How to Start a Beekeeping Business in 14 Steps (In-Depth Guide)

Updated: February 22, 2024 is reader-supported. When you buy through links on my site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

The market for honey and beeswax products in the United States is on the rise. Projections show the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) rising at 5.2% from 2023 to 2030. As interest in sustainable agriculture and locally sourced foods increases, more aspiring entrepreneurs are looking into beekeeping as a potential business venture or side hustle.


Starting your beekeeping operation is the perfect way to capitalize on this growing industry while doing your part to support healthy bee populations. The initial investment is relatively affordable, and the long-term income potential can be lucrative in the right market.

This article covers everything you need to know on how to start a beekeeping business. We’ll explore important considerations like startup costs, licensing requirements, and registering an EIN.

1. Conduct Beekeeping Market Research

Market research is an important step in starting a business focusing on honey bees. Research offers insight into the top bee hives, your local target market, trends in raising healthy bees, and more.


Some details you may learn through market research for beekeeping businesses include:

  • When analyzing the market potential geographically, the top five honey-producing states are North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Florida, and California.
  • For aspiring professional apiarists, setting up operations in states with robust nectar sources for bees to forage is key.
  • Demand for U.S. honey outstrips domestic production, meaning prices and profit margins remain strong for beekeepers selling to packers, food manufacturers, and directly to consumers locally.
  • Current retail prices for premium artisanal honey range from $8-20 per pound.
  • Beekeepers can profit from agrotourism by partnering with agrotourism agencies that offer apiarist tours.
  • Specialty varieties like orange blossom, tupelo, and sage honey command even higher premiums.
  • Many commercial beekeepers provide crop pollination services to farmers of almonds, berries, apples, and other produce.
  • Hive rental fees range from $50-200 each depending on region and time of year.
  • Pollination services and selling live bee colonies for this purpose can significantly increase income streams.
  • Some areas impose strict regulations around hive densities and neighborhoods, while rural locations allow more flexibility for scale.
  • Zoning laws and residential association rules should be researched thoroughly during planning.

Through comprehensive apiary market research, an aspiring apiarist can determine real-world viability. Develop a thorough business plan by obtaining all the facts on beekeeping equipment and local bee colony statistics.

2. Analyze the Competition

When launching a beekeeping operation, performing competitive analysis on other apiaries in your local market is crucial, whether selling products in-person or online. Google Maps is an invaluable free tool for locating potential rival honey producers, bee breeders, and pollination services within a defined radius.

Simply searching terms like “beekeeper near me” and “honey farm near me” generates maps displaying the names, locations, and websites of competitors. Dialing in on neighborhoods and strategic planning around geographic positioning becomes easier when visualizing the competitive landscape.

Analyzing the online presence of competitors also provides intelligence around years in business, breadth of offerings, types of bees cultivated, products made, prices charged, and any unique value propositions promoted.

Reviewing the social media and e-commerce strategies of the top 5-10 producers with the strongest followings and engagement offers useful benchmarks to inform your go-to-market plan.

At trade shows like The National Honey Show and conferences hosted by beekeeper associations, connecting with producers from other regions also provides perspective on best practices and pricing norms that may differ across geographic areas.

3. Costs to Start a Beekeeping Business

When starting a beekeeping operation, the upfront investments cover critical equipment and infrastructure needs. T

Startup Costs

  • Expect to budget $100-200 per Langstroth beehive setup, including boxes, frames, bottom boards, etc.
  • Those wanting 10-20 hives for a small commercial venture would invest $1,000-$4,000 on hive materials alone.
  • Acquiring honey bee packages runs roughly $120-180 per 3 lb bundle containing a queen and 10,000-20,000 workers.
  • Ensure adequate lead times for mail ordering early spring packages. Nucleus colonies or “nucs” with already established hive structures cost around $150-300 each.
  • High-quality suits cost $150-350 depending on materials and features like double mesh screens. Budget $100+ for the accompanying accessories like veils and gloves.
  • Stainless steel smokers run $30-100 depending on the fuel type of wood pellets or burlap. Hive opening tools like chisel, brush, and uncapping knife add another $50-150.
  • From honey extractors to bottling tanks, pumps, jars, beeswax foundation sheets, honey gates, and filters, costs can tally $500-5,000+ for a properly equipped honey house.
  • Whether stationary apiaries or migratory operations tracking nectar flows, securing honey storage drums, tanks, industrial shelving, and trucks/trailers requires capital. Budget a minimum of $3,000-15,000 for mobile setups.
  • Finally if establishing a registered business entity, lawyers charge $500-5,000 to form LLCs or corporations properly.
  • Sales tax permits, commercial vehicle registration, and transportation operating authority approvals through DOT add more fees. Liability insurance averages $600/year for $1 million in coverage.

In total, the minimum startup investment to officially launch a commercial beekeeping business generally falls between $10,000-40,000+ depending on the desired scale. Some hobbyists manage startups on a shoestring $2,000 budget, but growth is then restricted.

Ongoing Costs

  • Supplemental sugar syrup, pollen patties, and winter feed keep colonies strong, costing $50+ annually per hive in a larger apiary.
  • Treating parasites like varroa mites requires purchasing pesticides and fungicides seasonally – typically $100-500 for sufficient coverage.
  • For beekeepers constantly loading trucks and transporting hives to farmers’ fields and honey extraction facilities, gas and diesel bills run high, averaging $5,000-20,000 yearly for commercial operations.
  • Expect to invest roughly 15% of the total value of capital equipment annually to keep vehicles, extractors, storage tanks, and other infrastructure in working order.
  • Larger beekeepers eventually require hiring year-round and seasonal apiary employees or independent contractors which significantly increases payroll expenditures. With profit margins averaging 15-20% in beekeeping, managing labor efficiently is imperative.

To keep cash flowing healthily, designing a lean budget focused on controlling operating costs across all expenses creates a scalable, ultimately profitable apiary. Also consider the presence of flowers to help the bees flourish. Contact local flower farms for seedlings if the overall number of flowers in the vicinity of your beehives is low.

4. Form a Legal Business Entity

When establishing any commercial venture, structuring the correct legal framework from the start provides liability protection and positions the business for future growth. Beekeepers have four primary options to consider when officially registering their apiary:

Sole Proprietorship

As the simplest and most common default option, sole proprietors file paperwork under their identity without creating a separate business entity. Tax preparation is streamlined by avoiding corporate filings, but the owner’s assets remain vulnerable to lawsuits.


If launching an apiary with one or more beekeeping partners, general partnerships evenly split ownership under a joint agreement without limiting liability exposure for each co-owner. Formal general partnership agreements drafted by business attorneys are advisable to dictate profit-sharing terms and resolve any disputes that may arise.

Limited Liability Company (LLC)

Given the hands-on physical nature of beekeeping and risk factors like bee stings or contaminated products, forming an LLC shields the owner’s assets and restricts liability to the limits of the business itself. As opposed to corporations, LLC operating agreements offer flexibility around ownership structure and profit distributions.


Incorporating as a C-corp or S-corp better facilitates raising investment capital through share issuance than LLCs, however statutory formalities imposed on shareholders, directors, and officers increase legal and accounting expenses. Unless pursuing venture funding for rapid hive scalability, most commercial beekeepers operate fine as LLCs.

5. Register Your Business For Taxes

After establishing a formal business structure, securing an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS officially registers an apiary for federal tax purposes regardless of employee headcount.

Obtaining an EIN is vital for opening business bank accounts, applying for licenses/permits, and managing sole proprietorship, LLC, or corporation tax liabilities surrounding honey sales or paid pollination services.

Beekeepers can easily apply online for an EIN in just minutes at no cost directly through the IRS website. Simply navigate to the EIN Assistant and answer a short series of questions including the legal name/address of your beekeeping business, responsible party information, and details about ownership structure.

After submitting, an EIN assignment confirmation displays immediately ending the streamlined process. The IRS then mails a CP575 Notice officially validating the EIN within 4 weeks of applying online. Once received, the EIN functions like a Social Security Number for tax ID tracking purposes on federal returns.

Besides acquiring an EIN, commercial beekeepers must also contact their specific state revenue or taxation agency to register for any required sales tax permits, seller’s permits, or business license certificates tied to honey product sales. For example, the California Seller’s Permit costs $56 initially.

Properly completing all business tax registrations aids compliance with reporting obligations later when filing annual income tax returns. Dedicating time upfront to organize proper IRS and state taxation paperwork helps avoid potential penalties or complications when the busier season of honey harvesting and selling commences.

6. Setup Your Accounting

Proper financial record-keeping provides the foundation for commercial apiary success. Tracking income and expenses accurately enables data-driven decisions while adhering to tax compliance standards.

Accounting Software

As a cloud-based small business platform, QuickBooks seamlessly syncs with bank/credit card accounts to automatically download transaction feeds. This consolidates bookkeeping tasks like categorizing cash inflows/outflows and reconciling statements with just a few clicks. The software generates real-time reporting on profitability.

Hire an Accountant

While doable solo, partnering with an accountant from the start provides expertise on properly recording hive purchases as fixed assets, treating bees as inventory, tracking mileage reimbursements, and accurately filing quarterly self-employment tax payments to avoid underpayment penalties.

Open a Business Bank Account

Separating personal and business banking activity avoids problematic commingling issues when finances grow more complex. The easiest route is simply opening a low/no fee business checking account to dedicate solely to the beekeeping operation. Funneling all earnings into this account greatly simplifies tracking cash flow apart from living expenses.

7. Obtain Licenses and Permits

Before welcoming the first buzzing tenants to a new commercial apiary, properly acquiring state-specific permits and licenses prevents nasty stings down the road. Find federal license information through the U.S. Small Business Administration. The SBA also offers a local search tool for state and city requirements.

Apiary Registration Each state governs hives and beekeeper duties differently across county and municipal levels. Beekeepers must register their apiary’s physical location along with contact and colony information through agencies like the Florida Department of Agriculture regardless of size or hive quantity. Registration often requires renewing every 1-2 years.

Selling Honey Food production permitting ensures proper handling, processing, and bottling procedures align with state health codes for human consumption and retail. For example, Texas beekeepers must pass home food manufacturing training plus acquire a Texas Cottage Food Law label.

Transporting Hives Migratory apiarists trucking hives across state borders or overseas undergo USDA, DOT, and CDFA inspections confirming disease-free bee stock. Moving colonies domestically involves obtaining interstate travel permits beforehand through the Animal Plant Health Inspection Service.

Pesticide Application Using integrated pest management controls like Formic Pro mite treatments requires passing authorized beekeeper training with state agriculture departments for proper handling plus documentation in a hive treatment log.

8. Get Business Insurance

Insuring an apiary safeguards the company against unforeseen disasters from disease outbreaks to honey contamination lawsuits. Without policies covering critical liabilities, a single catastrophe could shutter the business permanently.

Apiary-specific insurance protects against colony collapse events, hive vandalism/theft, and revenue loss from low honey yields caused by weather, pest infestations, or other factors out of the beekeeper’s control. It also covers human errors risking inventory like accidentally leaving honey supers exposed before major rains.

On the liability front, stings inevitably occur raising concerns about customer or employee injuries. General liability insurance handles legal fees, medical payments, and Product and settlement costs in the event of a claim. In extreme cases, major allergic reactions have even caused fatalities resulting in devastating lawsuits.

Product liability insurance provides another shield against lawsuits if somehow contaminated honey reaches consumers. Whether from improper sanitization practices or foreign material mixing during bottling, quality control failures expose companies to immense financial risk should customers face health issues or hospitalization.

The typical process involves requesting quotes from leading small business providers like Hiscox and Travelers based on revenue projections, hive quantity, hired staff, and other factors weighing into annual premium costs. Coverage generally runs a few hundred dollars annually once brokers assess total risk.

Besides catastrophes, factors like a leased extractor breaking mid-harvest or an engine failure stranding colonies being transported cross-country require coverage too. After selecting a tailored policy with liability limits matching worst-case scenarios, owners gain peace of mind knowing the apiary is protected on every front.

9. Create an Office Space

Although beekeepers spend long hours tending to remote apiary locations, establishing a home base office provides the necessary infrastructure for admin tasks like bookkeeping, customer service, and resource planning. We’ll explore a range of office setups suited for commercial honey producers.

Home Office

Converting a spare bedroom into a functional home office costs little, with basic expenses like a desk and chair running under $300. High-speed internet, phone lines, and WiFi enable remote productivity for managing online honey shops. Home offices also offer tax deductions for the percentage used professionally.

Coworking Space

Apiarists desiring turnkey office amenities from meeting rooms to mail handling without large overheads may appreciate WeWork coworking environments. Membership plans averaging $300/month grant unlimited access to shared workspaces conducive to administrative obligations. Virtual postal box features handle customer subscription shipments.

Retail Shop

Beekeepers running storefronts have the advantage of directly showcasing products while housing honey extraction behind the scenes. Triple-net leases securing warehouse, production, and, selling space under one roof enable vertical integration efficiencies. Upfront build-out and inventory costs are high.

Commercial Building

Leasing standalone warehouse facilities purely for honey processing provides the most elbow room for bottling high volumes cost-effectively. With industrial zoning limiting foot traffic, locations situated near major highway access enable convenient distribution logistics. Expect to budget $8-15 per square foot in monthly rents within this category.

10. Source Your Equipment

A properly equipped apiary requires specialized tools like smokers, extractors, and bottling tanks for harvesting operations. We’ll explore the primary equipment acquisition options available for new beekeepers.

Buying New

Online retailers like Mann Lake, Brushy Mountain Bee Farm, and Dadant offer the widest selections of brand-new stainless steel extractors, uncapping knives, hive tools, and other supplies for purchase, with free shipping incentives on larger orders. Buying new ensures prime condition, long usable life, and product warranties. However, costs for new equipment are highest upfront.

Buying Used

Scouring resale marketplaces like Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, and eBay connects beekeepers with major deals on used extractors, honey bottling systems, and other expensive equipment costing 50-75% less than new counterparts. Veterans upgrading tools often resell quality pre-owned items. Inspect functionality closely before transacting and factor in potential repair costs.


Rather than purchasing extractors outright, smaller operations may prefer renting equipment short-term solely for seasonal harvesting needs. Some apiary supply companies offer extractor rentals for around $50-100 per week. Rental fees are cheaper than buying equipment outright if only requiring tools occasionally. Planning ensures availability.


Lease-to-own financing spreads extractor costs over 12-24 months while utilizing the equipment immediately. Credit approvals through third parties like American Lease enable $5,000 extractors leased for $150-200 monthly with the option to ultimately purchase. Leasing works well for new ventures with limited startup capital and supports scaling operational capacity faster.

11. Establish Your Brand Assets

Crafting a distinctive brand identity establishes credibility and memorability in the minds of target consumers. We’ll explore key components for apiaries to professionally convey their unique value and offerings.

Getting a Business Phone Number

Acquiring a dedicated business phone line conveys legitimacy over relying solely on personal cell phones. Top providers like RingCentral offer plans from $30/month for unlimited calls, SMS, voicemail, and handy features like call forwarding to any device.

Creating a Logo and Brand Assets

A thoughtfully designed brand logo gracing honey jar labels, invoices, and promotional materials helps attract buyers gravitating to aesthetic sensibilities reflecting the apiary’s personality. Graphic design marketplaces like Looka provide affordable DIY access to logo makers plus coordinated brand image libraries. Expect to invest around $70-150 for commercial rights.

Creating Business Cards and Signage

When networking at farmers’ markets or attending trade shows, handing out business cards enables capturing leads on the go while driving brand familiarity through consistent visuals. At physical apiary sites, visible exterior signage also broadcasts location and hours to passing traffic. Convenient online print shops like Vistaprint ship durable, customized cards.

Purchasing a Domain Name

Securing a .com domain name directly matching the apiary’s name builds brand equity while conveying professionalism to site visitors. Domains, lasting online real estate for $15 annually from registrars like Namecheap. Best practices include choosing short, simple, easy-to-spell names, and confirming universal availability.

Building a Website

Beekeepers can conveniently build DIY responsive websites through user-friendly drag-and-drop platforms like Wix to showcase products, post blog content, and capture subscriber emails for under $30 monthly. For advanced e-commerce capabilities like integrated payment processing, Fiverr freelancers provide affordable custom site development services starting at around $500.

12. Join Associations and Groups

Plugging into a local beekeeping association, meetups, and, online communities expedites expedite gaining insider tips from veteran apiarists nearby. Swapping trade secrets leads to rewarding honey harvests.

Local Associations

State beekeeping organizations like the Texas Beekeepers Association and county-level groups offer networking, training workshops, and disaster assistance funds for annual membership dues of around $20-40. These associations connect hobbyists and commercial operators cultivating honey bee colonies.

Local Meetups

Attending beekeeping trade shows provides immersive education through research presentations, vendor demos, and hands-on workshops exploring the latest best practices. Discovering nearby events is easy via sites like Meetup. If you don’t see an event for raising bees or running a honey bee farm, make your own.

Facebook Groups

With over 292 thousand active members, Beekeeping Basics shares free information about everything from sourcing apiary supplies to making mead from hive bounties. Groups like Beekeeping Questions also enable connecting regional keepers.

13. How to Market a Beekeeping Business

Deploying targeted marketing across digital and traditional channels will help your bee business enroll more honey-loving customers. We’ll explore top promotion avenues enabling startups to grow their buzzing empire.


Referral Marketing

Recognize that word-of-mouth referrals from raving fans offer cost-effective publicity. Satisfying an existing beekeeper with exceptional honey harvests transforms them into a brand advocate. Offering loyalty discounts for referrals or gifting a complimentary jar sweetens the referral proposition.

Digital Marketing

  • Run Google and Facebook ads geotargeting local searcher intent keywords like “raw honey” and “beekeeper near me” connecting relevant ads to site landing pages. Expect to budget around $500 monthly while testing conversion performance.
  • Launch Google Business Profile, Facebook and Instagram pages publishing regular beekeeping lifestyle content and honey highlights to gain discoverability and traffic.
  • Start a YouTube channel documenting the apiary through vlogs showing processes like hive inspections and honey extractions to engage viewers.
  • Write SEO-optimized blog content about bee species, pollination, equipment guides, and top-of-mind and industry perspectives to attract organic search traffic.
  • Email subscribers seasonal promotions for the upcoming harvest and holy holiday gifting season to maintain a top-of-mind presence.

Traditional Marketing

  • Design brochures and flyers to distribute at local garden centers, farmer’s markets, and health food stores where target buyers frequent. Materials should promote marquee products, specials, and site/social links.
  • Pitch story ideas like “The Life of Local Beekeepers” or “Our Honey Heals” to newspaper editors and TV segment producers to earn free media coverage.
  • Sponsor community events and donate jars to nonprofit fundraisers to gain goodwill associations while displaying signage onsite.
  • For local businesses using honey as an ingredient in their products like bakeries and breweries, propose cobranded partnerships featuring each other across promotional materials.
  • Once customer volumes scale after the first few seasons, explore selective outdoor, radio, and podcast advertising buys reinforcing brand familiarity in the area. Start small while tracking attributable conversions.

With the right marketing formula balancing hyper-targeted digital ads, community networking, organic social buzz, and some old-fashioned word-of-mouth kindness, apiaries can scale from a backyard hobby into a thriving, sweet-as-honey enterprise.

14. Focus on the Customer

Delivering exceptional customer service must become part of a beekeeper’s DNA to earn the sort of raving fans that fuel referral-driven growth. Each client interaction presenting good, bad, or ugly reflects on your brand reputation.


For example, fulfilling honey orders incorrectly by mislabeling a variety of types risks some stinging feedback. But going above and beyond to rapidly right the wrong with complimentary replacements and a handwritten apology card demonstrates accountability while creating a customer for life.

Similarly, when a subscriber’s shipment arrives damaged, empathetically replacing their items instantly plus following up to confirm satisfaction counterintuitively strengthens loyalty despite the initial error.

Exceeding expectations transforms one-time buyers into brand advocates. Sending thank you notes after sales, addressing customers by name in email blasts and rewarding loyalty with discounts on their favorite varietals generates delight.

Even small gestures like following up by phone after delivering an order to a new bakery client to ensure quality meets expectations can set businesses apart.

By providing such thoughtful honey-to-human touches at every stage, beekeepers remind patrons that behind the brand sits passionate people, not faceless corporations. There’s simply no sweeter way to drive referrals than through genuine care and devotion to individuals supporting the apiary dream.

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