This year Luke and I took the dive into making our bee business official, we got our license and are now looking into what we think might be the best bet for success. There are so many options when it comes to bees as a business; honey and wax production, pollination services, hive sales, swarm removals, queen breeding. Now to just determine what we are best at and go after our dream of working fully from home with what we are most passionate about.
A few years ago I mentioned to Luke my desire to try beekeeping. For some reason, it had been on my mind for a hand full of years. Luke took that desire and ran with it, within months he had found two hives for sale and brought them home. Our first year was not a success. We started late in the season and our bees died that first winter, all of them! Our second year we started with four nucs and were able to build up our hive numbers quickly by purchasing queens and splitting hives as well as creating walk away nucs. We ended last year with 12 hives and their honey production last year from two harvests paid for the original four hives.
“Spring” forward to this being the start of our third year and we are looking at a trailer load of bee equipment that Luke scored to really get our business going. We plan to purchase a few more nucs this year, offer swarm removals and hope to be moving toward the option to pollinate in the next year or so. With this used equipment we do have our work cut out for us in sanding down and preparing them for new hives with a fresh coat of paint but in the long run, this was a great inexpensive way to get our business humming. We can also sell some of the equipment after it is cleaned and refinished and turn a profit as the cost of this equipment in bulk was pennies on the dollar.
This weekend we will be doing hive inspections on all of our hives to see how we faired this winter, fingers crossed we didn’t have a ton of losses.
Do you keep bees? If so is it for hobby or your business? What have been some of your bee successes?
8 Comments Add yours
We are going from one to two hives this year and are bound and determined to eventually be a producer of local honey – not an easy feat here on the coast where many hives die (we lost our gals in the fall, a strange thing since they were healthy and the only other time we’ve lost one was after a winter in PDX where we think they weren’t insulated as well as they should have been as in winters past, so are replacing them along with getting the second nuc in 2 weeks). It’s an interesting thing here, we have a TON of bumblebees – like, so many you can’t go walking out in the pastures barefoot because by summer they own everything! – but honeybees are a different story. We’ve been planting a ton of bee-friendly plants on this new property which we hope will help, and are keeping an eye on one neighbor who does a LOT of spraying (as they’re insistent on having green grass 365 days a year, oy!) as my suspicion is that our girls we moved out here from Portland might have been exposed to that but I can’t be sure.
That is VERY cool you are turning yours into a business – I’m going to share this with my husband as I know that will motivate him 🙂
Did you lose your queen in the fall? That is strange that you lost them, the only other thing could be mites but if you know they were healthy I would assume the queen was faulty or if numbers were good, maybe like you mentioned the pesticides got them. RATS!
Two hives will be much easier for you! It’s nice to be able to compare how one hive is acting vs. another and add resources or swap brood frames if needed. We have always had at least two hives from the start for this reason. This year we ordered 2 nucs and 4 packages of bees as well as an order of 10 queens and we might even look into breeder queens this year. Luke’s property is on the other side of the state so he gets a lot more moisture in the winter than me so we had better success keeping our hives on my side of the state compared to last year. We are tempted to try and do pollination if we can grow our numbers quickly. I want to stay in the state though as there is so much risk following California blooms even if it is where the money is.
Sorry to hear about your neighbor! I do a grass killer when there is still snow on the ground to prevent any harm to our bees. I cover all the gravel walkways with it as well as the driveway. The rest of the landscape is planted with bee and pollinator-friendly plants. They tend to prefer blue and purple hues so we try to always find those shades for any new plants joining our landscape. I also purchased dandelion seed this year as you can never have too many early food sources. We noticed this weekend they were already bringing in yellow pollen from somewhere so the season has begun! Later this week I am going to share a homemade pollen substitute recipe though so stay tuned! We want them well off to start so we can do several splits this year and fill our new (to us) bee equipment.
I would definitely encourage you to shoot for the goal of making it a business. We have been lucky enough to break even our second year. Our honey is always sold prior to even being bottled. We have been lucky to have a waiting list each harvest. But there are so many more opportunities for income than just honey production. We have even started selling splits to our friends and family who have a desire to try the hobby. It is fun because we get to be hands-on with them and do lessons in person if they need help to start. It takes time to learn what to look for and to “listen” to the colonies. Prevention is key to success, always try to be ahead of the hive in their next need.
Thank you for sharing! I would love to have you come visit sometime and we can do some hive inspections together. -Best!
Thanks for all the tips! Yes we’ve already planted a bunch of California lilacs and other beautiful blue and purple things for them which are just starting to bud 🙂 one thing that’s nice as well as that my husband works for the local grocery Co-op and they are very good about supporting local growers and vendors including people who work there.
As far as our Hive loss, it was all full of honey and no mites (fortunately if we’ve never had a problem with mites) so we are a little clueless as to if it had something to do with the queen dying or chemicals or what. The climate here at the coast is much different than in the valley and our local beekeeping association head said he hasn’t had a successful honey harvest in 5 years, yikes!
Holy cats! Were they Italians by any chance? We have had great honey success with Italians but they have hardly any will to live so we have decided to no longer purchase pure Italians. Lives matter just as much as the honey production to us so it’s just not worth the hand off.
Yes actually they were Italians raised right here in Oregon by a local beekeeping cooperative. Super gentle. Our previous bees were from swarms caught
That’s amazing! I can’t wait to hear how well your bees survived. Sounds like you’re in for a lot more work this spring and summer! (It’s always worth it though)
This design is incredible! You obviously know how to keep a reader entertained. Between your wit and your videos, I was almost moved to start my own blog (well, almost…HaHa!) Wonderful job. I really loved what you had to say, and more than that, how you presented it. Too cool!
Your style is so unique in comparison to other people I have read stuff from. I appreciate you for posting when you have the opportunity, Guess I will just book mark this blog.