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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm a chef and thinking of starting 10 hives next spring in an attempt to enter the honey biz. My question is: what are the percentage breakdowns for a honey producer? For example, in the restaurant we usually figure our cost of doing biz this way: figure a meal costs $10, $3 of that is the restaurants cost to buy the food, $3 of that is also covering labor costs, and $3 of that is overhead (utilities, rent, etc) so we have 30% food cost, labor, and overhead totaling 90% cost of doing biz and 10% profit. In reality most restaurants only make 3-6% profits. So, is there any such breakdown for honey producers?
 

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In most businesses the costs and prices are fairly fixed. It's really only the demand that might change some, but if you advertise and you have good product you can probably predict fairly well what your profit will be. Beekeeping is agriculture. And agriculture is all about the weather. Often in ways you don't expect. Too much rain can be as bad as not enough. The right amount at exactly the right times is rare. In an awesome year I've gotten 200 pounds per hive. In a bad year I've fed them 60 pounds of sugar and gotten nothing. It's hard to say what an "average year" is when even the less extreme years are pretty erratic numbers. Probably you can say Nebraska makes about 40lbs of honey per hive in an average year. But we never have an average year. Maybe some places are less extreme, but I sort of doubt it...
 

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welcome to agriculture, as Michael said the big variable is the weather, not controllable. pests, diseases and bee behavior, we have influence on this stuff up to a point. for the small guy we actually control retail price, this is unusual in agriculture. the large operators rely on the price set by the commodity market, calling this a challenge identifies you as an extreme optimist but the big guys do have real economies of scale. the big guys also have to worry about the price of diesel fuel... as for getting down to percentages like a good manager in the restaurant business not too good is the answer. 10 hives is miniscule, 100 hives is part time... I saw a tee shirt that said "I used to have money now I have bees" this is the best example of immediate realistic profit potential that I have seen if you figure ALL of the costs.
 

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As in any business you will find your first year costs through the roof with little return. So you have to be able to sustain your costs/investments for the first year and expect little if any return. I have over $1,500 invested in three hives so far and probably will not see any honey this year, unless a fall flow comes on.

I am a first year beekeeper, but have owned a couple small businesses, this has been the case in most of those ventures as well.
 

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i'm sure someone will prove me wrong. but i don't think small scale beekeeping (or honey production if that's what you're really talking about) can be broken down like you're asking. because, like michael said, you're trying to predict the unpredictable. maybe if you expand to 200 hives it would take some edge off the extremes.

your real question should be much simpler: if i invested $300-$500 per hive (plus your time and education) and made $0 income, would i still do it? most of us have said, "YES PLEASE!"
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Ok. Let's go at this from a different angle. I already know my initial outlay for purchasing hives and equipment and don't expect to see a return on that cash for a few years. What is the cost for running a hive for the year? Feed, supplements, mite control, requeening, etc.
 

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Ok. Let's go at this from a different angle. I already know my initial outlay for purchasing hives and equipment and don't expect to see a return on that cash for a few years. What is the cost for running a hive for the year? Feed, supplements, mite control, requeening, etc.
You forgot YOUR TIME OR LABOR. One factor I have found with my students is they want to be big and profitable. One or two hives does not consume a lot of time. Where as 100 take time. You also need to have a mentor to learn from.
Michael Bush, Thefatbeeman and others here are great teachers. You cannot learn honey beekeeping from only books. It takes hands on learning and a good mentor to learn this trade.

45 plus years beekeeper.
 

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Ok. Let's go at this from a different angle. I already know my initial outlay for purchasing hives and equipment and don't expect to see a return on that cash for a few years. What is the cost for running a hive for the year? Feed, supplements, mite control, requeening, etc.
$150 to $200 is what I have heard.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Don't worry, I was definitely not going to forget my time. And I am in the process of looking for a mentor. I have contacted one guy but he is a commercial pollinator so he is probably pretty busy. I have the number of a farmer nearby who has bees and am calling him tomorrow.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 · (Edited)
>What is the cost for running a hive for the year? Feed, supplements, mite control, requeening, etc.

What I spent per hive over the last six years:

Feed: $0
Supplements: $0
Mite control: $0
Requeening: $0
Hey! I was just reading "realistic expectations" on your website and you said you fed 60 lbs of sugar to every hive one year. Unless you have a free source for sugar that would not equal "Feed=$0". Although I really like what you have to say there. Thanks that will be a font of knowledge for me as I have decided to go as chemical free as possible.
 

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:)the last 2 posts are a perfect example of ask 12 beekeepers a question you will get at least 13 completely different answers. mr. bush seems to have 2 answers.
 

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Maplevalley,
The answer to your questions has so many variable involved in figuring that answer out that there actually is no answer other than, perhaps, Depends.
 

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>Hey! I was just reading "realistic expectations" on your website and you said you fed 60 lbs of sugar to every hive one year. Unless you have a free source for sugar that would not equal "Feed=$0".

Yes I did. I also said that in this thread. And it was NOT in the last six years. In the last six years I've spend $0 and fed nothing. But have I spent money ever on sugar? Of course. If I buy any, it's usually 1,000 pounds...
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Sorry, I was just trying to be sarcastic. Doesn't always come across very well in this medium. Thanks for all your info. So, instead of feeding do you just combine weaker hives with stronger ones in fall?
 

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>So, instead of feeding do you just combine weaker hives with stronger ones in fall?

If a hive does not have enough stores in the fall, I would give them stores from one that has an excess or, if that isn't available, I feed them. Weak and short on stores are not directly related. A very strong hive can be short on stores.

As far as weak hives, I used to combine weak hives, but in recent years have tried overwintering them, if I think they are small because of a late start. They often winter pretty well. If they are small because of a failing queen, and that is my assessment, I would probably dispose of the failing queen and combine with a small hive that has a good queen (but probably a late start). These do not winter well otherwise.
 

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this is my fifth season selling honey and i also sold nucs this year. looking strictly at cost of materials vs. sales i am just now getting into the black. since i formed an llc for the bee business the tax savings have made it indirectly more profitable. cost for my hours spent however likely puts me at paying myself less than minimum wage, but now that everything is paid for that may improve to some degree in future years.
 
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