Last Updated on August 14, 2022
How much does it cost to start a bee farm? Beekeeping is a great hobby. Transitioning to being a commercial beekeeper is a tricky process. In this article, we will take a look at the costs, and some of the suggested processes by which you can transition from being a hobby beekeeper to being a small or large commercial beekeeper.
An Adventure Versus A Career
In life, we have two choices. We can have an adventure or a career. You have to choose one. Beekeeping is an adventure. I used to have a wise old friend who mentored me a bit as a young beekeeper – Andy Nachbaur (RIP).
He told me two very important things which I think are important to pass on to any aspiring beekeeper. 1 – wear a hat and sunblock on your nose (as a beekeeper you get too much sun and cancer chances go up). 2 – If you want to be a millionaire from beekeeping start as a billionaire.
Beekeeping is a rewarding, but hard life choice. Sometimes you are stuck in the mud, at 3 am, in the rain, with a load of hives on your truck wondering why you are a beekeeper. There will be times when you carry a hive and the bottom board falls off and angry bees manage to find ways into your bee suite to sting things that should never be stung. Or when you have to go to a wedding, and just as you leave the house a bee zaps your eye. Then you are the best man who looks like the worst. Bees are just crazy animals. Be prepared for an adventure.
How Much Does It Cost To Start A Bee Farm?
If you are asking this question, then I recommend the following. Rather than ask that question, ask this next question. Once you have got the hang of this, you can then work out the answer in your own area for the above.
A Better Question – How To Start Beekeeping?
Read – you got this far, so you are on the right track. ABC-XYZ of Beekeeping – Read it. This will change your life. There is a lovely saying that ten years of making mistakes in the apiary can save you a whole morning in the library.
There have been thousands of beekeepers before us – some have been kind enough to share their knowledge. ABC-XYZ is an excellent foundation book. After you read this, there are lots of others to read.
Spend some time on youtube as well. I love Erica Thompsons videos of her bee removals. She is a legend, clever, efficient, and smart. Bee removals are a great way to play with bees! You can mess up a hive and it is fine, as they were unwanted anyhow. A good way to learn.
Purchase a bee suit. The one shown here has a black gauze over the face – this helps a lot with visibility. Do not buy a cheap bee suit. A rather dirty-minded beekeeper once told me that buying a budget bee suit is like buying a budget condom. It is not safe as it will have holes in it.
Purchase a smoker and hive tool. These kits come with those weird little smoker fuel pellets – I just use unmarked brown cardboard. Make sure you have three lighters and a box of matches in a tin can. Lighters break and matches work if they are not wet – hence the can. The reason you keep the lighters in the can is in case you leave them in a hot car, it reduces their chance of blowing up. (Ask me about the time I came back to my vehicle and the window was on the pavement…).
Buy a 4lb fire extinguisher. Bee smokers make sparks. Fire extinguishers help a bit with little fire incidents.
I would strongly recommend buying some sort of metal box to put your smoker in. Ammunition boxes are great. This stops you from burning your vehicle up by mistake. Smokers often set vehicles alight. You always think they are not burning. Many a beekeeper has come back to a burnt-out car.
Buy some Telfast. This is a great antihistamine that helps a bit with stings in the early days. Remember this rule – head up feet up – if something goes wrong and you feel dizzy after stings, get your head up and your feet up and your heart at the lowest point. Phone for help.
Start. You can just be a cowboy like I was and go out there and start doing bee removals and trying to get the bees to stay in boxes. Do a course. Find a mentor. You can buy an apiary or a hive. But start.
Cost Of Starting A Beehive
You can purchase a good quality beehive such as this one. The reason I would choose that hive is that is has finger joints and the woodwork appears good. The hive is painted with beeswax which will make it more attractive to bees. If you put that hive up on a roof in spring you may even be lucky and have a swarm move in for free! So this hive is about $130 including shipping.
You can then choose to put it up on a roof and hope a swarm will move in. You can use lemongrass as a lure.
Alternatively, you can purchase a package and a queen. When you install the package keep the small box – the super – aside – and just put the bees into the brood box.
Buy A Nuc
A gentle note – a nuc is short for a nucleus hive. Do not google where can I buy a nuke by mistake. You will end up on a watch list. Nuc with a c.
If you can find a beekeeper who is willing to sell you a nucleus hive, that is an alternative to a package. Nuc boxes are a great way to get going. Once your nuc looks strong you can move it over into the brood box of the hive you bought and then super up a few weeks later (add the super). A nuc can trade for anywhere from a box of chocolates to a few hundred dollars.
If somebody charges you more than $250 for a nuc they are not nice people. There is a rule with beekeepers that we try to help others start. I have given so much stuff to beekeepers who are starting and have been given so much when I started. Pay it forward.
Learning The Ropes
I would suggest that if you plan to be a commercial beekeeper that you start by being a hobby beekeeper and having another job. Bees can be a side hustle. Keep bees as a hobby for two years. Then get a job working on a commercial operation as an assistant.
Once you have done this for two or so years you should have enough knowledge to put together your business plan and work out how you will become a commercial beekeeper.
Now To Answer The Question: How Much Does It Cost To Start A Bee Farm?
Beekeeping is an adventure – an adventure is priceless. Go on the adventure and you will figure the answer out – there is no answer to this question that fits all situations. How much does it cost to start a bee farm? In one area it may cost you $100 000, another area $500 000, and another way more. You have to learn the ropes, get stung, harvest honey, have highlights and lowlights and you will figure it out.
I hope this has inspired you to be an adventurer. I definitely have enjoyed the ride so far as a beekeeper – it has taken me all over the world. From the Congo to Canada, to India to Japan, Russia, Mauritius, Germany, Slovakia, all over the US, Swaziland, Lesotho, Zambia, Mozambique, China, Chile, Argentina, and more. Share the adventure!!
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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.