|Neil Shelley teaches the workshop on keeping bees.|
Neil Shelley, a hobbyist beekeeper and president of the Utah County Beekeepers Association, explained to the summit attendees how to make money from bees. "I became a beekeeper as a hobby, now it is a secondary income," said Shelley.
Shelley presently has 10 hives, and will soon increase that to 15. "There are two main reasons to keep bees. The first is to harvest the honey. Honey can be sold in four ways: liquid; comb; chunk; and creamed. Also, bees are used for crop pollination. They can pollinate your crops and the crops of others. In the US, pollination is a $15 billion a year industry. Many farmers hire beekeepers to bring the bees in for pollination purposes," stated Shelley.
Shelley noted the many ways to profit from bees. There are honeys, flavored honeys, beeswax, pollen, propolis, royal jelly, selling queens, and selling packages. A package is a queen, along with worker bees for a start up operation.
From the beeswax, many products can be made to supplement an income. Soaps, lip balms and lotions are made from the beeswax for sales. Swarm removal can be another source of acquiring bees.
Shelley said to get started in beekeeping, the old adage is true, location, location, location. Your hive boxes must be placed near a floral source with plenty of blooming flowers. A water source is also a must, and a location with full sun is preferable.
Other considerations for hive placement are protection from flooding, protection from disturbance (animals and people), and protection from family and neighbors. The bees must not be disturbed for a hive project to work.
Many people who begin to keep bees do so in their own backyard. This is alright for a keeper who has less than five hives. State law says no more than five in a backyard. Another consideration is the nuisance to the neighbors. They must be consulted before any hives are placed.
Obtaining bees is a fairly simple matter. On the internet, there are many sources that sell packages. A package is a queen and the workers bees to get started. There are several in Utah.
Shelley recommends a person begin the research into beekeeping in the fall of the year, and remember a state license is needed to sell the honey products. Then begin to purchase the necessary equipment during the winter months. Order your bees in January or February to be delivered in April. There are plans to construct hives on the internet along with outlets to purchase the equipment. A simple hive plus the bees will run between $165-200.
That investment can be recouped in the first year of production. The first year a hive will produce 40-50 pounds of honey and that can be sold for $4 a pound.
Some other necessary equipment besides the hive box and the bees are: a hive tool (this opens the hives), a brush, a helmet and veil, a smoker (optional, Shelley uses liquid smoke), and gloves. If you construct your own hive boxes, you will need, hammer, nails, wood, paint, cinder blocks, a spray bottle, long matches, wood glue and ratcheting straps.
Customs tools needed will be an uncapping tool, a capping tank and an extractor. A complete bee suit will cost about $150. Shelley uses the bare minimum of a helmet, veil, gloves and heavy shirt and pants. Some of the equipment can be rented for trial periods.
The average production in Utah for 2006 was 45 pounds of honey per hive. Very hot weather stops all honey productions, so keep in mind that during a heat wave, very little honey will be produced. To survive a heat wave, the hive must be a healthy hive.
Many learning sources are available. Begin with books: Beekeeping for Dummies, Backyard Beekeeper, and First Lessons in Beekeeping. Two trade magazines are The American Bee Journal and Bee Culture. Along with the Utah County Beekeepers Association, many other associations are located throughout Utah. There are many sources on the internet.
During the first year as a beekeeper, a person can expect to have low disease problems, low parasite load, very little time commitment, and excellent learning opportunities, along with low honey production. For the second year of production, a beekeeper can expect honey production to be up, with more experience comes an increased income potential. An increase in apiary is also expected during the second year.
On the downside of the second year, a person may expect parasite and disease problems in the hives, marketing decisions to be made, and swarm problems. Each of these problems has a solution and with research can be overcome.
One of the most important things to research before getting into beekeeping is whether you are allergic to bee stings. If you get stung, remove the stinger immediately, and remember that prevention is the best method.