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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Location
    Hampton, VA, USA
    Posts
    175

    Default Self-sustaining beekeeping

    Reading a previous thread on a lack of honey bees I can't help but think one way to help would be if more beekeepers practiced self-sustaining beekeeping. I'm not too sure how much this would help some of the bigger commercial beeks but if more beekeeping clubs of hobby beekeepers and even smaller commercial and sideline beekeepers were to become self sufficient more of the larger bee breeders would be able to more effectivley provide bees to the larger commercial beekeepers. With only buying queens if required for genetic diversity a group of beekeepers could band together to trade nucs and queens. Locally grown colonies would help but only if enough beekeepers participated. From what I've seen, the last thing beekeepers learn is how to make queens or produce nucs. I know of beekeepers who have been at it for many many years and still make sure to get their orders for packages in every November. There are a few clubs in my area that are trying. Its a thought.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Location
    columbus,ohio,USA
    Posts
    518

    Default Re: Self-sustaining beekeeping

    My plan is to start overwintering nucs and not have to buy anymore packages after this year. I hope everything goes well. If everything goes to plan for me (which it won't) I will go into winter with 4 hives, 5 single polystyrene nucs, and 2 double nucs.
    Chris Cree
    Cree's Bees

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
    Location
    Findlay, Ohio
    Posts
    323

    Question Re: Self-sustaining beekeeping

    Quote Originally Posted by giant pumpkin peep View Post
    My plan is to start overwintering nucs and not have to buy anymore packages after this year. I hope everything goes well. If everything goes to plan for me (which it won't) I will go into winter with 4 hives, 5 single polystyrene nucs, and 2 double nucs.
    Hi: great pumpkin. I'am in Findlay and would like to know how things go! This winter, so far has been a *****, **** or what ever, as you know - MISERABLE!!
    I know what a nuc is, but why not start in a super? or do splits in the spring?
    Just do not know. Have been doing this as a hobby for 6>8 years now. Still learning!!,Had 6 hivesin the fall, not looked yet, but there will be less come good weather (if it gets here). What type of bees do you have? Or "Mutts" as Mr. Bush puts it.
    Thanks ahead of time.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Location
    Poplar Bluff, Missouri, USA
    Posts
    2,280

    Default Re: Self-sustaining beekeeping

    That's an interesting concept, and has a great deal of validity. Also cheaper on us beeks. I wonder, however, if the "big boys" have trouble getting all the packages, nucs, queens they need? Anyone know?

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Location
    Loganville/Greensboro, Georgia, USA
    Posts
    241

    Default Re: Self-sustaining beekeeping

    I agree it is very interesting idea. How many hives would you think a beek would need to be self sustaining? How many to produce each year, and in what way..splits and let rear own queen, make up nucs and introduce queens, something else? Clearly there are a lot of different possibilities, but how do you see a sideliner beek putting it into action?

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Nov 2004
    Location
    Owen, WI, USA
    Posts
    2,553

    Default Re: Self-sustaining beekeeping

    Quote Originally Posted by StevenG View Post
    I wonder, however, if the "big boys" have trouble getting all the packages, nucs, queens they need?
    Most of them make up losses and/or make increases themselves from their existing colonies. This is one reason many go south for the winter, the other is to make packages and nucs to sell to those in the north that need bees every spring.
    Some of them raise their own queens, while those that don't make their own, buy queens or cells from those that do.
    Sheri

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Location
    Pigeon Falls, WI
    Posts
    2,527

    Default Re: Self-sustaining beekeeping

    Would it be safe to say that most "big boys" are self sustaining other than the fact they subcontract for queens. The queens they purchase allow the queen supplier to be self sufficient in just raising queens since that leaves him no time to produce honey to pay the bills.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Location
    Poplar Bluff, Missouri, USA
    Posts
    2,280

    Default Re: Self-sustaining beekeeping

    Thanks for chiming in Sheri, I enjoy your posts on the commercial threads...
    I also imagine some commercial beeks add to their income by selling nucs to us sideliners... and backyarders... I'm buying two nucs and 6 queens from a northern commercial beek who winters in Mississippi.

    Re: Sideliners becoming self-sustaining? That's exactly what I'm trying to do. I want to top out between 50-60 hives. now have only 14. I'll get there by buying nucs, making splits with bought queens to improve my genetic mix. But primarily by splitting and letting the splits raise their own queens. I think the concept is very workable for us sideliners. And economical too!

    However, I also suspect we need to keep supporting those who sell queens, nucs, and packages for a living. If we don't buy, they don't make a living, and won't be there to provide us bees when we need them.
    Regards,
    Steven

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    Location
    Silicon Valley, CA
    Posts
    1,236

    Default Re: Self-sustaining beekeeping

    I am curious... I consider myself to be self sustaining, but not by raising queens or Nucs. Instead, I put out bait boxes and retrieve swarms. This also diminishes the number of hives/swarms that are killed by exterminators. I usually have enough to supply to other bee club members.

    So, does this count in your book ?

    Fuzzy

  10. #10

    Default Re: Self-sustaining beekeeping

    Yay!!! I love this thread!!!

    Yes, you can be self sustaining! (read increase)

    Raise your own queens! (hey, wait a minute, beekeepers don't raise queens, WORKER BEES raise queens and yes, they do it all the time - particularly in the Spring!)

    Create overwintering nucs - small colonies in June/July in Northern States that build up to slightly bigger small colonies by fall and live through winter and BANG! explode out in the spring like they were some kind of super beehive raised from the best of the best in the prior year and never got shipped anywhere and never had any chemicals or miticides in their hives. Yeah - because that's how you do it.

    -Whoops - how many toes have I just stomped on with my cowboy boots?-

    Seriously, you just pushed my super big button.
    I just about an hour ago got finished teaching the second night of Maine's only Intermediate level Bee School 'Apiary Management'. Tonight's subjects were "Spring Management, Swarming, Nucs and Splits and Importance of the Queen".
    All that in two hours. It was a big night for me but I think I hit all of the major points and I know I had all 56 beekeepers engaged.

    Anyway, I hope you continue on this path and understand that the best queens are reared by colonies who are not under stress and have abundant sources of nutritional input. Add to that a good supply of healthy drones from happy healthy beehives and you've got a sustainable apiary.

    (key is you have to play on their team by their rules)

    Best to you and your bees,
    -Erin
    Erin Forbes, EAS Master Beekeeper
    overlandhoney.com

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    Location
    Silicon Valley, CA
    Posts
    1,236

    Default Re: Self-sustaining beekeeping

    Erin (Maine Beekeeper),

    Would you, by some chance, have an electronic copy of your materials that you would be willing to share with me ?

    Fuzzy

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    Columbia county, New York, USA
    Posts
    1,535

    Default Re: Self-sustaining beekeeping

    My first and only hive died this December
    But I will be started 3-4 new hives this year. Have two nucs ordered already for Spring. I will be setting out a swarm baiting hive as well, just to catch any passersby.
    The little bee returns with evening's gloom,
    To join her comrades in the braided hive... -Tennyson

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
    Location
    Stone Mountain, GA, USA
    Posts
    59

    Default Re: Self-sustaining beekeeping

    Quote Originally Posted by Fuzzy View Post
    Erin (Maine Beekeeper),

    Would you, by some chance, have an electronic copy of your materials that you would be willing to share with me ?

    Fuzzy
    I second that emotion.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Location
    St. Albans, Vermont
    Posts
    5,321

    Default Re: Self-sustaining beekeeping

    Quote Originally Posted by Buffalolick View Post
    I agree it is very interesting idea. How many hives would you think a beek would need to be self sustaining? How many to produce each year, and in what way..splits and let rear own queen, make up nucs and introduce queens, something else? Clearly there are a lot of different possibilities, but how do you see a sideliner beek putting it into action?
    Becoming self sufficient has nothing to do with how many colonies you maintain. Granted, raising your own queens means more colonies needed, but becoming self sufficient for bees is no big deal.

    You see, you can winter nucleus colonies quite easily...Erin? Erin's apiary has grown exponentially since she first heard the word. Now she's spreading that word to others...which is all I've asked of my "students". Way to go, girl!

    See, you always have a colony or two that just doesn't make a honey crop. It's not that they're weak and unhealthy. Just aren't making the crop that other colonies are. These non-productive colonies are deficits in you apiary. Rather than futz around trying to save them, you use the bees and brood to create nucleus colonies...sometime near the end of the main honey flow. You winter them. In the spring, you have what replacement colonies you need...bam!

    Then, because you have these nucs in the spring, you don't have to split up yor strong colonies to make your nucs...allowing those good colonies to build large populations and make good honey crops. Obviously swarm control is necessary, but splitting a strong colony should be tha last resort for swarm control, not the first.

    Once you have learned to winter nucleus colonies, you will always have a few that are weaker in the spring. These are allowed to build up into double deeps and are then broken up into nucs in mid-summer near the end of the main flow. The plan becomes self sufficient.

    The changeover will take a few years. Make your plans now. You'll never see the benefits if you don't get started.

    Once you have this supply of nucleus colonies, you'll be amazed at how your apiary improves. You have laying queens...look at wintering nucs as queens...to be used in requeening, boosting weak spring colonies, or making increase. During the time they are building up you have extra frames of brood and bees to add to weaker colonies...frames of brood removed from the nucs as a swarm control method.

    See my article in Bee Culture in the March issue entitled...

    "Nucs aren't just for increase anymore".

    Make more nucs!!
    Mike

  15. #15
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    Cornwall, VT, USA
    Posts
    27

    Default Re: Self-sustaining beekeeping

    Quote Originally Posted by Maine_Beekeeper View Post
    Yay!!! I love this thread!!!

    Create overwintering nucs - small colonies in June/July in Northern States that build up to slightly bigger small colonies by fall and live through winter and BANG! explode out in the spring like they were some kind of super beehive raised from the best of the best in the prior year and never got shipped anywhere and never had any chemicals or miticides in their hives. Yeah - because that's how you do it.
    Hi Erin,

    OK, so what is the best way for a newbie to do this? (I'm still waiting to see if my two hives make it through their first winter but I'm hopeful. They were OK just prior to the last cold snap a few weeks ago.) Step by step if you can point me to a link.

    Thanks!

    Greg
    Cornwall, VT

  16. #16

    Default Re: Self-sustaining beekeeping

    sounds like a great idea too me but does greed come in to play here too. I would be willing to share stock with another. in return would I get some good genes or AFB. as a commercial beekeeper. its my livening soooooooo being that said would people get there bees inspected to prove there clean? if so count me in 100%.
    Don

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Nov 2004
    Location
    Owen, WI, USA
    Posts
    2,553

    Default Re: Self-sustaining beekeeping

    There is no need to worry about a shortage of bees on a commercial level. Sure some have losses and some fail, just as in any industry. Others grow to fill their place. There are enough bees made every year to fill these losses and supply those hobbyist and sideliners with their winter loss/spring increase bees.
    Even if taking pressure off commercial supply is not warranted there may be other reasons to become more regionally, if not individually, self sustaining.
    Individually self sustainment is a wonderful goal, if that is what one wants to do, but self-sustainment just for the sake of calling yourself that would be a hollow title if it lowers the productivity or enjoyment of your apiary because you are doing something you just have no interest in.

    I am not trying to discourage anyone from making their own nucs or rearing their own queens. It is one of the most interesting and satisfying aspects of beekeeping, but everything has it's price, it also uses resources in terms of bees and time. While some may find this work fascinating, some find it tedious. No one should be made to feel inferior because they choose to utilize specialists for replacement bees for winter losses or spring increase.

    None of us are islands, none of us are totally self sustaining, we are all inter dependent to some degree. Using all the resources at your disposal in the most efficient manner (time, money, equity and expert subcontractors) may be the quickest road to self sustainment, in it's broadest, most practical definition.
    Sheri

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Menomonee Falls, Wis.
    Posts
    2,664

    Default Re: Self-sustaining beekeeping

    Sheri, I agree. Find what you are most efficient at, and purchase that which you are not good at. All that aside, I encourage the overwintering of Nucs as presented by Erin and M. Palmer. It may be that overwintering Nucs is precisely what they do best.

    Roland

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Location
    Hampton, VA, USA
    Posts
    175

    Default Re: Self-sustaining beekeeping

    Fat/Beeman - I'm not sure of Georgia but in Virginia all Nucs have to be inspected by the state apiarist prior to sale.

    Sheri, I get your point but most beekeepers I know either don't even know how to raise a queen or have not been taught how. Raising queens is not hard work, it doesn't take a whole lot of time (well maybe if your running a lot of hives it might) but the point is most beekeepers don't even try. Although I think your right about beeks not having to make queens and splits but the mentality is that its too much work or that the skill involved is too much to learn. That's not the case. But I guess its not for everyone.

    Michael Palmer, It was great to read your post. You spoke at the spring 08 meeting of the Virginia State Beekeepers. Your methods and the information you put out are being used by my club for teaching new beekeepers, raising queens and making and holding nucs through winter. Thanks.

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Nov 2004
    Location
    Owen, WI, USA
    Posts
    2,553

    Default Re: Self-sustaining beekeeping

    Roland, Exactly!

    Hampton, queen rearing is something a lot of beekeepers are interested in and we encourage that interest. We have a few local beeks that come by every year to try their hand at it. I let them graft a couple frames if they wish. The first frame can be pretty bad but it is notable how well many do with just a little practice. No, it is not hard, especially on a small scale.
    Sheri

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