Become a Beekeeper on your Homestead: 5 Steps to Getting Started

Beekeeping can help anyone retire, but how can you get started and reach this level? For this reason, I’ve written a complete guide to show you.

If you own a homestead, you likely have a very entrepreneurial way of thinking; I’m with you here. I’m going, to be frank with you from the start, if you think beekeeping is going to be fun and rewarding, you’re right! 

Getting Started with a Honey Bee Farm on a Homestead

Luckily, I’ve already been through the hoops of the business, so I’m going to share what I’ve learned so that you can get into this exciting business a step ahead of everyone else.

As with any business, it’ll take a little time to get started and grow it into an income, but once you’ve reached a certain point, it’ll provide a high passive income. 

I almost guarantee that you will be extremely passionate about the bee biz after a little while of being in the midst of it all. 

Beekeeping doesn’t have to be the only business you get into on your homestead because you’ll only be harvesting honey once per year, leaving time for other things too! Let’s get into it now.

Why You Should Start A Honeybee Farm

It’s Fun & Rewarding

The first time I began beekeeping was with my father. He wanted to get into the business to use it as a retirement option alongside his other ventures. 

Throughout my life beforehand, I’ve only ever tended to livestock, like birds and goats. It surprised me when we first started beekeeping as to how fun and rewarding it was. 

It can earn you money in several ways; by selling honey, making candles, candy, wax products like lip balm, and much more. You can get very creative; it seems like there are an endless amount of ways for a hive to make money.

It’ll Help You Retire

If you play your cards right, retiring from beehives alone can quickly be done. You can’t expect to retire the first year or two, but this isn’t far fetched even in the slightest.

Beekeeping requires a monetary investment up front including land, equipment, hives (deeps, supers), and other critical areas.

However, after the initial investment, particularly after the hives start paying themselves off (within a year), you’ll begin to see the dollar come in much faster than expected.

It’s Lucrative

If I’m optimistic about one thing from the first-hand experience, it’s that beekeeping is insanely profitable. The return on the product is considerably high.

In my area, a quart goes for $10, and assuming the average hive makes roughly 25 quarts per year, that’s $25,000 per year from 100 hives.

You certainly need more than a few hives if you want the beekeeping business to be worth the time, but after the first investments are over with, maintaining the hives are incredibly easy.


How To Start A Honeybee Farm

Make a Game Plan

The most essential thing you should do, even before you purchase the first piece of gear or equipment, is to make a solid game plan. 

If you plan to use the beehive business as the primary income source, you’ll need to understand what the investment will look like and how long it’ll take to pull in profits. 

You also need to look at your property. Typically, a beehive can be placed up to ten feet away from one another, but it’s never good to have more than twenty-five hives per acre. 

This means that if you’d like to make twenty-five thousand per year, you need four acres. Sure, it can be done in less, but this is risky. 

Make a plan on where the hives will be placed, and make sure you have land with plenty of trees, bushes, flowers, etc., a dry land such as a desert is asking for trouble.

Get Yourself Some Gear

If you’ve never experienced the feeling of being surrounded by thousands of honey bees at once, it can be overwhelmingly nerve-wracking. 

This is why I recommend a bee suit, especially if you’re new to beekeeping. Many beekeepers, including myself, end up not using the bee suit.

However, when you’re around these hives, you need to respect them by moving slowly, and this may not be the aspect on your mind amid the bee swarm. 

Gloves are also essential, as when you’re doing your bi-weekly rounds to check on the hives, you’ll be opening them, and this will inevitably lead to bee stings.

Finally, many bee suits do not seal correctly around the gloves and boots, so wrapping some duct tape around this area will prevent bees from sneaking in.

Buy The Equipment

Here is where the majority of the investment comes into play. Hives can be cheap, but what you cannot cheap out on is the equipment. For starters, you’ll need a smoker.

This is a small device, which has a canister to place pine needles inside. 

This creates a smoke, which calms the bees so you can harvest, etc. next, you’ll need a honey extractor, which is a bucket that will spin the honey out of the comb.

These can be pricey, but it’s worth the investment as it’ll save you a LOT of time. There are certainly several other important pieces of equipment that you need, so check here for a detailed look. 

Nevertheless, buying the proper equipment will make the entire beekeeping business work one hundred times more efficiently and make you more money.

Buy & Maintain The Hives

The hives are what is called home by the honey bees, but this is no surprise. There are several types of hives, but what matters is that the bees have enough room.

You’ve probably already looked at hives, and I bet you’ve seen prices climb into the hundreds of dollars for a single hive.

These expensive hives are a complete waste of money unless you only plan to have a few as a hobby. Otherwise, a cheap, plain wooden hive will serve just as well.

You’ll need to have the bottom surface with a screen bottom board, the first level (brood), and the upper levels (supers) with a queen excluder near the top, which prevents an escape.

The hives should be painted white to reflect sunlight, which could cause the bees to become overheated during warm months. 

Harvest The Product

Your hard work with the hives have finally paid off; it’s harvesting time. To do this, you’ll need the noted equipment, a lot of mason jars, and prepare to get sticky. 

When you’re ready to harvest honey, remove the honeycomb with the honey, and replace it with a new honeycomb. 

Place the honeycomb in the spinner, spin it as your life depends on it, and allow the honey to run through a filter that’ll remove the wax and other debris. 

Typically, the filter is placed at the exit of the spinner. Let the honey fall into a bucket with a filter covering the top, and another exit at the bottom, which is yet again, filtered. 

After you’ve harvested all of the honey, take the buckets, drain the honey into the mason jars and place them in storage. 

Some honey will be lighter than other honey, depending on the hive, try not to mix the two if you plan to sell the honey, some love light honey, and others love the dark honey.


How To Sell The Product

Mom & Pop Shops

When I first placed the honey for sale, many mom & pop shops welcomed beekeepers with open arms to sell their honey.

Most mom & pop shops I placed the honey for sale in required a small per sale fee, but it was minuscule compared to the profits.

This gives you a chance not only to sell your honey but to get your name out there if you place your name and number on the labels.

Auctions 

Auctions are typically meant for livestock, but I’ve seen many auctions also have honey on stage. If you do sell your honey at an auction, It’ll go fast.

Auctions also give you an enormous marketing advantage because when the auctioneer starts the bids, the entire gathering will know about your bee business.

I’ve done this a handful of times, but in all honesty, I could not keep enough honey in stock that was worth a trip to the auction; it was all bought up.

Farmers Market

This is one of the better options because most shoppers love honey, primarily locally harvested honey.

I never used farmers’ markets as much as I should’ve, but my uncle did; he’s been a beekeeper for decades. The majority of his sales came directly from farmers’ markets.

It’s a straightforward way to get new and repeat customers, and after a while, your name will get out there. Try to find one that will showcase the honey upfront, perhaps for a small fee.

Health Food Stores

This is likely going to require permits, and perhaps even health and safety heck’s due to the nature of health food stores. However, they are a great way to make sales.

Health food stores have a single purpose, which is to provide healthy products. Locally grown honey, if you’ve not caught on yet, is very beneficial to your health.

Once you’ve gotten everything together, your business is fully licensed, selling at a health food store could be your most significant income source.

Word Of Mouth

This is, by far, the method that made me the most money. At first, it’ll be slow; you probably will never get seeked out for honey.

However, once you sell to a few friends or family members, it won’t take long before your phone stays lit up with new and repeat customers.

Make sure to place your name, number, and, if comfortable, your address on the label; this way, any potential clients turn into real clients only by having a way to contact you.


Frequently Asked Questions 

Are Permits Required?

When you first get started, and you’re not making a profit or selling the honey, a permit almost always is not needed; at this point, it’s just a hobby.

However, once you get ready to start distributing the honey to the local markets or online, a permit may be required.

I had hives in two areas; one required a permit, the other did not. So I’d advise you to contact your city hall to inquire about this.

How Can I Learn More About Beekeeping?

There are several other ways to learn more about beekeeping, such as articles, books, documentaries, and more.

However, the best way for any novice to learn is by visiting veteran beekeepers who’ve been in the business for years.

I’ve never seen a beekeeper deny teaching newcomers; in fact, many of them love to share their knowledge with others.

When Can I Expect To Earn A Profit?

If you’re starting a beekeeping business to make a profit, then you cannot expect to make money for the first year.

The first year is going to be full of maintenance, building, learning, and more. At the end of year one, there is money to be made, but not much.

The real profits will start to roll in during year two and reach their peak after year three, depending on several factors.


Verdict 

If you own a homestead, or perhaps this is going to be a reality soon, then passive income seems like the perfect thing to chase – and it is. 

I’ve seen many individuals come into beekeeping, stay for a year, and leave. A lack of education and planning causes this.

Profits will not be made until year two, so if you get into this business, if you understand and plan around this, you will succeed. 

It’s hard work at first, but slowly and surely, the hives will become passive. What is my number one piece of advice? Find a beekeeper who’s been in the game for a while and pick his brain. 



Written by Bryan Rucker

Brian Rucker has spent his entire life participating in essentially all things homestead. He grew up on a homestead and helped his parents do the day-to-day. Read more of Bryan's articles.