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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Just getting into beekeeping this year. Taking a beekeeping course in September and plan on getting my first couple of hives.
I have wanted to start beekeeping for a long time and dreamin' of a time when I can even make a little money as well.
I must say that my enthusiasm, motivation and work ethic is strong. I'm not a complainer and determined to be a successful beekeeper no matter what.

My question is simple and can be answered by any beek with experience.
Considering good years and bad years---

How many hives does it take to average a NET 20K per year?

I know I have A LOT to learn, I know everything is gloom and doom right now.

I'm not looking for discouragement - "I kept 2500 hives for 20 years and lost money every year." or " So you think you want to keep bees....LOLOL!"

I'm not looking for a "rosey" picture :) - "I keep 2500 hives and net 500K a year just selling beeswax candles." or " I quit my job on Wall Street and make more money on my 20 hives then I did there." (Well that one might be true)

"Please, just the facts."- Dragnet's Officer Friday
 

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First, allow me to welcome you to the site. It's always a pleasure to see another start beekeeping. However, usually people start off with a post in the Welcome section, just to introduce yourself and see how things are. Not that its a problem, just that's how it normally works.

Second, I know you are anxious, but commercial operations is a lifetime away from you at the moment. You may want to know about the future, but it's more important for you to be able to keep a hive and make it trough the winter before you can worry about getting a dozen. Then you need to manage those before you can get 50. Small steps at a time.

But, if you really want an answer, it would be "it depends." If you are planning on making $20K a year off the bees, the question would be by selling what? You can sell the honey, pollen, propolis, the bees themselves, queens, or renting them out for pollination services. The number of hives necessary will depend on what you are trying to sell. Additionally, it has alot to do with location. For example, 10 hives in central NC will yield 50-70 lbs per hive on average of Tulip Poplar honey. At $5 a pound retail, that's $250-350 per hive. At bulk sale, that's about $85-133 per hive. However, in ND you can average 200-250 lbs of honey per hive. Netting you anywhere between $1,250 retail to $340 bulk. So just from that, you can see one hive can generate $85 in one location, or $1,250 in another location. Retail sale or bulk sale really matters too, at least for honey.

Additionally, are you talking $20k Gross or Net? Because the expenses that you have to generate the money is purely personal, and will vary by a ton from person to person.

In the end, there are so many variables that are dependent on you, your situation, what resources you have, your location, and your goals that it would be impossible to accurately answer that question.

Perhaps you can clearify?
 

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I know I have A LOT to learn, I know everything is gloom and doom right now.
Are you kidding here.... gloom & doom.

150.00 for almond pollination & 1.50 + for white honey.

Gee, I can't wait for good times, but I hope this so called gloom hangs around a while.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thanks Specialkayme for your response.

I know there is a learning curve and things take time but I'm thinkin' and dreamin'.
I'm in North Florida and would like to get into pollination and sale of honey. I know that there isn't an exact answer but maybe someone in Florida or South Georgia can chime in.

I will make it through the winter, at least eventually, even if I lose all of the bees the first year I will keep trying. I'm dedicated on getting this down.

The gloom and doom comment comes from reading many posts about how it is almost impossible to make a profit or the owner of an operation with 2000 hives makes as much as a cab driver and on and on. If it is that bad then there has to be an set operating expense of 95% and / or poor business management or cab drivers do pretty well :).

The comment about wishing the gloom and doom would continue was one of the most favorable post I've read. Maybe I should have started a thread-- "Tell me something positive about the beekeeping business" or "Beekeeping- Can it be more than a hobby?"
 

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I can contribute only two pieces of information to this thread:

1. I know several commercial beekeepers in ND (all in the western half of the state), and I don't know one who has ever averaged 200-250lbs per hive. Maybe 200-250lbs from some of the hives, but never an average. That is not to say it never happens - just that it is probably very far from the norm.

Sundance is on the eastern half of the state - things might be different/better over there - he would have a better handle on that.

2. I have some (VERY) limited experience helping to harvest honey for a commercial beekeeper. I have also worked a LOT of manual labor jobs (landscaping, loading trucks at warehouses, brick mason, etc.) before settling into my current career, and I can tell you that harvesting honey for commercial operations is the hardest, back-breaking work I have ever done in my life.

Don't get me wrong - I really enjoyed the work (and will happily and enthusiastically do it again anytime), but (in my opinion), no one works harder than a commercial beekeeper during the honey harvest.

So, if you decide to do it and do it through selling honey, you will earn every penny of that 20K!
 

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20k is not a lot of money. I assume you mean net. Ok. I could throw around a lot of variables and figures, but they really do not mean much. The bottom line is investment and time. You can start small and split year after year but this takes time and is risky. More time than you think. More money than you think. The best way to go commercial is to start out medium sized and grow from there, otherwise it is uphill and slow going. Start with maybe 50 hives and build from there. Start with full hives or singles. Not nucs. You will lose too many, and they will take too long to build up. As with most businesses you have to outlay way more money in the first few years to get started before you see a real profit. Plan on spending 75k at least to get that 20k back, and add on from there for maintenance, equipment, loss, taxes, etc.
 

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Hey guys. Read his post. He asked about what it would take to NET 20k. NET is what he asked and I assume what he wants to know about. Whether he knows what NET Income is, I don't know. But that is what he asked about.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Net? Isn't that when you go fishing and all of the fish in your net is what you get to eat after the others have gotten away. :)

Yup I asked about Net, not Gross.
 

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I'm netting around 20K. I have roughly two hundred hives, zero debt with respect to the bee operation. Most of my 20K has been plowed back in for expansion and family luxuries. My wife and I both work and beekeeping is becoming strong competition for my "real" job.

There's never enough time in a day to do all that needs to be done. I've bought a ton of used equipment that some of my buddies "wouldn't haul home for kindling wood." I make a lot of equipment from scrap lumber as well. Keep your costs low.

I've been keeping bees as a hobby since 1981. My wife calls it a "hobby on steroids." She used to resent the time I devoted to "my girls," but one year I made enough money to send her on a seven-day cruise. She was kind enough to let me come along! She's also come around to appreciate that his hobby of mine is truly a passion. If you're not going to commit whole-heartedly, scale back your expectations.

I sell my honey retail at farmer's markets, wholesale through eight retail stores. I bottle everything I produce and buy small quantities of honey from other producers as the market is looking for good, local honey. I have two more stores asking for honey that I just cannot supply. It has taken many years to develop a reputation. I've given countless talks to service groups, church groups, classrooms, etc., and I never turn down an opportunity to generate a little public interest with the local news station. I'm a great example of that "over-night success" that took ten years to develop.

I am stationary, not migratory. I don't rent any hives for pollination, though I worked out deals with several growers to place my hives on their farms in exchange for 24/7 access. I just don't have time to be moving and relocating hives. I've got a waiting list of a dozen farmers who want me to place hives on their farms but to make it worth my time, I really need to set 8 to 12 hives per location. They usually think 2 hives is a lot. You have to manage your time wisely, and balance it with your real job and your family obligations. This is not your 9-5 job.

I buy some southern-raised nucs in the spring and resell them with a small mark-up. I've been dabbling with my own queen rearing but I'm not ready to start raising them commercially. I'm looking at making my own nucs to sell but time continues to be short.

Can it be done? Yeah, but a lot depends on how you expand and where you market your honey. I'm still a part-time sideliner. I find it increasingly difficult to balance my time in the bee yard with the time it takes to bottle and deliver and market the honey. I have no other employees and work my honeybees into my schedule when the weather cooperates. I've learned you have to be very flexible and don't be afraid to work long hours into the night extracting honey.

I'm approached by countless people who think they want to keep bees. They see my cash box and the farmer's market and think they can do this as well. They have no idea how much work it is.

But I'm not complaining. In my ideal dream world, I'd like to find a way to take an early retirement and just do bees.

My wife continues to tell me to keep my day job!

Grant
Jackson, MO http://maxhoney.homestead.com
 

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So far I haven't made a penny with the bees yet.

But, I'm still a newb. I've have sunk erm.. invested 1500 or so bucks into the hives and misc gear that I have. I've made some mistakes that could have saved me a lot of money.

I'm "thinking" about jumping up to around 25 hives next year, which should set me back around ~5500 with bees. Assuming five 10-frame medium supers per hive, diy screened bottom board, migratory top, and $65 per package.

If your really going to make this a go as a business. You need to get all your ducks in a row with a solid plan or you will waste alot of money.

As stated above, this means deciding what your going to sell... how your going to sell it... what you plan to get for it etc..

I think there is a good potential to make money with bees, but you need to be prepared to invest the money and time.
 

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Honey Householder,

Where do most of your expenses come from, if there's any one thing? Would you mind posting some sort of general breakdown?

i.e. 30% sugar/pollen feed, 25% medications, 22% woodware, 33% labor

These numbers are just swags, but do you have anything like that worked out?

Also, is that 21K business profit, or your own salary from the business? I'm assuming you pay yourself a wage and count that among business expenses :)
 

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HH has a most unusual business model, I believe. Most beekeepers don't do what he does, as far as I know. So, whatever he has for expenses won't translate well to other operations. Isn't that right, HH?

I bet one of his biggest expenses is package bees.

Tara, I don't pay myself a salary. Maybe I should, but I don't.
 

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Grant nailed it pretty good. My dad kept bees when I was a kid and I still remember that. When stings started causing severe breathing problems. Someone used his hives for shotgun practice too, so he decided to get out and sold what he could. My grandfather kept a couple of hives when he was about my age too, so I guess it's in the blood.
Like KevinR said, I have not made anything in the way of money yet. As with any small business starting up, just about every dime is rolled back into the business, that's going to be a key thing. Expect to not make any real $ for a few years, map out your business plan, what you want, what you expect, and expect things not not going according to that plan, but you've got to have a goal to stick to that will keep you on track. Everything is a business expense though and that makes it a writeoff for taxes. Keep track of your mileage, thats going to help save some $ on your taxes. I've made around $4000 this year so far, but I've probably spent close to $6000, especially when you figure all the driving I have done. I even paid my trucks over-priced Calif registration with bee $. If you have a regular job is going to get in the way of your bee business. I've grown so much this year, that I am constantly looking for new places to put hives. Living in the city, there's only so many bee hives you can have in you yard, even with just a couple, expect complaints from uneducated and fearful people, unless you have cool neighbors. If you're on property already, you've got an advantage, if not, start talking to people about hive placement now so that when the time comes, you have a place to put a hive.
If I make enough anytime soon to send the wife on a cruise, I think I wall this a successful business venture. My bees are retirement plan, and I have 12 years to get it running right.

C2
 
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