Can someone please share with me the least expensive way to expand from 10 hives to 100 hives? examples I am looking for are. purchase vs raising queens, equipment costs etc.
This is not an easy thing to do overnight! Things you can do to expand are to build your own equipment. Depending on the type of wood you use you can save. Use only Mediums for brood and honey. Raise your own queens, a little investment but you raise as many as you need. TIME not much you can do about that. Build up your hives and make them very strong. Go as if you are using 3 large brood supers. Make them very strong and split the hives. Three years you have 100 plus if you keep up with the building. Don't think about honey for 3 years. I have seen this method work.
Another method is look for someone getting out of the business, retiring or moving. I have gotten supers real cheaply this way. I you don't belong to a local beekeepers association, DO IT. Thats a great source for equipment and nucs and.....
[This message has been edited by NewBee (edited March 12, 2002).]
I would definitely consider raising your own queens. I have been doing this for two years now and can truthfully say that it really works.
I live in Central lower Michigan so it takes a little longer before I can get to rearing queens, but when the time comes, I can really see the results.
Last year, I went from six hives to twenty just from splits and rearing my own queens. Consolidating mating nucs at the end of the season will get you several good hives also...provided you do it early enough.
I made my mating nucs from 6 5/8 medium supers divided in two (the long way). This makes a nice 4 frame nuc that utilizes STANDARD equipment. It's easy to exchange between "bee donor" colonies and, again, makes them easy to re-group for the winter. Last year I had ten of these nucs (actually 20 since they are divided in two). This year I plan to make another ten + nucs to make more queens to sell. I figure I produced approximately 60 to 70 queens last year.
Keep a good eye out for equipment. One beekeeper I know bought several hundred 6 5/8" supers with perfectly drawn (light) comb for $1.00 a box! I traded most of my queens to him for equipment so I had little $$ outlay for what I picked up last year.