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  1. #1
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    Jun 2008
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    Default Apple Pollination in the North

    Out of curiosity, how much do people charge for pollinating apples? I have been approached by a small local orchard for 2 hives for pollination. I am in Southern Vermont.


    Thanks for your thoughts
    Nate

  2. #2
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    Brasher Falls, NY, USA
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    Tell him it'll be $100.00 for the pair of them(that's $50.00 each), at a two hive minimum. You need to make it worth your while. Moving them in and out when the grower wants them is the service that you are providing. Of course, what you are also providing are two strong colonies.
    Mark Berninghausen
    Squeak Creek Apiaries



  3. #3
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    Jan 2009
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    Bristol,MA,USA
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    During the 80's I used to charge $35. per hive - two deeps (Bellows Falls and Vergennes orchards). $100 for a couple of hives nowadays seems about right.

  4. #4
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    Default Thanks

    Thanks! That is very helpful. I was thinking along those same lines.

  5. #5
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    St. Albans, Vermont
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    Yep, you should charge $100 for the two colonies.

    Now, let's figure out how much money your new business will gain you.

    $100 Gross Pollination Income From Two Colonies On Apples
    -120 Value of honey you'll lose by moving colonies twice (40 pounds each)
    -50 Truck Expenses
    _____
    $-70 You're already in the hole

    $??? Value of the colony strength you'll lose by moving colonies twice
    Equivalent of two nucs?

    Now how do you like apple pollination in the Northeast?? After 20 years of apple pollination in New York State, with 400-600 colonies, can you see why I quit?

  6. #6
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    Jan 2009
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    Default

    At that time of the year, there isn't that much nectar coming in (VT) except from fruit bloom and dandelions. Good spring build up nectar source and terrific scenery in the mountains of Vt. Nice work.

  7. #7
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    Jun 2008
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    Default Mike -

    Mike, you forgot to include the -$40 for the 2 new queens that I will need to buy from you

    Thanks for the reality check, I guess.

  8. #8
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    Nov 2004
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    Owen, WI, USA
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    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Palmer View Post
    -120 Value of honey you'll lose by moving colonies twice (40 pounds each)
    -50 Truck Expenses
    ____
    $-70 You're already in the hole
    Mike, I think location, pattern of bloom in that location, how you work (smart vs hard) and other factors can change the equation.
    We take a couple colonies in and out of apples and see NO difference in honey harvested and NO difference in colony strength ( if we lost a nuc every time we moved them we would think we were doing something very wrong. Do you figure this from pesticide spray in apples?). Depending on where he is moving them from and the forage surrounding the apples he may even gain honey.
    Truck expense is minimal as John tries to drop them off and pick them up on his way past that yard early in the morning, and the loss of bees is minimal. If Nate doesn't have to drive far or is going past anyway it might be little additional truck expense.
    What does count is the extra time, which can vary greatly, about 15 minutes for John if the apple grower doesn't come out and about an hour if he does.
    Nate, why would your queens suffer by going into apples, they are going full bore anyway that time of year?
    Expenses need to be based on your specifics, then figure the cost of your time and other costs or benefits. In our case the PR is worth it as they are members of a big Amish community and we get good honey sales as a result. It might not be that gloomy a scenario.
    Sheri

  9. #9
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    Jun 2008
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    Vermont, USA
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    Default Grin

    Thanks.

    I live about 4 miles from orchard and it lays directly between 2 of my apiaries. The owner is friendly and easy to work with, and is one of the main apple suppliers for my father-in-laws cider mill, so I trust them, with regards to pesticides. I am not too worried about cost incurred from travel, but the idea of setting colonies back due to moving them is a worry.

    What I meant about the queens, is Mike is a big advocate of re-queening with local queens and these queens are Georgian queens I have been thinking about replacing.

  10. #10
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    Jan 2009
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    Bristol,MA,USA
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    If the "Georgian" queens are not at least two years old, there's no need to replace them unless their egg laying patterns are terrible. By then you could make nukes from the hives in June and let them raise their own queens. With the clover flows you have they might even make honey the same year.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnK and Sheri View Post
    Mike, I think location, pattern of bloom in that location, how you work (smart vs hard) and other factors can change the equation.
    We take a couple colonies in and out of apples and see NO difference in honey harvested and NO difference in colony strength ( if we lost a nuc every time we moved them we would think we were doing something very wrong. Do you figure this from pesticide spray in apples?). Depending on where he is moving them from and the forage surrounding the apples he may even gain honey.
    I'm not sure if you move all your colonies or not. I believe you move to CA now, for almonds. All your bees? If so, how would you know if what I am saying is right or wrong? I pollinated apples for 20 years, and found it to be true in most years.

    I've moved partial yards into the orchard, leaving some colonies behind. Then moved the pollinatore back after apple bloom. The difference between the two groups is startling!

    I used to reverse all by colonies before pollination. Each colony would be marked with thenumber of frames of brood. That way, I could do all my splitting in the orchard when all the bees were there. Less driving, more time with the bees. Anyway, many colonies lost strength, even with just 1 move...into the orchard. I would split up any colony with 8 or more frames of brood. Upon opening, a large % of the supposedly strong colonies no longer had the strength in bees required to make the split. The brood was still there, but the bees were no longer there. Why? Not sure. I suppose it could be from pesticides, but I somehow doubt it. The owner is a responsible orchardist. He wins awards in New York State for his IPM management. That said, yes I've seen some spray damage, but not what I'm talking about.

    I think I moved into the orchard, the bees flew out without taking their bearings, and never found their way home.

    I also found that the pollinators didn't winter as well as the colonies that stayed in their yards.

    I have seen the pollinators make a decent crop. This seemed to happen when the early flow failed, and the July and Fall flow were good. The non-pollinators didn't get an early crop...nor did the pollinators. The pollinators were built back up for the later crops, and could take advantage.

    In a year when both early and late flows were successful, the non-pollinators way outproduced the pollinating colonies.

    I agree that all beekeeping is local. But, I'm comparing two groups in the same county, under the same management. The only difference is the fact that one group went through one apple pollination, and the other didn't. I'm in a very good honey production area. I found that my bottom line was better without pollination. Apple pollination was a way to have some early income from my bees. If I manage my $$ wisely, I can get through the early season without the extra income from pollination, and do quite well on the honey crop alone.

    I hope this clarifies my point of view.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Palmer View Post
    I'm not sure if you move all your colonies or not. I believe you move to CA now, for almonds. All your bees? If so, how would you know if what I am saying is right or wrong?
    Good morning Mike, Let's not compare apples to almonds.
    OK.... if we must.
    We wintered in Wisconsin for many years before going to almonds and then only sent some, wintered the rest here, so I think we know the comparisons. Yes, we move all our bees into almonds now, and we DO lose bees but no more than we would lose if we wintered all of them here in Wisconsin. The tipping point is the $$ they pay us to do it. It is lucrative enough to induce us to move, if the price went down we would reconsider, of course.
    But we are not talking semiloads going into almonds or for that matter, semis into apples. We are talking two colonies going into a farm orchard, an entirely different proposition.

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Palmer View Post
    I've moved partial yards into the orchard, leaving some colonies behind. Then moved the pollinatore back after apple bloom. The difference between the two groups is startling!
    In our case there was no difference. I suspect the difference is that our two colonies went into a mixed orchard with plenty of other forage, as, I assume Nate's will be. Again, different conditions than moving a semi into a potentially monoculture situation.

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Palmer View Post
    I think I moved into the orchard, the bees flew out without taking their bearings, and never found their way home.
    We have a ton of drifting in California too. I know we lose bees there; on the way out and back and also in the holding yards, but we more than make it up eventually. We are compensated well enough for that loss by the spring gain.

    On the other hand, we have the opportunity to take our bees into cranberry pollination during a honey flow, which is perhaps a better comparison to your apple scenario. Strong colonies usually do much better staying put for the honey, but some beeks find the cash flow timely and also it gives them a place to put the smaller colonies that might not make too much honey anyway. And every few years the flow for that time period fizzles and then the cranberry pollinators come out much better than we do. Still, we have decided it is not worth the loss and risk, much as you have decided the same with apples.
    I can see you have done a good analysis of the pros/cons in your area and that is what every situation calls for. Now Nate has to do the math, weigh the intangibles and decide what works for him in his situation.
    Sheri

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnK and Sheri View Post
    I can see you have done a good analysis of the pros/cons in your area and that is what every situation calls for. Now Nate has to do the math, weigh the intangibles and decide what works for him in his situation.
    Sheri
    Of course. Pollinating with two colonies is obviously not a big money maker anyway. Other things may enter into the equation, such as pollinating being a noble endeavor...helping with his bees to do some good for agriculture.

    And apples! I don't pollinate the orchard anymore. But, if the orchardist needs anything, I help. A couple years ago, he got a batch of pitiful singles out of Florida. These poor colonies had three different treatments in the hives at the same time. He asked if I'd look, and evaluate. Of course I would.

    My fee? I pick lunch when I'm in the area, and the apples are in season. Nothing like the variety in a large orchard that was originally planted by the railroad in 1919. Everything from Spys to Macs, to the new Honey Crisps. Mmmm.

    Nate can always work for apples.

  14. #14
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    Apr 2004
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    Wheatfield, IN
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    One never knows the possiblilities. I had an apple grower contact me and wanted 5 hives. They were around a 35min drive from me. I decided to try it and see. I hated to make the effort for 5 hives but they mentioned they do sell apples at their farm so I thought well maybe they'd be willing to sell my honey.

    Needless to say I sent the 5 hives @ $55 each a couple of years ago. Little did I know at that time that they would end up being a $3,000 plus customer mostly from the honey sales (and they come pick up the honey). So if you can find a dual income potential with these orchards the effort might pay off.

    If there isn't the dual income potential, I personally think you'd be money and labor ahead making some splits and selling a few nucs instead.

    Now if you are willing to work hard and feed pollen patties and syrup 8 weeks before pollination/nuc requirements and keep them fed and happy... you can do both. Its the best of both worlds.

    I averaged revenue of $277.08 per over wintered colony last year by doing both pollination/nucs and selling the honey from the pollinator colony. I don't do almonds, I'm not big enough. However, I was able to do this and only once traveled more than 11mi from home with the bees. (That time I went 35mi).

    Alot of opportunities exist. You just have to be prepared to work "smart" as Sheri says. Find the opportunities in your area! They are there. Some you will have to do legwork and find. Others will fall into your lap or by word of mouth.

    Good luck.
    Dan Williamson
    B&C Honey Farm http://www.flickr.com/photos/9848229@N05/

  15. #15
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    Default

    Are apple growers in your area doing monoculture? Are they adverse to having hives as a permanent outyard?

    I admit that my desire is to have a permanent placement for any orchard hive I do, because of the work of moving the hives around. Orchard people might not be in for that, which is why I haven't really sought outyard space in or near the orchards. :/

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