Tutorial: Beekeeping Plans, Supplies & Ideas
Getting Started in Beekeeping Business!
One knowledgeable beekeeper is needed for every 500 to 1,000 colonies. 
Without some experience and lots of sage advice, taking care of a commercial 
beekeeping operation would be overwhelming. Experienced beekeepers are full of 
advice. Their years of experience have shown them what does and doesn't work. 
These beekeepers are also your best bet at getting into the business. 
With your enthusiasm and his or her expertise and apiary locations, you could 
work out a phased retirement plan that eventually leaves you in charge.

When kept in a healthy, stress-free condition, bees will thrive as long as food
and water are available in abundance. But this success can be a problem. 
Populous colonies often swarm in the spring. While fascinating to watch, it is 
not appreciated by neighbors in whose bushes the swarm settles. Worse, the swarm 
sometimes finds an opening and moves into the wall of the neighbor's house.

When Africanized honey bees move into an area, it is extremely difficult for your
neighbors to accept the presence of your bees. Anti-beekeeping ordinances will
become common, as will law suits after stinging incidents.

At the end of the season, after the honey has been removed, the bees exist on 
stored honey and pollen until new supplies become available--as long as six 
months in cold areas. Beekeepers must be certain that adequate food supplies 
are available. Hive components must be weather tight and well protected from 
winter winds. In warm climates, bees continue to fly on nice days and deplete 
their food reserves quickly. As soon as spring approaches, another year of 
monitoring must begin.

Moving a honey crop from hives into containers is a multi-step process. 
The bees must be removed from the honey combs by brushing or blowing them off 
or chasing them out with bee repellents. The combs are moved to a place where 
robbing bees cannot find and empty them. The cappings are removed and the honey
is spun from the combs with a honey extractor. The honey runs out of the 
extractor, through sieves, into a settling tank. When the foam has floated to 
the top, the honey is poured into jars. Labels are placed on jars just before 
the honey is sold.

Land and Buildings

Land--Beekeepers own, rent, or find free locations where their bees can find food
while not being a nuisance to humans or livestock. You must abide by beekeeping 
regulations, including restrictions or prohibitions on beekeeping, and colony 
registration (by county in California). In some areas, the hives are left 
permanently. In other areas, suitable permanent locations do not exist and the 
apiaries are relocated six or more times a year.

Buildings--You will need a place for storing and repairing equipment, mixing 
bee feed and antibiotic treatments, extracting and handling honey. Some people 
use a garage or toolshed, but a larger facility really is required. 
Many beekeepers rent buildings. Others build a "honey house." Before building a
facility, visit other beekeepers to note features that make handling of 
equipment and honey efficient.

Equipment and Supplies

Vehicles--You'll need vehicles for hauling equipment or bees from one location to
another. Flat bed trucks are used most often, equipped with a bee boom, or 
pulling a forklift so hives do not have to be lifted by hand. Some beekeepers 
use a station wagon or pickup truck.

Hives--Bee hives are stacks of four-sided, bottomless boxes that hold wooden 
frames upon which the bees build their combs. Each hive has a bottom board and 
cover. The bees glue the small cracks between the components together with "bee 
glue" (propolis). The frames rest on ledges cut into the top of the boxes. 
Sheets of embossed beeswax (foundation) are attached in the frames to provide
the bees with the midribs for their new combs. The bees extend the foundation 
wax and add more to it and draw comb cells out of each side of the sheet. 
The comb cells are used for food storage, clustering, raising baby bees, and 
air conditioning.

Queen excluders are wire or plastic screens with a mesh size that allows worker 
bees to pass through while preventing the passage of the queen (or drones).

Fume boards are similar to covers, with an extra rim that provides a space for 
an absorbent pad saturated with liquid bee repellent, the fumes of which drive 
bees from the boxes.

Feeders are usually gallon cans with small holes in the cap that fit into a hole 
drilled into the hive cover; or a plastic or waxed wooden device that has 
similar dimensions to drawn combs and hangs with them and into which syrup is 

Entrance reducers are wooden or plastic blocks that partially close hive 
entrances to prevent robbing or entrance of mice.

Robbing screens allow continuous ventilation of the hive while prohibiting 
entry of robbing bees.

Division or follower boards are frame-shaped dividers used to confine bees to a 
specific portion of a hive.

"Nuc" (nucleus) refers to a queen, bees, brood, and food covering two to five 
frames, or to a specially designed small hive box holding a three- to five-frame 

Bee brush is a long-bristled, soft brush to sweep bees from combs.

Escape board is a divider placed between hive boxes containing gate-like 
devices that allow bees to pass only unidirectionally from one box to another.

Veil and hat prevent stings to the face if the smoke fails to calm the bees 
while a hive tool is being used to break apart the propolis bonds between the 
components in the hive.

Smoker and hive tool are essentials that are used daily.

White coveralls protect clothing and prevent stings.

Elbow-length gloves keep bees away from hands and out of sleeves.

Sources of Bees

Purchase a "package" of bulk bees containing a queen to install in an empty hive.

Purchase functioning colonies, hives and all, from another beekeeper.

Purchase a nuc--a queen, some workers, brood, and food can be purchased on three 
to five frames for installation in an empty hive.

Catch a swarm. Police and fire departments and animal control agencies will 
appreciate you, but swarms come with problems: 1) they may swarm again, 2) they 
may carry diseases or parasites, and 3) they may not be as gentle as breeder 
stocks. Stocks can be changed by replacing the old queen with a new one.


Costs to start a beekeeping business are not high. There are quite a few ways to 
make money from bees. Most beekeepers rely on honey and beeswax production and 
commercial crop pollination.

Honey production depends on the availability of nectar producing plants. 
Production is lowest in areas that receive little rain. The color and flavor of 
honeys vary with the origin of the nectar. Lighter colored, milder flavored 
"table" honeys sell for a few

Investment Needed for 1,000 Colony Operation

Hive Equipment

1,000 bottom boards @ $8 each $8,000

1,000 covers @ $8 each 8,000

2,000 deep boxes @ $12 each 24,000

20,000 deep frames @ $0.35-0.65 10,000

20,000 deep foundation @ $0.06 1,200

1,000 medium depth boxes @ $8 each 8,000

10,000 medium depth fames @ $0.40 each 4,000

10,000 medium depth foundation @ $0.40 4,000

100,000 frame eyelets @ $2.00 per 1,000 200

2,000 queen excluders (optional) $9.00 each 18,000

6,000 metal rabbets @ $0.08 each 480

50 fume boards @ $9.00 450

1 bee blower (optional) @ $325 each 250

75 gallons paint @ $16-21 per gallon 1,500

1 staple gun and compressor 500

Bees 1,000 packages @ $25.00 25,000

Honey Handling Equipment

Automatic uncapper 1,700-3,000

Frame conveyor 600

Conveyor drip pan 250

Cappings melter 1,000-2,000

Extractor 1,900-7,800

Settling tanks (each) 170-250

Spin float (replaces melter) 3,300

Honey sump 325-800

Honey pump 170-190

Flash heater (optional) 1,000

Barrels (each) new: l6; used: 8

Barrel truck 160-250

Hand truck 125-525

Glass jars (if not selling bulk honey) 17,300

Bottling equipment (if not selling bulk honey) 940


Flat bed trucks (each) 16-1800

Bee booms (each) (mounted) 2,500

Forklifts (each) new: 16-18,000; used: 8-10,000

Pickups 14,000

Warehouse 6,000

Land @ $3,000/acre 20,000

Rent (house and shop/year) 15,000-17,000


Self 30,000
 Help, full time, each 20,000

Help, part time, each 1,630


Utilities (year) 2,400

Insurance varies

Workman's compensation, health insurance 13,000

Add Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *