Sure, it’s a risky time to invest in beekeeping with honeybees dying off left and right. Scientists still aren’t sure of the exact cause. Still, beekeepers keep going and honey is still stocked on both grocery shelves as well as in farmers markets and specialty shops.
As a result, for years I was sort of too scared to invest in anything. Admittedly, I personally only ever keep bees as a hobby.
I’m not a professional keeper, but there are many people who are that make a substantial amount of money. Think about how many jars of honey you see at the grocery store.
While those are from commercial operations, they do have to be produced by someone. The people who are doing that are making enough of a profit to keep their products stocked nationally.
Perhaps most importantly, there are some people who consider it only partially an investment and partially their own personal hobby.
No investment is completely solid no matter what some kind of Wall Street specialist might tell you. If you’re really concerned about the possibility of risk, then you might want to divide that risk among more than one person.
Is it Better as a Hobby or a Business?
Some people surprisingly keep bees as both. This is especially true of those who feel really passionate about organic honey.
You could theoretically start by keeping bees as a hobby and then begin selling jars of honey at a local state or county fair. Over time, this might grow into an actual business as people start to realize how good your products really are.
Chances are that no matter what you do, you’re never going to be able to compete with the major national honey brands. The thing is, though, that you shouldn’t feel like you have to.
Commercial honey producers use a lot of pretty unnatural elements in their workflows, which make their products less attractive to those who prefer organic foods. If you’re trying to bring in clients, then you might want to try and hit this market as opposed to trying to beat anyone in terms of scale.
You’ll also want to consider trying a few special techniques that could help you reduce the chances that something really bad will happen.
10 Ways to Reduce Beekeeping Risks
Those who want to dramatically reduce their financial risk can try these steps. Many of the suggestions that I’ve found are focused on making sure that your bees are safe and healthy, since any problem will come back on you financially.
Check out these following techniques and remember that keeping your colonies healthy and happy should always be your first goal:
- Always keep your beehive at the right temperature if at all possible, because a sudden colony collapse would be very costly.
- Don’t try to expand too quickly.
- Never put up more beehives than you can handle.
- Make sure they have plenty of room to roam, or your bees won’t produce enough honey to be commercially viable.
- Remember that you’ll need a large number of bees to produce sufficient supplies of honey to sell.
- Keep in mind that overusing your smoker will dramatically reduce the productivity level of your hive.
- Use free sources of advertising as much as possible.
- Hold onto your current job to keep a steady incoming coming in.
- Monitor the moisture levels in your beehives to ensure that your bees can make high-quality honey.
- Set your prices right to encourage sales.
Your risk level might also be determined at least in part by where you are in the country. Areas that receive frequent frosts will force beekeepers to put in additional mitigation techniques.
Bees are, after all, insects and that means that they don’t exactly enjoy cooler temperatures. They might end up dying off if they drop too low.
You might be tempted to try and drop your risk level by increasing your supply of honey by watering it down. Don’t ever do this!
When your customers figure out what’s going on, the impact is going to be way more costly than whatever amount of money you were saving by doing so.
How Profitable is Beekeeping?
Considering that more people are interested in organic foods than have been in years, you might be able to attract quite a clientele if you’re packaging your own honey. While some areas might try to slow you down with a whole mess of regulations that can drive up costs, you might be able to register your business as a cottage industry.
That would reduce costs and therefore improve your potential profit margins. Some people sell honey at farmers markets and use inexpensive marketing methods, like social media outlets, to let people know when they’re going to appear.
This brings marketing costs down to essentially zero. If you sell honey at around $4-5 a jar, then you could make a fair amount of money.
On the other hand, you might not want to even try to run your operation as a profitable business. You’d need quite a lot of beehives to produce enough honey to sell.
A better idea for hobbyists is to sell a little honey on the side, perhaps to close friends who need it or who have an interest in natural foods. That should give you a little extra money that can help to offset some of the costs of running the hives without needing you to actually run the whole the operation as a side business.
Megacorporation-type food companies are able to post huge profit margins in the production of honey only because they use stimulants and weird chemicals. You’ll never be able to compete with them, but you can potentially grab the interest of those who want to get away from all of these unhealthy additives.