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  1. #81
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    Default Re: Starting out in treatment-free beekeeping

    ..the cost of treatments and sugar are the least of it...the real cost is labor.

    I don't think feasibility has much to do with being migratory or stationary...I know treatment free beekeepers that do both....and I know of both kinds of operations that can't possibly run without treatments....not because of the bees they use, but because of overhead. If you have employees (especially if they are treated as you would want to be treated), vehicles, facilities, etc....you've _got_ to bring in the money consistently....any risks or short term setbacks affect everything and everyone involved.

    When your overhead is low (no or few employees, modest vehicle and facility expenses), you can afford to rebuild from a moderate disaster. In the scheme of things, keeping bees has almost no overhead when compared to virtually any other business or agricultural persut. Our friend Andrew Munkres grew one nuc to 70 colonies in three years (there were a small handfull of cutouts as well, but only 3 or so). He got the nuc in exchange for labor. He is a skilled woodworker and I'm sure built all of his equipment from scrap and cheap lumber. I don't remember what he did for foundation, but this was likely his largest expense (I know he does some foundationless). He does do some winter feeding to make such increases, but remember he now has 70 colonies for almost free....without having to own or lease a farm.

    Working alone (without labor) has limitations. With a spouse or close partner you can probably run 2000 colonies or so if you are using minimal management...you won't have time to retail honey with this many colonies, so it's important to find a way to sell your honey at a premium.

    The bulk of the industry makes their money buying and selling the lowest quality product at commodity prices. Their interests are poorly served when the market becomes stratified....when consumers are willing to pay a premium for a higher quality product (think of a class with grades...those getting a D will vote to have the grading be pass/fail rather than letter grades...they will be in the same catagory as those getting an A....OTOH, those getting an A want to be set apart and recognized as superior).

    So, in a poor year, no seasonal help is hired, overhead is small, and the small crop that goes for a premium can pay the bills and support you....you simply can't do this if you have a crew that gets a paycheck or the expense of running a large facility. In a good year, a bit of help is hired to handle the load, and an extra large crop allows for upgrades...and nothing says you can't simply store the surplus in barrels.

    deknow

  2. #82
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    Default Re: Starting out in treatment-free beekeeping

    I don't know about the plan in general. Ideally it is perfect...this is what I would do if I were starting over with new everything with a limited budget...but I have a few years of experience under my belt. Any start to beekeeping is hard....in some ways I like Michael Bush's argument that you could start with an observation hive the first year....you will learn so much even if the bees do die.

    Kirk Webster is currently building out his organic farming/beekeeping school. It is a very nice plan....a 3 year program where you build your own equipment, raise your own bees, and leave the school with 2-300 hives to start your operation with. The downside of this system is that it requires a near 100% time commitment for 3 years....it's hard for most of us to find time to dedicate to beekeeping, but something like this where a new beekeeper helps an experienced beekeeper make and raise splits this year for the new beekeeper next year.

    deknow

  3. #83
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    Garland, Bladen County, NC, USA
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    Default Re: Starting out in treatment-free beekeeping

    Quote Originally Posted by deknow View Post

    Kirk Webster is currently building out his organic farming/beekeeping school. I

    deknow
    What is the name of this school? Is there information available about it? Not that I want to go (Too Old), but I do get asked about such things. Sounds like a fascinating concept at any rate,

  4. #84
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    Default Re: Starting out in treatment-free beekeeping

    Quote Originally Posted by deknow View Post
    Kirk Webster is currently building out his organic farming/beekeeping school. It is a very nice plan....a 3 year program where you build your own equipment, raise your own bees, and leave the school with 2-300 hives to start your operation with. The downside of this system is that it requires a near 100% time commitment for 3 years....it's hard for most of us to find time to dedicate to beekeeping, but something like this where a new beekeeper helps an experienced beekeeper make and raise splits this year for the new beekeeper next year.
    That's incredible. I just wish he was a little more active online.

    It could work, if Kirk paid you as an employee while you were doing all that. Maybe do it like Sam Comfort.

    By the way, who does migratory beekeeping treatment-free? I'd love to learn about them. I like being proved wrong in the good way.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  5. #85
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    Dec 2008
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    Menomonee Falls, Wis.
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    Default Re: Starting out in treatment-free beekeeping

    Sol wrote:

    At this point, I'm not entirely sure (very fuzzy on this one) whether or not it is possible to operate as a commercial migratory beekeeper and be treatment-free.

    Before mites, we where all pretty much treatment free, and alot of beekeepers migrated. I believe that should solidify your views.

    Crazy Roland

  6. #86
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    Default Re: Starting out in treatment-free beekeeping

    Sol wrote:

    At this point, I'm not entirely sure (very fuzzy on this one) whether or not it is possible to operate as a commercial migratory beekeeper and be treatment-free.


    I can not speak for the Almond guys... but here in the blue berries you are in such close proximity to other guy's bees - that I am sure we exchange a pile of bees.

  7. #87
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    Default Re: Starting out in treatment-free beekeeping

    Quote Originally Posted by Solomon Parker View Post
    I just wish he [kirk] was a little more active online.
    ...if he were, he would not be Kirk. Personally, I don't think his life would be enhanced by being online.
    It could work, if Kirk paid you as an employee while you were doing all that.
    It's more of an apprenticeship. You live onsite, grow/raise all the food for those at the school, and learn an integrated beekeeping/farming method while you grow your own stock to start your own operation. FYI, none of this will be compatible with online activity, as Kirk sees farming and the modern communications/lifestyle as fundamentally incompatible...that the patience and time scale one needs to farm/raise bees properly is completely different from cell phones and the internet. This is not likely to change no matter how much online chatter there is saying it should change. I doubt we will see someone blog about their experience there.

    Maybe do it like Sam Comfort.
    I love Sam, but he is not training commercial beekeepers...he is teaching beekeeping for beekeeping's sake...which is beautiful, but most people want some honey as well.


    By the way, who does migratory beekeeping treatment-free? I'd love to learn about them. I like being proved wrong in the good way.
    Chris Baldwin is pretty darn close. But there are lots of people that move bees once or twice a year that are certainly "migratory beekeepers". Just because you are migratory does not mean you need to do almonds or 20 stops in a year....there is middle ground.

    deknow

  8. #88
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    Brasher Falls, NY, USA
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    Default Re: Starting out in treatment-free beekeeping

    Quote Originally Posted by deknow View Post
    Chris Baldwin is pretty darn close. But there are lots of people that move bees once or twice a year that are certainly "migratory beekeepers". Just because you are migratory does not mean you need to do almonds or 20 stops in a year....there is middle ground.

    deknow
    I believe you have mentioned Chris Baldwin before. Can you tell us more about him and how he does what he does?
    Mark Berninghausen "That which works, persists."

  9. #89
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    Dec 1999
    Location
    DuPage County, Illinois USA
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    9,385

    Default Re: Starting out in treatment-free beekeeping

    Quote Originally Posted by deknow View Post
    FYI, none of this will be compatible with online activity, as Kirk sees farming and the modern communications/lifestyle as fundamentally incompatible...that the patience and time scale one needs to farm/raise bees properly is completely different from cell phones and the internet.
    I don't know if Kirk would phrase this as you did for him, but I don't follow this line of reasoning. For anyone to do their profession well, requires patience and time. If one's work consumes all of their time however, their life is out of balance. Online communities are not here to replace our work, but to offer another avenue/dimension to it. In fact, for most, it's a diversion from work. A place to socialize with those of common interest. If you don't have time for that, well . . . Cell phones and Internet are merely tools. Tools that can work for you or against you. We are well aware of the Amish and their view of such things and as a result have remained an isolated group within society.

    Time is an important issue to be aware of when it comes to beekeeping. I'm aware of commercial beekeepers who vary greatly in the amount of time they give to their work. On one end, I know some who spend all their waking time, day after day, working the bee business. Not the kind of life I want to live. Other's put in a hard day but balance it with time off spent with family, friends, hobbies, etc.
    Regards, Barry

  10. #90
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    Default Re: Starting out in treatment-free beekeeping

    Kirk Webster is more of a Homesteader/Non-Amish Type Amish than most of us on beesource.com. He's a simpler life style version of Michael Palmer. He's not interested in E-Communication. He follows and teaches a life style. What little I know of him.
    Mark Berninghausen "That which works, persists."

  11. #91
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    Default Re: Starting out in treatment-free beekeeping

    [Edit]
    I see Kirk Webster as someone like what some of us thought we wanted to be like back in the '70s. Back to the land subsitance farmers. I don't know if Kirk sees it that way or not.
    Last edited by Solomon Parker; 11-15-2011 at 04:13 PM. Reason: Moderation shall not be discussed in public forums.
    Mark Berninghausen "That which works, persists."

  12. #92
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    Default Re: Starting out in treatment-free beekeeping

    Quote Originally Posted by deknow View Post
    ...if he were, he would not be Kirk. Personally, I don't think his life would be enhanced by being online.... FYI, none of this will be compatible with online activity, as Kirk sees farming and the modern communications/lifestyle as fundamentally incompatible...that the patience and time scale one needs to farm/raise bees properly is completely different from cell phones and the internet. This is not likely to change no matter how much online chatter there is saying it should change. I doubt we will see someone blog about their experience there.
    I've heard about him before. I respect his point of view, but it's not for me. My life is enhanced immeasurably by the sheer volume of information I have at my fingertips, and not just in beekeeping. It's the most efficient option for sharing, teaching, and gathering information. If it weren't for the internet, I would have never even heard of treatment-free beekeeping.

    He doesn't have to chat or post in the forum, but it would be great if he could write more often on his website. His articles are fantastic, but I've read them already, some twice.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  13. #93
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    Oct 2010
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    Baker Oregon
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    2,370

    Default Re: Starting out in treatment-free beekeeping

    Quote Originally Posted by Solomon Parker View Post
    What sorts of modifications would you suggest? What sorts of concerns should be taken into account?
    I was thinking in colder climates that perhaps starting in single deeps vs. nucs for wintering may improve survival. Just thinking out loud as we have cold and clear winters. Basically we do not deep snow to act as an insulator.
    Thanks
    Dan Hayden 4 Years. 9 hives. Tx Free. USDA Zone 5b.

  14. #94
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    Default Re: Starting out in treatment-free beekeeping

    ...I highly recommend a book called "Technopoly" by Neil Postman for a discussion on how our technology effects what learning is...suffice to say here that there is a reason every new beekeeper is encouraged to find a local club or mentor...the process of learning and what is learned is very different depending on if you are reading a book, watching a film, participating in a discussion, or learning from a teacher.

    I think I characterized Kirk's attitude quite well...."incompatible" is a word he often uses in discussing this. I am rather reluctant to argue in someone eases defense....Kirk is entitled to his opinions, beliefs and feelings.

    Of course, you all have a right to an opinion on why we or he would benefit from following our advice to be part of the online world....his advice to you would be to unplug everything.

    It should be obvious that I'm not an "unplug everything" kind of guy...it doesn't diminish my respect and appreciation for him, or the ideals he holds.

    deknow

  15. #95
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    Sep 2011
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    Reno, NV
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    Default Re: Starting out in treatment-free beekeeping

    As a newb desiring to start treatment free. I have read about half this thread. Sorry short on time this morning. I read to the point that the thread took on a "What will newbs be willing to do" sort of flavor. All I can say is that if a newb is only going to do what they are "Willing" to do. then they will likely fail. I actually appreciate this attempt to lay out what is "Necessary" not easy, not convenient. not well fit to my pre assumed notions that I can do this in my back yard with two hives.
    First of all I realized when I thought of being treatment free I was accepting a challenge. I realize that experience may have proven that the average person does not measure up to this challenge. I have a long history of proving that I do. At least in other things I have attempted. If I am given honest accurate information I am then able to make the determinations that are mine to make.
    Treatment free takes what it takes to be successful. what the average new beekeeper can and cannot do should not have any effect on that information.

    I am just warning you all not to make it about what a person is willing to do. but keep it about what they must get willing to do.

    Nice write up by the way.

  16. #96
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    Default Re: Starting out in treatment-free beekeeping

    Daniel,
    first you should be willing to get some bees.
    Mark Berninghausen "That which works, persists."

  17. #97
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    Default Re: Starting out in treatment-free beekeeping

    Quote Originally Posted by Daniel Y View Post
    I am just warning you all not to make it about what a person is willing to do. but keep it about what they must get willing to do.
    This is a penetrating statement.

    I read an article on treehugger.com recently about starting out in beekeeping. It was the same old stuff. In their list of requirements, they actually included a queen catcher clip and a queen muff!!! What on earth is that all about?

    I'm not saying it can't be done, but keeping a single hive treatment-free from the beginning is going to end in the death of the hive. If you're okay with buying new bees, that's fine, but I don't think that's fun for anyone. Two newbees I know lost their single hives this year, and it isn't even winter yet. I want to make professional hobbyist beekeepers, people who can keep a handful of hives sustainably and get the best knowledge of all beekeeping has to offer.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  18. #98
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    May 2011
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    Pensacola, FL
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    140

    Default Re: Starting out in treatment-free beekeeping

    Quote Originally Posted by Solomon Parker View Post
    <snip>
    He doesn't have to chat or post in the forum, but it would be great if he could write more often on his website. His articles are fantastic, but I've read them already, some twice.
    Where is his website? Do you have a link you could post?

    Brian

  19. #99
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    Default Re: Starting out in treatment-free beekeeping

    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  20. #100
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    Utica, NY
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    Default Re: Starting out in treatment-free beekeeping

    Quote Originally Posted by Solomon Parker View Post
    I'm not saying it can't be done, but keeping a single hive treatment-free from the beginning is going to end in the death of the hive.
    Do you have proof in what you are doing is not going to result in death of the hive / hives? I don't think so.
    Being treatment free is the easiest thing for a newbie to do. Been there done that. I think for some people it is the least expensive and most rewarding thing a newbie can do. Following your plan requires great expectations which is easy for a newbie to adopt but the sizable losses that may result are not so easy to take as a newbie. I think location has everything to do with the survivability of the hive or the apiary. If you are a back yard beekeeper you can have one or two hives in a bad location but you can't have an extended apiary.

    Starting out in treatment free beekeeping is a piece of cake. Just don't buy any chemicals. It's simple and anyone can do it. Nine times out of ten you will get a return on investment from the honey, wax, pollination or pleasure of the bees in the first year (minus the equipment expense). I have never been in a hobby that gave such a return.

    Now if you are saying "starting out in treatment free commercial beekeeping" I say go for it. I like your plan.
    Brian Cardinal
    Zone 5a, Practicing non-intervention beekeeping

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