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Discussion Starter #1
...ready for this one?

Alright, ...I'm just doing a little thinking off the cuff. I know a sideliner, who has 50 hives, + or - a few depending on the severity of the winter and the generosity of the bloom. I cannot get him to hint how much $$$ profit he thinks he gets off one average hive.

Can any of you commercial guys/gals tell me roughly the average $$$ yield of each of your hives. I know, I know, I'm sure it can vary. With my 21 colonies (12 of whom are nucs), I figured it like this. In a really good season, I figure I can get about 100 lbs of honey each off about a quarter of my hives. I would sell my honey for about $6 a pound. The theoretical $600 yield is a gross, so figuring costs for net, bring it down to a w.a.g. of $200?

I don't get 100 pounds of honey off ALL my hives (I wish!!). So, maybe the $200 is too conservative a figure, but maybe it makes up for the hives that yield considerably less, too?

So, doing the math, if you had 400 hives (and each one avgs $200) could one reasonably expect to net $80,000. I'm not talking about getting rich, I'm talking about earning a simple living, in something I'm passionately in love with. Enlighten me please. I know there's gotta be other costs here, cost of feed, indirect costs of processing equipment, capital, etc etc. that takes the $80K per year down to um, maybe $20K?
 

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Thats good math. But one has to figure their normal operating costs based on your location, management style (how you are going to medicate or not medicate and you preventive measures), Location / distances you travel between yards, initial wooden ware investments, replacement of wooden ware and maintenance, extraction equipment, storage and building for honey. Then factor in the fact that you are farming with the inherant weather, diesease and pestisides risks. I know this is not very specific but each of us has diffrent degrees of cost and risk depending again on location and styles that we must factor for ourselves. Good luck and best wishes for sucess wherther you stay hobby or business.

Mike
 

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The real question is...do you really want all the headaches of running a business? Not to rain on your parade, but make a list of all the pros and cons. Then seriously and HONESTLY look at all the cons. You won't be the first person to start a business out of a hobby that they "passionately love" to only end up with their worst nightmare!!! How many of these commercial guys are still as happy as when it was a hobby?

My advice..keep your day job and enjoy your hobby, sell a little honey, make some candles, play with the bees.....why make work out of it?

Having said that...if you still want to try to make a living with bees, give it all you got and I wish you the best of luck. Please prove me wrong!

Just my 2 cents.
 

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fatscher,

Just stumbled onto your post about employment! I'm humbled. Thank you for whatever part you play in the military so I can enjoy the freedoms so many of us take for granted. I only skimmed through that thread, but now I have a better bead on where you coming from and what you're looking for. So let me try to be more helpful, I love a challenge!

What's your time frame on retirement?

Where you currently live, are there any areas relatively close by to set up some bee yards to "grow" your business?

Assuming you have all the basic equipment, what kind of woodworking skills/tools do you have?

Steve
 

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First you have to ask yourself what is the real honey production per colony over time. Your hobbyist friend might not have the answer. Any commercials near you? Wellemeyer might have a better figure for you on the long time average of your area.

Second, can you do something with your bees that would be more profitable or give you a more consistant income than honey production alone. Honey production is tough, expensive, and undependable.

How about making nucs? Bees are cheaper to produce than honey, and it's something you can do on your own without hired labor. On the main flow, you could certainly start a nuc from every colony. Or, you could nuc your non-productive colonies. Once you have a supply of wintering nucs, you can expand your nuc operation by growing those nucs until mid-main flow and nuc them. I would say you could manage several hundred nucs.

If you wintered say 400 nucs and kept 100 to split each summer, you would have 200-300 to sell each spring. At 100-120 @, you just increased your income by many times over what honey production your apiaries could make you.

Just something to think about.
 

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I would sell my honey for about $6 a pound.
First off, money is the last taboo. People will graphically describe the details of their most intimate relations along with their sick compulsions and addictions before they tell you their check book balance or how much money they are making. I'm not surprised these other guys won't tell you how much...or maybe they don't really know!

Wow, if you can sell your honey for six bucks a pound, go for it!

My advice would be to sit down and figure your income at $2.00 a pound, $3.00 if you're really savvy and retail everything yourself--and this is very doable.

Refigure your operating costs, not just the cost of buying the woodenware, but also replacing deadouts, new queens (unless you want to raise your own), supplemental feeding, seasonal help, containers, more hive tools because you lost the other ones in the grass, etc.

I think there's good money in bees, but I've met quite a few people who want to borrow the money to buy everything new, hire the help to run the bees (and take the stings), then roll in the big bucks as they wholesale their honey in barrels.

It takes a lot of barrels to do it this way and the price your honey brings is closer to $1.30 to $1.50. maybe as high as $1.75 if you hang on to it until the spring. The hired help may have more money in their pockets than you and will probably drive nicer trucks.

And then there's a host of variables that will whip-saw you from one year to the next...kind of like farming. We are so weather dependent.

I hate to sound discouraging, so to be encouraging, my route has been to keep as many bees as my time allows, keep track of expenses, keep good records on production and then start looking forward to that time you can judge the expected crop and you have a good handle on the markets. By keeping your day job and entering the bee business, you'll have your first batch of equipment paid for.

I also buy used equipment (that's a topic for another thread), repair everything, make a bunch of my own equipment from discarded scrap wood, catch free swarms and sell most of my honey on a retail level at the farmer's market. I also sell a lot of 6-ounce bears--high price per pound but you need to sell a lot of them to make any money.

It can be done, but what I make per hive, on average, will vary from the guy across the road from me. Start small and you'll have a better handle on the real costs.

Grant
Jackson, MO
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Wow, if you can sell your honey for six bucks a pound, go for it!

My advice would be to sit down and figure your income at $2.00 a pound, $3.00 if you're really savvy and retail everything yourself--and this is very doable.

Refigure your operating costs, not just the cost of buying the woodenware, but also replacing deadouts, new queens (unless you want to raise your own), supplemental feeding, seasonal help, containers, more hive tools because you lost the other ones in the grass, etc.

I think there's good money in bees, but I've met quite a few people who want to borrow the money to buy everything new, hire the help to run the bees (and take the stings), then roll in the big bucks as they wholesale their honey in barrels.

It takes a lot of barrels to do it this way and the price your honey brings is closer to $1.30 to $1.50. maybe as high as $1.75 if you hang on to it until the spring. The hired help may have more money in their pockets than you and will probably drive nicer trucks.

And then there's a host of variables that will whip-saw you from one year to the next...kind of like farming. We are so weather dependent.

I hate to sound discouraging, so to be encouraging, my route has been to keep as many bees as my time allows, keep track of expenses, keep good records on production and then start looking forward to that time you can judge the expected crop and you have a good handle on the markets. By keeping your day job and entering the bee business, you'll have your first batch of equipment paid for.

I also buy used equipment (that's a topic for another thread), repair everything, make a bunch of my own equipment from discarded scrap wood, catch free swarms and sell most of my honey on a retail level at the farmer's market. I also sell a lot of 6-ounce bears--high price per pound but you need to sell a lot of them to make any money.

It can be done, but what I make per hive, on average, will vary from the guy across the road from me. Start small and you'll have a better handle on the real costs.

Grant
Jackson, MO
Awesome advice. My 6 bucks a pound figure is not my bulk price! I'm a really small time guy, but your prices make sense, to factor in a realistic pad of expectations, I think. Thank you, thank you, thank you! Lots for me to think about.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
can you do something with your bees that would be more profitable or give you a more consistant income than honey production alone. Honey production is tough, expensive, and undependable.

How about making nucs? Bees are cheaper to produce than honey, and it's something you can do on your own without hired labor.
Just something to think about.
Amen, brother, you have my attention. I am all about that idea, for sure! Can't wait to see your operation in 2 months.
 

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I'm not surprised that your friend can't or won't tell you how much profit he makes on each hive.

First of all, he probably doesn't know. I can't tell you how much it costs me to produce a pound of honey. Figuring that out isn't as simple as it might appear to be. It's complicated. If that's all I was doing then it wouldn't be, perhaps.

Secondly, if he knows, he may not want to tell you. I've met plenty of beekeepers who won't tell you how much they get for a one pound jar of honey. Their affreaid that you'll horn in on their market.

Figure out what profit you need to make from your hives and charge for your honey accordingly. You may not sell as much honey as the guy down the road, but you will make more profit.
 

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Mr. Glutton for punishment:

6 dollars a pound? If you can get 6 dollars a pounds for bulk honey, why don't you buy all of my bulk for 5 dollars a pound, and make a buck off me? I'd sure be happier. If that is in a jar, did I miss the cost of an approved honey processing facility, hot room, pump, tanks, filters, bottling machine, caper, labeler, loading dock, etc?

Roland
 

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> How about making nucs? Bees are cheaper to produce than honey, and it's something you can do on your own without hired labor.

And the schedule is far less demanding.

Moreover, if you do it right, you will never have to handle honey. IMO, next to dealing with wax, producing,handling and selling honey is the one thing I don't like about beekeeping.
 

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Hi fatscher! Glad you're hanging in there!
Ok, it sounds like you have 21 colonies now? Good for you!
Now, some folks think that you can reduce your overall costs and put more money in your pocket if you use resistant or survivor bees, and don't have to medicate for mites. You might want to research that angle. Of course, you need to realize you'll get vastly different opinions on the issue! :lookout:

If you decide to go that route, either by starting from scratch or requeening, and if you decide to raise and sell nucs, you might find the sale of "Resistant" or "Survivor mutts" "treatment free" to be a good selling point. Just some thoughts for consideration. There are people like me who will only buy that kind of bee, whatever genetic strain they might be.
Regards,
Steven
 

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If you want to make money in beekeeping sell equipment, nucs and packages to beekeepers.

How are your business skills? If you are going into business, knowing something about business in general, bookkeeping, accounting and such, is a good starting place. If that doesn't discourage you, then learning the beekeeping will be relatively easy. You already have a good idea about which path to follow by looking to Mike Palmer for instruction.
 

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I am a sideliner trying to run 125-150 hives and i cant tell you what i make on a hive in a year. each year is different. last year i made about a third of what i normally make due to the rainy weather. we are so dependent on the weather. I can tell you that it would be hard to make a living on just honey. I think a person needs to diversfy by producing honey, selling nucs or packages, and you need one other thing so you are not dependent on just one thing. Start small and pay for stuff as you go and dont borrow alot of money. let the business grow itself. with alot of hard work, luck and patience i think you can do it. I wish you all the luck ....David
 

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Not to discourage you but, if you are selling your honey other than retail, you are not going to get $6.00 per pound. This year's honey sold for about $1.30-$1.50. If you are going to sell retail, are you going to do all the beekeeping, extracting, bottling, marketing, delivering, etc.? And, even at retail, $6.00/pound is still pretty high.
We are commercial beekeepers and love it even if it is very hard sometimes.
 

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Mr. Glutton for punishment:

6 dollars a pound? If you can get 6 dollars a pounds for bulk honey, why don't you buy all of my bulk for 5 dollars a pound, and make a buck off me? I'd sure be happier. If that is in a jar, did I miss the cost of an approved honey processing facility, hot room, pump, tanks, filters, bottling machine, caper, labeler, loading dock, etc?

Roland
I retail 45-50,000 lbs at 2.75. It depends how you want to spend your money.

Approved honey processing facility - $25,000, 25 yrs ago

hot room- $50
pump- $200
tanks- $500
filter- $29.00, $5.00 for replacement filter every 3 barrels
bottling machine-$0 (see tank)
capper-$0 (me)
labeler- $0 (me)
loading dock- $0, don't have one
misc equip.- $ 1500
excluding the building you can easily pack 200-300 barrels a year with less than $4000.00 worth of equipment.
 

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Just a small sideliner here hoping to expand, but I had no problem selling honey at $8 per pound. Granted, I only had 50 pounds last year, but no complaints on price. People want local unheated honey. IMO smaller opperations have to stake out the higher end of the market to survive...I think that's true no matter what the industry.
 

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Just a small sideliner here hoping to expand, but I had no problem selling honey at $8 per pound. Granted, I only had 50 pounds last year, but no complaints on price. People want local unheated honey. IMO smaller opperations have to stake out the higher end of the market to survive...I think that's true no matter what the industry.
I think you're right with that. Small guys need to find niche markets and try to get the higher dollar markets.
 

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No one has come out and said it directly but the main factor with running 400 hives is what is the saturation level of your area for selling at $6? If it's 100 hives then you can figure in 100 at $6 but the rest (other 300) will have to be sold bulk and at wholesale like many have said. I don't think $6 is too much for local honey depending on your area.

You will have fixed cost from initial set-ups - extracting equip, honey house, bee truck, etc. that can be prorated over several years, but you will have to get those things to handle 400 hives so figure on them. You have your yearly costs - fuel, queens, feed, new equipment, bottles, labels, etc. that will change depending on how much retail and wholesale you do and how many hives you run. With 400 hives expect to order around 200 queens a year to keep you hives at peak.

It is really difficult to figure on costs per hive in that hives produce differently and if you just add the total gross at the end of the year do you divide by the starting number of hives or the ending...cause it will make a big difference.

Look at a goal of 400 hives but expand from your 21 as you are able to manage and so you don't break the bank. I know of at least two former beeks that borrowed money to start up only to go out of business within two years and still are having to pay back the loan. Try not to borrow if you can...it's agriculture so anything can happen from no crop to a bumper crop.

Good Luck
 
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