 5 years. So...either you take the losses undeclared initially, or you limit your expansion based on your income. Presumably, the way to get around this is to buy a business from a retiring beekeeper...all the expense in one year, but...you'd better know what you're doing to keep the business going right off the bat.

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Paraplegic Racehorse
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« Reply #12 on: April 08, 2008, 07:18:38 PM »

If you don't make enough to offset expenses, within 3 years you shouldn't even bother.  You diffently need to make enough to offset all expenses within 5 years, or you'll be broke(unless you only have a few hives, in that case you'd be alright).

My bad. I should have phrased that "expect to be living hand-to-mouth for 10-15 years" because that's generally about how long it will take you to recover, financially, from your investments.

The advantage to bees over soil-based agri-business is that you can pretty handily work the bees on a weekends-and-vacations basis until you get to about 2,000 hives. That, and you're not stuck in a monstrous mortgage on lots of high-value land. Smiley
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BMAC
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« Reply #13 on: April 23, 2008, 01:11:14 PM »

You can either make honey, or build numbers, it is hard to do both.  If the weather was perfect, and the flows on time, maybe.  As MB says, it's farming, and nothing is a given.  Forget the almonds, perfect way to not only lose your bees, but also your life savings rolleyes.

I wouldn't say forget the Almonds all together.  I know a few big Beeks that only send about 1/3 of their force to the Almonds. 

Risky business that almond country.  Certainly high risk for what seems like meagar returns.  Atleast if you lose 1/3 you can still recover from it without selling the farm.
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bberry
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« Reply #14 on: April 28, 2008, 09:19:51 PM »

I'd like to also just throw into the mix that a great way to find out the realities of any of this firsthand is to find a local beekeeper working in the hive # you are interested in working (farmers markets are great) and ask if you can offer a pair of strong hands during harvest or whatever. This gives you firsthand info on what is involved and an educated source. I went begging to my local beeks this year offering work in exchange for much needed equipment as the cash just wasn't there rolleyes and ended up getting some great experience working with hundreds of hives. Not only did i get the equip but i got a few swarms by going on calls they couldn't take and mentors if i need them.
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BMAC
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« Reply #15 on: April 28, 2008, 10:14:36 PM »

bberry I think that is a great way to find out if you want to beek at that level.
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wvbelcher
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« Reply #16 on: May 27, 2008, 10:16:24 PM »

Sounds interesting, but making a lot of money raising bees requires a lot of time and patience.
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hankdog1
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« Reply #17 on: June 12, 2008, 02:30:53 AM »

You said something about hitting the 10K mark well i know my grandpa never hit that when we had bees before or even came close.  But i do know a local beekeeper that helps me out some (okay when i'm freaking out cause i don't know what i'm looking at) and he told me it took him 150 hives to make 10k of course that was some years back with a bumper crop.  Just to give you an idea looking from the purely honey selling side of it and of course his was all sold retail also.
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