How did you folks that do pollination get started? Did you use a broker or knock on doors?
Its easy to go to Ca. or Maine they need alot of bees. Local pollination you have to kick the doors down, they are mostly built on relationships. Try working with a local beekeeper by filling in for him or her if they dont have enough bees.
You can advertise in local ag papers,journals etc.Main thing is supplying a good product,and word of mouth gets around.
Well Trevor, I know alot of guys that have had trouble in Calif, some was self-inflicked some wasn't, I wouldn't say it's a cake walk.
Originally Posted by Trevor Mansell
Im still looking for snow white and the seven dwarfs.
How we started
My dad has bees for ever it seems. Or at least since Noah lost that swarm. But as most beekeepers do or did he concentrated on making honey most of those years. Myself I got out of school and out of the bee business for several years (nearly 20) looking for better jobs. There are many stories we could all tell growing up beekeepers and moving bees around the south east to different honey flows trying to make honey. He is in central Florida where they plant lots of watermelons and began to pollinate them until that is where he makes his money off the bees now. It wasn't such an effort rather than he couldn't manage the bees he has, trying to produce bulk honey. With no outside help and beekeeping help is hard to find for some reason. Myself I had about 30 hives as a teenager that I pollinated with, at that time (early 80's) a man rented for watermelon pollination. I thought he was the biggest fool I ever saw to pay someone just to put bees in the corners of his fields. All the while I wanted to put them somewhere or dad would have them blended with rest of his bees and I lose them. I've been with dad again now about 6 months full time and part of the deal I made with him was we try making it pollinating rather than making honey for a while. I believe the cost of producing honey and cost of pollinating will equal out the extra you make off selling honey. At the time I'm searching new contracts for us other than the melons we have. Definatly looking at almonds next year, but I'm thinking of apples, cucumbers, blueberries, and anything else. Hopefully I can get this more here in the south east cutting transportation cost for us. Any other commercial guys got some ideas or tips I'll surely take them. Like I said I have to catch up the past 20 years and there is more new things out there than I thought
Im not saying its a cake walk. I hear the horror stories from people as well. Im just saying its easier to find contracts in Ca. or Maine . Local pollination at least in Fl is tough to break into unless you buy someone out.
Originally Posted by Keith Jarrett
Really Trevor? You can't just show up in Maine w/ a load of bees and find a place for them, can you. I call a grower last year, in early May, because I heard that they needed more colonies and was told, No thanks.
Originally Posted by Trevor Mansell
So, how do you get work for your bees? Who do I call? When should I call them?
As far as Maine and California, I'll bet it helps to know someone who is already pollinating and either tag along w/ them the first year of get an intro through them.
If you are near where pollination is needed, go see the grower and see what happens.
We got started by tagging long with some other beeks who were going out to California for almonds. They knew their broker was looking for more bees. We have stuck with this particular broker for a few years now, going out on our own.
Like breaking into most occupations, networking smooths the road. It helps to have word of mouth recommendations, there are some shysters out there who think nothing of taking advantage of a newbee.
Contact other beekeepers/pollinators in your area. Ask them about availability, if they use a broker, etc. If you have bees available they may have room on their trucks, or know someone else that needs bees to fulfill a contract.
Contact brokers in the area of interest. A broker will take care of some or all of the contractual headaches, this varies by broker. You may only need to supply good bees (to their standards), with the broker arranging placement, moving them in and out and collecting the money, or you may have to handle the logistics of moving in and out of the orchards the broker contracts with.
Contact the grower's associations. A grower might try to lowball you so know your pricing. Find out who did their previous pollination and why they need someone new. Is it because they didn't pay the last one? Is it because there are worse than normal conditions in the orchard that make placement difficult?
Whatever you do, don't just take a load out anywhere looking for a placement, that is a good way to lose a bunch of money fast. While some might do that and be fine, they know and accept the risk, are established in the area, and have a place to set them while shopping them around.
Of course you should have your ducks in a row before you show up. Calling growers in Maine the first week of May expecting to find pollination is wishfull thinking .
Originally Posted by sqkcrk
working with someone that is already in Maine and Ca. is always going to be a big help . Especially the loading and unloading of the bees . Its not hard to find pollination work if you have good bees ,in certain areas.
I talk to growers in my area and everything is all sewed up . Not alot of new farms going in due to land prices. Most existing farms have established relationships with beekeepers going back for years . I try to fill in when they need more bees and hand out cards.
Living out in Ca. Actually in the heart of Ca. I am in prime farm land. almonds Almonds everywhere. Out where I have a few of my bees now they have 200 acres of Almonds where the bees are. The bees are currently on organic seed alfalfa and Conventional organic cotton. I have made a few contacts with bee keepers that come out here. And I still offer my help next year for anyone who comes out and is in the Central Valley of Ca. I am trying to find placement for my 10 hives next year for Almonds. Hopefully all 10 will make it but I have hope. It is looking like 2 of my hives need splitting again they are bursting at the seams again. The one farmer that buys my farm fresh eggs allowed me to place my bees out on his ranch. For nothing. All togather he has 800 acres of Almonds. I have been trying to go and talk with a few farmers about pollination next year and asking them how many hives they would need. I have a friend that is local that has 100 hives. He eventually wants me to buy him out. My offer stands if any of you all need help next year when you start bringing in the girls. One thing I have read was that hive prices are expected to rise another 20 to 40 dollars and that most eastern bee keepers will stay home due to the cost of fuel. As it would cost more to haul them then what they would be getting per hive. I know for sure in my county alone that we have seen a huge increase in young almond groves being put in this year. Not to mention the other nut and fruit trees. It would be great to meet you all when you come out this way. Looks like I will get to meet Greg from ND this fall in Nov when he comes out to check on his bees out here. I can not wait to meet him and get to work with him.
Thanks for the offer. I think you will get a better response if you already have locked in a certain number of hives that are needed. For example, you are in a contract with a farmer for 500 hives. Then I think people would respond better with ok, I have 200 available, etc.
You also need to know a little about how the process works. It may be different with others but the way it usually works is the contact in Calf. is paid 8 bucks per hive (last year price) to manage and if any feeding is needed then thats also tagged on. They unload and place the hives then reload for shipment back. So if we send 1000 hives, then he makes 8k plus whatever for feeding on just our hives. Not a bad gig for them.
Also, a lot of people send out their hives in Oct. and they are stored in huge bee yards till they are needed in spring for the almonds. If you are planning to get into this I would recommend having a place to store the bees until pollination. You will also need a swinger, trucks to move to groves..etc. etc. It may be best to check with a local who is doing this already to get some first hand knowledge on what is involved. Hope that helps.
I am a sideline beekeeper in the Orlando area. I saw several folks talking about watermelon and pollination in FL.
I have only concentrated on honey so far, but my bees are sitting idle right now. If I could feed them and get them pollinating a crop, right now, that would be great - at least for them, and for the farmer.
I am just a sideline guy and have a day job, so moving them has to be on the weekend and with Fuel prices I'd have to charge a fair sum to make it worthwhile to only move a few hives, but if someone out there just needs a few hives, I might could help out.
I currently have about 10 hives that are at full strength and could be available for pollination. Does anybody ever need that few?
I was thinking about an ad on Craigslist - anybody ever try that?
What do people normally get for this kind of service?
Can't hurt to advertise. If you are going to move your bees, load them late evening and move them at night so you keep all your field bees in the hive. I wouldn't worry about feeding them as watermelon flowers produce nectar and pollen.
Thanks, I knew to move them at night. It is still hard to do in the hot summer here in FL as they tend to beard outside a lot at night.
As for the Watermelon, I thought I had read that the pollen was not very good for bees and the nectar was almost non-existent, so I assumed I'd have to feed them sugar water at least.
Troy, you could be right, I can't find anything regarding how much nectar or pollen they produce. I did find this link that talks about them and that they do produce some of both but what the quality is, I don't know.
There really isnt any pollination in Fl durring the summer. They will start planting around the end of Aug .
The hives we place in california for summer watermelon pollination,dont do a whole lot.We due better from the surrounding sources.
Well, it looks as though you have a crystal ball Angi.
Originally Posted by Angi_H
Lets look at your numbers....
"20-40 dollars more per hive, eastern beekeepers will stay home due to fuel costs", Hmmm.
Ok, let's say $30 more per hive @ 408-480 a load = $13,000
Are you saying $13,000 more is going to be ate up in fuel?
Sounds like to me someone has gotten a hold of a machine gun with too much ammo.
Hey Keith, I kinda liked Angi's forcast. at least the $20-$40 part . But you are quite correct, if all the Eastern beekeepers stayed home the price would rise and give them the incentive to spend the $$ on fuel, the pendulum do swing.