Last Updated on July 1, 2021
In this article, we look at how to raise honey bees for profit and how many bee hives to make a living. Beekeeping for profit is a complex subject because it involves an actual definition of what profit is. We will go into that. With new technological advances, beekeeping is becoming more mechanized and we can exploit new disruptive technologies to make profits keeping bees.
How To Become A Millionaire Out Of Beekeeping
The easiest way to become a millionaire out of beekeeping is to start when you are a multi-millionaire. Beekeeping is not a get-rich scheme – it is a get-happy quick scheme and is far more valuable as a result. Now that we have got that out of the way, let’s look at the facts and see how bees can help you make a good living.
Beekeeping is a hard, rewarding, environmentally beneficial activity. If you employ modern technology, you can earn a healthy living out of beekeeping, and you will be rich in soul, financially stable, and content.
A few beekeepers have made millions out of beekeeping. There are many who are millionaires because they are beekeepers.
Why Beekeepers Are Special
Before we go into the details of how to raise bees for profit, it is very important to understand how becoming a beekeeper makes you special. I started keeping bees when I was 19. To collect bees I did Bee Removals, being paid to take bees out of houses, trees, military tanks, airplanes, and other bizarre places they moved into. I learned a lot about myself through this process.
To help you understand the journey let’s go back to a little story.
Trial By Fire, Smoke, Honey, And Stings
There was an ancient oak tree. It was in the rector of a fancy private schools garden. I could not damage the tree. The bees were entering through a hole close to the ground.
In order to remove the bees, I had to dig a hole and then cut into the tree below the ground so that I could crawl in, on my back, and remove the combs and then the bees. This involved filling the tree with smoke and crawling down the tunnel on my shoulder blades. Without a bee suit. In a t-shirt.
Each time I reached up to grab a comb the honey fell in my eyes and glued my eyelids to my eyebrows. I could not blink. The space was full of bees and smoke. It was dark. I was getting stung constantly. I got stung inside my nose and all over my face, back, neck – everywhere basically.
I successfully removed the bees. That night the ancient tree got struck by lightning and burnt to the ground. Life is hard.
Beekeeping Is Character Building
When you go through a character-building experience like this it teaches you a lot. You are basically just tougher than 99.5% of people on Earth. This gives us beekeepers a level of authority when we sit down with other people.
When I am in business meetings; Or somebody tried to mug me and I ended up having a chat over coffee; When the taxman visited and ended up leaving looking confused and amazed by two hours of mind-bending stories; Basically any other situation where being tough is necessary; I know I am that guy who can crawl down a tunnel filled with smoke, rabidly angry bees, dirt and honey, and survive. With my eyes glued wide open.
Read more about: How to Ventilate a Beehive
First Lesson – Beekeeping for Profit May not Be Direct Profit
Keeping bees helps us be stronger tougher people who can make profits in life. You may wish to consider keeping bees for profit as part of a hybrid income. Keep bees to make some money, and use the skills you learn in beekeeping to be a better businessperson, leader, and human being.
How to Raise Honey Bees for Profit
First Steps – Year 1 and 2
Acquire Two Hives
My general advice would be to acquire one or two established hives. Watch a lot of youtube videos, and if you feel the urge, do a beekeeping course. Join a beekeeping society. The people who say the least know the most.
Find a Mentor
Find an old beekeeper and help them. Beekeepers are divided into two types. Those who did not look after their backs when they were young, and those who did. Most are the first type – so you can lend them your back, and get a bit of knowledge in return. Watch the old beekeeper. Learn how they move. Listen to all their mistakes. Protect your back – you only get one.
Perform Bee Removals
Bee removals allow you to destroy a beehive and get paid. This is much better than destroying a hive you paid for. With time you will learn how to destroy a hive and save the bees. You will also get stung a lot and build up your resistance to bee venom. This is good and you will get very tough, very fast. Bee removals pay well, and you can earn more money in your first year or two from bee removals than you can from beekeeping.
Second Step – Year 2 to 4
Build Up Hive Numbers- How Many Bee Hives To Make A Living
You will have learned enough now that you can increase your hive numbers, and be able to keep the hives healthy. To increase numbers you may choose to feed and split, split, buy hives in, buy a beekeeping business, buy empty hives and buy packages. Whatever you do, do not go too fast. I would caution against managing over 50 hives until you have 2 years of experience.
Learn How to Secure Your Hives
There are a lot of enemies of bees. Poisons. Bears. People. Fire. Drought. Floods. All of these can destroy an apiary in a few minutes. Managing risk is important in business, and keeping bees is business. Learn how to manage the risks in your area, select the safest apiaries, and expand in those areas.
In my area, people are the biggest threat to bees. Keeping bees in areas where lions roam helps deter people. Lions however enjoy nibbling beekeepers. You have to learn how to manage bees and lions. Similar rules apply to bears.
The Third Step – Write a Business Plan – Year 5
You have now cut your teeth. Identify what your risks are. Measure how much honey you get on average per hive. Learn how long it takes to get hives strong in your area. Determine how many hives die every year. Practice selling honey, and measure what prices you can move different volumes at.
Write a business plan based on this knowledge.
Beekeeping for Profit
After we have learned how to raise honeybees for profit, we can look at beekeeping for profit. In the modern world, we need to embrace new technologies to remain competitive and scale what we do.
Beekeeping needs to involve advanced monitoring technologies for security or your bees. We can use satellite technologies to monitor rainfall, flower cycles and plan our migration paths to keep bees near flowers and maximize bee health.
Intelligent hives will increasingly allow you to monitor hive health remotely, reducing the need for expensive trips to apiaries. Human visits will be limited to the minimum necessary to ensure optimum hive health, move bees, and manage crops.
Use lifting technologies such as forklifts and cranes to lift hives onto and off vehicles. This saves your back and reduces labor requirements.
We need to use new technologies such as blockchain technologies to ensure our honey is pure, and users can trace it to where it was produced ensuring they are not purchasing fake honey. This allows us to sell honey at higher prices into markets where appreciative customers pay premium prices.
How Many Hives can One Person Manage?
There is no correct answer to this question. This will depend on your strength, your speed, your organizational capacity, and your ability to employ modern technologies to overcome human weakness and time limitations.
A strong person using strength and little thinking can manage 100-300 hives.
If we take a clever person, using modern disruptive technology, they can probably manage more than 1000 hives.
The future is yours my fellow beekeeper – the time is now to test how many hives you can manage, and how much profit you can make. And don’t forget the fun. Beekeeping is all about the fun – bring your friends to the party, share this article and start beekeeping together.
Dr. Garth A. Cambray is a Canadian/South African entrepreneur and beekeeper with 28 years of experience in apiculture and specializes in adding value to honey. His Ph.D. research developed a new advanced continuous fermentation method for making mead that has resulted in a number of companies globally being able to access markets for mead. His company, Makana Meadery, exports honey mead to the USA where it is available to discerning connoisseurs. He has also developed technologies to commercially manufacture organic honey vinegar in Zambia for export globally. He holds a few patents globally in the ethanol industry and believes in technology and knowledge transfer for human development and environmental sustainability. One of his proudest achievements is the fact that the wind farm he started at one of his old apiary sites has essentially made his hometown carbon neutral.