Beekeeping in Jamaica – How to Get Started

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Beekeeping in Jamaica has been on an upward trajectory over the last couple of years, described as the fastest-growing sub-sector in Jamaica’s agricultural industry. Jamaica is a hub for a wide variety of flowers, backed by favorable year-round weather that provides the right conditions for raising bees. Commercial beekeepers have enjoyed immeasurable success in Jamaica, and Jamaican honey comes with a unique flavor, thanks to the wide variety of plant species that honeybees forage.

Jamaica’s beekeeping history dates back to the 1770s, with records showing early indigenous people in Jamaica keeping bees and harvesting honey from logs. Other records from 1866 show products exported from Jamaica to the United Kingdom containing beeswax and honey in every cargo. Exhibitions carried out in Paris in 1883 and 1878 show Jamaican honey and beeswax winning coveted awards. Honeybees contribute up to 20 times the value of what is enjoyed by farmers in Jamaica. If you want to be a part of the thriving beekeeping community in Jamaica, this guide shall hopefully help.

Types of Bees in Jamaica

Jamaica hosts 69 recorded types of bees, comprising honey-making and pollinator bees. The most common bee species in Jamaica were brought to the Jamaican soil by Spanish people. Jamaican wild and planted fruit trees provide a unique blossom that honeybees forage, making Jamaican honey rich in flavor. Some of the most popular types of bees in Jamaica include:

The Western Honeybee (Apis Mellifera)

Apis Mellifera

Perhaps the most common type of bee used for beekeeping, these bees are easily distinguishable from other types due to their black abdomens with golden brown to black stripes. Honeybees pollinate crops, fruit, and wild trees. The worker bees use pollen baskets on their legs to collect and carry pollen to the nest. They live as a colony, comprising a queen bee, worker bees, male drone bees, and the brood or young ones. Honeybees are raised in artificial beehives but can be found in wild colonies. They can fly for up to 3 miles as they search for pollen and nectar. Worker bees have a stinger and will sting only once in their lifetime. Honeybees are excellent pollinators that visit a wide variety of plants and wild trees. They rarely sting and will do so only when they feel attacked.



Belonging to the genus Bombus, bumblebees are easy to spot due to their large size when compared to honeybees. Their black bodies are covered with dense yellow and black hair. Although similar to carpenter bees, they are smaller in size. The head of a bumblebee is also smaller compared to the carpenter bee. Bumblebees have hairy abdomens and make a signature noise while foraging on flowers. They use pollen baskets on their legs to ferry pollen into their ground nests, where they live in colonies. Bumblebees are excellent pollinators and will sting if they feel ambushed.

Carpenter Bees

Carpenter Bee

Belonging to the genus Xylocopa, Carpenter Bees are known for their destructive nature and are also referred to as wood bees due to their wood-drilling habits. These exceptional woodworkers create holes in wood that might be mistaken for work done with a power drill. Signs of carpenter bee presence include the presence of sawdust.

The female carpenter bee drills a hole and lays a female egg, followed by a male egg. Eggs hatch during spring, and the bees leave the nest in a single file, with males exiting first, followed by females. Males leave the nest early to prepare for mating. Carpenter bees are excellent pollinators, equipped with pollen baskets on their feet. They have a black body with thick yellow and black hairs on the head and thorax, while the abdomen tends to be bald. They possess stingers, with the female carpenter bee stinging only when feeling threatened. The male carpenter bee is more aggressive and territorial but does not sting; it hovers to keep intruders away.

Mason Bees

Red mason bee (Osmia rufa) insect close up

Belonging to the genus Osmia, Mason Bees are tiny and fast-flying bees with a distinctive metallic body color ranging from black, and blue, to dull green, akin to fighter jets in agility. Mason bees lack pollen baskets and have dense hair on their underbodies used for carrying pollen. They use mud to prepare nests, earning them the name “mason bees.” Mason bees seek holes on stems and twigs for nesting, and they can be attracted using pre-drilled holes or bee hotels.

Female mason bees lay the female egg at the back of their nest, followed by the male egg. They collect nectar, create food reserves for their offspring using their enzymes, and then seal the nest opening. Males hatch first and await females for mating. Mason bees are generalist pollinators, visiting a wide variety of flowers, especially those near the nest. They have stingers but rarely sting, with only females stinging when mishandled.

Leafcutter Bees

Leafcutter Bee

Belonging to the genus Megachile, Leafcutter Bees are easily identifiable by their large jaws and white hairs. They share nesting preferences with mason bees but use leaves instead of mud. These black bees have white hairs on their thorax and abdomen’s bottom, with large heads and massive jaws adapted for cutting leaf pieces. Leafcutter bees fly rapidly, using their abdomens to carry pollen.

Leafcutter bees are crucial pollinators in wild habitats, pollinating fruit trees, vegetables, and crops like onions, alfalfa, carrots, and blueberries for commercial growers. Existing as solitary bees, they can sting only when mishandled.

Orchid Bees

Orchid Bee

Commonly found in Jamaica, Orchid Bees, also known as Euglossines, are easily identifiable by their long, thin tongues and shiny metallic body color. Compared to other bees, orchid bees have fewer hairs on their abdomen. They exhibit unique behavior, specializing in pollination, making them highly efficient pollinators. Male orchid bees have hairs on their front legs for collecting essential oils, stored on their inflated hind legs. Jamaican orchid bees do not socialize and do not live in hives.

How to Start a Bee Farm in Jamaica

Beekeeping in Jamaica - How to Start a Bee Farm in Jamaica

If you are considering starting a bee farm in Jamaica, understand from the start that beekeeping is not for the faint-hearted. You need to comprehend all the requirements before you take the plunge. Raising your own bees will turn out to be one of your best decisions, given the many benefits associated with keeping bees.

To get started in the business, you will need to plan, set up, organize, and then market your business. All these are important steps:

Beekeeping Business Planning

Just like with any other type of business, you will need to plan for your beekeeping business in Jamaica earlier on. This is the first step that ensures aspects of the beekeeping business are evaluated before the launch. Planning will guide the direction the business will take from the onset. A solid plan for your business will project your view into the future and help you be prepared for any unexpected events.

Planning for the business will involve a review of all aspects, including:

1. Market Research

Market research involves researching all aspects of the beekeeping business, including industry trends and strategies for success. Choose an area of specialization from the onset, considering the various products that can be derived from honeybees, such as honey, pollen, wax, bee air/apitherapy, royal jelly, and pollination services. Thorough research about your potential market will help identify products or services with higher potential demand, in which you might decide to specialize.

Evaluate the demand for your beekeeping products in different markets, considering variations in location and customer preferences. Assess the market size, existing competition, and industry regulations. Joining beekeeping associations can provide valuable insights, so identify those worth being a part of.

Business Setup

Once the market research is complete, proceed to set up your beekeeping business. This involves acquiring the necessary equipment, selecting the bee species you want to raise, and preparing the physical infrastructure, such as beehives and apiaries. Ensure compliance with local regulations and safety standards.

Organizing Resources

Organize the resources needed for your beekeeping venture, including financial resources, manpower, and supplies. Develop a budget that covers startup costs, ongoing expenses, and contingencies. Establish relationships with suppliers for equipment and beekeeping supplies.

Marketing Strategy

Create a comprehensive marketing strategy to promote your beekeeping products and services. Utilize various channels such as social media, local markets, and partnerships with retailers. Highlight the unique qualities of your honey and other bee-related products. Consider offering educational programs or workshops to raise awareness about the importance of bees and beekeeping.

By following these steps, you can embark on a successful beekeeping journey in Jamaica. Remember that continuous learning, adaptability, and dedication are key factors for long-term success in the beekeeping industry.

2. Studying Beekeeping

There is no substitute for knowledge and skill, and unquestionably, beekeeping demands skill. Therefore, you must dedicate your time and resources to studying the beekeeping business. Honeybee colonies require unwavering care, and beekeepers need to harvest honey at the right time, converting raw honey and other bee products into marketable goods. Moreover, beekeepers must adopt and implement beekeeping best practices to safeguard the bees and themselves.

For beginners, enrolling in a relevant beekeeping course in Jamaica is advisable. Alternatively, self-study, either online or offline, can be beneficial. Nowadays, finding numerous useful resources about beekeeping is easy.

Beginner beekeepers are encouraged to join reputable beekeeping associations in Jamaica, where they can meet and interact with like-minded individuals. Beekeeping associations provide valuable information and resources beneficial to their members.

3. Setting up the Business

Before introducing the honeybees, it is imperative to identify a suitable location for the apiary. Potential spaces to consider include a garden, a community garden, a backyard, a farm, or any other viable space. The ideal space for keeping bees should have enough room for the honeybees to move around, be accessible for regular inspection or honey harvesting, and have sufficient space for honeybee product storage.

4. Sourcing Bees and Beekeeping Equipment

Beekeeping in Jamaica - Sourcing Bees and Beekeeping Equipment

Consulting with an Apiculture Extension Specialist, available at the Research and Development Division under the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, is recommended when procuring bees and beekeeping equipment. This ensures that the bees come from healthy sources and that the equipment is suitable for use.

Careful selection of bee stock is crucial when establishing a new apiary to ensure the best genetics from the beginning. Different strains of bees possess different genetic characteristics, and high-quality queens will produce the best offspring.

Honeybees are typically delivered as a colony, including worker bees, male drones, and the queen. A colony of bees can cost between $120 to $200, depending on your location. You can purchase honeybees from local beekeeping associations or a local beekeeper.

In addition to bees, you will need standard beehives for raising honeybees, costing between USD $120 to $200 each, depending on your locality. Consider starting with at least two hives.

Other essential requirements for starting beekeeping in Jamaica include:

  • Protective gear like a beekeeping suit, a veil, and gloves.
  • Hive tool.
  • Bee brush.
  • Flowers for pollen and nectar.
  • Bee smoker.

5. Choosing Your Products and Services

As a beekeeper, selecting the products or services to specialize in is a crucial decision. Some options for specialization in beekeeping include:

  • Honey
  • Beeswax
  • Training programs and the sale of beekeeping books
  • Candles
  • Courses and on-demand lessons
  • Pollination services
  • Breeding and selling honeybees
  • Sale of beekeeping supplies and equipment

The chosen beekeeping product or service will impact the target market and how the business is conducted. Consider the target buyers and decide whether to sell honeybee products or services directly to clients or through resellers.

6. Determining Your Business Plan and Budget

A well-structured business plan and budget are essential for keeping the business on track. The business plan outlines key elements such as:

  • Business name
  • Mission and vision
  • Business goals and objectives
  • Business values

Additionally, a budget should be drafted to cover startup costs, variable and fixed business expenses, and potential earnings from the beekeeping business. The budget will guide whether external funding is necessary.

7. Registering with the Ministry of Agriculture

Once the business plan and budget are in place, the next step is to register the business with the regulatory authority, the Ministry of Agriculture. All apiaries must be registered with the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries by January 31st each year. The registration form can be downloaded through this link.

After completing the form, submit it to the nearest office of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries for review and approval. Alternatively, the form can be mailed to the provided details on the website.

8. Moving the Bees

Beekeeping in Jamaica - Moving the Bees

The Chief Plant Protection Officer in Jamaica sets the legal framework and guidelines for the importation, transportation, and management of honeybees. Beekeepers and managers must comply with these rules and regulations.

To transport honeybees, written permission from the Chief Plant Protection Officer is required. Beekeepers should also be able to identify diseases and pests in beehives or apiaries and report any unusual symptoms to the Apiculture Unit within the Ministry of Agriculture.

Best practices in pest and disease management, including an integrated pest management system, are encouraged. Beekeepers should maintain good hygiene to avoid unpleasant odors that may irritate honeybees. A food handler’s permit is required before harvesting and extracting honey, and protective clothing should be kept clean.

9. Apiary Organization

The organization of your apiary is a critical aspect that can significantly impact your beekeeping business. To ensure success, follow these steps:

  1. Draw a Map: Use a grid paper to draw a map of your property, serving as a guide when determining the placement of beehives. This map will help optimize the layout of the apiary.
  2. Research Local Regulations: Visit the Ministry of Agriculture website to familiarize yourself with local municipality ordinances governing the placement of beehives. Consider factors such as how and where beehives should be situated.
  3. Seek Guidance: Consult your local beekeeping group or association to address any questions you may have as a beginner. A local mentor or experienced beekeeper can also provide valuable insights into organizing your apiary effectively.
  4. Consider Topography: The layout of the apiary will depend on the area’s topography, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution. However, general guidelines apply when positioning hives. Ensure access to water and food, and provide shelter for the colony against the elements.
  5. Apiary Positioning Considerations:
    • Food Sources: Ensure the adjacent area has sufficient forage for the honeybee colony, as honeybees search for nectar and pollen within a 2-mile radius of their hive. Consider the types of vegetation and crops grown by neighbors, as it can impact the flavor of the honey.
    • Water Source: Provide a clean and reliable water source for the colony. Create a bird bath with a landing platform to prevent drowning. Use stones and sticks in the bird bath as landing platforms for bees.
    • Shelter: Protect the beehive from strong winds, extreme heat, and cold. Consider afternoon shade to shield the colony from excessive heat in warmer areas. During cold seasons, position the hive on the southern side. Use wooden fences, buildings, or hay bales as windbreaks.
    • Hive Spacing: Proper spacing is essential when having more than one hive. The available space on the property will dictate hive placement. Hives can be positioned side by side, in pairs, or spaced far apart, depending on the available space.

By considering these factors during the organization of your apiary, you create an environment that promotes the well-being of your honeybee colony and contributes to the success of your beekeeping business.

Honey Harvesting in Jamaica

Beekeeping in Jamaica - Honey Harvesting in Jamaica

For every beekeeper, the first honey harvest is an exhilarating experience. Harvesting honey is not a difficult task if you have the right equipment and sufficient space for your work. Here are the basic steps and equipment needed for honey harvesting in Jamaica:

Basic Equipment:

  1. Safety Gear:
    • Beekeeping suit
    • Gloves
    • Veil
    • Boots

    Safety gear is crucial as honeybees might respond aggressively to your intrusion.

  2. Uncapping/Hot Knife: Used for removing wax from the cells.
  3. Mesh Strainer: Helps to remove debris or dirt from the honey.
  4. Storage Equipment:
    • Food-safe container (bucket or tank) for storing liquid honey.
  5. Tray: Used for temporarily keeping wax cappings while scraping them off from the cells.
  6. Honey Jars: Glass or plastic jars for packaging and distributing harvested honey.
  7. Honey Extractor: For the safe extraction of honey. A manual extractor is suitable for beginners.

Harvesting Process

Honey Harvesting Equipment

  1. Check Honey Frames: Confirm that honey frames are full and ready for harvest. Full frames are usually sealed with wax capping. Lift full frames from each hive and place them on a clean, stable surface. Leave enough honey for the survival of the colony.
  2. Prepare Harvesting Area: Set up the harvesting space and position the required equipment, such as the uncapping knife, in the correct place.
  3. Wax Removal: Uncap frames to be placed inside the extractor. Scrape wax cappings off from both sides of the frame using an uncapping knife. Use a honey tray to prevent dripping honey from making a mess.
  4. Extraction: Load uncapped frames into the extractor’s bracket. Switch on the extractor to collect liquid honey from the frames. Spin the extractor until the frames are completely emptied.
  5. Honey Collection and Storage: A bucket placed underneath the extractor will collect the liquid honey. Remove the bucket when no more honey is flowing. Use a measuring jug to pour honey into small jars. You should seal filled jars and store them in a cool, dark place.
  6. Wax Processing: Melt uncapped wax in a pot filled with hot water on the stove. Allow the wax to melt and float, then let it cool to leave behind a block of beeswax. There are various methods for collecting and refining wax.
  7. Cleaning: After collecting honey and wax, wash the extractor, bucket, tray, and other equipment using hot water. Use a cleaning cloth and hot water to clean surfaces.

Following these steps will help you successfully harvest honey in Jamaica, creating a delightful and rewarding experience for any beekeeper.

Jamaican Honey Suppliers

Jamaican Honey Suppliers

Jamaica boasts several reputable honey suppliers, including but not limited to:

  1. South Coast Honey: A leading supplier of honey and honey products in Jamaica.
  2. Directfresh Market: Based in St Catherine, Jamaica, it is a supplier of authentic Jamaican honey.
  3. GR8 Farms and Products: Located in Kingston 20, Jamaica, this supplier primarily focuses on honey.
  4. Vernon’s Coolwind Ltd: A Kingston-based supplier of honey.
  5. Radah Foods: Based in St. Elizabeth Santa Cruz, it supplies honey and juices.
  6. Harmony Farms: A supplier of honey and Manuka honey.
  7. Simone Douglas: A supplier of Manuka honey.
  8. Tino Wright: Based in St. Catherine, Jamaica, it supplies honey, charcoal, honey products, and dried pimento berries.
  9. Ital Honey Limited: Located in St. Catherine, Jamaica, it supplies honey, bee products, bee equipment, bee supplies, and honeybee materials.
  10. Rho Rho’s: A leading Jamaica-based firm that supplies organic honey, organic coconut oil, cane juice, organic castor oil, molasses products, and more.
  11. Beewise Honey Products: Based in St. Catherine, Jamaica, it mainly supplies honey and beeswax.
  12. Lloyd Morgan: A Jamaican-based firm that supplies honey and honey products.
  13. ES Services: Based in Portmore, Jamaica, it is a leading supplier of honey.

Price of Honey in Jamaica

As of the current writing, the retail price for natural honey in Jamaica ranges between $8.75 and $32.5 per kilogram or $3.97 and $14.74 per pound. In Jamaican dollars, this translates to JMD $1362.93 to JMD 5062.31 per kilogram, or JMD 618.11 to JMD 2295.83 per pound.

The wholesale price of natural honey in Jamaica at the time of writing is between $6.13 and $22.75 per kilogram or $2.78 and $10.32 per pound. Over the past five years, the price of honey in Jamaica has been fluctuating:

  • 2012: $7 per kilogram
  • 2015: $12 per kilogram
  • 2017: $5 per kilogram
  • 2018: $4 per kilogram
  • 2019: $127 per kilogram
  • 2020: $9 per kilogram
  • 2021: $6.33 per kilogram

Beekeeping Training in Jamaica

Beekeeping Training in Jamaica

Beekeeping training and courses, whether online or offline, have gained popularity in Jamaica. Starting beekeeping in Jamaica is made easier through enrollment in beekeeping courses and training.

Aspiring beekeepers have the option to learn about beekeeping through online courses, offering flexibility and convenience. Beginners unsure about the necessity of a complete beekeeping course can access free resources, such as online videos about beekeeping. An entire series of online beekeeping courses are also available for free, catering to individuals without prior knowledge or experience in beekeeping.

Key benefits of online learning for aspiring beekeepers include:

  1. Flexible Learning Schedule:
    • Learners can choose a schedule that suits them.
    • Most online courses are self-paced, allowing aspiring beekeepers to manage their own learning and continue with their work part-time.
  2. Flexible Time Management:
    • Online courses do not have set class schedules.
    • Learners take responsibility for choosing their timetable and deciding when to complete their course.
  3. School/Personal Life Balance:
    • Online learning enables a balanced approach to school and personal life.
    • Flexibility in online classes facilitates effective planning between daily chores and coursework.
  4. Easily Available:
    • Online training provides easy access to various learning materials and resources.
    • Anyone can access courses and training without leaving the comfort of their home.
  5. Many Programs Available:
    • Online learning offers unlimited options, allowing individuals to explore programs beyond their local institutions.

In addition to online courses, physical training, and offline beekeeping classes are available in Jamaica. Aspiring beekeepers can enroll in basic courses offered by local beekeeping organizations or educational institutions. However, it’s crucial to note that practical knowledge in beekeeping is best acquired through hands-on experience managing one’s beehives.

Certain firms in Jamaica provide on-the-job training for beekeepers, offering several benefits, including:

  1. Improved Learning Experience:
    • Interaction with teachers and fellow students is enhanced, providing personalized attention.
    • Offline learning fosters collaboration and a more engaging learning experience.
  2. Plethora of Resources:
    • Access to a wide variety of learning resources, including library books, textbooks, study materials, and online resources.
  3. Practical Learning:
    • Beginners have access to materials for practical learning, gaining firsthand experience in working with bees.
    • This hands-on approach contributes to a better and more practical understanding of beekeeping.
  4. No Distractions:
    • Fewer distractions for students, as many learning institutions restrict the use of mobile phones and gadgets during classes.
    • Students can fully engage in the learning process without unnecessary disruptions.
  5. Boosts Social Skills:
    • Enables students to develop social skills such as problem-solving, team collaboration, and effective communication.

Formal education is not a prerequisite for becoming a beekeeper in Jamaica. Only those aspiring to be serious beekeeping professionals may pursue certification courses to become master beekeepers. This typically involves working for 3 to 5 years in beekeeping, enrolling in additional courses, and passing exams.

Beekeepers in Jamaica have the flexibility to work independently or seek employment in for-profit or non-profit organizations, commercial apiaries, and beekeeping firms.

Yerba Buena Farm Beekeeping Internship

Yerba Buena Farm Jamaica

Yerba Buena Farm offers a comprehensive internship program for college students and graduates, spanning 1 to 4 months. The program is designed to provide hands-on experience and equip interns with practical knowledge in beekeeping. The ultimate goal is to empower interns to start and manage their apiaries upon completion of the program.

Program Highlights:

  1. Duration: The internship program ranges from 1 to 4 months.
  2. Focus: Full-time learning about beekeeping in a controlled environment.
  3. Apiary: Yerba Buena Farm boasts 200 top bar hives.
  4. Activities:
    • During honey flow, interns learn to raise queen bees.
    • Hive management and accurate record-keeping.
    • Training on mite management and raising mite-resistant queens.

Additional Skills (for 4-month training):

  1. Value-Added Products:
    • Making products using beeswax, honey, propolis, and pollen.
    • Learning how to build top bar hives using various materials.
  2. Practical Knowledge:
    • Natural and treatment-free beekeeping methods.
    • Building and managing colonies with top bar hives.

Community Interaction:

  1. Local Visits:
    • Exploring the local bamboo forest for materials.
    • Gathering fruits such as mango, coconut, and jackfruit.
  2. Blog Posting:
    • Interns maintain a daily blog to record their experiences and activities.


This comprehensive guide serves as a valuable resource for individuals interested in beekeeping in Jamaica. While the initial stages may seem challenging, the repetitive nature of beekeeping tasks makes them easier with practice and time. Joining the community of beekeepers not only provides personal fulfillment but also contributes to the well-being of bees and the overall ecosystem.

What are your thoughts on this article? Leave a comment below and let us know.

About Michael Simmonds

Michael Simmonds is an American beekeeper with more than two decades of experience in beekeeping. His journey with bees began in his youth, sparking a lifelong passion that led him to start his own apiary at the tender age of 15. Throughout the years, Simmonds has refined his beekeeping skills and has accumulated a wealth of knowledge concerning honeybee biology and behavior. Simmonds' early exposure to beekeeping ignited a fascination with these pollinators, influencing his decision to establish BeeKeepClub in 2016. The website was created with the aim to serve as the ultimate resource for beginners interested in beekeeping. Under Simmonds' guidance, BeeKeepClub provides comprehensive information to novices, including the basics of beekeeping, the different types of bees and hives, the selection of hive locations, and the necessary beekeeping equipment. In addition, the site offers detailed reviews of beekeeping tools to help enthusiasts make informed decisions and get the best value for their investment​​. His contributions to the beekeeping community through BeeKeepClub are substantial, offering both educational content and practical advice. The website covers a wide array of topics, from starting an apiary to harvesting honey, all reflecting Simmonds' extensive experience and passion for the field. Simmonds’ approach is hands-on and educational, focusing on the importance of understanding bees and the environment in which they thrive. His work not only guides beginners through their beekeeping journey but also reflects a commitment to the well-being of bees. Michael Simmonds has dedicated a significant part of his life to bees and beekeeping, and through BeeKeepClub, he has made this knowledge accessible to a broader audience. His work undoubtedly embodies a blend of expertise, authority, and trustworthiness in the realm of beekeeping.
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