Author Topic: What Numbers are Best?  (Read 879 times)

StoreyWilson

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What Numbers are Best?
« on: February 29, 2020, 08:22:28 AM »
I have a good friend which want to start a small apiary operation. This bee apiary is designed to supplement a farm to table restaurant and some other community outreach teaching operations. We want to do some honey harvesting and sales of those materials. End of the day, the bees need to justify their existence on the "Farm" and therefore need to generate some hard income.


Here is my question. How many hives do we need to aim for to make a stable and manageable apiary. Is there a number of hives where operations begin to make more sense? For example, once you hit 25 hives then you can expect a certain consistent amount of honey and good survival? There would probably only be one primary beekeeper (me).


From one perspective what we are doing is making the transition from hobby bee keeping to a more calculated bee keeping season. What number of hives do we aim for to hit that first stair step?

Rojodiablo

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Re: What Numbers are Best?
« Reply #1 on: February 29, 2020, 08:46:15 PM »
That's a baited question........I have several beekeeper friends, and the general consensus is it will take about fifty hives to turn a real profit. Medicating for mites, equipment, a bigger scale honey extracting apparatus, organizing some labor........ one human, working fifty hives without a dedicated, educated helper is gonna be an honest to goodness JOB. :o Two guys who are successful are in this range, 45 to 80 hives. Given natural losses, pesticide losses, this is the range their yards wind up around. And this isn't enough to support a fella as a career type job at this level, but rather a hobby that pays dividends.
To make it a career level gig, there's a whole lot more. A WHOLE lot more. You are looking 200 hives, because you will need nuc's at the ready to cover lost hives. You will make queens for yourself and for sale. You will be selling bees, making boxes of bees for sale. You'll have more inspections, have a resale license, will have to sell honey to a vendor/ processor (much lower price for honey) or you will BECOME a processor..... (Even more expensive equipment and dedicated building(s) for the process. You will need to secure a couple of lots to keep bees on, and move them to pollinate crops, to harvest pollen, etc. And as such....... the sick in the head part is, the work between 200 hives and 400 is not that far a stretch. It takes the same infrastructure and planning, but on a per capita basis, each hive costs less. Got a buddy who works about 1000,1200 hives with another guy. They are busier than their bees....... they nowadays rent the bees, move them, strip honey at each move. (2 moves a year, 3 locations, they have to leave most the honey after the second pull for over-wintering.) They don't make queens, they buy them for ease and speed. They don't do as much pollen harvesting as before, unless they have a ripe field for it and can rotate hives in and out. Makes for a lot of extra work.  A LOT.

StoreyWilson

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Re: What Numbers are Best?
« Reply #2 on: March 01, 2020, 10:54:58 AM »
Thank you for the response. You are correct, this is a difficult question to answer. After more thought I realize how open ended the question is.

So one take away from your post is that 2 well experienced bee keepers could make a sustainable Hobby level profit with approximately 45-80 colonies.

The hives do not need to sustain a career salary but just contribute to the overall restaurant/market operations. First year will obviously be difficult with equipment costs. My estimate of 25 hives and a small frame spinner may be a good start for just one bee keeper trying to get some honey in the store front.

Oh yeah and best part, they are going on the roof of this business, next to the roof top green house. Not room for much more than 25 hives anyway.



Nag

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Re: What Numbers are Best?
« Reply #3 on: March 01, 2020, 11:47:17 AM »
Wow! There could be so many answers to your question. Here's what we learned......we got into bee keeping not to become a honey producer, but rather to help the local farm community.
Our first production year we harvested 250 lbs of honey from 3 hives.
300 lbs the next; the colonies grew to 5 hives but not all were large enough to produce.
Those 5 hives yielded 350 lbs the next season, but since we suffered a 2 hive loss, that 350 lbs came from only 3 colonies.
We split and grew; captured 2 late season swarms and went into winter with 8 hives.
So far, all 8 have survived the cold. And if all 8 do and produce honey, we're anticipating somewhere in the 600 lb, or more range.
600 lbs of honey is a lot when all you're selling to is a local community.

So, I'd suggest you try to predict how much honey you'll need to supply your restaurant for the year, and go from there.

One more piece of advice, if you do not have the time to take care of the Bees, nor have help, don't get to big. With 8 hives, the 2 old lady owners are needing help now lifting, moving boxes, as well as harvesting.
It's work!


StoreyWilson

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Re: What Numbers are Best?
« Reply #4 on: March 01, 2020, 12:19:38 PM »
Wow that is a huge amount of honey from 3 hives. Was that about 7 gallons per hive? I have not seen that much productivity in our urban environment yet.


I managed to somewhat successfully build up 20 hives last season with just myself. We will have volunteers within the restaurant who want to get trained up working with the Bees. So it would not just be myself. I should be able to recruit about 5 very competent/trusted bee keepers for when I am not around.

vadentwin

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Re: What Numbers are Best?
« Reply #5 on: March 01, 2020, 02:39:05 PM »
If you have too much honey... Make mead.


Rojodiablo

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Re: What Numbers are Best?
« Reply #6 on: March 01, 2020, 10:51:28 PM »
Wow that is a huge amount of honey from 3 hives. Was that about 7 gallons per hive? I have not seen that much productivity in our urban environment yet.


I managed to somewhat successfully build up 20 hives last season with just myself. We will have volunteers within the restaurant who want to get trained up working with the Bees. So it would not just be myself. I should be able to recruit about 5 very competent/trusted bee keepers for when I am not around.
Yeah, 25 hives would be a great amount to make some honey and support a single store outlet with some planning and realistic expectations.
Figure about 100lb of honey per hive a year if your area is decently productive, and you have good forage. Rooftop sounds interesting........ I like the idea of no ant problems. I have ants, we fight. A LOT. BUT...... I see ventilation intakes and output ducts as a huge problem, and the servicing of AC equipment up on the roof is going to make life complicated. Do you by chance have another potential yard close by you can use? Here in Pasadena Ca, about thirty miles from me, last week they had a swarm get nasty, and it sounds like they had some African traits to them. They formed up outside a small retail and housing hub, clothing and food shops, ice cream parlor, bank, etc....... it was a show of epic proportions. I would not be real excited to have that hanging over my head, as it were...... right on my roof.
With 20,25 hives, your early season splits would climb the ranks to 30, 35 hives easily. EASILY. The good thing is, selling off a few boxes of bees is a slam dunk, and it will fetch a decent price, $50-100 for the bees, a full box with frames and the works is a $150,200 setup, and it's a good sell, people want to save bees. So you can pull in some decent money in this, without much work; (You HAVE to do splits, or lose bees to swarms... or chase swarms across town, all that good stuff!!) So regulating the hive size is in your best interest and it gives you some cushion. Say you want 25, you wind up with 40. You sell ten, keep 5 extra...... you will lose some hives. Some turkey will spray for bugs, and wipe out your bees. (I lost 4 hives to this last year) Mites and disease will tax you. Tired queens will make for weak hives. With a couple extra, you have resources to beef up a weak hive, replace one or two if need be. And say you reach September, have pulled honey. You can let the extra hives load a little honey and resources, then sell them off at the end of the season. Go into winter with 20 hives, ready to take on the next year.
But I would really reconsider the hives on the roof, unless there was great easy access, walk up access. Full frames of honey are heavy, and goofy to carry down a ladder with hot bees on your tail, and customers running for the hills....... ;D

StoreyWilson

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Re: What Numbers are Best?
« Reply #7 on: March 26, 2020, 01:46:56 PM »
Just Staging the Hives for now.
What do you think of the cool decking solution?
The bees will go in as we split hives and catch wild swarms.
The access to the hives is very easy and not a huge problem. The Green house and other staging areas is all on the same roof level.


« Last Edit: March 26, 2020, 01:48:43 PM by StoreyWilson »

Rojodiablo

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Re: What Numbers are Best?
« Reply #8 on: March 27, 2020, 05:17:46 PM »
That looks really good! Make sure the vent systems hve smaller screens on any intakes and exhausts. That should work well, you can give them water easily, looks like enough room to work them.
Please keep us updated on this, I know I am not the only one wondering how it will work for a year round system. Good luck!! :D

vadentwin

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Re: What Numbers are Best?
« Reply #9 on: September 27, 2020, 04:42:10 PM »
Hey Story,

How is this place doing? I'm gonna be in Denver area this week and wanted to try them out. They still have a website but was wondering how they faired with "the Rona"