Heres your dilemma: After you run your numbers for your new equipment needs, if say you have 10 hives make it well enough to make your splits from.
You will need so many # of box's, tops, bottoms, and frames.
Now, after you have spent all that money on materials, assembled it all over the winter while you had the time, (Don't forget to put a weather resistant finish on all of it-that takes more time than assembly) what if your winter losses are much higher than you hoped for? You have all this equipment and no bees to put in it?
Or you wait and see how many hives make it, and now in the spring when you should be managing bees you are building equipment?
That is exactly what I did last winter. I build some equipment planning on increases, but was cautious not to make too much. My bees did well + I had the unexpected opportunity to also buy some packages. I was working 14 hours a day working the bees, raising queens, building equipment and then doing all my other normal farm and household work.
It's the unknown factor you cannot plan for that is the hardest. If you spend a few thousand on equipment and get it all assembled, are you willing to buy new bees if necessary to fill them if your bees don't overwinter well? Usually a person needs to order bees very early in the spring, before you really truly know what your winter losses will be.
Or will you wait, then work long hours to make equipment just barley fast enough to stay ahead of the growing hives?
LOL, I went from 7 hives in 2011 to 45 packages spring of 2012-to 120 booming hives, nucs and mating nucs by summer of 2012. An extreme example for sure, but I have been where you are right now.
A crystal ball would be nice
I guess what I am saying is: if you buy and build all that equipment, there is a chance you will have to spend more time or money to fill them if your bees don't over winter well enough to make your increases from them alone. Just be aware and plan for that possibility.
Don't forget the cost of feeding spring and fall. If you want them to grow, you will need to feed well. They may do OK without feeding, but after all that cost and work why not be sure they thrive? That theory cost me another $2000. on sugar and pollen patties. I also spent over $1000. on black rite cell foundation, but after messing with foundationless last year it was a necessary purchase to assure consistantly useable deep frames for the future.
All in all I spent about $12,500. this year on bees, feed and equipment. Way more than I planned. (That includes some honey extracting equipmant)
I bought several 50# bags of Beepro and Brewers yeast to stock up for next year (with the drought in the midwest I expect the price of feed to go up.) My bees relish my homemade protein patties and take them up all year. That cost is minimal and makes me happy they are content and feeding well.
I wanted a certain number of hives and had two choices: Make increases with my own small amount of stock or buy into it. I chose to buy into it for two reasons:
I had sold a filly and had some money to buy the bees, and I am in my 50"s and did not want to wait years to get to where I wanted to be. I should have started beekeeping years ago. This was my next best option. I would have been content with 50 colonies, but as it turned out had some good opportunities to get more bees reasonably (Bee supplier had someone back out of 50 packages after he pick them up) So in my case, my increase plan was doubled suddenly because of opportunitys I did not forsee.
I also wanted to buy my equipment while the dollar still had some value. But THAT is another thread probably not suitable for Beesource.
To make my nucs: I broke up my some of my hives into divided deep four frame nucs..a interior one gallon mann lake feeder and three drawn frames of bees, brood and stores in each. After they took up a gallon of syrup, I replaced the feeder with another drawn frame. I learned to graft queens and used all the nucs as mating nucs. (Not walk away nucs, but giving them a ripe cell or virgin queen hot out of the incubator)
I left some with the best and most prolific queens to grow into strong nucs then larger hives. I sold enough queens to pay for all my new bees and requeened all my older hives. I am going into the winter with about 80 strong, healthy colonies-all with locally mated Northern queens from my best select stock . I'd have more but people begged me for queens in late fall-so I combined a few hives and combined the frames from the mini mating nucs. I raised about 200 queens and by keeping the best queens in the mating nucs and letting them grow, I have more colonies than I planned.
If you have any questions you can PM me for more details. LOL, I learned a LOT this summer..not complaining..I'm tired, but it is all good!
I look forward to a nice rest this winter, but look forward to 2013's adventures and accomplishments.
It will be a while before I have made enough money to make up for all my hard equipment costs, but covering the perishable expense (Bees) this year made me feel good. And my biggest asset: All those beautiful clean newly drawn frames full of stores.
My husbands generosity with his additional financial contributions to my project and his patience with my long working hours was greatly appreciated..although he was a little dismayed at my exausted nature, sweaty disheveled stature and sticky kitchen floor at times.
Heres my photo bucket page if you want to see more photos: