People keep bees for a lot of reasons, and only one is to have them make money. We didn’t say honey here because many, maybe most of us small scale beekeepers enjoy sharing this delicious, hard-won product of our bees with friends, family and special people in our lives. Especially other beekeepers, because, you know, even though their honey is really, really good – ours is so much better.
But at some point things may change. After a couple three years, after you’ve gotten the hang of this hobby, one harvest you’ll find you have much more than you can give away, so then what? Or, after sinking what seems like more money that you ever thought possible into more hives, more bees, more, more, more – somebody at home will remind you that not too long ago you actually said that beekeeping could actually pay for itself. So now, beekeeper, it’s time your bees start earning a living.
So, three questions. What do you sell, who do you sell it to, and how much do you sell it for. The chart on this page pretty much lists anything you can sell that’s made in a bee hive, except propolis, which isn’t commonly sold by small scale operations like ours. But it starts out with bulk honey in barrels (a gallon of honey weighs 12 pounds and there’s 55 gallons in a standard honey barrel, which will come in at right about 660 pounds, plus the weight of the barrel), and five gallon pails (60 pounds of honey, plus the weight of that plastic pail) that are sold to specialty food processors (typically called honey packers), or other beekeepers who then bottle your honey and put their label on it. Then it moves to the typical sized cases that are sold at wholesale prices to places like grocery stores, specialty markets, gift stores and the like, and finally the retail prices of each of the containers and types of honey, and even wax sold by individuals – perhaps by the grocery store you sold that case of honey to, or it may even be your price if you sell direct to a customer at a farm market, at work, or out your back door. That answers the first two questions – what do you sell, and who do you sell it to.
But for how much you ask? Well, our sister magazine, Bee Culture, features a Monthly Honey Report that shows the prices for each of these products every month in each of the seven regions shown on the map. Then, it takes the prices from every region and finds the average price across all regions for that month. So what the chart shows are those monthly averages for all regions for every month. We agree that an average of an average is less that spectacular data, however, the trends they show are very telling in what the honey market is doing across the country. You’ll note some prices gradually increase over time, some stay the same while others actually decrease.
Overall, wholesale prices for honey rose about 5% for the year, which is just a little above the cost of living increases we experienced in most places, so selling honey seems to be a profitable way to both make money, and move that extra honey. Retail prices were just a tad above that, while bulk prices stayed flat. The reason bulk has stayed flat all year is because of the big influx of inexpensive imported honey, mostly from Vietnam and India and South America, keeping bulk prices lower than one would expect. One factor to consider, however, is that only 20% or so of the honey consumed in the U. S. is produced domestically (yes, we import just under 80% of the honey consumed here), and much of that is direct, local retail sales, which normally command a slightly to significantly higher price than poorer quality, bulk imports.
For reference, a quart jar holds three pounds of honey, and a pint a pound and a half of honey.