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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
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    Circleville, Ohio, USA
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    38

    Default How many hives for solo operator?

    So how may hives can a solo operator practically work alone as a sideline with no other job and aged in your 50's?
    Help your own self, the Government is to busy savin' their self.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Limestone, Alabama
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    577

    Default

    I know a beekeeper who is in his 60's but who otherwise fits your description who keeps over 500 colonies. Does all the bee work himself including extracting and bottling. He puts in some long hours at certain times of the season but he has his management system down to a fine art.

  3. #3
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    Feb 2007
    Location
    owensboro,ky
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    2,240

    Default

    a long established opperation would likely have more mechanical aids than someone starting out or expanding is gonna have, or be able to afford/justify. look for an old timer or heirs selling out and consider making an offer on a running business. good luck,mike
    "Wine is a constant proof that God loves us and loves to see us happy" Ben Franklin

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    Location
    Lancaster, Ky. / Frostproof Fl.
    Posts
    983

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    I will ran about 600 last year.....to Fl for buildup then almonds then back to fl and made 300 splits then to KY then Wisconsin to cranberries. I did have help in Wi but could have dont it myself if I had to. I feel I can run about 800 by myself along wih 100 hd cattle and my auction business(I do about 15-20 real estate/farm/estate auctions yr. Almost all honey is bottled and delivered.....My kids help bottle a little and I do most(90%) delveries and 75% bottling myself...I do work alot of 12-16 hr days though....but love what I do!

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Location
    Brasher Falls, NY, USA
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    26,219

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Saltcreek View Post
    So how may hives can a solo operator practically work alone as a sideline with no other job and aged in your 50's?
    I don't remember there being very many commercial beekeepers in OH when I lived there just over 20 years ago. So, another question might be, how many operations like the one you might wish to run in existence in OH today and why aren't there more? Will the part of OH that you are living in support 500 colonies?
    Mark Berninghausen "That which works, persists."

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Location
    Circleville, Ohio, USA
    Posts
    38

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by sqkcrk View Post
    I don't remember there being very many commercial beekeepers in OH when I lived there just over 20 years ago. So, another question might be, how many operations like the one you might wish to run in existence in OH today and why aren't there more? Will the part of OH that you are living in support 500 colonies?
    There is a guy I know in my town who owned about 2000 he said (not solo) but "retired" and told me he only runs 150 now.
    Help your own self, the Government is to busy savin' their self.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Location
    Grand Rapids, Ohio
    Posts
    858

    Thumbs Up second generation comm. beekeeper

    My dad got started with a hive a man sold him. At that time he was a pipefitter at a shipyard. He was buying equipment a little at a time and within 4 years he was running 500 hives with my Mom. By that time the shipyard closed it's doors and so he when into the bees full time with my Mom and raise 7 children with about 1400-1500 hives.
    Since then we have bought out 3 comm. beekeeper and my Dad and Mom has retiered (which means they other work when they want).
    I now run 650-700 hives and produce over 50 ton of honey a year. I work a job I love doing and make good money doing it. With beekeeping comes off season for hunting, fishing, and of course FAMILY.
    If you have the money and someone to show you the ropes I say go for it!!
    Beekeeper for a living is a dieing breed.
    You've got two thumbsup from me.

    Good luck,

    o/o Ronald Householder

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 2003
    Location
    Manitoba Canada
    Posts
    5,785

    Default

    You will always think you can handle more during the off season, but during the heavey busy season, you will always think you have too many bees
    Ian Steppler >> Canadian Beekeeper's Blog
    www.stepplerfarms.com

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Location
    Circleville, Ohio, USA
    Posts
    38

    Default

    Some good stories from some dedicated people here. It seems sleep is not an option though during the season. With this dedication, maybe beekeepers should be running the government recovery efforts. Maybe run some sweet deals to get out of a sticky mess.
    Help your own self, the Government is to busy savin' their self.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    Concord NH
    Posts
    2,665

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    Quote Originally Posted by The Honey Householder View Post
    My dad got started with a hive a man sold him. At that time he was a pipefitter at a shipyard. He was buying equipment a little at a time and within 4 years he was running 500 hives with my Mom. By that time the shipyard closed it's doors and so he when into the bees full time with my Mom and raise 7 children with about 1400-1500 hives.
    Since then we have bought out 3 comm. beekeeper and my Dad and Mom has retiered (which means they other work when they want).
    I now run 650-700 hives and produce over 50 ton of honey a year. I work a job I love doing and make good money doing it. With beekeeping comes off season for hunting, fishing, and of course FAMILY.
    If you have the money and someone to show you the ropes I say go for it!!
    Beekeeper for a living is a dieing breed.
    You've got two thumbsup from me.

    Good luck,

    o/o Ronald Householder
    Ron, is your operation a migratory one or stationary?

    If stationary, what is the range you need to travel to in order to get to your bee yards?
    Milk Cows Not Taxpayers

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    Location
    tulsa, ok usa
    Posts
    2,264

    Default

    How many depends also upon your health. You might also look at some niche like queen rearing. Ohio has a lot of good drone stock flying around since Sue Colbey was distributing nucs and queens up there. You may check with Tim Arheit at Honey Run Apiaries in Delphos, OH, he does queen breeding and honey. I believe there is a loose group of queen breeders you can join up there. If your eye sight isn't that good you can always use a queen rearing system that allows you to avoid grafting. You can produce 100 queens with those systems and have them all emerge at the same time. Mating nucs are a lot lighter than full size beehives.
    Home of the ventilated and sting resistant Ultra Breeze bee suits and jackets
    http://www.honeymoonapiaries.com

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Location
    Grand Rapids, Ohio
    Posts
    858

    Stationary beekeeper

    Quote Originally Posted by JPK1NH View Post
    Ron, is your operation a migratory one or stationary?

    If stationary, what is the range you need to travel to in order to get to your bee yards?
    I've downsized to 49 farms in 4 counties. The farest yard is about 40 miles from the shop. Back before mites and high fuel we ran 86 farms in 7 counties, and the farest yard was about 115 miles.
    I only work the bees for honey and the high quality beeswax. No more pollination!!!

    Ron

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Location
    College Station, Texas
    Posts
    6,973

    Default

    how the bee business is organized (general distribution of the kinds of product) would be the first factor I would consider. it is easier physically to raise a queen crop and nucs than a honey crop.

    I am very quickly approaching 60 in good health and I very much consider myself a sideliner. I rear a very small honey crop plus try to crank out a few nucs and queens in the spring time. I operate with little problem approximately 150 hives.

    as another consideration... the time requirement of growing a business (of whatever type you might wish to discuss) is not the same as the time required for running an established business.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Location
    Brasher Falls, NY, USA
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    26,219

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Saltcreek View Post
    There is a guy I know in my town who owned about 2000 he said (not solo) but "retired" and told me he only runs 150 now.
    Stoller? Or Tom Ton, perhaps?
    Mark Berninghausen "That which works, persists."

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Location
    Circleville, Ohio, USA
    Posts
    38

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by sqkcrk View Post
    Stoller? Or Tom Ton, perhaps?
    No, His name is Dan Grant, Circleville, Ohio.

    I had thought of dealing in Queens but have no experience other than studying about it. My three hives are all survivors, and no dead hives since 1996. I have never medicated, used chemicals or done anything to help them. They have made their own queens all these years and seem to deal with the varroa. I am changing to screened tops and bottoms this year and thought I would start doing my increases from splits of my own stock to build up instead of importing unknowns. Bee population wise, my corner of the county is pretty isolated the inspector says.
    Help your own self, the Government is to busy savin' their self.

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Location
    Volga, SD
    Posts
    2,790

    Default

    No losses since 1996? I'm impressed (and envious).

    If your corner of the county really is pretty isolated, is it possible that your bees simply haven't faced mite pressure like they might when they're placed closer to other bees?

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Location
    Circleville, Ohio, USA
    Posts
    38

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Kieck View Post
    No losses since 1996? I'm impressed (and envious).

    If your corner of the county really is pretty isolated, is it possible that your bees simply haven't faced mite pressure like they might when they're placed closer to other bees?
    Oh, I have mites they seem to deal with them. The County inspector tried to get Sue Colbey to get some of mine when she was at OSU but it was shortly before she left and it did'nt happen. I do worry sometimes about someone else getting the itch to keep bees nearby.
    Help your own self, the Government is to busy savin' their self.

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Jul 2003
    Location
    Bartonville, TX USA
    Posts
    456

    Default Average yield

    It would be helpful to understand each person's average yield per hive. That way the fella that started this thread can compare against his area to see what that means.

    Some areas you won't pull enough honey to feed yourself if you don't diversify or haul them around. Others are lucky enough to pull lot's of honey in the summer and can even justify starting packages every year as you've seen.

    If folks would post their average yield it would be helpful. I'll start - I'm in a dry area - 27-40 lbs per hive average over the past few years although we have had several years of drought (you ask why bother?) that's why I am diversifying and looking at watermelons, nucs and maybe someday almonds. I'm also looking at establishing yard 75 miles east of here where rainfall is substantially higher.
    "Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes"
    Henry David Thoreau, Walden

  19. #19
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    Snowmass, Colorado, USA
    Posts
    2,497

    Default

    There are so many variables to this question that there is no one answer. I know a guy that works close to 1000 hives by himself with no problem. But the guy is an animal, his out yards are close together and very productive, and he has someone else do his extracting for him leaving him more time to work the fields.

    I would think the smart thing is to slowly work up to a number that is workable for your area and how you conduct your operation. It won't be the same for any two beeks.
    Life is tough, but it's tougher when you're stupid. John Wayne

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Location
    Manitoba, Canada
    Posts
    420

    Default

    As I'm reading through the thread I keep thinking:

    You don't want to work harder yourself you want some else to work harder for you.

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