By LINDA LACINA
Got a sweet tooth? Apparently, those who do are willing to pay for it: U.S. honey prices have jumped nearly 50 percent since 2007. Locally produced honey commands the highest prices, with shoppers sometimes paying nearly $16 a pound for versions produced by small firms. (Mass-produced is now closer to $4 or $5 per pound.) Beeswax, a honey byproduct used in things like lotion, can also be big business; in 2007, Clorox bought Burt's Bees, a company known for eco-friendly beeswax products, for $925 million.
Know Your Nectar
Honey varies in color, flavor and scent, depending on where it's produced (there are more than 300 "varietals" in the U.S. alone). Beekeepers with an unusual strain can sell their honey for more than triple the usual supermarket price. See our infographic here.
But bee stings aren't the only possible downside for would-be beekeepers. Bee populations are easily hurt by factors like weather and disease. And making major profits usually requires maxing out bees' potential by renting them to farmers to help pollinate crops, an undertaking that requires trucks and labor.
Becoming a backyard beekeeper with a handful of hives, on the other hand, takes just $2,000 or so. An operation of this size that successfully peddles its homegrown honey can break even in about three years, say experts. Even easier: Ballard Bee Co. in Seattle delivers and maintains up to four hives for $70 to $100 a month. Hosts are guaranteed a monthly jar of honey -- no sticky fingers required.