They are relevant to me!
They are relevant to me!
A much broader picture begins to emerge. Far more complicated that it first appears. I have not really wrapped my mind around all the factors just yet but am getting the basic idea that it is honey that is worth more like $100 to $150 if it is worth anything at all along with the labor and worry/ risk of wintering them against the value of the bees themselves. I am not sure I have an accurate picture of what the total value of the bees might be. So here is an example. A strong hive that can be split. the Nus hive can be sold for $150 and you still have a hive of bees to make honey. at this point the variables begin to make a figure fuzzy to get but it is still worth something. for now I will put a price of a nuc on it worth again at least $150.
So here alone something in the area of $100 to $150 worth of honey is invested in what could be as much as $300 worth of bees ???
And that is not even adding all the issues associated with trying to replace bees in the spring
Issues of character and morals you cannot put a dollar value on but they are a price as well just as surely.
The husbandry issues are extremely important to my thinking. I simply don't see how you could avoid back sliding by not selecting your best hives for being re produced each year. I am fairly sure you do not get top producing hives right out of the gate when you order packages and nucs. Certainly you may get a few but if you dispose of your bees every year what would it matter.
As I suspected the issue has many facets.
Put your ear against a hive in January when it is -20 degrees. Hearing the hum is priceless to me.
Dont forget to include the price of maqs, pollen patties, fumagilin, feeding, terramycin, apistan strips and whatever else is used in hives. I dont use any of it and probably dont always leave a 100 lbs. on hives, but enough of them make it over winter so I dont have to buy any packages or replace queens from treatments. It may be a matter of personal preference or maybe Im just a backyard beekeeper, but I have to agree with an earlier post there is nothing like hearing that hum at 20 below!
Keeping bees over winter is not expensive. The bees collected the nectar and you say it is expensive keeping them overwinter? You didn't pay a cent for that honey.I do not let much honey stay overwinter because sucrose is cheaper and sucrose has more calories than honey. That way my bees could make it through the winter. 70% beekeepers in Canada use sucrose and wrap their hives well for overwintering. Before they all would kill their bees but now they find it is not worth to kill bees...especially since You can no longer import bees into Canada.
Yes and no.
Monetary is irrelevant if one is not in it to make a living.
Monetary is relevant if it is your job, livelihood, and the bottom line. In the end an ag producer needs to pencil it out. Figure out how far the bottom like can go. How much is the producer willing to gamble. Taking care of livestock also means culling the dead weight so one can be profitable
Even though i do not agree with killing off hives for the winter, I applaud Daniel Y for thinking about it. Not on the idea of merit, but because it shows he is thinking about cost ratios, cost of production and profit and loss. It is this type of thinking which will keep the ag producer afloat not just in the good times but also in the lean times. Knowing the costs from A to Z will help when the times are tight and tough calls need to be made.
This may sound ridiculous to some, but what about the emotional connection you get with your hives? Or, the satisfaction that comes from knowing that you brought a small little nuc in the spring to a roaring, healthy 2 deep brood chamber that survived the winter.
Those are intangibles that cannot be measured
I'm not into beekeeping for the money and I'm not an expert but I would have to think that if too many people were killing their bees then the sources for genetics could narrow and on a mass scale inbreeding could occur. If that happened it could mean serious difficulty in finding healthy bees. If that happened you could end up with no bees. Healthy bees in the environment seems to me to be an indicator of a healthy world overall. If you import your bees but everyone else killed their bees then in early spring if you want to breed some queens or the bees need to generate one there may not be drones from any other genetic lines available for them to mate with.
I realize you asking this question doesn't mean you are out to kill your bees so I'm not saying this to imply you don't feel the same but when I look at the bees I see them as my family. I couldn't kill them. If I killed them it would haunt me.
Daniel Y are we talking commercial or backyard ?
I have seen Honeyhouseholder work his bees on utube.com and he his selling them off this year and I think he was saying last year he got 165lbs of honey a hive and he pulls two time that's w a 2lbs of bees in April he must be doing some thing right.As for me I don't really know witch way to go keep em or kill em. I sure some of you will hate on me but's that's ok I wish you all the best of luck this winner
This is on queen rearing but it's the same point:
"At the outset, I shall undoubtedly be met by those inevitable “Yankee questions” - Does Queen-Rearing pay? Would it not pay me better to stick to honey-production, and buy the few queens which I need, as often as is required?
"I might answer, does it pay to kiss your wife? to look at anything beautiful? to like a golden Italian Queen? to eat apples or gooseberries? or anything else agreeable to our nature? is the gain in health, strength, and happiness, which this form of recreation secures, to be judged by the dollar-and-cent stand-point of the world?
"Can the pleasure which comes to one while looking at a beautiful Queen and her bees, which have been brought up to a high stand-point by their owner, be bought? Is the flavor of the honey that you have pro-duced, or the keen enjoyment that you have had in producing it, to be had in the market?
"In nothing more than in Queen-Rearing, can we see the handiwork of Him who designed that we should be climbing up to the Celestial City, rather than groveling here with a “muck-rake” in our hands (as in “Pilgrim's Progress”), trying to rake in the pennies, to the neglect of that which is higher and more noble. There is something in working for better Queens which is elevating, and will lead one out of self, if we will only study it along the many lines of improvement which it suggests. I do not believe that all of life should be spent in looking after the “almighty dollar;” nor do I think that our first parents bustled out every morning, with the expression seen on so many beekeepers' faces, which seem to say, “Time is Money” The question, it seems to me, in regard to our pursuit in life, should not be altogether, “How much money is there in it?” but, “Shall we enjoy a little bit of Paradise this side of Jordan. However, being aware, of the general indiffe-rence to Paradise on either side of Jordan, I will state that I have made Queen-Rearing pay in dollars and cents, having secured on an average about $500 per year therefrom, for the past five years; and that all may do as well, I proceed at once to describe the ground over which I have traveled, and tell how it is done."--G.M. Doolittle, Scientific Queen Rearing
Michael Bush thank's for that post I got a lot out of
Put your ear against a hive in January when it is -20 degrees. Hearing the hum is priceless to me.
Michael. I actually have read that before. I also read Scientific Queen Rearing. The subject of queen rearing is very interesting to me but I have a very long way to go to try my hand at it.
Just to clarify for everyone. I have and have not ever had any intention of killing my bees. I struck me that 100 lbs of honey setting in a hive when you have the winter power bill to pay must have some very good reasons to be there. There are other possible answers but it seems that nearly all bee keepers choose to keep those bees. Those reasons are what I am interested in knowing. Many of them I would be aware of with no comments at all. Some of the other reasons I would not have thought of.
In my opinion both development of your Apiary and your affection / pride in what you have accomplished are also very high on the list. A slight twist to the point Doolittle makes in the quote above. My wife is extremely expensive to keep, but I will anyway. In fact I may not even be a backyard bee keeper. I am interested in bees more for the beauty and challenge. for me any cost in keeping the bees is justified simply due to my desire to keep them.
As for the cost of the winter honey. Suppose I managed to find a swarm and needed maybe 15 to 20 lbs of honey to get them through the winter. Would it be unthinkable to find another Bee Keeper that might sell me that honey to get my bees through winter at say $2 a lb or so? Not including shipping of course. In the event I did manage to find a swarm I would really prefer to give them honey for the winter rather than sugar.
It seems some are on the verge of assuming my opinion on the issue. So that is not the case I will share this as my personal choices for now.
I would sell bees if I had to split my hive to prevent swarming. I may simply let them swarm and not bother with it also but that seems like a waste. The need being met is to prevent swarming not to make money. Heck I would give a split away to a local bee keeper. keep my source of strong queens handy that way.
I would prefer to feed honey rather than sugar even if it is cheaper.
My interest is actually more about building a quality apiary with well bred bees than it is in honey, wax or any other product. I actually have little interest in trying to produce honey to sell. I would use wax myself in candle making. And I would love to develop an apiary that has a reputation for producing quality bees and queens.
In short my interest is the bee. I suppose the cost would have to be unpayable in order for me to give them up in my case.
This may sound crazy:
I do not believe the story that packages can not make as much honey as overwintered hives.
With good weather and proper management, we have been able split packages the first week of June and get a normal crop off both hives.
All ethics aside, replacing your bees every year will make you very dependent on those replacement bees. We have noticed that winter survivabilty of a beeyard increases as
time passes since they where established as packages. This seems to indicate that the descendants of package bees are better at wintering than packages. It can therefore be concluded that any operation that tries to suddenly wean themselves of complete spring replacement will have a tough time wintering for several years. They will have backed themselves into a corner.
I also believe that eventually it will be determined that in an isolated beeyard, with good mite control(any method), that the mite population gets inbred, and looses potency, virility, lethality. Introducing packages into this environment also introduces mite that will breed with the existing mites and remove the inbreeding, increasing their vitality.
So I'll have time to learn their ways before spring? I really need the education I'm putting myself through.
Stuck in Texas. Learning Permaculture in drought, guess I will teach permaculture in drought. The bees are still alive.
For the last few years, the quality and availability of nucs and packages has been decreasing (quality in particular). That alone should answer the question.
One thing only touched on here is the fact that one needs bees adapted to the local environment. We are lucky, we are starting to get more normal numbers of wild swarms appearing -- my beekeeping buddy hived four this year alone. They are locally adapted bees, he's not done any treatments for diseases or mites for 6 years, and has a dozen hives, more or less, with minimal care.
You can only get locally adapted bees if you have local queens and local drones. If they survive well enough to swarm in the spring, they will be resistant to the common bee diseases and mites (tracheal and varroa), so that one does not have to treat for those things. Saves a great amount of money and bother. They will also forage at the correct times and store adequate honey and rear brood at the proper times for your climate.
His bees are mostly Italian, but there are some dark, small bees as well, so they are mixed race. He does not buy queens except in emergencies, and along with my brother, has not had swarming problems with his management style (although he's not home at typical swarm hours).
We winter in two deeps, with the top one full of honey as a general rule. Take any of that, an one risks losing the hive as we occasionally get long, cold, wet winters. Not Canada style by a long shot, but cold and dreary.
As for the economics, that's debatable, but certainly if one is renting bees for pollination, it will not be possible to supply bees in adequate numbers using spring packages. Further, hives can live on as productive "units" for decades -- before one calculates the "lost" revenue from overwintering a single winter, one must consider that the honey was free to you (the bees collected it) and that there is zero recurring cost to you for letting them do the same job next year. First year hives, unless supplied fully drawn comb, have to expend a good deal of their collected nectar in making comb, and storing and treating it to keep pests out of stored comb is NOT free, so say nothing of the work of keeping drawn comb on a large scale.
Packages are currently around $100 here (have not priced them for spring yet, as I want at least one more), so it might not be much of a savings to kill off a hive to spend $100 on new bees of unknown quality with a non-local queen!
There are lots of ways around this barn, but one should remember that in the days of skeps, only a few selected ones were killed out and robbed of honey, the rest were left undisturbed to make swarms the following spring. It would make much more sense to kill off some hives and leave enough to restore the full number with splits in early spring than to kill off the entire apiary.
It is good to see that so many beekeepers take their role as stewards of their bees seriously. This is a sign that the industry will survive and beekeeping will continue. But if you kill your bees-it may not. Fellow beeks, as a southern producer I can tell you that it is real hard to produce bees for other beekeepers and replace your own losses. So Daniel, if you kill your bees, who do you think will replace them??? I would listen to Mr. Palmer. He can help you overwinter bees in cold country a lot better than I could being a southern beekeeper. Once again Daniel--DONT KILL YOUR BEES! TED
ALABAMA BEE COMPANY-A member of the Sioux Honey association -*Sweetening a golden tommorrow*
Why keep bees over winter?
Because there is enormous satisfaction in success no matter what it is. Achieving sustainability is the utmost success in life.
Zone 5a, Practicing non-intervention beekeeping