Beekeeping is one of the noblest jobs in the world but it will certainly require all of your time. As one of our recent posts suggests, in order to make beekeeping a profitable business in the long term, you need to dedicate yourself completely to it and have a lot of patience.
Have you thought about opening an organic business that can help you enjoy a more sustainable lifestyle, and you think beekeeping is the best solution? We wouldn’t want to discourage you right from the beginning but you should only pick it for the right reasons.
That being said, if you’re just in for the honey, you might as well swing by your local supermarket or organic farmer’s market and buy all the honey jars you want. It is a lot quicker, and you won’t have to deal with all the work behind the process either just to satisfy your sweet tooth.
If you’re considering beekeeping as a light, fun, therapeutic activity you can pick up at the end of your workday, you might as well look for other hobbies.
Even those who have enough experience in the field cannot say they enjoy many free hours left at the end of the day. And don’t even get us started about the costs and profits – in other words, if you want to be a beekeeper just for the financial benefits, try something else.
Another thing that might set you off is that only around 30% of the new beekeepers make it after the second year. However, if you’re in for the long term, here are some things you should expect.
How much work is beekeeping?
No matter how many hives or bee colonies you’re looking after, you will spend about 40 hours a year for each hive to ensure it thrives. However, the first year will be even more demanding since you will still be learning and practicing at the same time.
You should also take into account other internal and external factors that might increase your workload at the end of the year, such as the number of colonies you’re raising, predators and pests, the climate, and the number of people that will land you a helping hand when needed.
If you’re the only one interested in your family, you should expect some extra hours of work.
Despite what you may think, looking after your honeybees is a year-round job, and each season comes with its own responsibilities.
Spring is going to be a busy time for you as a beekeeper, especially in the last month before summer. During this period, your responsibilities will include introducing a colony to the hive and feeding all your bees for about two weeks, especially if it’s your first season.
In the following years, during spring you will also have to watch and nurture the bees and, when the weather starts warming up, inspect your hive every week.
Summer is the busiest season of the year for a beekeeper. Apart from your weekly inspections, you will also have to work on maintenance. The hive might require some repairs and you will also spend some time keeping your bees in formation and preventing them from jumping to another hive.
Fall is the season when you can finally enjoy the sweet rewards of your hard work. It may be about the only time in the year when you can benefit from some time off for you and your family, so start making your vacation plans.
However, before the temperatures drop too much, you might want to make all necessary repairs to your hives and prepare them for the upcoming months of winter that will bring cold, rain, frost, and snow.
Winter is the perfect season to catch up on your beekeeping reading and learn new things about this job. Many experienced beekeepers will tell you that they keep on learning and improving their techniques throughout the year, based on their experience and reading specialized books.
It is a great time to stay in touch with other beekeeper fellows and exchange ideas and tips on how to produce more honey.
You’ll also have to check on your hive periodically to make sure everything is in order and attend any potential repairs. Don’t forget about your bees’ food and make sure they have plenty of it.
About two-three weeks before the official spring season, you’ll have to check on your equipment and make sure you have everything you need and even order more bees to replace colonies that didn’t make it through the winter.
How much does it cost to become a beekeeper?
Whether you’re doing this as a side job for an extra source of income or decide to take beekeeping as a full-time profession, you should know from the beginning that it won’t come cheap. Although there are plenty of other leisure activities and hobbies that cost more, beekeeping requires not only financial resources but also logistics and plenty of your spare time.
Your main purchases and costs fall into three categories: initial equipment investment, honey bees, and operating equipment.
For starters, you will have to purchase the right equipment, and this includes a Langstroth hive. Although other options on the market have increased in popularity in the past years, we recommend sticking to Langstroth hives if you’re a newbie.
The hives are part of the initial equipment investment which, if handled properly, can last you many years from now on. However, the initial costs are rather substantial, so you should keep this in mind.
Based on the type, options, and quantity discounts, each hive will cost you about $200 and it includes all the components of a Langstroth hive, such as the top cover, foundation and frames, bottom board, and inner cover. Apart from the initial costs of the hive, you’re looking at some additional $20 per hive for properly preparing it to last through all the seasons.
Some people will also invest in apiary preparation which can include an extensive landscape with bee-friendly plants and flowers, as well as a sitting area for those who want to watch the apiary. These costs are optional but you may want to also consider them, especially if beekeeping is your passion.
The next on your expense list is acquiring the actual bees. Ideally, you’ll only have to buy the bees but this is not always the case. Since bees face a series of threats such as pests, wet springs, cold winters, Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) or the ignorance of the beekeeper, perhaps you will have to replace some of the bees or an entire colony sooner or later.
Last but not least, you’re also looking at the operating equipment or protective gear which is mandatory for all beekeepers. From special suits, boots, face masks, and tools to handle the bees, make sure to have a complete list of clothes and accessories that will prevent you from stings and injuries.
Altogether, the costs of starting a microbusiness with bees would cost you at least $500 if you have only one hive. However, we strongly suggest that you should at least invest in two-three hives. According to many professional beekeepers, having just one hive doesn’t leave room for any comparisons between one family of bees and another, so you cannot really tell if the development is normal or if there is room for improvement.
How much time does it take?
As we previously mentioned, beekeeping comes with plenty of time-consuming responsibilities which can turn into a full-time job, especially if you want it to be profitable. It may only take you about 15-30 hours per year to tend to one bee colony but you’ll spend a lot of additional time on researching and learning about this passion.
And, since we also recommended starting with at least two hives instead of one, the number of hours will double in the first year. Adding everything else like studying, watching over the bees, preparing and repairing the hives, and making sure all goes smoothly, will easily lead to at least a part-time job if you’re just doing it for leisure.
Keep in mind that looking after live beings also means taking care of their health and ensuring they have enough food and optimum conditions to breed and produce honey.