Beekeeping is such an enjoyable and rewarding experience that most beekeepers, especially new beekeepers, wonder if you could earn a full-time income doing it. Is it both possible and realistic to become a profitable full-time beekeeper, and if so, how many hives do you need?
According to the department of agriculture, a beekeeping enterprise needs to have between 350 and 400 hives to be commercially viable. It would take a diversified approach and not just entirely replying to honey production. It is recommended to gain experience and to scale properly by implementing strong bee management techniques.
Becoming a full-time beekeeper requires a lot of experience, money, planning, and bee management strategies. Therefore, there are different factors to explore when considering making a living as a beekeeper.
How Much Space Does Beekeeping Require?
One of the questions most new beekeepers ask, especially in urban areas, is how much space is needed for a beehive. When it comes to beekeeping, you can keep bees in all places, from countrysides to urban back yards or even balconies.
You don’t necessarily have to have a spacious backyard close to the countryside. It would be perfectly fine if you have a small yard with a few plants or flowers in it, and your bees will be able to find enough nectar and pollen in your area.
The most important thing you should know about hives is that the standard size is about 41cm by 48cm. This being said, hives are relatively small and do not take up much space, but you have to consider that bees need space to fly in and out of their hives. Therefore, the average space around a hive should be at least 7 feet (213.36 cm). This will provide enough space for your bees to live and work unobstructed.
There are several things you need to consider before starting to turn your backyard into bee heaven. I have conducted a few guidelines to make your choices easier. Take a look at the list I have conducted:
- Check Your Local Laws.
Before you start to plan on starting your new hobby, check on the zoning regulations permit when it comes to keeping bees in residential areas. In quite a few cities, you need to register, and you will get permission. However, in some cities, you are not allowed to keep bees at all.
The easiest way you can find out is to call a local Beekeepers Association and check with them. It is also a good idea to contact the association because they will be able to give you a lot of good advice and help you become the best beekeeper you can be!
- Know The Water Supply.
Like all living things on our planet, bees need a water supply. Therefore, you need to pay close attention to the water supply around your bees. When it comes to bees, they rely on scent to find water, and they are usually attracted to water with an earthy smell. Freshwater is not appealing to bees, and if you do not provide them with an adequate water supply, they will look for it elsewhere.
The easiest way to make a water station is to take a bucket or bowl and fill it with water. Then, put wine corks or wooden sticks that float to provide a safe landing space for your bees. What a cute but effective idea!
- Make Sure You Have A Fence.
A fence is an excellent idea to redirect bees so that they will fly above humans. It also protects your hive from the wind. Make sure to face the hive entrance opposite a walkway.
A six-foot fence will make bees change their flight pattern, and if you have neighbors, they will be grateful for sure!
You can simply position the fence even just a few feet away from your hive!
- Positioning Your Hives.
The single most important thing you have to do is set up your apiary properly. Depending on your backyard size or the size you want to set out for your hives, you can place multiple hives. However, it would be best to start with just two hives if you are a beginner.
The benefit of having two hives is that you can compare the progress by comparison! As you get better and better at beekeeping, you could always add more hives if you have enough space.
Another factor you need to consider when positioning your beehives is that you put them in such a position to provide shade for your hives, preferably in the afternoon.
Lastly, it is always advised to raise your hives off the ground. Bricks or cement blocks will do the trick, as long as you make sure your hives are level. This way, your hives will not only be more accessible to work with, but you are also protecting the hives from the water that could collect under the hive and destroy it.
How To Know How Many Beehives I Need
The next logical question to ask when you are considering raising bees as your full-time occupation is how many beehives one person can manage successfully. The number of colonies one person can operate effectively will solely depend on whether you’re focusing on the production of honey, raising bees, or other profitable methods.
One person can manage between 100 and 150 hives while still working a full-time job. As a full-time beekeeper, one person will be able to manage between 500 and 800 bee colonies. This does not include the honey harvesting season, as the single beekeeper would still require seasonal workers to assist them.
If you decide only to raise your bees for honey production, it could become very difficult for one person to manage many hives. Managing beehives solely for honey production is much more time-consuming and harder work compared to just raising and selling bees. Furthermore, honey production requires a lot more expensive equipment and supplies as you upscale your apiary.
If your primary focus is on raising and selling bees, it would be much easier to manage more beehives while still working a full-time job. Experienced beekeepers will often manage 100-150 bee colonies successfully while maintaining a full-time job. But it is crucial to remember that it takes time to gain experience, grow your apiary, and build a trustworthy market to sell your bees.
How Many Beehives Do I Actually Need?
To make a reasonable income as a beekeeper, it will require you as the beekeeper to have a fairly good understanding of bees. Therefore, you will need to study and learn the craft of beekeeping before deciding to make a full-time income on raising bees.
You will read a lot of articles and information stating that you will be able to make a full-time income if you have around 200 beehives. Realistically, this is incorrect, as most beekeepers, even with 200 to 300 hives, are not able to rely on beekeeping profits as a full-time income. They still require another job or some form of a trusted secondary income.
Now, it is important to remember that not everyone has the same income requirements or goals. For example, one person may only want to make around $40,000 (RSA 537,756) a year from their beekeeping practice, while others may want to make $80 000 (RSA 1,079,512) a year.
These income goals or requirements will require many beehives, workload, equipment, land, and bee management. Most beekeepers will focus on honey production because it is the most obvious product. This is why it is commonly advised that you build your hive numbers slowly and take a more diverse approach when trying to make money from beekeeping.
Realistically speaking, if you take a more diverse income approach to beekeeping, you could make a full-time living if you have between 500 and 1000 beehives. Diversifying your beekeeping income is an excellent idea because it is difficult to make a stable income out of just honey alone.
Profiting The Most Out Of Your Beehives
As stated above, there are several other ways to profit from your beekeeping efforts by a combination of honey production and honey products. This will not only help you but will help you to profit more and faster from your beehives.
One of the most popular and profitable methods is selling bees, selling queens, and nucleus colonies. All this requires is for you to build a reliable and quality market for your bees slowly. It could be more profitable than honey production, and it requires much less work!
If you are wondering what the rest of the things are that you could profit from merely being a beekeeper and having beehives, you have come to the right place! Check this out:
- Beeswax- You can collect and sell the beeswax, or you can use it to make and sell beauty products like soaps, candles, lip balms, hand creams, and so much more!
- Pollen And Propolis– You can sell bee pollen and Propolis. This sells for quite a bit of money and can be extremely profitable. However, you need to be very cautious when selling this product due to local pesticide and herbicide usage.
- Apiary Maintenance– You can advertise your services and maintain other people’s beehives for them and charging them a reasonable fee. It is not uncommon for people to set up hives in their backyards or gardens and then not want to learn about them or even take the time to manage them correctly.
Some people are more than happy to pay an experienced beekeeper to look after and manage their bees.
- Beekeeping Education– As you gain more and more experience, you can offer beekeeping classes, as well as physical beekeeping training.
- Pollination Services– offering pollination services can be very profitable. A lot of beekeepers only offer pollination services and make a steady and reliable income doing so! The only catch is that you require many beehives, beekeeping equipment, and a lot of experience.
Some beekeepers are successful with only a few hives because they understand how the retail market works very well. They will often buy honey from local beekeepers and then sell it, making a profit in the retail market by selling directly to customers.
Other beekeepers will solely focus on raising bees, selling them, and selling queen bees, queen bee cells, nucleus colonies, and then still very successful. Other experienced beekeepers will only have a couple of hives but then sell beekeeping equipment and beekeeping supplies. They will often even offer hive placement services, where they place hives on other people’s property for a monthly fee.
At the end of the day, the key to being a successful full-time beekeeper is to keep an open mind and approach everything in a diversified manner.