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How Much Beekeepers Make {Profits?}

How much of a salary can you expect as a beekeeper? Hmm, that’s a great question. People can and do make money in a beekeeping career. But, how much money you make as a beekeeper is determined by many different things. In addition to whether or not you have your own hives or work for someone else, your location also plans a role in making a full time income with bees.

Beekeepers Salary For a Year

Commercial beekeeper inspecting frame from a beehive prior to selling colony for income image.

Beekeepers in the United States have an average annual income of about $40,300 in salary.  But, this average has such a wide range of highs and lows that is doesn’t mean very much.

There are many variables in determining the salary of persons working in the beekeeping industry. The area of the country where the hives are located, market conditions, beekeeper experience and more are all factors.

Someone managing hives in California might have a different income level than a beekeeper in Alabama.

If you are contemplating a beekeeper’s income for yourself, you should start with your state Agriculture Department as they can advise on totals that are relevant to your region.

Beehives in region with winter snow image.

How Many Beehives to Make a Full Time Income

Most of the beekeepers I know that make a living with bees have over 200 hives. But, the number of hives required to make a full-time income varies from one individual to another. 

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If this is a dream you are considering, first consider a few questions? How much money do you need to consider it a full-time job?

What are the living expenses in your region? Will you work alone or hope to hire laborers? All of these factor into the total income needed for a year.

You can make a lot of money with bees but you also must be prepared to spend a lot of money.  Startup costs are heaviest in the first years. However, even as time goes on – equipment wears out and must be replaced.

Also, beekeeping is farming and subject to being affected positively and negatively by weather conditions. You will have good years with nice profits and bad years. It is wise to have money set aside to see you through those years when profits are low.

Beekeeping Profit Per Hive

Healthy bees in a region with ample nectar sources can produce a profit of $300-$500 per hive each year. But, this assumes you are selling your honey in a market that is willing to pay the price for premium raw honey.

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Even small scale backyard beekeepers can make a profit from the honey produced from a few hives. Especially, if harvesting equipment such as extractors, bottling tanks etc. are shared among a few friends.

Most beekeepers stay in this hobby phase and enjoy selling small amounts of honey to friends and neighbors. They recoup some of the expenses of keeping their hives but it is not a full income by any measure.

In times gone by, most commercial beekeepers made money through the sales of honey and renting bees for pollination. In today’s global market, few beekeepers make a full time living from selling honey produced in the US.

The low prices of imported honey has made it very difficult for US beekeepers to compete in the market. Some large-scale honey producers move colonies from state to state following the nectar flow.

Pollination jobs have become the main focus of some commercial beekeepers. This is possible due to the portability of honey bees. The colonies live as large families in hives that can be moved from one location to another. 

Bee pollination is very important to modern agriculture. However, pollination beekeeping has expenses of its own to consider. Moving bees from one location to another involves special equipment, time and money.

In terms of thinking beyond honey, there is another activity used by beekeepers to increase their income – bee removals.

Each year homeowners have bee swarms take up residence in the roofs or wall of homes. Removing and relocating these colonies is a profitable job for the beekeeper with a bit of carpentry skills.

Commercial beehives in field of clover image.

Beekeeper Job Description

If you become a career beekeeper, what jobs will you do? Those working in a large apiary perform tasks such as: hive inspections, feeding bees, checking queen status and making hive splits.

The beekeeper’s main responsibility is to keep the colonies healthy. A healthy colony makes more honey or pollinates more blossoms than a sick one.

Your salary is determined by the area in which you live, your skill level and the business model of the owner. Some resources quote a beekeeper salary of $12 – $25 per hour.

If you operate your own bee farm, in addition to maintaining your hives, you have to make business decisions. Should you expand the apiary by getting more beehives? 

How many hives are too many? It can be difficult to determine how many hives you can manage on your own. The best plan is to slowly grow the number of hives in your apiary. You will know when it gets to be too much.

Then, you can decide whether or not to hold at that level or hire help. Do not keep more hives than you can manage. This only leads to unhealthy hives that are poor producers.

Working Conditions in an Apiary

Honey bees are insects that are active during the warm months. In fact, beekeeping can be hot, sticky work-as many of the jobs must be performed during the hottest months of the year.

Here in the South we often say “It’s easy to be a good beekeeper in April, it’s what happens in July and August that separates the beekeepers from the bee-havers”.

What about bee stings? Beekeepers do get stung in spite of protective gear. The more colonies you have the more likely you are to encounter stinging situations. However, with experience and proper protective clothing, beekeepers learn how to minimize stings.

Jar of honey, wax honeycomb and other hive products for sale by beekeeper image.

How to Increase Profits in Honey Bee Farming

Whether you are a hobbyist, side-liner or commercial beekeeper, there are ways to increase your profit margins. Every business has ways of cutting waste.

Maintain healthy colonies to take advantage of peak productivity. This means controlling parasites such as varroa mites all through the season to avoid colony loss.

Plan ahead and buy supplies in bulk to reduce costs. Often the apiarist can save some money by buying larger quantities of beekeeping equipment such as frames, foundation or even boxes.

The easiest way to increase profits is to expand your product line. Think beyond honey – this can be done even as the hobby level.

Selling products like beeswax, beeswax candles, propolis or pollen is a great way to bring in extra income. If you have a larger apiary, selling nuc colonies to local beekeepers in the Spring is very profitable.

Some hobbyist enjoy rearing local queens. Queen rearing is a lot of work but it is a lot of fun and there are always beekeepers nearby who want them.

If you desire to try beekeeping as a way to make a living, I do not want to dissuade you. However, I will caution that it might be good to work for a larger beekeeper first. Beekeeping ain’t easy and even the best apiaries lose colonies each year.

Not every hive will be profitable – some will die and some will drag along never reaching their potential. This is farming in many ways with all of the joys and heartaches that go along with farm life.

There are much easier ways to make money than keeping bees. To be happy with full-time beekeeper income, you must have a passion for it. For those that do, it is an invigorating way of life with constant new horizons and curves in the road.