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How to Start a Bee Farming Business

Do you want to start a beekeeping business from home? If YES, here is a 23-step guide to starting a bee farm with NO money and no experience plus a sample bee farming business plan template. Bee farms raise bees.

They collect and gather honey, sell bees, royal jelly, bees’ wax, propolis, pollen, bee venom and other bee products. Most beekeepers maintain hives for honey, but bees also produce other useful products. Beeswax from cell caps and old combs is used for high-quality candles, pharmaceuticals, lotions, and friction-reducing waxes for skis and surfboards.

As well as honey, several other bee products are sources of food for humans. Bee brood (young bees that are housed in the brood comb of a hive) is consumed as a form of meat in many non-European countries. Food additives for humans and domestic animals are made from bee-collected pollen and from royal jelly, which bees produce as food for their larvae.

Several bee products are also used as medicines. Since the 1930s, researchers have been refining extraction techniques to collect bee venom, because bee stings can relieve the symptoms of arthritis, rheumatism, and other diseases.

Propolis, glue like plant resin that bees use to maintain the comb, is used in cosmetics and healing creams and may have antibiotic or anaesthetic properties. Propolis was formerly an ingredient in some varnish, including the varnish on Stradivarius violins.

Steps to Starting a Bee Farming Business

1. Understand the Industry

Bees provide essential pollination services to US fruit, vegetable and seed growers, adding $8-14 billion annually to farm income and ensuring a continuous supply of healthy and affordable foods for the consumer. About 2 million colonies are rented by growers each year to service over 90 crops.

The almond crop alone requires 1.3 million colonies and is predicted to require 3.04 million by 2016 (about 95% of all colonies currently in the US).

Interesting Statistics About the Industry

Increasing demand comes at a time when beekeepers are confronting the most serious challenges the industry has ever faced.

A steady supply of healthy colonies remains cannot be guaranteed as parasitic mites and the rigors of migratory beekeeping continue to cause significant die-offs. A weakened beekeeping industry affects not only beekeepers, but also growers and consumers who pay higher prices for fewer goods.

Two major product categories in this industry are honey and pollination services. Over the past five years, the percentage of income from pollination services has increased and overtaken honey. Honey imports satisfy the majority of domestic demand for the product.

Honey is purchased directly by the food manufacturing industry, as an ingredient in other food products, and directly by consumers. Per capita consumption of honey in the US has remained relatively constant over the past several decades at about one pound per year.

However, domestic honey production accounts for a shrinking portion of consumption as plentiful, lower-cost imports continue to penetrate the domestic market.

The beekeeping industry has experienced volatile patterns, with rising import volumes and the threat of colony collapse disorder adversely affecting its performance. In particular, the increasing penetration of imports will place downward pressure on the price of US honey.

Growth will remain stunted over the next five years; though an expansion into territories like medicine and pollination services will help offset major revenue declines.

Bee-related services in the united states are not limited only to bee farming. A large sector is devoted to bee removal, especially in the case of Swarming (honey bee). This is especially common in the springtime, usually within a two- or three-week period depending on the locale, but occasional swarms can happen throughout the producing season.

2. Conduct Market Research and Feasibility Studies

  • Demographics and Psychographics 

It is a fact that all living things need bees to strive. For some people, bees are simply an annoyance. They buzz around, crawl inside soda cans, and chase people down the street and sometimes even sting. If you’re unlucky enough to be allergic, bees can literally be a lethal threat.

But no matter how much you hate bees, we as humans need them. They are responsible for much of the food on our plate.

Bees perform a task that is vital to the survival of agriculture: pollination. In fact, one third of our global food supply is pollinated by bees. Simply put, bees keep plants and crops alive. Without bees, humans wouldn’t have very much to eat.

To put this into context, these are many of the crops pollinated by bees: Almonds, apples, apricots, avocados, blueberries, cantaloupes, cashews, coffee, cranberries, cucumbers, eggplants, grapes, kiwis, mangoes, okra, peaches, pears, peppers, strawberries, tangerines, walnuts and watermelons.

3. Decide Which Niche to Concentrate On

Finding niches is easy but most of the profitable ones already have a lot of people marketing in them. Not that this is a bad thing as it shows it’s a healthy market and there’s money to be made. However if you want to compete you either need to have a unique angle or find your own sub-niche to make yourself stand out. Here are few niches in the bee keeping business

  • Urban beekeeping
  • Heath beekeeping
  • Feeder beekeeping
  • Honey bee keeping
  • Manufacturing Beekeeping protection clothing and tools
  • Beeswax production
  • Propolis production
The Level of Competition in the Industry

While the Beekeeping industry accounts for less than 1.0% of revenue for the animal farming sector, its trends do not stray far from the sector’s overall performance. Domestic and global weather conditions, import competition and the incidence of disease have defined revenue and production volumes during the five years to 2015.

Meanwhile, reduced domestic production left the remaining demand to be filled by imported honey. The value of imports grew at an average annual rate of 15.0% over the five years to 2013 to total $496.9 million, replacing domestic product with lower-priced foreign honey; imports currently satisfy an estimated 63.9% of domestic demand.

Still, aside from bees’ use in honey production, they also serve another market, pollination for agricultural crops. Reduced bee colony numbers have led the prices paid by farmers for pollination to skyrocket. As a result, a number of players have entered the industry to cash in on this growing market; enterprises have grown an annualized 3.3% to 5,001 in the five years to 2013.

Over the five years to 2018, more affordable imports will continue to replace domestic products; as a result, imports are expected to grow. However, US beekeepers will likely market their products for new activities in the near future.

“Honey and bees are already used in medicine developments and for pollination services to crop farmers”. These markets are expected to expand and very competitive over the next five years, keeping the US Beekeeping industry afloat.

4. Know Your Major Competitors in the Industry

There are plenty well known bee farm brands in America. Some of them include the following;

  • Kelley beekeeping
  • Brushy mountain bee farm
  • Mann Lake Ltd
  • Western bee suppliers inc
  • Miller bee
  • Bee hive supplies
  • British national poly hives
  • Thorne
  • Better bee inc
  • Dandant and sons
Economic analysis

It is estimated that in North America around 30% of the food humans consume is produced from bee pollinated plant life. The value of pollination by bees is estimated around $16 billion in the US alone. We would be unable to enjoy most of our favourite fruits, vegetables, or nuts without these pollinators.

Bees also pollinate crops such as clover and alfalfa that cattle feed on, making bees important to our production and consumption of meat and dairy.

Honey production from around 135 thousand American beekeepers caring for approximately 2.44 million colonies totalled almost 148.5 million pounds in 2007. This production was worth over $150 million with a per pound cost of all honey at 103 cents (National Agricultural Statistics Service).

Although honey is often the first product to mind, bees also make or are indirectly involved in making other goods. These include honey based products (such as candy), beeswax, pollen (as a supplement), candles, propolis (or bee glue, used in cosmetics), as well as additional bees for sale to other parties.

Whereas crop pollination is, by far, the most important and profitable of bee services, honey is the most well known and most profitable of the direct products resulting from the efforts of honey bees.

5. Decide Whether to Buy a Franchise or Start from Scratch

Buying a franchise is far better than starting from the scratch in the beekeeping business. Spurred on by dreams of a future big money buyout and an undeniable entrepreneurial impulse, many would-be beekeepers business owners are driven to pursue start-up strategies.

Yet a healthier and safer strategy may be to purchase an existing beekeepers business. Existing beekeeping businesses are proven operations with dependable revenue streams. And that’s not to mention the fact that a purchase let’s you avoid the trial-and-error mistakes that are common in start-ups.

Going with a franchise lets you take advantage of the franchisor’s knowledge of the industry and a tested system for operating the business

6. Know the Possible Threats and Challenges You Will Face

The number of US beekeepers has declined steadily since World War II, partly because land development has eliminated many flowering plants from which bees collect nectar to make honey. However, nearly 100,000 people in the US still keep bees for fun or profit.

Beekeepers enjoy being their own bosses–deciding what to do and when to do it, being responsible for their own successes or failures.

Beekeepers are adept at, and spend a significant amount of time in, assembling and repairing hives, frames, and other equipment. They enjoy the natural world and appreciate the contribution their bees make in increasing plants and benefiting the animals that use the plants for food and shelter.

Here are few challenges of Starting a beekeeping business

  • Capital
  • Choosing a suitable location
  • Mites
  • Birds
  • Pesticides
  • Colony disorders
  • Africanized bees

7. Choose the Most Suitable Legal Entity (LLC, C Corp, S Corp)

Choosing a legal structure for your bee farm is a task that can feel overwhelming. But for the sake of this article, the LLC is the best legal entity for a beekeeping business. The costs and efforts to set up an LLC are relatively minor and provide a level of protection to your personal assets that a sole proprietorship does not.

New businesses should think forward and anticipate growth and its complications. Plan for success. The LLC provides the liability protection for your bee farm with the tax structure of a partnership, while providing operational flexibility.

8. Choose a Catchy Business Name

There are several names already existing in the bee farm industry. If you want to start yours, you can consider using some of the following names;

  • Pure bee
  • Ribena hives
  • Red Road bees
  • Rusty ranch hives
  • Busted wagon bees
  • JettyG apiares
  • Beepuke hives
  • Hutter and sons
  • Dow apiares

9. Discuss with an Agent to Know the Best Insurance Policies for You

If you want to be a beekeeper, you should understand that insurance is part of doing business, and you should have a variety of insurances in place to take care of injuries and mishaps. These Insurances may include

  • General Liability
  • Property Insurance- Including Buildings/Equipment/Stock/Inventory
  • Homeowners insurance
  • Farm Owners insurance
  • Automobile insurance
  • Worker’s Compensation insurance
  • Life Insurance
  • Public liability insurance
  • Income protection/personal accident cover

10. Protect your Intellectual Property With Trademark, Copyrights, Patents

Yes it does. Intellectual Property rights, which include patents, trademarks, trade secrets and copyrights–even the right URLs–, play an essential role in monetizing innovation. If you make it easy for others to steal your ideas, you can ultimately end up washing away your own path to success.

It is clear that IP as such does not feed the world. However, it does provide the invisible infrastructure that enables innovation and progress in the beekeeping business. Only a few decades ago, agriculture as a whole was an empirical science based on trial and error.

Today’s innovations are developed using sophisticated science and technology, including cell biology, genome and proteome research, gene mapping, marker-assisted breeding and hybridization. Intellectual property protection is needed in the beekeeping business to protect patents and new ideas, registered and unregistered trademarks, copyright, and trade secrets.

11. Get the Necessary Professional Certification

Professional certification or qualification is a distinction an individual can earn that credentials them with a high level of skill or expertise in some area. Certifications can serve as an indicator of professionalism and aptitude. Certifications are often regulated by a professional organization.

Few professional certifications needed for a beekeeping business are:

  • Masters beekeepers certification
  • Natural beekeeping certificate
  • Commercial beekeeping program

12. Get the Necessary Legal Documents You Need to Operate

Documents play an essential role in protecting the interests of the business and business owners over the course of a farm’s lifetime. Every business has legal documents needed to run its day to day activities. You don’t jump into a business without putting together everything and dotting all i’s.

Here are list of Documents needed to run a beekeeping business

  • Operating Agreement for LLCs.
  • Tax
  • Insurance
  • Business license
  • Drivers insurance
  • Employment agreement
  • Business plan

13. Write a Business Plan

Learning how to start a bee farm begins by understanding what beekeeping is and what it does. Beekeeping or apiculture is a method of generating honey either for consumption or for wax and other bee products. They can also be sold or made into useful items.

A business plan for a beekeeping business should be very simple and detailed. The business plan should be able to discuss the role of the beekeeper, explain what you’re going to need for your business, and how to start your own colony.

14. Prepare a Detailed Cost Analysis

Bee farm can be a main source of your yearly income. You may be interested in pollinating crops, selling bee-related products (like honey, wax, queen), or both.

Beekeeping is relatively easy to do, but it requires a lot of knowledge, a reasonable amount of equipment, hard working and space for operation. And some practical experience in beekeeping is essential. Here is a detailed cost analysis of starting a small scale beekeeping business

  • Beginner’s kit** (typically has manual, hive, frames, smoker, veil, gloves, hive tool, etc.) – $250
  • Bees** (3-lb package is recommended; queen may or may not be included, so make sure to check with your supplier) – $125‘
  • Apiary armour’: beekeeping suit – $80; veil – $10; helmet – $20; gloves (leather, to elbow) – $25
  • Hive – $235
  • Medications – $100
  • Bee food/nutrients – $50
  • Smoker – $35
  • Smoker fuel – $5
  • Hive tool – $10
  • Beginner’s guide to beekeeping (book or DVD; optional) – $50
  • Beekeeping class (optional; pricing ranges between suppliers, but on average you can expect to get a great one-day or multi-session course without paying more than…) – $300

From the detailed analysis above, you will a need $1,295 to start a small scale beekeeping business. A medium scale beekeeping business will cost $7,600. Large scale beekeeping business will cost $24,000

15. Raise the Needed Startup Capital

Costs to start a bee farm are not particularly high compared to many small businesses, and a well-planned and managed operation can be profitable. But a bee farm needs finance to flourish and expand, Finance to provide feeds for the bees and extend their homes and all other things. Ways of financing a beekeeping business may include

  • Family loans
  • Community schemes
  • Peer-to-peer loans
  • Micro loans and grants
  • Crowdfunding
  • angel investors
  • Factoring
  • Cash advances
  • Bank overdrafts

16. Choose a Suitable Location for your Business

You can keep beehives just about anywhere: in the countryside, in the city, in a corner of the garden, by the back door, in a field, on the terrace, or even on an urban rooftop. You don’t need a great deal of space or flowers on your property; bees happily travel for miles to forage for what they need.

Bees are amazingly adaptable, but you’ll get optimum results and a more rewarding honey harvest if you follow some basic guidelines.

The ideal hive location should have easy access (so you can tend to your hives), good drainage (so the bees don’t get wet), and a nearby water source for the bees, dappled sunlight, and minimal wind. Keep in mind that fulfilling all these criteria may not always be possible. Just do the best you can.

  • Face your hive to the southeast. That way your bees get an early morning wake-up call and start foraging early
  • Position your hive so that it’s easily accessible come honey harvest time. You don’t want to be hauling hundreds of pounds of honey up a hill or down a fire escape on a hot August day.
  • Provide a windbreak at the rear of the hive or you can erect a fence made from posts and burlap or even use bales of hay to block harsh winter winds that can stress the colony (assuming you live in a climate with icy-cold winters).
  • Put the hive in dappled sunlight. Full, direct sun all day long causes the hives to get very hot in the summer. The bees will spend valuable time trying to regulate the hive’s temperature (rather than making honey). You also want to avoid deep, dark shade because it can make the hive damp and the colony listless.
  • Make sure the hive has good ventilation. Avoid placing it in a gully where the air is still and damp. Also, avoid putting it at the peak of a hill, should you live in a region where the bees will be subjected to winter’s fury.
  • Place the hive absolutely level from side to side, with the front of the hive just slightly lower than the rear (a difference of an inch or less is fine), so that any rainwater drains out of the hive (and not into it).
  • Locate your hive on firm, dry land. Don’t let it sink into the quagmire

17. Hire Employees for your Technical and Manpower Needs

The beekeeping business is an untapped goldmine but sure requirements expertise to be able to take care of the bees and perform other tasks. Things You’ll Need Starting and running a bee farm

  • Bee hives with established colonies
  • Hive tools
  • Smokers and fuel
  • Protective veil, coveralls and gloves
  • Honey extracting equipment
  • Land to establish bee yards
  • A dedicated space for extracting and packaging
  • Flowering plants that produce pollen or nectar
  • A vehicle for transporting beehives
  • Packaging for bee-related products
  • Additional supplies, including feeding and medicines

In terms of the manpower needed to run a bee farm, an individual with a thorough knowledge about bees can run a bee farm but it all depends on the size.

The Service Delivery Process of the Business

Beekeeping is one of oldest forms of animal husbandry. Early beekeepers encouraged the establishment of bee colonies in cylinders of bark, reed, straw, and mud. The production process of beekeeping is based around bee grooming for pollination and honey production.

An average bee colony produces 60-100 lb (27.2-45.4 kg) of honey each year. Colonies are divided by a three-tier organization of labour: 50,000-70,000 workers, one queen, and 2,000 drones. Worker bees only live for three to six weeks, each one collecting about one teaspoon of nectar. One pound (0.454 kg) of honey requires 4 lb (1.8 kg) of nectar, which requires two million flowers to collect.

When the worker bees are about 20 days old, they leave the hive to collect nectar, the sweet secretion produced by the glands of flowers. The bee penetrates the flower’s petals and sucks the nectar out with its tongue and deposits the nectar into its honey sac or abdomen.

Pollen attaches to the bee’s legs and hairs during the process. Some of it falls off into subsequent flowers; some mixes with the nectar.

When the worker bee cannot hold anymore nectar, she returns to the hive. The processed nectar, now on its way to becoming honey, is deposited into empty honeycomb cells. Other worker bees ingest the honey, adding more enzymes and further ripening the honey.

When the honey is fully ripened, it is deposited into a honeycomb cell one last time and capped with a thin layer of beeswax.

18. Write a Marketing Plan Packed with ideas & Strategies

Beekeeping can be a fascinating hobby, a profitable sideline, or a full-time occupation. Beekeeping can be an income-producing venture by providing pollination services to orchards and farmers, or by harvesting and selling honey and other products such as royal jelly, beeswax, and pollen.

Marketing ideas and strategies may include the following;

  • Going to Farmers’ Markets
  • Craft Shows and Festivals
  • Demonstrations
  • Use Displays and signs
  • Create a label
  • Use the Internet to Drive Sales
  • Do the Right product pricing in your bee farm

19. Develop Iron-clad Competitive Strategies to Help You Win

Entrepreneurs often hesitate to follow their business dreams because they believe the beekeeping business is local or is already so saturated that there simply is no more room to absorb any new entrants. However, focused bee farm owners can make it in a crowded field, even if it is filled with a couple of big players.

The key to your business’ success doesn’t hinge on finding a completely empty field, but how you define your business and its place in the market.

Starting a bee farm can sound deceptively simple, but in fact bee farming is a form of animal husbandry that involves providing feed when nectar and pollens are lacking, preventing infections from various microbes, dealing with two well-established parasitic mites, and reducing the influence of Africanized bees. It is a labour oriented business and to win your competitors you need to consider the following

  • Being innovative and creating new ideas
  • Creating a customer-centric culture
  • Don’t compete on price but on quality
  • Remember that saturation can mean strength

20. Brainstorm Possible Ways to Retain Clients & Customers

In a business world where customer acquisition costs are sky-rocketing, a zealous entrepreneur must focus on building a customer experience to increase customer satisfaction. Possible ways to increase customer retention in your beekeeping business are:

  • Treat your customers like they are the boss
  • Focus on measuring customer satisfaction
  • Build customer loyalty to increase customer retention
  • Set customer expectations early
  • Learn how to survey your customers the right way
  • Email is the best way of increasing customer retention
  • Tap into social media to track and monitor customer satisfaction so you can keep your customers happy

21. Develop Strategies to Boost Brand Awareness and Create a Corporate Identity

Your business may offer the greatest product in the world, but unless any consumers are aware of it, you may not make a single sale. One of your most important jobs as a business owner is to create brand awareness for your product. Ways to boost your brand awareness and create a corporate identity in beekeeping business may include

  • Using the web
  • Creating a breathtaking social presence
  • Using traditional advertising methods
  • Display your product prominently in stores
  • Hosting public events

22. Create a Suppliers/Distribution Network 

The Supply chain of a bee farm is based around the bees and the products they produce. Bees are known to produce many marketable products that can fetch you an outstanding income.

When starting a bee farm, you surely need bees to serve as the foundation of your supply chain.  Bee breeders are found mostly in the southern states. They will ship just about anywhere in the continental United States. A package of bees and a single queen are shipped in a small wooden box with two screened sides.

A bee farm can choose to market the bee’s product, breed the bees for pollination or both. Having a bee farm might be for businesses or as a hobby, but either way it is a lucrative means of income that requires that you take proper care of the bees no matter how adaptive they are.

23. Tips for Running a Bee Farming Business Successfully

The best way to learn bee farming is to work with an experienced mentor who has successfully kept bees in your area for many years. I’d look for someone who is candid about the mistakes they’ve made, and the number of times that they’ve recovered from major crashes.

Such bee farmers are generally not the noisiest self promoters, but here’s a tip: any bee farmer worth his salt will have bees for sale every spring. The biggest problem with healthy overwintered colonies is how to keep them all from swarming off, and it is relatively easy for any good bee farmer to triple his number of hives each spring if he wishes.