How to Create a Profitable Apiary From Scratch
Beekeeping can be an extremely rewarding and profitable hobby or business venture. With some basic equipment, knowledge and care, almost anyone can set up a small apiary, or bee yard, to start producing honey and beeswax. If done properly, an apiary can also help local crops and gardens thrive through increased pollination. This article will walk through the key steps to establish your own apiary from choosing the bees to expansion tips.

Selecting a Location for Your Apiary

Choosing the optimal spot to install your beehives is an important first step. You’ll need an area with abundant flowering plants within 2-3 miles to provide nectar and pollen. It should be a sunny, south-facing location sheltered from wind and extreme cold. Convenience is also a factor since you’ll be regularly inspecting and maintaining the hives. Stay away from high traffic zones so your working bees are not disturbed. Notifying your neighbors beforehand is also wise in case anyone has severe allergies. 

Choosing the Type of Bees to Raise  

Most novice beekeepers start with the common Italian honey bee (Apis mellifera ligustica), known for being gentle and high producers of honey. Italian bees do require more careful monitoring for disease and proper hive ventilation. Other popular types are Carniolan and Caucasian bees. Once you have some experience, you can try more exotic or hybrid breeds. Order established colonies from reputable suppliers that can provide histories to confirm the hives are healthy and productive with non-aggressive queens.

Purchasing Beehives and Other Equipment

You’ll need the proper woodenware to house your bees, usually 8 to 10 frame Langstroth hives that allow easy honey harvesting. Standard ten frame hives should contain: a screened bottom board, hive stand, two honey supers (boxes), ten frames and foundations per super, inner cover, outer telescoping cover, entrance reducer, and queen excluder. You'll also need a smoker and protective gear like a helmet with veil and bee suit or jacket. A hive tool for inspections, bee brush, and honey extractor are also essential items. 

Installing the Bee Colonies  

Once your equipment and bees arrive, set up the hive components properly on your stand in the selected apiary spot. Gently remove the frames of bees from the package and existing comb and install them carefully into the hive body. Make sure the queen is transferred safely into the hive. Watch your bees orient to their new home, feeding them sugar syrup if needed. Place the top cover on securely. Opening and inspecting frequently will ensure the bees are actively building comb, laying brood, and preparing honey. 

Feeding and Caring for Your Bees

Your bees will need consistent monitoring and care especially in their first seasons while the populations grow. Check weekly for any signs of disease, inadequate food stores, hive beetles, etc. Feed them sugar syrup and pollen patties if their own supplies are low before major nectar flows. Make sure the queen is present and supplement new queens if necessary. Add additional hive sections, frames and foundations for comb building as the colony expands. Stay up to date with mite treatments and other preventative care. Maintain detailed records on each hive's health and honey production

Harvesting Honey and Other Products  

Once your hives are well established after the first season or two, you can start enjoying the fruits of your labor. Wait to harvest excess honey and beeswax only once the frames are at least 80% capped. Use your extractor to process the honey supers and strain the honey. Bottling and selling your honey under your own label is often the most popular goal of small apiaries. You can also harvest beeswax for candles and lip balms as secondary income sources. Expanding these value added products with different flavors or packaging helps maximize profits.

Expanding for Additional Revenue Streams  

Besides honey and beeswax, larger apiaries have a few other ways to diversity their incomes. Selling bee pollen, propolis, queen bees and packaged worker bees are all great expansion options once you perfect your general colony care and hive product harvesting. Offering pollination services to local orchards or farms is another popular apiary practice. Some even provide hands on beekeeping classes. Scaling gradually as your expertise grows will keep your apiary thriving.

Marketing and Selling Your Honey and Beeswax

Developing a brand and marketing strategy is key even if you’re starting small with just a few hives. Create a distinct logo and label that represents your farm or apiary’s image and products well. Besides your own website and online shop, connect with stores, restaurants, breweries, farmer’s markets and local events to sell your honey and related items under your own brand. Promoting the health properties and origin story behind your apiary builds customer awareness and loyalty for long term sales.

Maintaining Records and Plans for Growth 

Meticulous record keeping on each of your hives improves insight into seasonal bee cycles and guides business decisions. Track data like hive inspections and interventions, honey harvest amounts, plus expenses and sales. Review your records each season to identify your strongest hives for splitting into new colonies or replacing underperforming queens. Great records also provide critical budgeting insights on how to fund desired expansion goals whether that’s acquiring more land, additional apiary equipment or help with harvesting and production.   

Key Tips to Keep Your Apiary Healthy and Profitable

Sticking to best practices for general colony care and mite control is essential for a thriving apiary. Making sure your bees have access to clean water sources and sufficient flowering nutrition sources should not be neglected. Diversifying your income sources between various hive products, beeswax items, pollination services and value added offerings hedges against changes in honey production. Connecting with local beekeeper associations provides invaluable mentoring, troubleshooting assistance and continuing education that can prevent costly hive issues. With attentive beekeeping and smart small business management, your backyard apiary can transform from a hobby into a prospering local honey brand.