Sunday, March 11, 2007

To Bee or Not to Bee

I will be concluding this Ag Business series next weekend. I think I’ve covered just about every topic for consideration. If I haven’t touched on an Ag topic that you wanted to hear about, let me know.

One other start-up Ag business one might want to consider is beekeeping. This is not for someone who gets ill being around insects. There are start-up costs and quite a learning curve before you can actually feel comfortable with your knowledge and proficiency.

One thing you would need to start with is a class on beekeeping. There are several offered around the state. See the events page at This is the Oregon State Beekeepers Association web site. It offers a lot of resources for beekeepers of every level. Next get a good book on the subject. And spend the next year reading and studying the craft. See if you can job shadow a beekeeper.

There is money in beekeeping, but the balancing act one must do to make a profit often unnerves beekeepers. The mistake that many make is they grow their business too quickly, and when there is a bad year it can financially devastate the keeper.

There is money to be made if you don’t mind transporting your bees to California where the almond producers will pay over $150 per hive for pollination. Don’t expect those prices for other crops when that season is over. Things like pumpkins or cherries bring in only about $35 per hive. If you can start in California, come back and work several other crops in Oregon each colony can yield about $300 in pollination fees alone.

There is also money in honey production, though commercial beekeepers that make their money on pollination see honey as a by-product. They sell off their honey to big distributors often for less than two-dollars a pound. Beekeepers who value their honey will bottle it and market it them selves. Good raw honey can fetch between six and eight dollars a pound. A well established colony will yield between 150 and250 pounds of honey in Oregon.

There are other hive products that one can sell or use in products in their cottage industry. Bees wax can be made into candles, but it can also be used in making hand creams and lip balm and furniture wax. Propolis can be made into a tintiture for cuts and scrapes. Bee pollen is another item beekeepers collect and sell.

Someone who is focused can turn a profit in beekeeping after about five years. It does take time to learn the craft, grow your holdings responsibly, and have the bees draw foundation into honey comb that can be used year after year.

Money and profit aside, there is just something special in watching bees come and go on a warm summer day. The smell of the hive is remarkably good as well.


Blogger Jeff said...

Yes, but what about the goofy looking outfits beekeepers have to wear?

7:54 AM  
Blogger Auntie L said...

Guy - bees have always scared me. I have never been stung before either. Is there hope for me?

8:47 AM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

In reality the bee suit is more functional than a business suit, but dressing for the job is a good idea, though I do know keepers who don't wear them at all. There is something disconcerting about having a bee crawl into your ear. It is possible to get stung through the suit, but rare. It's easier to work bees when you don't have to worry about doing something stupid had having thousands of angry bees bomb you because you dropped a frame.

L, you should avoid them then. They can smell fear.

11:44 AM  
Anonymous Auntie L said...

Yes Guy, I had heard that they can smell fear and for that reason I have come to the realization that it would probably be a good thing to get stung (once) and get it over with.

If that doesnt take away the fear I will forever stay away from the bastards.

11:59 AM  
Anonymous Moosehead said...

The smell of a bee colony is truly unique and if you could bottle it as as an air freshener, you would make a fortune. It makes you want to breathe in deeply and say ohhmmmm as you transcend reality.

Hey Guy! Neat! We have spell check now. What ever am I going to do with my newly freed up time. What's next? No more cussin'? I know - I know. Just Moose being "rye" again...thought I missed that one, didn't you? Rye is what I drink and wry is what I am...or smartass if you prefer. I guess I must mean smart ass...or so spell check tells me. Now, I wonder how you spell deoderizer..nope...deoderiser..nope
nope...air freshener. That works!

3:29 PM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

L, best have an eppi pen handy in the event you stop breathing.

Moosehead, that's easy, just get a bucket of burr comb scrapings and a propolis trap and leave them behind the seat. Throw in an old smoker and yoou can have that smell year round. It's even better on hot days.

4:39 PM  
Blogger Sornie said...

It's odd that I find a post on, of all things, beekeeping. The former priest at my former church kept a few hives as a hobby alongside his gardening. I always wondered how they survived our Minnesota winters.

4:50 PM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

They cluster together for warmth and eat honey. Cold won't kill healthe bees.

4:59 PM  

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