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  1. #1
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    Nov 2003
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    Wink Exterminate your bees for honey?

    Don't get riled at me, I'm only asking because I don't know any commercial beekeepers first hand. I just read somewhere that "large commercial beekeepers" exterminate their bees at season's end. I know that was common back in the skept days and does happen in climates where bees can't winter.

    Is it so common as to make such a blanket statement? I'm sure I know the answer
    WayaCoyote

  2. #2
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    I've never heard of anyone doing that here in California... not that I keep up on what goes on around me tho.
    “When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.” – John Muir

  3. #3
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    currently I am not certain... althought I would suspect to some degree it likely does.

    years back (about 20+ years ago) this practice was quite common for most migratory beekeeper and just about all the bee keepers in canada. the idea was to identify about 1/3 of your best hives (typically the youngest queens) and you brought these back south. the remaining 2/3 you killed off and stripped the honey and pollen frames from these.... sometime you extacted some of this and sometime you stored these frames as the first feed for the next spring. there was typically little brood to be concerned with since this was done very late and almost all the hives had long since stopped brooding up. come spring time you took the 1/3 and spit out these to your desired total to go back north again. there were definite economic and organizational advantages to doing thng in this manner. feeding to get the hives churning early was almost essential.

    not sure how other did the killin'... but for us the process was to wait for a cold wet nothern to blow in and simply pull the covers. the dead bee made quite excellent garden compost I was told.

  4. #4
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    Oct 2003
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    Jenison, MI
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    I think it is more common than you think. It really simplifies thing, as well as allowing one to sell his honey as "chemical free".

    Brood disease isn't a problem, neither are mites.

    You won't hear a whole lot about it on the web forums because most of us are here to try to figure out how to keep them ALIVE over the winter.

    One local beek does that here (not a large commercial, only a few hundred hives).

    Just wait till you have snow on the ground and it is cold, then you can just shake them out into the snow. Then you can take ALL of the honey, reserves and surplus. Start in the spring with packages on comb and they build up fast.

    Advertise as chemical free honey. The reserve honey pays for the package in the spring.

    It really does make some business sense. Not much different than keeping fryer chickens, really, since you have to kill them to eat them, and then start over.

    Not my way, though. I love checking them all winter and seeing them, the first life in the spring.

    Rick

  5. #5
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    Hey, thanks for the insights. I find it particularly that Scads mentioned the "chemical free" concept. that was the point of this article that I read. It was trying to promote organic honey.
    WayaCoyote

  6. #6
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    May 2008
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    Snowmass, Colorado, USA
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    I don't know one commercial beek that kills off his bees. With the costs of queens and packages plus the lost time in building up a package I can't see any serious comm beek engaged in this. Bees winter well and you don't have to do much to take care of them. I resent the implication that this is some kind of "standard" practice and since this is in the commercial beekeeping area if you are not a commercial beek and haven't got a clue about what is practiced then state that up front.

    BTW I run chemically free hives but that doesn't allow me to label my honey as organic. So that argument doesn't cut it. Only three operations claim organic and it is based on where the bees forge as well as how they are managed. Not an easy thing and I doubt that packaged bees will be counted as chemical free since you don't know the origin.

    I strongly disagree with Scadsofbees in that business sense it makes sense...the cost/payoff/workload/buildup doesn't add up.
    Life is tough, but it's tougher when you're stupid.” John Wayne

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by alpha6 View Post
    I strongly disagree with Scadsofbees in that business sense it makes sense...the cost/payoff/workload/buildup doesn't add up.
    Well, if you can get an extra 60 lbs or more of honey off the hive (the winter reserves), charge more for it because it is "chemical-free", that could equate to $200+ extra per hive. Now that being said, I'm sure that there are a lot of other variables, and I'm sure they won't build up as fast as an overwintered hive because they aren't starting so early, so that may be an exaggeration. But the time saved in the fall from winterizing can be focused on extracting later on.

    Oh, I forgot to mention: they won't swarm nearly so much either being a first year hive with a fresh queen.

    Some business sense. I don't agree with the practice and wouldn't ever do it myself. Just pointing out why some do.

    Rick

  8. #8
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    Got it Rick. No worries...maybe too quick on the trigger on my part. I understand that comm beeks do things differently then hobbiest, but sometimes some of the things I hear are just "out there."

    The way we control swarming is by splitting. Which is very important to comm beeks as it replaces lost hives, builds the business at lower costs, and I know of a couple of guys that sell the heck out of nucs and make more money then the honey they could get off of them.
    Life is tough, but it's tougher when you're stupid.” John Wayne

  9. #9

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    As Dr t pointed out, it was once common for the Canadians to do it. This was before the border was closed to US package bees. Overwintering losses were tremendous and because of the length of cold weather the bees required substantial stores. On the other hand package bees from the southern US were available much earlier in the season than the surviving Canadian bees could begin to build up. Killing the bees, harvesting their stores and replacing them each spring with packages made good economic sense.
    Some of the old package bee producers I've talked with said they nearly went bankrupt when Canada cut off the US package business (trying to keep out varroa).
    Dan www.boogerhillbee.com
    Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterwards

  10. #10
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    Apr 2005
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    Salem, Oregon
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    Lightbulb A different Business Model.

    We have two beekeepers that employ this strategy annually.
    One completely depopulates and then purchaces packages in the spring, the other overwinters nucs.
    For a really good article go to:
    www.orsba.org
    Click on "Articles"
    Look about half way down the page and click on: "The ways of Winter "

    I have exactly ONE hive more than you.
    That makes my opinion beyond question.

  11. #11
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    May 2008
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    Read the article...the guy is full of crap.

    For one he says "I’ve spoken with a few of our beekeepers who do not want to put chemicals in their hives. They are going to see if the bees can tough it out. I would like to agree with them. A chemical free hive is most desirable but the reality is I can only imagine what can happen to bees if un-medicated."

    What an idiot. I treat naturally with essential oils and don't have any of the problems. Not treating with chemicals doesn't mean not treating.

    "Let’s look at the economics. With over-wintering you will be giving your bees fall and spring medications and it will generally cost you about $38 per hive." Mine cost 32 cents per treatment...I give two in the fall and two in the spring...and it feeds the bees at the same time reserving their stores. So far I haven't found that this guy is knowledgeable in much let alone keeping bees...but lets move on.

    "Economically you may think that it is less expensive because you don’t have to buy replacement bees in the spring. Wrong, remember you spent at least $38 to keep them alive and you are going to need to replace your queen and that will set you back another $12 plus $5 for shipping. We are up to $55."

    WHAT? Who says I need to replace my queen every year? And my costs are less then two bucks per hive.

    "Now look at it this way. You buy a single for $45 or a nuc or package for less. The bees have been medicated and they have a new queen."

    Where can you buy a single for $45 bucks today? And packages are going from $75 to 90 ea. Plus who says they are medicated? How many times have I seen nosema introduced through packages?

    Moving on

    "Priced at $5 per pound" yeah retail...try bottling 300 drums.

    Here is a list of advantages to this method:

    • You don’t poison your honey, comb or bees. - I don't either

    • You don’t spend money or time on medications. - Don't do that either

    • You don’t obsess about mite loads. -Never have

    • Your bees are left undisturbed more often and can produce more. - My bees start out stronger and not from some friggin package with nosema

    • You prevent mites and disease from ruining future colonies. - Not if you are using the same comb and equipment

    • You don’t have to find and replace the old queen because you always have a new queen every spring. - Don't do this either. Most hives are allowed to re-queen themselves. Which leads to stronger hives and better genes IMHO

    • You lessen the chance for swarming, since bees are busy building comb or filling entire hives of empty comb. - No problem there either...splitting increases your operation or you can sell the nucs.

    • You can get a higher price for your honey since you can assure your customers that chemicals are not used in your hive. - No assurance you are going to get higher prices and like I said I don't put um in there anyway.

    • The bees have two to three more months to store and cap honey. - Actually they have less as the package bees need about a month to build up before they really start collecting for anything that can be extracted.

    • You get your equipment out of the weather and it lasts longer. - Bet I save more money in the long run not having to build or rent a storage facility to keep all that equipment in.

    Don't know about you guys but he has failed to convince me his way makes me more money or is not more labor intensive.

    Oh yeah...not a comm. beek either. " Sometimes we need to try new things as hobbyists."
    Last edited by alpha6; 11-17-2008 at 01:59 PM.
    Life is tough, but it's tougher when you're stupid.” John Wayne

  12. #12
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    Well, I don't kill off hives, but I do cut way back in numbers by combining this time of year. Makes over wintering much more successful and get to weed out the stragler hives.
    “When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.” – John Muir

  13. #13
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    One of the guys who does it in Oegon, Thom, lives on the oregon coast and there has been A LOT of trouble keeping bees alive on the coast for some reason. That is one big reason why he does it.
    Chef Isaac..Culinary Arts and Honey are a sweet mix! http://www.sweetascanbeehoneyfarm.com & http://www.adoptahive.info

  14. #14
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    Could be that the cold and wet of the coast makes it difficult. Cold and wet plus bees makes for an unhappy hive.
    Life is tough, but it's tougher when you're stupid.” John Wayne

  15. #15
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    Apr 2006
    Location
    Delta, Utah
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    I know guys that use this method but instead of kill off their bees in the fall they sell them as "blow bees" to other beeks trying to strengthen hives for almonds. It works great for them as they have the winter off and don't worry about the trek to Cali.
    -Rob Bliss
    Bliss Honey and bee supplies

  16. #16
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    College Station, Texas
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    alpha6 writes:
    Read the article...the guy is full of crap.

    tecumseh:
    woa there alpha 6... someone sure tripped your hot wire... wonderin' what thats all about?

    perhaps I should first say that I ain't nothin' but an insignificant side liners so my comments here are quite obviously of little value.

    thanks scads for inputing the 'orgainic' angle. never would have occurred to me but does make a good deal of sense. there were three prime reasons for killing bees in the old days .... 1)the quantity of stores required to overwinter a hive, 2) the cost of labor to feed, wrap and yes medicate hives left to overwinter and 3) some 'estimated' winter loss which when plugged back into 1 and 2 has the unavoidable consequence of multipling #1 and #2 by some factor.

    I would also suggest that the stores required to overwinter in say north dakota (which is where I did the killin') or just about anywhere in canada was not #60. finally the real winter loss (when compared to the 'estimate) fluctuated quite wildly. this translated into #1 and #2 being much larger than most folks calculations.

    other less important variable to consider in justifying this strategy were the cost of transportation in moving bees north and south and the relative prices of sugar vs honey.

  17. #17
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    Reason I stated that is because the reasons he gave don't hold water...there are other methods and certainly less expensive options then what he based his theory on.

    Thats all.

    Additionally, I think it is a primitive method of handling bees. With so many complaining to the Govt. about money for research into CCD and then to have beeks kill off their bees to save a little effort is really counter productive to the bee industry as a whole.
    Life is tough, but it's tougher when you're stupid.” John Wayne

  18. #18
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    Orlando, FL
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    I am a sideliner, so not really commercial.

    I can't do Organic because I live too close in to the city and the forage space does not meet the Organic requirements.

    None the less, I have read the Organic Honey requirements and one of them is that you can not use a management method which results in the death of the bees, so if you kill them off, you can't claim organic.

    I suppose you can use the term chemical free, but not "Organic".

    I think the practice is despicable.
    Troy

  19. #19
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    It certainly isn't bee'keeping'.

  20. #20
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    Dec 2006
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    Sparta, Tennessee
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    Fact of the matter...I'm in bees because I love my bees. I couldn't imagine anyone killing them on purpose. Money isn't the end all...and there are other ways to turn a profit vs killing the little buggers.

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