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  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2015
    Location
    Champaign, Illinois
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    2,153

    Default At what number of hives do you become commercial?

    How many hives do you have to have before you cross into the realm of commercial beekeeping?
    You might be very surprised to find out the answer that I was told.
    Have been told a certain number and want to sort of poll the bee community to find out what number we think is correct.
    According to one of my bee supply catalogs that number is 300 or more.
    Hobby, sideliner, and commercial. I think I'm a sideliner.
    The number I was told, two different numbers, one state and the other federal are not 300. (lower)
    Depending on whose number I use I'm either commercial or not.
    Am leaning towards not.
    Internet credibility is an oxymoron

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
    Location
    Rader, Greene County, Tennessee, USA
    Posts
    9,724

    Default Re: At what number of hives do you become commercial?

    What is the significance of defining oneself as "commercial" or not?


    Note that historically, the USDA / NASS arbitrarily set a limit of 5 hives as to whether or not a beekeeper was included in annual agriculture production statistics.
    2016 also marks the first time NASS is collecting data from honey bee operations of all sizes. In the past, we only surveyed honey bee operations with five colonies or more. Now we collect the following data from operations with fewer than five colonies: number of honey producing colonies, yield per colony, and production. This newly collected information is reported separately and therefore does not alter the current honey data series.

    https://www.nass.usda.gov/Surveys/Gu...Bee_and_Honey/
    Graham
    USDA Zone 7A Elevation 1400 ft

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2016
    Location
    Washington, USA
    Posts
    317

    Default Re: At what number of hives do you become commercial?

    What's all the secrecy about the "numbers" you were given, aunt betty?
    Care2share?
    Somebody forgot to give my bees a copy of the book.
    Zone 6B

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    Location
    Marshall county, AL
    Posts
    3,055

    Default Re: At what number of hives do you become commercial?

    IMO hive number should have little to do with it.

    If you make your living from beekeeping, you're a commercial beek.
    If you make a decent amount of money from beekeeping and still work a "public" job, you're a sideliner.
    If you sell a little honey and 2-3 splits a year, you're a hobby beek.
    The more I learn about bees, the less I know.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2015
    Location
    Champaign, Illinois
    Posts
    2,153

    Default Re: At what number of hives do you become commercial?

    Low numbers. Questionable source.
    Ten and Fifty.
    When asked about this topic the city says "ask the city attorney".
    That's where I said woa and quit asking questions.
    Tempting to show up at club meeting, point finger at people with more than ten, and call them commercial beekeepers.
    That'd get a good laugh.
    There is only one commercial beekeeper within 50 miles.
    His name is Burns.

    The city only has one rule. No commercial beekeeping. Now do you see why I'd like a universal definition?
    They can't define it without a sit-down meeting with an attorney?
    Internet credibility is an oxymoron

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Location
    Alachua County, FL, USA
    Posts
    9,541

    Default Re: At what number of hives do you become commercial?

    Florida defines Commercial as over 501.
    americasbeekeeper.com
    beekeeper@americasbeekeeper.com

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    Location
    Colorado Springs, CO United States
    Posts
    1,152

    Default Re: At what number of hives do you become commercial?

    Quote Originally Posted by aunt betty View Post
    The city only has one rule. No commercial beekeeping.
    Then you are NOT a commercial beekeeper
    Please excuse me, I am now free to go manage & treat ;)
    my ladies the best way I know how.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Apr 2017
    Location
    Eugene, Oregon
    Posts
    23

    Default Re: At what number of hives do you become commercial?

    Our city has a three hive limit. (I don't think any beeks in town follow that rule, though.) Our state does require hives to be registered exceeding five, however. :-/
    First year beekeeper with two Kenyan Top Bar Hives.
    My bee journey can be found here.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2017
    Location
    oak harbor washington USA
    Posts
    2

    Default Re: At what number of hives do you become commercial?

    the irs defines it with profit motive and time spent.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Knox, Pa. USA
    Posts
    4,940

    Default Re: At what number of hives do you become commercial?

    Quote Originally Posted by aunt betty View Post
    The city only has one rule. No commercial beekeeping. ?
    If you do not star in commercials, then you are a side liner. I have in excess of 100 and am but a exuberant hobbyist.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jul 2016
    Location
    Ukraine, the edge
    Posts
    34

    Default Re: At what number of hives do you become commercial?

    For now we don't have limitations on hives number, but apiary should be registered for biosecurity reasons. Also, IIRC, if you selling "extra produce" from your household and don't exceed "50 minimal monthly wages" per year with your sales, you don' t pay income tax and don't need to register business

  12. #12
    Join Date
    May 2015
    Location
    Champaign, Illinois
    Posts
    2,153

    Default Re: At what number of hives do you become commercial?

    Quote Originally Posted by fieldsofnaturalhoney View Post
    Then you are NOT a commercial beekeeper
    Thanks. That's what I need to hear. Now would you mind testifying at the trial when and if that ever happens? Professional witness.
    That means you get paid.
    Losing sleep over this topic. Have well over ten bee hives.
    Suddenly getting an abatement order would pretty well finish me.

    Assigning a number, say three, could create issues as well.
    For instance I had a swarm last Saturday that gathered about 2 feet off the ground in my neighbor's fence. Suppose I'd told her sorry you're on your own.
    I can not legally capture that swarm because it puts me over the limit. Call someone else and by the way they want gas money at least.

    Count Von Count says I have over 20 full size and about 30 nucs. Making that go down to ten overnight would be a heck of a trick.
    Sorry. I'm upset and need to be talked down off the tree limb. Up at 5 am worrying about honeybee legalities. Not a happy place.
    Internet credibility is an oxymoron

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Mar 2014
    Location
    Red Bud, IL, USA
    Posts
    964

    Default Re: At what number of hives do you become commercial?

    To mbear's point, as I remember the tax laws the IRS isn't specific to the word "commercial" but does require the ag forms for those using beekeeping as a "business." However, they are very specific with the term "hobbyist." Paraphrasing, a hobbist can claim the amount of investment/expenses up to the point it does not exceed the profit, any profit above the expenses can be taxed

    I'd probably only use the "IRS defense/definition" if you've identified the beekeeping on your taxes previously.

    As a short term back up plan, do you have a trailer and friend with space outside the city?
    “The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” -George Bernard Shaw

  14. #14
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Knox, Pa. USA
    Posts
    4,940

    Default Re: At what number of hives do you become commercial?

    From a legal standpoint it can be whatever you can legally defend with plausible deniability. If you have bees for the sake of making a profit of the bees themselves then you would be a commercial bee keeper. Selling nucs. splits, or packages may constitute a commercial beekeeper. However one could argue with sound reasoning that keeping bees to sell the byproducts Such as honey does not make you a commercial beekeeper. it makes you a commercial honey producer.

    A good example of this is the horse industry. Commercial Farmers have many different tax and code advantages in all states. However owning horses even making the hay and grain to feed them does not make one a farmer. Many counties and states argue that unless one uses those horses in a agricultural endeavor for profit then they are a hobby or pets. Even the use of said horses on a hack line (horseback riding for profit)does not constitute an agricultural endeavor. Raising growing and breading the horse for sale would constitute a an agriculture endeavor and make one a commercial farmer.

    With countless cases as precedence available on horse keeping. one could easily argue that sale of the byproducts from honey bees does not make one a "commercial beekeeper" any more than the sale of manure makes one a commercial farmer! but rather a commercial honey producer.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    Location
    Marshall county, AL
    Posts
    3,055

    Default Re: At what number of hives do you become commercial?

    Quote Originally Posted by aunt betty View Post
    Thanks. That's what I need to hear. Now would you mind testifying at the trial when and if that ever happens? Professional witness.
    That means you get paid.
    Losing sleep over this topic. Have well over ten bee hives.
    Suddenly getting an abatement order would pretty well finish me.

    Assigning a number, say three, could create issues as well.
    For instance I had a swarm last Saturday that gathered about 2 feet off the ground in my neighbor's fence. Suppose I'd told her sorry you're on your own.
    I can not legally capture that swarm because it puts me over the limit. Call someone else and by the way they want gas money at least.

    Count Von Count says I have over 20 full size and about 30 nucs. Making that go down to ten overnight would be a heck of a trick.
    Sorry. I'm upset and need to be talked down off the tree limb. Up at 5 am worrying about honeybee legalities. Not a happy place.
    MOVE OUT OF TOWN! I can put 50,000,000 hives anywhere I want them on our property. Okay, so I made up the number to prove a point, but still, country life is where it's at. Just don't move out of town and complain about the smells of the country. I spread chicken litter on the pasture behind my house a couple years ago and a new neighbor lady told me it smelled horrible, made the houseflies horrible and couldn't stand it. She said we never had to put up with things like this until we moved out of town. I listened to her complaints, then I told her the answer to her problem was to move back to town, then I turned around and got back in the spreader truck and kept going. They did move about a year later. The new neighbor that lives in that house was complaining about me shooting a shotgun in my backyard a couple weeks ago. I only shot it twice. I told him I had some ear plugs he could have. Another city slicker moved to town. Me and my country born and bred neighbors get along like bees and pollen, and I'd defend theirs and they'd defend mine. It's the folks wanting city living in the country that bother me.

    Sorry for the side track.... but seriously. MOVE
    The more I learn about bees, the less I know.

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Location
    Western North Carolina
    Posts
    2,587

    Default Re: At what number of hives do you become commercial?

    Quote Originally Posted by Brad Bee View Post
    It's the folks wanting city living in the country that bother me.

    Sorry for the side track.... but seriously. MOVE
    Amen, brother.
    The bees know!
    AKA Wormtounge

  17. #17
    Join Date
    May 2015
    Location
    Champaign, Illinois
    Posts
    2,153

    Default Re: At what number of hives do you become commercial?

    PROFIT? I could prove that I'm operating at a loss up to this point in time.
    Mann Lake, Betterbee, and others are the only ones making money off my bees at this time.

    "A sideliner is a beekeeper who actively seeks profit from his or her beekeeping operation while preserving a different source of income at the same time". Source: KELLY BEEKEEPING

    I believe that I fall into the "not even a sideliner" category at this time.
    Have been putting all sales money back into the apiary. Getting where it's sustaining itself.
    Close to making a profit but not yet.
    Any sales from this season to be applied to a new extractor purchase.
    Again...Profit?

    Would like to be called a hobby beek. Just because I raised a couple nucs and sold some honey last summer does not exactly mean I am a commercial guy imo. Catching a swarm and selling it because you have too many in the yard already would turn us all commercial? I think not.
    Last edited by aunt betty; 05-20-2017 at 10:10 AM.
    Internet credibility is an oxymoron

  18. #18
    Join Date
    May 2016
    Location
    Washington, USA
    Posts
    317

    Default Re: At what number of hives do you become commercial?

    The Bee Informed Partnership National Management Survey 2014-2015
    Bee Informed classifies on this basis:

    Backyard: fewer than 50 colonies
    Sideline: between 51 and 500 colonies
    Commercial: greater than 500 colonies

    Not saying that is the right answer. Just sharing.

    How do you fit 50 colonies (20 hives + 30 nucs) on property in the city? Are the hives visible or behind a fence?
    If not, maybe invest in a privacy fence so no finds reason to cause trouble?
    Somebody forgot to give my bees a copy of the book.
    Zone 6B

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