Keeping Honeybees for Profit or Pleasure


Three honeybee colonies 

Most people get started with only one or two hives, then expand into a thriving business as friends and neighbors begin asking to buy honey. There is no right or wrong answer to the question of pleasure vs. profit, but there are a few things to consider. 

Your Personal Goals

Do you want to increase pollination of your home garden, plus eat fresh honey from your own colony? You will notice improved flower, vegetable and herb production from the honeybee’s pollination efforts. Two hives should produce enough honey for a family plus some to share with friends. Around the holidays, you will be a hit when you gift a bottle of local honey. 

Or is your goal geared toward building a thriving farmer’s market business selling jars of golden honey to your community? Beekeepers in Central Illinois who produce enough honey for regular market sales tend to have a minimum of 10 to 15 colonies. There is no shortage of customers clamoring for raw local honey in bottles ranging from  two ounce samples up to quart size jars. Prices fluctuate by market; however it is common for honey to sell at a rate of $1.00 to $1.50 per ounce.

The bulk of income is typically made from selling extracted honey although wax based products are also popular. Other income options include selling harvested pollen, rearing queens, and creating nucs (short for nucleus, essentially a half sized colony with a mated queen). Large operations may rent out colonies to be transported for pollination purposes, such as to the almond crop in California.

Start Up Costs

Beekeeping can be expensive. A complete hive plus a package of bees purchased from a supplier may cost $350-$400 each. There are ways to reduce this cost, such as building your own hive boxes and catching swarms.

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