In today’s episode, Kim and Jim discuss making money with honey bees. Almost every beekeeper has had someone (usually a spouse…) say, “I thought you were going to make money as a beekeeper.” Well, it is possible to make money with bees, but...
In today’s episode, Kim and Jim discuss making money with honey bees.
Almost every beekeeper has had someone (usually a spouse…) say, “I thought you were going to make money as a beekeeper.” Well, it is possible to make money with bees, but you have to put some thought into it.
Do you have the time for the extra work required and can you afford to spend less time with your family?
Do you have the equipment you’ll need to do the things you can do to make money? Do you have the energy?
Well, start with the easy stuff – Honey.
Almost every beekeeper makes some honey most every year. Not always and actually the bees do the work, but honey is something you can sell. You can extract it yourself or pay somebody else to do it for you? No work, no mess and they get paid in the honey they extracted. Check that out.
What about taking bees out of other people’s houses? IT can be profitable if you’ve got the tools, the skills, the insurance, and the time?
Beeswax has a thousand uses. You can sell in bulk to other beekeepers, make candles, ornaments, wrap. They all have value. All take time and work. And almost none of this is actually keeping bees. It’s about marketing, packaging, and all the rest.
But it will make you money.
Thanks to Betterbee for sponsoring today's episode. BetterBee’s mission is to support every beekeeper with excellent customer service, continued education and quality equipment. From their colorful and informative catalog to their support of beekeeper educational activities, including this podcast series, BetterBee truly is Beekeepers Serving Beekeepers. See for yourself at www.betterbee.com
Honey Bee Obscura is brought to you by Growing Planet Media, LLC, the home of Beekeeping Today Podcast.
Music: Heart & Soul by Gyom, Walking in Paris by Studio Le Bus, original guitar music by Jeffrey Ott
Copyright © 2022 by Growing Planet Media, LLC
Jim Tew: Kim, I spent most of my career working inside a university system, and yet I've talked to a lot of people through those years who wanted to make money with their bees. What ideas have you got?
Kim Flottum: I'll tell you, I've spent a lot of my career inside building too, but fortunately, I got to get out and do stories on people who were successful at making money, so I got some ideas.
Jim: Okay. Well, good. Hi, I'm Jim Tew.
Kim: I'm Kim Flottum.
Jim: Today we're at Honey Bee Obscura, where we're going to talk about making money with your bees, maybe.
Introduction: You are listening to Honey Bee Obscura brought to you by Growing Planet Media, the folks behind beekeeping today podcast. Each week on Honey Bee Obscura hosts Kim Flottum and Jim Tew, explore the complexities, the beauty, the fun, and the challenges of managing honeybees in today's world in the aging and informative discussion meant for all beekeepers, long timers, and those just starting their journey with bees. Sit back and enjoy the next several minutes as Kim and Jim explore all things honey bees.
Jim: Kim, give us some ideas of what you think you can do, we can do, others can do, or what anyone should do if they want to try to make some money with their bees.
Kim: There's three things to sit down and think about before you do anything. That is the first thing you want to think about is do I have the time? The second thing you want to think about is do I have the equipment I'll need to do whatever it is I end up doing? The third thing you got to think about is, you're going to be spending more time not with your family than you are now.
Once you've got those resolved, then it gets a lot easier because you can start thinking about the actual things you're going to do, and every beekeeper makes honey.
Jim: One way or the other, that's true. You're right. I was thinking about energy, Kim, on that list you just put out, time and family loss and whatever. You didn't mention energy, just the work that's sometimes involved. What kind of task am I taking on?
Kim: That's a good question. Like I said, sit down and do some thinking before you jump into this and find out you spent a lot of money and you can't do it or it doesn't work for you, you're too old, you're not fast enough, whatever, before you start spending any amount of money. But, like I said, every beekeeper makes honey. Let me rephrase that, most beekeepers sometimes make honey, how's that?
Jim: No, I wasn't going to challenge you on that, but you said that now twice, and I'm thinking I don't always make honey, but, of course, I never make it, my bees make it, but I take it from them.
Kim: If you're making honey, and you know how much honey you're going to have extra, if you've got three colonies and you always end up with two boxes full of honey that you don't need to over winter on, you've got two boxes full of honey that you can sell. The easiest, cheapest, and least painful way is to extract that honey, put it in a five-gallon bucket and sell it to another beekeeper who is selling honey.
That way you get your pail back, you haven't spent any money, you've already got your extractor, the only thing you're out of is a little bit of time that you used to extract that, and you have to extract, anyway. Two more supers aren't going to take you forever. That's probably the easiest, best, fast way to make a little bit of money to start off with.
Jim: I'm afraid that people listening might think I'm lazy, but I took that one click lower, not up but down. I took my folic supers to a beekeeper and had them extract them for me. I got my honey back, and my empty supers back, honey in a can, supers in the back of the truck, and I didn't set all that extracting equipment up.
Kim: That's not uncommon at all, is you have somebody else do the work for you and they keep part of the crop, and you're not out anything at all. That's a good way to look at starting, either extract it or let somebody else extract it and keep part of what you harvested, and you've got cash in your pocket, and you don't have a sore back or a sore arm.
Jim: I don't have all that to clean up. I sound lazy. I'm not lazy. I promise you, beekeepers, I'm not lazy, but it's just so much time, so much energy in these things.
Kim: Take that another half a step further then, you've got this honey in a five gallon pail, either from the person who extracted it for you or that you extracted and you want to sell this honey. You're going to keep a bunch, or give it away, but there's some you want to sell. Then you got to look at bottles, labels, all of those sorts of things. Shop around for those first. What do you want? The common Queensland glass jar? Probably not the cheapest container you can find. What's going to be the cheapest container? Quart jar? Pint jar?
Jim: That's true. As you were talking, I was thinking about some of those decorative jars. Sometimes it's a common canning jar, you have that rustic look, instead of the classic bee look.
Kim: Every supply company sells labels, custom-made labels, with your name and of the weight and all of that and an address on it. I know Betterbee does a good job of labels. They do a really good job of labels. What are you going to call it? Honey? Just pure honey, or without doing anything else, do you give it an identity? The identity could be Medina County Honey, or Wayne County honey? It could be Fall Honey, Summer Honey, Spring Honey.
Jim: There's an old beekeeper in Medina named Kim Flottum, and he said, "Never call your honey Wildflower Honey."
Jim: Is that what you're saying now?
Kim: That's what I'm saying. Give it a name, give it an identity. I'll tell you what that does, that does a couple of things. One is it makes it special because most people don't call their honey something, and so it's got an identity. If you're selling it like a farm market, and you've got fall honey, when the customer comes back and says, "You know what, I bought a jar something called Fall Honey from you, you got any more of that? That was really good. It's dark and strong and I really liked that kind of honey."
Then what you can do is you go, "Ooh," and you look down underneath the bench, and you reach out, you got the last one. Of course you charge double-- no, you don't charge double for that one but. [laughs]
Jim: Beekeepers never gouge. You don't gouge.
Kim: No. Give it an identity so that your customer knows it's from you and can ask you for that honey again. Another thing you can do with honey that a lot of people do now is infuse it. You put something in it, and you mix a couple of flavors. The flavor of your honey and the flavor of whatever it is you're infusing, and that stuff can be almost free. You can put cinnamon in it, that's going to cost you a little bit, but what I like is hot pepper infused honey. Some people like it really hot, some people like just a touch of hot, but you can cut some peppers.
Jim: The peppers are actually in the honey?
Jim: I don't want to get off the subject. We don't have much time, but how do you eat such a thing? On what?
Kim: [chuckles] You got to put it-- I don't know what kind of container you use. You can either leave the peppers in when you sell it, or maybe just one on the bottom, so that you can say, "Yes, pepper infused honey," and point to that one pepper, or you strain it out once you get it home. Either way, any way to make that happen.
Jim: I don't want to talk that out. There's many other options that people could consider as they start this notion of how to make money, but pepper infused honey is a new one to make.
Kim: Well, it works and it sells well. The other thing, if you've been at this long enough, and then long enough isn't decades, it's just long enough, is what was the source of your honey? If you know that you put an empty box on when locusts started blooming and you took a full box off when the locusts was done blooming, you can be pretty sure that what you've got is a box of mostly locusts honey, so you can call it locust honey.
Jim: That's about as good as it gets for beekeepers, Kim. It's just having an idea of what's in bloom.
Kim: Yes, what and where. Some people even move their bees to places where there's things blooming. We've got a place here in Medina County, not quite halfway to work, when I used to work in town, that had probably 200 wild crab apples growing in it. It's beautiful in the spring, but a couple of colonies placed there, I could probably call it Crab Apple Honey, because there's nothing else blooming.
Jim: Kim, let's take a break at this point and allow our sponsors to talk to us about what they do.
BetterBee: Betterbee is pleased to sponsor today's episode of Honey Bee Obscura podcast. For over 40 years, Betterbee has supplied beekeepers across the country with the tools, equipment, and knowledge needed to succeed. Because many Betterbee employees are beekeepers themselves, they understand your needs and challenges, and are better prepared to answer your beekeeping questions. From their colorful catalog to their supportive beekeeper educational activities, including this podcast, Betterbee truly lives up to their tagline of beekeepers serving beekeepers. See for yourself at betterbee.com.
Kim: Not only have you got varietal honey, you got bulk honey in a pail, you got honey you're just going to bottle and sell, you've got varietal honey, you've got infused honey, that's probably as complicated as you want to get. You can get more complicated, but then you're going to have to have more honey. Pick a couple of those ways, just bulk honey, selling it to another beekeeper, or bottle it yourself and make something with it. Another thing to think about, we talked about this before, if you're at all skilled at construction, if you can take wooden things apart and put them back together again, or you can make things out of wood, getting bees out of the side of people's houses can be a pretty good way to make money. I couldn't do it because I don't have the tools and I don't have any of the skills, but there are people that do.
Jim: That's an interesting, and demanding, and necessary undertaking. Those people who really excel at that are surgeons of opening up houses and buildings, they're like heroes. Of course, you got to charge. Sometimes there's hydraulic lifts involved and scaffolding and major undertaking that can really grow into a big business.
Kim: It doesn't have to, though. You can keep it really small. You can go look at- [crosstalk]
Jim: That's true. Can I say if you can say no that you can keep it small, you can go look, and say, "Up on the third floor under the eve of that window, that's going to be a no, but if it's in your garage on an eight-foot ceiling, that's a possibility." I can see where you're going with keeping it small, I think it's what you're saying.
Kim: You don't need to invest a lot in equipment, you may already have it, you may not have to invest anything, a stepladder and a crowbar maybe all that you're going to need for the jobs that you're going to take. What do you charge? That's the question. I got two pieces of advice that the people that I know that do this for a living tell me, call up five people who are doing it, no matter where, call up five people that are already doing it and see what they charge.
A lot of them will give you a per hour charge, I charge so much per hour. Some of them will get you a job charge, but a lot of them will give you a per hour charge. I know what my time per hour is worth. I know what I would charge for that, and I wouldn't do it for us. I can look at a job and say to the homeowner, "It's probably going to take me half a day to do this, and I charge this much per hour." Then they make up your mind for you.
Jim: Everything's in the details, I would think, Kim, is the beekeeper, the bee remover, is he going to restore the house or does he just get the bees out, and then someone else comes in and puts it back together?
Kim: That's the easiest way to do it.
Jim: Everything's in the details of it.
Kim: Take it apart, get the bees, the wax, clean it up, get off the ladder and say, "Call your man and put this back together before it rains."
Jim: The more you put together, this got to be money. The quickest question is always can you live with those bees? The easiest thing to do is to live with them. They really need to come out.
Kim: There's two ways you can get into making a little bit of money with your bees actually taking other bees out of other people's houses and making it with your bees, but the skills that you learn with your bees you're applying to that house, and you've got smoker and maybe you've got a vacuum, maybe not, and you got to be sure. Several ways to sell honey, several ways to remove bees. I think real quick the next one and the last one we will have time for today is what do you do the beeswax?
Jim: Oh, yes. That's good. You're assuming that you got a crop big enough to generate meaningful amounts of beeswax?
Kim: Not even meaningful amounts, you could put a couple of three-pound coffee cans full of wax cappings in a solar melter, melt it down, have it strained out. There's 10 beekeepers out there that'll give you money for that right now. How much your charge is, well, how much can you get, A, how much are they willing to pay, but both of the magazines talk about bulk beeswax, there's a place to start selling it. If you've melted it, and it's clean, and it's refined, and you've strained it, that's going to be more, but you've got more time invested in it. A chunk of beeswax is for a lot of beekeepers they're going to take that chunk of beeswax and turn it into a candle, into a Christmas ornament, into something that's going to be worth five times what they paid for it for the pound. Of course, you could be- [crosstalk]
Jim: So much of this is not beekeeping that we've been talking about. So much of this is marketing, processing, bottling, hauling, trucking, candle making stalls all work. There's not really much supering and queen concern going on. This is all beekeeping-related, beekeeping ancillary.
Kim: Like I said, I'm going to bet just about everyone listening to this at one point or another is living with somebody who has said, "I thought we were going to make money doing this?"
Jim: [laughs] Don't, Kim.
Jim: That's my wife, that's my brothers, that's my brother's wife, that's my mother, I've heard that question from everybody through the years.
Kim: If that's the question you're getting asked every spring when you've got to get more packages because you can't keep your bees alive or you want to expand or whatever, then here's some things to think about making some money. You're going to have honey, you're going to have wax, and if you're a skilled craftsman, you can take houses apart.
Jim: That's right. We didn't mention pollination, but that's for later, that's its own world. What do you do if you want to all bees around for pollination, that's a standalone project.
Kim: Another one is bees. You can sell bees, and you can sell them in boxes, you can sell them in hives, you can sell bees. That's going to take some beekeeping skill. We'll get to that in a little bit.
Jim: You can make money, you really can.
Kim: You don't have to be a perfect beekeeper to do it. You can lose some bees this year and you can still make money with wax that you're melting down getting bees out of houses.
Jim: You caught me off guard with that. I'm still trying to think of one perfect beekeeper. So far, nobody has come to mind, not you, not me. I'm still working on a perfect beekeeper, but I guess I'll leave it at that.
Kim: Okay. Down the road a little bit we'll look at pollination, and contracts, and some of those things that you got to think about. Again, you're going to need to know more about bees, but you don't know about bees, it's all about how you get yourself in the way you want to run your operation. Until then, I'll catch you later.
Jim: All right. Always enjoy talking. Thank you.
[00:17:56] [END OF AUDIO]
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