Keeping Bees as a Business

By Eric Hammer

For most people, bees are things to be avoided – they are annoying, their stings can be quite painful and at times deadly and most people have a healthy fear of the creatures. However, for those who have decided that keeping bees is not only something they would like to do but something they would like to do for a living, bees are one of nature’s most remarkable creatures and one they cannot imagine living without.

People keep bees in all kinds of settings, from small urban bee farms (there is even a New York City bee keeping community) to major honey producing bee farms in rural areas. The key with this business is to understand bee culture and of course to be well versed in the laws governing bee keeping in your neighborhood. While very few cities and towns outlaw bee keeping outright for example, many do have laws which can make bee farming difficult for you because your neighbors may complain that your bees are a public nuisance.

Keeping your bees in a place with a relatively high wall however will largely mitigate the problem since bees tend to fly in a straight line and will thus fly high enough to go over the wall and hopefully not bother the neighbors. You also of course need to keep track of your bees so that when they swarm (they do this when they look for a new home) you have a new hive ready for them to move in to.

How Much Can You Make?

Most bee keepers do this job because they love it, not because they actually expect to earn a good living from the business. Most people who do this for a living own their own businesses and the money they make varies, though it’s never a very good living. If you run your own farm professionally, expect to earn no more than around $40K-$50K per year in gross profits. If you get a job as a beekeeper with someone else, the salaries are typically in the low $20K range.

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Those with larger farms may be able to earn more money by offering educational tours for children, allowing them to see the honey making process in person. You can also of course make money selling honey related products such as serving dishes for the honey and honey based baked goods.

Keep in mind that your bees will be your responsibility. That means making sure they have a source of water available, that they are kept away from neighbors who may think of them as an annoyance and that they are cared for regularly (i.e. you may need to seed new queens each year in order to make sure that your bees don’t swarm on their own).

If you are attracted to the idea of bee farming but cannot do it in your neighborhood for whatever reason, you may be able to purchase rights to a cooperative farm in a nearby village or town. This way you can still farm your bees without the problem of ordinances and or neighbors who complain about them.

Qualifications / Requirements

Formal degrees are not required in order to become a bee farmer in most parts of the country. However, you will need some training in how to safely handle the bee farms and you will need to check carefully what the local ordinances say regarding keeping bees.

First Steps

Start by doing some research on bee keeping. Check if there is a local bee keeping club or cooperative you can join in your area. This will allow you to "get your feet wet" without making the full commitment that would be involved in keeping bees.

Resources - New York City bee Keeper Association. -Useful information. - Free beekeeper kit. - Information and a forum. - Videos on keeping bees.

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Every Way to Make Money | Keeping Bees as a Business