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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Location
    Durham, NC
    Posts
    7

    Default What size to expand to next year?

    So, I'm in my first year of beekeeping and I'm starting to think about next year. I've got three hives plus a nuc right now, and all seem to be doing well.

    Alot of advice suggested that a first year beekeeper should start with 2-3 hives. What's your advice for a second year?

    I've been thinking about getting an additional 3 packages to build up, and letting this year's hives try to bring in a honey crop.

    Also wondering what the advice is on splitting this year's hives in the spring and it's effect on getting a honey crop next year

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Augusta County, VA, USA
    Posts
    73

    Default Re: What size to expand to next year?

    I think it depends on what your goals are - commercial, hobby, serious hobby...

    At minimum, everyone should have 2 hives and maybe a nuc or two. That makes it easier to be self-sustaining, and it also allows you to learn about queen rearing etc. while keeping a strong hive(s) for surplus honey. I kept a pair of colonies for many years before i recently went to 10 and noted that it increased my required amount of time significantly, as well as potentially the cost - if i harvest that much honey, I HAVE to sell it (don't have THAT many friends to gift it to... LOL), and of course then the equipment starts to look too small. Plus storage for feeders, extra woodenware, etc. My (maybe) goal is to hover around 20-25 and that will definitely require that I commit at a much higher level. So for me at least, the question is what do I want to do with my bees - surplus for $, surplus for family/gifts/fun, sell nucs, queens...?

    I have learned that nucs are an easy, relatively inexpensive way to learn a LOT about bees. So one possibility for you would be to stay at 2-3 hives and fool with a bunch of nucs. Again, the question is what YOU want out of beekeeping...

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Location
    Durham, NC
    Posts
    7

    Default Re: What size to expand to next year?

    Well, I guess I don't know what I want to do yet. I like what I do for a living, and I'm not looking to replace that. My best guess for now is that I'm looking to ultimately expand to a number of hives that still leaves me time for a full-time job and a family. So, if I could spend an hour a day, and 4 or 5 hours a weekend, what's a reasonable expectation for an upper limit number of hives?

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Location
    Winchester, va
    Posts
    97

    Default Re: What size to expand to next year?

    I'm in the second year and have 9 hives. I started last year with two and ended with two hives and two nucs. I bought one more nuc this year (for genetics) and am up to 6 hives and 3 nucs. My "goal" was to have 4 hives and 2 nucs...

    As far as how many hives on 10(ish) hours a week... I'm WELL below that now, so I'll **GUESS** and say 20-30 hives.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Location
    Durham, NC
    Posts
    7

    Default Re: What size to expand to next year?

    How much time does it take you to manage 10? Does that include selling your honey?

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Location
    Winchester, va
    Posts
    97

    Default Re: What size to expand to next year?

    I'll say an hour or so per week. I extract 2 or 3 times a year and that takes another hour or so per time.

    My honey sells itself easily. I post pics regularly on FB to share with friends and family. After folks have tasted the honey, word of mouth takes care of the rest. Last year I had to stop so we would have some ourselves. This year, we're taking off the top before we start selling!

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Dunlap, Iowa, USA
    Posts
    15

    Default Re: What size to expand to next year?

    Great question Paladin! I have been pondering that myself as a first year beekeeper as well. I started with 5 colonies this year. Lost one that basically swarmed from the package I installed, fought a little chalkbrood in two that have recovered quite nicely with no surplus honey, but will more than likely build up enough to make it through the Iowa winter. The other two colonies have EXPLODED in population and I have 7 supers between those two. I have been thinkin about bumping mine colonies up to 25 or 30 for next year. Here on the farm, we say "the eye of the master fattens the flock", so as far as time goes, I spend every minute I can just hangin around my girls anyway. As far as having a family not neglected, well, I take my two elementary kids with me all the time in their little bee suits and they love it. So, I don't see them getting neglected and they are learning so much (as am I). The way I see it with the extra honey is there is always selling it to bee clubs, packers, etc in bulk if absolutely necessary. You can sell a small volume at a high rate, or a big volume at a low rate and usually pencil out as I've discovered through a lifetime of selling hardwood lumber both retail and wholesale. At any rate, I wish you the best in your expansion next spring whatever you decide to do.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Oct 2011
    Location
    Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
    Posts
    731

    Default Re: What size to expand to next year?

    Not sure of your definition of a split. For me, I remove a couple of frames of brood, a frame of honey and pollen from a strong hive and start a NUC. Experimenting with raising queens, however purchasing a queen for $25 as been the most successful.

    Insert drawn comb into the brood nest of the strong hive. In 2-3 weeks take an additional 2-3 frames of capped brood from the strong hive and move it to the NUC. Strong hive thrives and by bee population never missed the additional frames removed, and will help mitigate swarming by removing bees and keeping brood nest open.

    I started a NUC MAY 17 and they they have drawn and half filled third deep so I'll get at least a super of honey.

    Thriving hive is still going like gang busters( now five deeps and bearding on 90F days) so I started another NUC and just removed three frames of capped brood to add to another NUC. This opens up the brood and nurse bees need to drawn comb. Have extracted 35 lbs of honey as well and I can give them wet/open comb to fill again.

    Keep the strong hive thriving and producing honey and build up NUCs/additional hives on the side be removing a few frames.
    If you always do what you always did, you'll always get what you always got!

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Location
    Durham, NC
    Posts
    7

    Default Re: What size to expand to next year?

    By split, I was thinking to simply pull off a deep and give it a queen.

    What are you doing to get your bees building out deeps so fast? I got package bees at the end of may, and they are not even 1/2 way through building out a second deep. If I could get my bees to draw out a third deep, then I could use that when I make splits. I'd love to get them drawing out medium supers as well.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Location
    Langley, British Columbia, Canada
    Posts
    193

    Default Re: What size to expand to next year?

    my second year and I have 25 hives and I am only in high school (age 16) . So I guess you can do at least 15-20

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Location
    Brookville, PA
    Posts
    206

    Default Re: What size to expand to next year?

    This is my third year. My first year I started out with 1 package and they did knot survive the winter.
    The second year, I got another package and then had a hive given to me (Amish had lived there, didn't take it with them).
    This year, both hives survived and I split one making me 3. I advertised I would remove swarms - and I am now up to 12 hives - and I had several swarms abscond on me because I didn't them brood.

    My advise - get empty hives and everything ready for next year and then advertise you will remove swarms. (I put mine in a freebie paper that doesn't cost me, and i sent letters to county control, local pest companies, etc.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jan 2012
    Location
    Reidsville, NC
    Posts
    114

    Default Re: What size to expand to next year?

    Quote Originally Posted by Paladin View Post
    What are you doing to get your bees building out deeps so fast? I got package bees at the end of may, and they are not even 1/2 way through building out a second deep. If I could get my bees to draw out a third deep, then I could use that when I make splits. I'd love to get them drawing out medium supers as well.
    It is all about the location; you getting your bees at the end of May basically gave them 2 weeks at the tail end of the flow and then all they have is whatever you are feeding. If you are not feeding them now, they probably won’t have enough to make it through the winter. We may have a good fall flow or we may have nothing.

    If you were in Canada the days would have 1-2 more hours of light and they would be in the middle of their strong flow. Keep in mind the location you are in when you see postings, it can be critical to comparing information. We harvest honey in May & June, very rarely is there anything to harvest in September or October. In Canada they will be harvesting in October (if I remember correctly). Let me give you one other example how location can vary so much. I have hives in NC that will get 2 mediums supers full on a good year. I worked hives in upper MI that would get 4 deeps supers full in a good year. Huge difference.

    Bottom line is feed what you have until they have the brood sections drawn out. Our flow is well over and they will be bringing in sparsely enough to eat and not enough to draw comb.

    For you original question; add 2 more every year until you feel you have reached that point of enough. You will know what you can handle and by only adding 2 you can avoid costs and getting in over your head. My first season I had 2 hives, loved it; I have 14 hives right now and will be shooting for 30+ next year. My goal is to get to around 100 hives, but that is work and not for the faint of heart. Go slow and you will know when enough is.
    Experience is better than theory.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Oct 2011
    Location
    Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
    Posts
    731

    Default Re: What size to expand to next year?

    Sun rises at 5AM and sets at 10PM. Further north daylight hours are longer yet. Main flow is late June and July and honey harvest is August in Alberta. Come September it is time to start preparation of hive for winter.

    Feed them 1:1 sugar syrup to get the bees to draw comb and do some frame manipulation. Just inspect every 7-10 days so they don't backfill the brood nest with nectar and sugar syrup, buiild queen cells and swarm. Frame manipulation is moving undrawn frames from outside posiiton to edge of brood nest and rotate the frame once they have a good start at drawing the brood nest side. Move drawn and full of honey frames to outside positions. I also have painted some additional wax on the foundation using a double boiler and narrow foam brush. Also spray foundation with sugar syrup.
    Get as much honey stored in the hive as you can and then supplement with sugar blocks and fondant.
    If you always do what you always did, you'll always get what you always got!

  14. #14
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Cheyenne, Wyoming, USA
    Posts
    1,693

    Default Re: What size to expand to next year?

    This is my third year, and I manage almost 200 hives. That may be a little much for most folks. It keeps me busy about 3-4 days a week.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    Rockford, Il
    Posts
    506

    Default Re: What size to expand to next year?

    I won't put a time on it as I'm rather new myself. I'm finding that "Additional hives" isn't really taking much more time.

    First year I spent a whole lot of time worrying, researching, inspecting, wondering, messing etc etc. The second year I had a much better feel for things and inspected far less often and had a better idea how things were going with less digging. Last year I had four this year I have 11.

    However with 11 rather than 4 I ended up learning a bunch of new stuff that I'm spending more time on. I caught my first swarm, split my first colonies and attempting to raise my own queens ALL of which to a chunk of time. However now that I have a better idea of what to do and how to do it, it will take much less time.

    The "Work" end of things doesn't seem to take much more time. Extracting 80 frames might take me a couple hours. However a good portion of that time is getting things set up and cleaned up afterwards. Extracting 320 frames won't take four times as long because the clean up, set up etc is the same for both.

    At this point I can see having 25-50 hives, raising queens, making up nucs etc and doing that with my normal job. I think some here have said they've done this with 100 or more hives.

    At some point between 1 hobby hive and 10,000 hives you go from. Well isn't this fun. To I've got to work on the hives this weekend. To working on the hives every weekend. To working on hives every waking moment you're not at work to making it your job full time and then hiring people.

    Like I said I'm at 11 hives and I'm still at the "I've got to work on the hives this weekend". Trying to raise queens has been challenging and I've not been successful yet and that takes timing and a bit more time.

    ~Matt

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Dec 2002
    Location
    Denver, Colorado
    Posts
    5,113

    Default Re: What size to expand to next year?

    Quote Originally Posted by Paladin View Post
    What's your advice for a second year?
    Forget about packages. Go with the splits idea. A couple of frames with a queen will be a far better option than a package. A couple frames early on won't hurt a good hive for honey production.

    I recommend having at least five hives for the backyarder or hobbyist. My goal is 20 minimum, 30 max. I have 28 right now. I do beekeeping stuff on Saturdays. My goal is to work about 8 hives per weekend, and one or two days a year for honey harvest. I usually end up doing less overall. In the winter you can build wooden ware, in the dearth, you can go swimming.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

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