Newbie Costs of Starting Out: Crunch My Numbers and Detailing My Experience So Far
I thought I would throw out some rough numbers of incoming dollars and gross sales so far to give people an idea of how I am doing...
I'd also like to add that it is my goal to add beekeeping to our farm as part of the business and not maintain it as a hobby. I know that is quite a ways off but that is what I am shooting for.
I keep a spread sheet of the number of frames I harvest, what type of honey, how many jars (type of jars), how many were sold and gifted, and what remains.
I have also kept a detailed cost of building my apiary that does not include my time.
I am doing this to help newcomers like myself and hopefully to get feedback from some of you much more experienced types.
I have built and reconditioned a total of 27 medium boxes, 4 hive stands, 10 IPM bottom boards, 2 solid bottom boards, 8 telescoping covers, 2 migratory covers, 10 inner lids, about a dozen spacers (Shims and the items market as baggie feeder "boxes"), 6 hive top feeders (3 different types of 2 each), 4 boardman style feeders, over 300 medium frames and foundation (with 20 of them being plastic foundation inserts, and 20 sheets of comb honey sheets and the rest wired standard medium foundation), 2 sets of nucs (2 medium boxes, 2 lids, 2 inner covers, 2 bottom boards, 2 IPM bottom boards, 2 nuc feeders), 6 queen exculders, 2 propolis traps, 2 different pollen traps, 2 smokers, 2 hive tools, a queen clasp, two comb scratchers, a couple rubbermaid containers (for transporting up to 15 frames of honey, another all black tough box as a wax melter containers and used double pain window as a cover for it and an old drawer to rest the comb in), several clear rubbermaid style containers for a homemade bee vac (1 large main box, and 3 central capture boxes, and the caulk and wire mesh to go with them...and a couple small attachments to mate them with a any 2" vac system), 2 bee jackets, 1 full suit, one veil, one pair of gloves, an adult empi pen, a child's epi pen, rubber gloves, gray plastic uncapping tank (two boxes, lid, and grate with cross bar), 2 buckets with honey gates, 1 2-frame tangential extractor, tool bag for lots of crap. a couple dozen different entrance reducers, and the wood, concrete, and bolts for my first hive stand (my second hive stand using steel I-beams was all scrap from a mobile home I tore down and every brick or cinder block used to date has been free/scavanged).
Total costs ( might be missing a small receipt for a quart of paint...which would have been a dollar or two from the oops stack) are 3250.00. 80% of which are depreciable assets.
I purchased 4 (5 frame medium) nucs at 60.00 each (240.00) and captured 8 colonies (3 cut outs 5 open swarms). All of the open swarms and two of the cutouts were free. The third cut-out was paying job and grossed 250.00 of job that took roughly 8 hours. Cost of driving to pick up the nucs, swarms, and cut-outs was probably right around 250.00 give or take a couple dozen dollars. Many times I took the farm 350 to pick up, but the last couple I did in my Subaru Outback which gets better MPG. Since I have started I have had one colony die because they could not cluster enough to keep the queen alive (it was a late March cut-out) and I have combined a total of 6 colonies which brings me to a total of 7 colonies in my main yard and 1 in my new out yard. One of the seven colonies has a laying worker(s) in it and is queenless. They are getting dumped and I am placing my last swarm caught in the same position hoping its foragers will move to my last weak hive while the foragers from the laying worker hive will beg their way into the new colony in their former position. I am doing mite counts right now and will treat with powder sugar if needed. Mite counts of been zero or a less than a dozen on all hives to date. The zero counts are from the swarms and one cut-out.
So, I look at my costs for getting the actual bees I have to be minimal, right around 250.00.
To date I have processed 164 jars of honey. I have harvested a total of three times. Once of 5 frames (Black Locust) once of 12 frames and one more of 15 frames. I was really carefull not to rob the weaker hives and only take a couple frames here or there off the strong ones.
This can be broken down into two groups: Black Locust (23 4 oz, 11 8 oz, and 1 pint) and Wildflower/Local (75 4oz, 49 8 oz, and 5 pints). Jars are my big variable costs right now. Pint and Quart jars have been free and I have accumulated quite a few of them via (www.freecycle.org). SOme of the 4 and 8ox jars have been free, but most I have purchased at Kroger's pr Meijer's using coupons or discounts and have kept, for the most part jar prices right around .50 to .60 a jar. My goal is to set my sights on .50 because it seems to be the magic number. Of those jars I have not sold and gifted or kept (for myself 8 4-oz jars and 17 8-oz jars)
Total gross sales have been 627.00 exactly (honey only). I sell my honey with my other farm produce, if that matters, and includes seasonal vegetables and local farmer's apples and peaches. I sell at 2 markets (1 3 miles away and 1 15 miles away), a stand on the farm proper, and 2 co-ops of roughly 8 families each (who pick up from my home).
I have started collecting pollen and wax, but have not filtered used or refined any of it. To date from cappings and cut-outs I have about 10 pounds of wax and 4 oz of pollen. I am planning on starting to sell the pollen next market...though I may only have a single jar of it to "test" the waters.
I have fed a total of 75 pounds of sugar as a 1:1 mix since I have started. I am about to purchase another 50 pounds this week to help out through what is becoming a drought. We started the season off great and it was going well...till the end of July and then we hit our normal dearth period followed by no rain. While the stores I left the bees were adequate assuming no drought at the time of harvest, I am now feeding to help them through what is becoming a much drier period than anticipated. They are still hauling in massive amounts of pollen (late corn, ragweed, sunflower, etc) and they are putting out massive amounts of propolis in a couple of the hives. Even with the drought we still have a nice sparce cover of both dandelions and white clover and I see the bees foraging on both.
I live just outside Cincinnati, Ohio. The greater tri-State area has a population of roughly 2.5 million people. I am 25 miles from downtown. My farm is 300 acres is size and situated on the Great Miami River and Whitewater River. We are in a mixed use rural area of residential and agriculture mainly. What industry is located here is mainly gravel extraction, and light manufacturing. Main crops (call it about 15 thousand acres in the Ohio portion of the valley are corn, wheat, soybean, and mixed hay). There is a large power plant at the end of road some 4 miles away and major county park of about a thousand acres and includes a golf course. We have a substantial amount of drive by traffic in terms of local resident commuters (about 300 households maybe), plant workers (DUKE Energy powerplant), golfers and park goers, and maybe a hundred cyclists during the week (our road is part of a nice lazy scenic loop along the Miami and Ohio Rivers).
So there are my rough numbers. Do they jive with others? Maybe not? Are the helpful? Am I on a solid path so far?
So far, even with some hard pitfalls I love doing it and have learned lots. The roughest one...make sure there is NO queen when you put that new queen in the hive and if you are going to open feed your bees on cappings and frames from extraction do it a least a 100 yards from the hives to avoid robbing.
I am hoping to move my colony numbers up to 30 next year and focus on doing splits, experimenting with one or two double queen hives for honey production, and start on the path towards queen raising.
Sounds like you're doing a great job...
If you get 30 hives
with 100 lbs honey per hive (most probably a conservative estimate)
at $3 per pound ($1.50 wholesale, $4.50 retail)
not too shabby, best of luck to you!
Some reading materials that might be applicable to what you are doing:
A Year's Work in an Out-Apiary by G.M. Doolittle
Bee Sex Essentials by Lawrence Conner
Increase Essentials by Lawrence Conner
Fifty Years Among the Bees by C.C. Miller