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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2004
    Location
    Belville, NC USA
    Posts
    45

    Default Going commercial

    I run a small apiary in middle Tennessee and have been bee keeping for five years. I am entertaining growing the business and ultimately going full time with the bees. In your experiences, what is the minimum number of hives you have to have to make a go of it. I have done the math based on my average harvest, potential pollination contracts, money from splits and wax products and have a fair idea but wanted to get your opinions and thoughts.


    Thanks for the help.

    Jeff

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2003
    Location
    Manitoba Canada
    Posts
    5,840

    Default

    Like you say, it all has to do with what kindof beekeeping your doing.
    Here its 800 or so.
    Ian Steppler >> Canadian Beekeeper's Blog
    www.stepplerfarms.com

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    Location
    Randolph County, Indiana
    Posts
    694

    Default

    Well, its not really a matter of how many hives you need to make a go of it. Its how many hives you need to replace your current income plus expenses for running those hives, and as Ian stated, it's also what kind of beekeeping you are doing. In my area I have lots of different options.

    I can just produce honey. To replace my income I need 500 hives that produce 75lbs each at current wholesale prices of 1.50 per pound in my area to other beeks. That's not including my wife's income, which is considerably higher.

    Or I can produce honey, and sell nucs. I split one hive into four in May, then each of those into four more in early July. Then sell those nucs for a profit of more than 1000. So if I could sell nucs in July from 40 hives each year, I can make a living. But that's unlikely to happen. Chances are I would still need 500 hives to make a living from nucs.

    I could also add in pollination. My estimate is that I would still need at least 400 hives that are constantly pollinating in the spring, and then produce honey.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    Snowmass, Colorado, USA
    Posts
    2,497

    Default

    Just remember that it is agriculture. You will have good years, bad years, really good years and really bad years, so take that into consideration. I would go with about 20% more hives then you think you need to make a living. Honey doesn't spoil, pollen will keep a long time in the freezer, bees wax lasts a long time, and if you have a market for nucs then more hives equals more nucs so if some hives are weak or deadouts you still have hives to make up for them.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    Location
    lewisberry, Pa, usa
    Posts
    6,080

    Default

    The easiest way to figure that out is sit down and do a spreadsheet. Based on your willingness to travel, the local opportunities, and what you direction you want to go in, can mean alot.

    What I mean is something like this.....

    Local pollination is $45. And If you can get two crop fees, thats $90. Then if you sell a nuc off each hive, that $80 dollars. So the total on something like 500 hives would be $85,000

    But you must factor in not all hives will be rented and 500 nucs is alot for a single person operation. So play with the numbers. Take into account whether you will raise queens or buy them. Then there is the frame and foundation cost for nuc building. Many things go into it. I figure if you can make $150 on 500 hives, that $75,000 But knock off $25,000 for expenses. So would or could you be willing to manage 500 hives, and will your local conditions/market handle it, for you to clear $50,000?

    Are you willing to ship bees to pollination areas not local to your own? Can you take advantage of honey while still selling nucs?

    I think there is something to be said of "sidelining". Build to 100 hives and see what money can be made. Then ask yourself if you can do he same with 500.
    Last edited by BjornBee; 08-29-2008 at 05:14 AM.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Location
    St. Albans, Vermont
    Posts
    5,312

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by BjornBee View Post
    But you must factor in not all hives will be rented and 500 nucs is alot for a single person operation. So play with the numbers...
    Yeah, and don't forget your 20-30% loss in the winter, that will eat up a hundred of those nucs.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Location
    Brasher Falls, NY, USA
    Posts
    26,630

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Brunswick Beeworks View Post
    I run a small apiary in middle Tennessee and have been bee keeping for five years. I am entertaining growing the business and ultimately going full time with the bees. In your experiences, what is the minimum number of hives you have to have to make a go of it. I have done the math based on my average harvest, potential pollination contracts, money from splits and wax products and have a fair idea but wanted to get your opinions and thoughts.


    Thanks for the help.

    Jeff
    At least you won't be unemployed.

    You'll need about 400 to start w/ and maybe more. Alot depends on your standard of living and how willing and able you are to put in the hours.
    Mark Berninghausen "That which works, persists."

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