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Price of honey versus price of bees

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Chris B 

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This subject came up at our branch meeting yesterday. The conclusion was that bees are undervalued relative to honey if you apply any sort of financial logic.

Typical cost of full colony in spring: £200 (bees on frames)
Typical annual running cost: £100 to £150 (including labour, kit depreciation etc.)
Typical honey income: £200 (mix of bulk and retail sales)

Something that pays for itself so quickly must surely be undervalued?

Any thoughts?
 

sleepingbear 

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yes - this is true if we assumed that you got a colony and somehow, magically at the end of each summer, every summer, somebody then delivered all the profits from honey sales to your doorstep.

Kind of like saying that buying a cow is cheap (which is) and then wondering why steak is so expensive!
 

oliver90owner 

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Of course there is always the risk that the three hundred and fifty quid of capital and running costs result in no honey crop and no colony either!

Regards, RAB
 

Skyhook 

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This subject came up at our branch meeting yesterday. The conclusion was that bees are undervalued relative to honey if you apply any sort of financial logic.

Typical cost of full colony in spring: £200 (bees on frames)
Typical annual running cost: £100 to £150 (including labour, kit depreciation etc.)
Typical honey income: £200 (mix of bulk and retail sales)

Something that pays for itself so quickly must surely be undervalued?

Any thoughts?
First I was going to say that £200/year/hive as a reliable average was optimistic. Then I saw that you run 300 colonies, so I'm guessing you probably know more about it than I do. So I'll revise that to say that I suspect a lot of people wouldn't acheive it and some are losing half their colonies over winter, which alters the balance of costs.
 

Poly Hive 

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I do not agree.

Cost of colony is far from £200. Esp for a bee farmer who is making up winter losses. You most likely already have the kit, so cost of a queen is say £20.

Cost of frames and wax... + q makes a whole new ball game.

Setting that aside...... Sellig honey at a decent price say £4-50, and taking the classic UK figure of 40 lbs... so you are a bit short on the first year but then..... you are in profit hmm?

Go on try and scare some one else...LOL

PH
 

PaleoPerson 

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Just how much labour and travel costs are being built into that?

The hourly rate on a small number of hives would be very low indeed. I estimate for me it was circa 10 pence per hour (I think I am being optimistic here).
:smilielol5:
 
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I think bees have become the 'in thing' and the cost cannot continue at the cost it has hit. There must be a point where usage/need outstrips what is out there... we shall see...as I came in at the apex!!!!!!!!!!!!
 

Hombre 

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Just how much labour and travel costs are being built into that?
:smilielol5:
Enough travel to allow some serious passenger sleeping hours and have you seen the cost of diesel and chocolate bars (in a bid to keep the hired help awake) of recent? LoL

Queen59, I know about "Peak Oil", but are you now promoting the concept of "Peak Bee"? :) :)
 

*ZhG*StGeorge 

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Doesn't anyone take into account the fun and the relaxation gained by keeping bees?

Or can't that bee valued in pounds.
 

Chris B 

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I do not agree.

Cost of colony is far from £200. Esp for a bee farmer who is making up winter losses.
Yes but I'm talking about what they could be sold/bought for. I can sell surplus bees at that kind of money but should I? Alternative is hire extra labour and after 2 years I have the same bank balance plus I've still got the bees.
 

Chris B 

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yes - this is true if we assumed that you got a colony and somehow, magically at the end of each summer, every summer, somebody then delivered all the profits from honey sales to your doorstep.

Kind of like saying that buying a cow is cheap (which is) and then wondering why steak is so expensive!
This is why I already mentioned "labour" costs.
£50 per colony per annum is what I would estimate, based on the fact that a large time chunk of what we do as beekeepers is either unskilled or semi-skilled (kit assembly, extracting etc.) I can inspect a colony in 3 or 4 minutes but somehow getting there with all the kit I need takes a lot longer.
 

Chris B 

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First I was going to say that £200/year/hive as a reliable average was optimistic.
I don't know about reliable, but the last 2 seasons I've been averaging 80lb based on previous autumn colony count, the bulk going in barrels and the remainder bottled to farm shops or direct sales.
Actually I'm sure quality apiaries play the largest part in getting a good return (good pastures as they call it in Finland?)
 
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Rather depends on the size of operation, and with 300 colonies you may be right. At the other end of the scale though, I'd find hard to to financially justfy the £1500 shelled out in year 1 (and that before getting a tad extravagent on an electric spinner) vs the um, £0 recieved for 30 odd lbs of honey.:sifone:

Lucky I'm not in it for the money!
 

madasafish 

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If I as a former accounatnt did the sums, I would allow for:
Labour costs at £8 per hour.
Colony losses at Uk average 20%.
Requeening costs.
New foundation every three years.

In reality, it loses money with those numbers.
 

Storm™ 

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Chris B, your figures (300 colonies) and therefore your perception of things as they are, are in a different league to the average beek.

I reckon the cost for me to start up is going to be around £1000.00 This is because I want at least two colonies but preferably three. I will be using the honey, for me and my family and "may", venture into selling it off the drive at a later date. If this happens at all, it will not be for at least a couple of years. I will never see a return financially for my outlay. This is not my aim anyway I want bees for all the pleasures they seem to bring. But your talking on a commercial scale which has a totally different perspective than than the pottering beekeeper in his back garden.

In a total business sense, beekeeping I would estimate rarely returns a profit when accounting for labour costs. Start up costs (books, courses, equipment, internet, premises, insurance) and the afore mentioned fuel, appropriate vehicle etc..

Value of bees would be hard to estimate in a total business sense. If it was a free swarm and you have housed it, well your outlay is equipment/time/ and little else. Collection costs may well be mitigated by the person who called you out.

If you have raised them, then considerably more.

There are too many variables (in a purely business sense) to account for when working out costings. As far as £200.00 for some bees goes, thats the rough average I have seen as I look most days. £140.00 (internet), £180.00 4 lb of bees(a mate), up to over £380.00. (again internet), and I assume its roughly 4lb of bees each time.

We are our own worst enemies when we are idle. Good ideas clubs spring up and out of it a whole host of crap that hits everyone concerned. A pottering beekeeper does not need to be hit with the good ideas that commercial 300 colonies plus beekeepers can absorb. Because what you end up with there is the Tescoes versus farm shop senario. And then bees will be something that only the well off can afford.

If you want a good idea, get everyone who produces bees/queens/honey/hives etc to sign up to a review panel on this forum. Where everyone who experiences their products can star award them. Then at a glance we could see who sold reliable goods, products. The price could be determined by quality and reputation points. Like Fleebay. Feedback scores given once purchased. Then we would know who the rogues are and avoid. That would be a real service to new beeks like me, and bees alike. IMO. NOW thats is a good idea lol.
 

Poly Hive 

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I have no hesitation in saying a review is a good idea, but as one whose business is reviewed regularly on line, two of which we can reply to and one we cannot, and guess on which one we get hammered unjustly?

If there is to be a review system then I for on insist that there is a vendors right of reply. And no I have no qualms about the nucs I sell. I even replaced a queen for free some two months later.

PH
 

Storm™ 

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I have no hesitation in saying a review is a good idea, but as one whose business is reviewed regularly on line, two of which we can reply to and one we cannot, and guess on which one we get hammered unjustly?

PH
Sorry about that PH. I was being ironic. Whilst in quick thinking theory its a good idea, it has a whole host of problems. Bad reviews from the competition in order to sway opinion and there are of course some people who are never going to be happy. It would also cause conflict. Word of mouth has always served me well and I am happy to keep to that.

On a side note - off topic I know sorry in advance - but here (north Cornwall, small town) it is raining. Wind blowing a gale. Black as the ace of spades. And the bees are out in droves working the ivy on a huge spruce tree near me. Loads of them battling the winds and rain and cold. wtf.
 

psafloyd 

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This subject came up at our branch meeting yesterday. The conclusion was that bees are undervalued relative to honey if you apply any sort of financial logic.

Typical cost of full colony in spring: £200 (bees on frames)
Typical annual running cost: £100 to £150 (including labour, kit depreciation etc.)
Typical honey income: £200 (mix of bulk and retail sales)

Something that pays for itself so quickly must surely be undervalued?

Any thoughts?
Not at all. There is no guarantee the bees supplied will last a year, let alone longer. In fact, the ones you have the following spring are down to a hardy strain, good husbandry, or luck.

We're not talking about sheep here, but if anyone dos know of the relative value of livestock, I doubt it would be very much different, if not better.

Judging by your numbers, I see you making a £100 to £150 loss in your first year.To deliver return, you have to manage your stock and get the colony to reproduce itself. Which is what livestock farmers do, isn't it?
 

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