Module 12: Economics of Beekeeping in the Caribbean

Mr. Richard Matthias, Master Beekeeper Cornell University and President, Iyanola Apiculture Collective.

Table of Contents

The Realities of Beekeeping

You are not going to make a million dollars being a beekeeper, or even a fraction of that. There are very few commercial beekeepers in the Caribbean, and of these none of them seem to have yachts or Ferrari’s or any free time to enjoy them if they had them. The vast majority of
beekeepers in the Caribbean are not commercial beekeepers. Most are hobbyists.

The 4 Hive Beginners Project: Why Four Hives @XCD 1320 Each?

It’s a small enough number that you could house them in a small suburban garden and, wherever they’re located, they will not exploit all the forage in range.

Secondly, it’s a manageable number for one beekeeper with a full-time job and lots of other commitments. However, it’s not so many. You have to buy an electric extractor or build a honey-processing room.

Finally, this hypothetical four hive beekeeper also, very sensibly, belongs to their local association/group. Therefore has access to the shared equipment (e.g. a honey extractor) that the association/group owns.

Cost of one hive setup

  • Bottom Board 40.00
  • Cover 40.00
  • Crown board 30.00
  • Brood Box 80.00
  • Med. Super x 3 240.00
  • Queen Excluder 30.00
  • Frames / Foundation x 40 360.00
  • Bees 500.00
  • Total Spend 1320.00

The Cost of Starting Beekeeping: Expenditure

The outgoing costs are associated with maintaining a good environment for the bees, minimizing disease and ensuring they have sufficient food, during a nectar dearth period.

The first annual expense is the replacement of ~30% of the brood comb every season. This is necessary to reduce the pathogen load in the hive and to replace the old, black comb with fresh
new comb. That means you need 3 new frames per hive.

To control mites you need to use miticides. For the purpose of this exercise we’ll assume our beekeeper chooses to use Apiguard for treatments in February and October. This costs XCD 200 for 10 hive treatments. One treatments is required twice per year.

Food is essentially sugar in some form or another. A single colony needs 10-20 kg of stores for the dearth period (depending – very much – upon the strain of bee, the harshness of the climate
etc.). You therefore need to feed about 12.5 litres of heavy syrup (2:1 by weight, sugar to water) which weighs about 16kg (and finally generates ~14 kg of stores) and contains about 10 kg of sugar. GOSL warehouse sell white granulated sugar for XCD 2.20 per kilogram. So, for four
colonies, our beekeeper needs to purchase XCD 88.00 of granulated sugar.

Remember two of those figures in particular – 14 kg of stores and the 10 kg of sugar that needs to be purchased to make them.

In total, four hives are likely to cost about XCD 424 to maintain per year. Yes, I know I’ve omitted all sorts of things such as stimulative feeding in the spring, replacement super frames and hive tools. I’ve not costed in the honey buckets or any number of other ‘odds and ends’ like replacement Posca pens for queen marking. Let’s keep this simple!!!!!

The essentials (miscellaneous expenses) works out at a little over XCD 75.00 per hive.

There are the ‘losses’ due to colonies dying during the dearth period or due to swarming during
the season. I think these should be included because they are the reality for most beekeepers.

On average ~20-25% of colonies are lost each season. Not by everyone of course, but losses are so common for most beekeepers that they need to be factored in – either by making increase or by avoiding losing them in the first place.

Revenue from Beekeeping

The best known and most obvious product is of course honey.

However, the products of the hive also include wax and propolis. St. Lucia national average honey production is 3 gallons per hive or 36 lbs. Average propolis production 200g per hive annually. Beeswax production 2kg annually.


You do not make enough money from 4 hives to buy a Ferrari in the first year, but in year 2 there should be a surplus of approximately XCD 5600.00.

Enough to bring in some extra funds to do any of the following:

● Send your kids to school
● Take a short, reasonable vacation
● Pay for a new phone and wifi for the year