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  1. #41
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    Default Re: Here is Where I'm At - How Do You Suggest I Move Forward?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ian View Post
    ...you should pay attention to the guys here who pollinate almonds.
    Theme from their conversations are nutrition, disease control, nutrition, moving hives, feeding, nutrition,

    yes, small farmers like little beekeepers. But I doubt they will pay you big fees for pollination contracts...
    Good advice on the almond pollinators. But a key difference (I believe) is the size of the farm operations.

    From what I understand, Almonds are enormous areas with little else but almonds on them for bees to feed on. We don't have as many enormous, continuous crops out here. A lot of the farms are on hundreds of acres - not 10's of thousands. So the bee diets are not as restricted to the intended subject of pollination. There aren't a ton of farms that are big enough to cover a bee's forage range. By "small", I mean that they are not the Oxford Foods, 20,000 acre types. They are the 300-1000 acre type operation. And they all pay pretty much the same.

    However, as I mentioned, the border is going to open to out-of-province pollination. That will likely challenge current pollination service fees. Almost all of that out-of-province need for pollination is coming from one company - Oxford. And Oxford already serves most of their own needs with their 15,000 colonies. They just need more. My own feeling is that they have found the bee business to be too expensive and is splitting up their resources too much to maintain, so I feel like they may be looking to drop that part of the business and to replace it completely by hiring out the pollination - but they know the local beekeepers can't cover their needs. So they've pressed the government to open the border, so they have legal access to more pollination from the bigger operations in New Brunswick and Quebec - maybe Ontario as well. I expect soon to hear that someone has made a huge deal with them and taken over their bees. Pure speculation on my part on all that though.

    I doubt the smaller operations will be affected as much, because their contracts are too small for bigger pollination operations to travel far to satisfy.

    That's my outlook at the moment. It is of course, the outlook of an outsider at this point, listening to others in the business. So I'm sure it's full of flaws that can only be corrected by experience.

    Adam

  2. #42
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    Thumbs Up Re: Here is Where I'm At - How Do You Suggest I Move Forward?

    Quote Originally Posted by Adam Foster Collins View Post
    ...snip... Some of (Michael Palmer's) has been hard to swallow (like the post about really needing 100 colonies for a truly sustainable operation), but I very much appreciate it...snip...
    Adam, if you get queens occasionally from the best breeders who do all the scientific things to keep their genetics broad, and improving resistance to mites along the way, you can profit from their work by just using their queens...That saves you the work of maintaning hundreds of hives and allows you to focus on producing bees. JMO

    The $64,000 question is, how long can demand for NUCs keep the price where it is?
    Last edited by Lburou; 11-29-2012 at 02:36 PM.
    LeeB
    I try to learn from my mistakes, and from yours when you give me a heads up :)

  3. #43
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    Default Re: Here is Where I'm At - How Do You Suggest I Move Forward?

    Quote Originally Posted by Lburou View Post
    ...The $64,000 question is, how long can demand for NUCs keep the price where it is?
    Who knows? It's been at that price for years, and word is that one of the biggest sellers in this region may soon pack it in...

  4. #44
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    Default Re: Here is Where I'm At - How Do You Suggest I Move Forward?

    You are now, where I was last year. Here is a short version of what I did and how I ended up. ( Short version I say, because if I talk about all the details, this post will end up the size of a book)

    As a second year beekeeper, My intent for 2012 was to learn to raise queens. Having an interest in Genetics and being a livestock breeder for many years, this was a natural choice for me with the experience I've obtained from 30+ years of small home farming. I planned to have a fair sized hobby apiary and needed to generate at least enough income to pay for it. (I call it a hobby apiary because I am doing it all myself with out employees)

    In my short season Northern area, I can't have nucs ready for sale early enough for most folks. I absolutely don't want to try to compete and deal with honey production. I wanted to Increase my hive numbers as much as possible to the point I would be self sufficient, have lots of resources available to manage hives and NEVER have to buy Bees again. Not so much because of the cost, because I did not like getting someone else's sloppy seconds. (I'll skip the details)

    Raising queens was where my interests lie and also was the only real reliable way for me to make any money with the bees.

    Starting out with only 7 overwintered hives, I bought into my plans, purchasing 18 nucs and 25 packages. This amounted to about $3100. More than I was planning, but had the opportunity to pick up some of the packages at the suppliers cost.

    Some Packages were installed onto mini frames which would be used in the mating nucs. (Some mating nucs were also divided deeps.) The lack of drawn frames was the biggest thing holding me back from starting my queen rearing earlier this spring.

    I started off both grafting and using the Mann Lake graftless system, having never grafted a queen before or having any lessons or mentor.

    Only reading beesource for my information, I was successful right from the start. I am fortunate to understand Agriculture pretty well and I retain a lot from research.

    I stocked the mating nucs with the now drawn frames rich with brood and stores, harvested my first ripe queens cells and got the ball rolling.
    I removed the queens from the purchased nucs and packages and sold them,( Although I culled several of them due to poor performance or nasty trates) replacing them with my first batch of locally mated queens grafted from my best over wintered stock.
    Second, third and fourth batchs of queens were sold, with the exception of the most prolific ones. I got the pick of the litter so to speak...One of the big + of queen rearing.

    Prolific young queens were left in mating nucs and given room to grow. By late summer, my mating nucs were ether keepers not to be disturbed or had dwindled from taking out queens before allowing them to build up. This is a management error I will rectify this next season. I could have raise one more batch of queens, but I did not want to disturb established and flourishing hives that late in the summer to restock the mating nucs. I had people calling as late as Mid September desperate for queens.

    I made enough money to pay for all my bees and some sugar.. So when most of my potentially 'perishable' costs were made up, I had reached a milestone I set for myself for this year. Don't lose any money!
    At my height of the summer I had 120 hives, nucs and mating nucs.

    I ended up this fall (after selling a few nucs and combining mating nucs) with about 85 strong colonies, about half in double nucs. I had people beating down my door all summer and fall for local queens. I could have raised twice as many and sold them all without shipping or advertising.

    I spent a small fortune on woodenware parts and worked like a mad woman to assemble them. I had no idea I would have this many bees and although I made hives last winter, It was not near enough. I was assembling when I should have been managing the hives and that made for a summer of very long hours with all my other home and farm duties. I look forward to 2013 now that I have my hives and nucs made up, hundreds of new deep frames drawn and filled. No treatments except Hop guard. Nice clean new comb. A beautiful thing All on black Rite cell-small worker sized cells.

    I tried to bring in some interesting genetics from a well known queen breeder, but that did not work out. (I will also not comment on that very unfortunate experience) That was my only financial loss.

    My biggest problem? My bees did too well and I was too busy. Bummer, huh?

    I'm going into winter with exciting genetics and lots of Daughter queens to play with next year.

    My increase in hives and ability to continue financially is a direct result of queen rearing.

    I estimate it will take me two-three years to make enough to cover all my woodenware, tools and hard costs resulting in about 100 hives and 100 mating nucs. After that time, well I might just be able to hold onto some of those $$. Wouldn't that be nice

    My education was pretty intense having this many hives this fast. I wouldn't recommend it for everyone but if you are a hard worker and have confidence in your ability it is certainly possible. I'm happy with the results of my 2012 season.

    I'd like to get an Insemination set up eventually, but I'll have to be generating a good income before I buy into that.

    I have one quick example: I also raise vegetable seedlings. One year I grew about 30 different types of cherry tomatoes, all in hanging baskets in a row around my greenhouse. My customers would walk around to each type and enjoy a side by side taste test. It was amazing the difference you could detect between each tomato. I did it because people constantly wanted tomato varieties that were familier to them, but were not the best for flavor. They actually spit out the sweet 100's compared to the grape tomato types.

    This is the experience I got with my bees this year. I had several different types with different traits. Side by side the difference was amazing and easy to choose the superior genetics.






    Funny, I started beekeeping because I like woodworking. Now I'm just goin' with the flo





    I almost hate to write anything at all. I imagine I'll read this post next year and cringe at my ignorance. LOL, I hope not.

    http://www.facebook.com/pages/Miller...56954971040510
    Last edited by Lauri; 11-30-2012 at 08:11 AM.

  5. #45
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    Default Re: Here is Where I'm At - How Do You Suggest I Move Forward?

    Quote Originally Posted by Adam Foster Collins View Post
    Who knows? It's been at that price for years, and word is that one of the biggest sellers in this region may soon pack it in...
    Smells a lot like opportunity... and higher prices.
    Dan Hayden 4 Years. 12 hives. Tx Free. USDA Zone 5b.

  6. #46
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    Default Re: Here is Where I'm At - How Do You Suggest I Move Forward?

    Lauri,

    Thank you for sharing your experience. One question: If you sold enough to cover the cost of your bees and sugar, then you sold over 120(ish) queens. How did you connect to a market to sell all of those queens as only a second year beekeeper? How did you get the customers? Were most purchased by a few customers? Or did you have many customers buying small numbers?

    Adam

  7. #47
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    Default Re: Here is Where I'm At - How Do You Suggest I Move Forward?

    Reports like Lauri's make me humble. Good going Lauri!
    LeeB
    I try to learn from my mistakes, and from yours when you give me a heads up :)

  8. #48
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    Default Re: Here is Where I'm At - How Do You Suggest I Move Forward?

    I am a horticulturist, and was attempting to develop a business, propagating and selling plants. Beekeeping had been a minor hobby since before I was ten years old (I'm now 56). I hadn't planned to become a producer/supplier of queens and nucs. I did plan to expand my apiary from less than six colonies to at least a dozen. Once I reached a dozen hives (they had all been grown from an initial single cut-out). At this point their undesirable traits developed into more than just an occasional annoyance. I had already attempted requeening these hives, but the traditional methods, just didn't work. I investigated the best possible way to get queen acceptance, so built my first ever nucs. I obtained Cordovan Italian queens (to help identify the success of my efforts). In purchasing these few queens, I realized the only way I could afford to requeen all my hives, was to raise additional queens, for myself. So I taught myself to raise queens. Other beekeepers realized that I was raising queens -- now I can't raise enough queens, fast enough, to meet even a small fraction of the demand.

    We (my wife and I), are letting the business grow itself, only investing some of the profit back into the business to expand as much as we are comfortable with. Anticipating that there will come a point where we may need employees to expand further.
    48 years - 50 hives - TF
    Joseph Clemens -- Website Under Constructioni

  9. #49
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    Default Re: Here is Where I'm At - How Do You Suggest I Move Forward?

    Quote Originally Posted by jim lyon View Post
    That's a real nice business plan Mike and one that could be applied by a lot more readers of Beesource than the plan that we use. A few observations. #1 Mike probably makes it sound a bit easier than it is, first, it's a lot of work and secondly he is a talented beekeeper with a lifetime of experience in honing his skill. #2 If everyone operated as such nucs probably would no longer bring $125 but that would depend on how many people out there are truly dedicated to doing the work it requires. so I will conclude that there probably isn't much danger in that but you would have to develop a customer base. #3. A re-reading of Adams opening post tells us that, like many on here, they are starting out with the desire to be treatment free. The blueprint that Mr. Palmer has layed out is probably not going to be compatible with that goal. One constant in whatever plan you choose is that to get any kind of payback from your beekeeping endeavor requires a lot of dedication and resiliency. Things are never quite as simple as a neat business plan might make them appear.
    #1 Yes, certainly. But it's really not that difficult to set up and manage nucleus colonies. Easier I would say than managing production colonies. And besided, you can't get high unless you try.

    #2 Actually, the demand is so huge I expect high prices for quality bees to continue. The customer base is there, you just have to drill a hole and tap into it.

    #3 Actually, having a nucleus colony operation within your apiary operation is totally in step with Adam's desire to be, in some degree, treatment free. Nucleus colonies are different than production colonies. They never have to be treated. Production colonies will crash and nucleus colonies will thrive...at least the first year. So you have a source of healthy bees to replace dead-outs, requeen duds, and work on your breeding program.

    >>Things are never quite as simple as a neat business plan might make them appear.<<

    Of course things never are. When someone tells me that "All I gotta do is"...bells and whistles go off in my head. Nothing is so simple as that. But, ask some of the folks on these pages...beginners mostly...how difficult was it to setup and winter nucleus colonies?

  10. #50
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    Default Re: Here is Where I'm At - How Do You Suggest I Move Forward?

    Mike, don't forget the "F" word. This year I doubled my number of nucs from 9 to 18. I sold 44 frames of bees to my former package supplier. I sold 2 of my nucs to people who approached me about them from my online prescence. I made 1900 pounds of honey from the 18 production colonies I ran - these colonies were kept at strength by taking brood from my nucs.

    I am a beek of only 3 years experience with one bee yard. Additionally, I started the year with no stores of drawn brood comb, and half of my medium honey supers were filled with undrawn comb. They are all drawn now.
    This was not all plain sailing, probably because of my inexperience and the lack of drawn comb I lost some swarms. Probably more than 6, and catching swarms that issued from my hives and nucs ate into my time and enthusiasm. It was frustrating to come home from work, want to chill out, and instead have to start shaking bees off trees. I underestimated how productive they can be. Secondly, 1900 pounds of honey is more than I needed to make; I would have been better off selling bees. If I had not sold the 44 frames of brood, and instead expanded them into other colonies I cannot imagine how many colonies I would own now.

    A few thoughts for the OP. I attribute a large part of my success this year to luck and weather - I happen to live in a great forage area, scruffy woods, marginal land, and some crops. I have not treated for mites, and saw some DFV at the end of the season in my production colonies, and some of my nucs. As of today I have 18 2 storey nucs and 12 hives in 10 frame equipment enrolled in OD Frank overwintering challenge.

    Beyond those hives are three more not in OD's challenge. The first is a light colony in a double deep that crashed I shook out for the frames it had died with a cluster the size of an egg, the other two were in a double deep and double and a medium respectively. These were also "mitey" and I planned to shake them out for the frames, but when I came to them I had a sudden change of heart, because the bees were in a reduced cluster size the size of an orange and a grapefruit. I thought listen to all you have been assimalating all year. What I have learned from MP, whether he has said it directly or I am just extrapolating it I'm not sure, is that bees need to be in a cluster that is proportionate to the size of the cavity they are in. So instead of shaking them out on the frozen ground (and prying their cold dead fingers off the frames) I put the 2 or 3 frames they were clustering over into 5 frame nucs, and added a frame of honey to each. I am going to watch them over the winter and see what they do, they are light on stores so they may get a mountaincamp sugar boost.

    All of the anecdotal evidence seems to be pointing the same way: Earlier in this thread Ian said that the Saskatraz bees want to live in smaller colonies and swarm often to survive the mites; MP says he doesn't need to treat his nucs; Mel Disselkoen says that you can outbreed the mite and not treat, and most critically he says "The art of beekeeping does not require full-strength hives at all times of the year, only during your surplus honey flows"; Seeley and others show that bees prefer a cavity of about the size of 10 deep frames when given a choice.

    So for a miticide free regimen this is my plan:
    1) Overwinter in 2 story 5 frame nucs.
    2) Bond test the production colonies. Those that make it can be used to make some queens, in the meantime until the big freeze I consider them as caretakers of comb to use on next years splits. There is no need to protect them from wax moths as the bees do that for me.
    3) Expand the nucs into 10 frame equipment for honey production when the time is right.
    4) Use overwintered queens in my operation.
    5) Mate queen cells in nucs and grow them on without interrupting them.
    6) Rinse and repeat.

    Back to the "F" word. The nucs are incredible fun. It is not hard to set them up, and I think that the bees themselves are telling us they are the way to go. All we have to do is listen and adapt.

  11. #51
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    Default Re: Here is Where I'm At - How Do You Suggest I Move Forward?

    QUOTE=Adam Foster Collins;871611]Lauri,

    Thank you for sharing your experience. One question: If you sold enough to cover the cost of your bees and sugar, then you sold over 120(ish) queens. How did you connect to a market to sell all of those queens as only a second year beekeeper? How did you get the customers? Were most purchased by a few customers? Or did you have many customers buying small numbers?

    .
    Adam[/QUOTE]

    Most of my customer bought in small numbers. I advertised on Craigs list a bit, but most of my customers got my name and phone # from my local bee and woodenware supplier, who is well established in this area, but does not raise or supply queens. He gave my name out to a ton of people. Once the clubs came out here and saw what I had going on, they also put my name and contact info on their web sites. Word just spread by itself from there. Everyone's story was Quite interesting.
    I lost count of the queens after while, but raised about 165. I kept half of those but I sold the purchased package queens too. I sold a hand full of nucs and a few hive parts. I had hoped to sell more woodenware, but as soon as I made them, I was filling them with bees. I am trying to have some parts in stock for resale this year, but don't want to spend too much money on inventory just yet. Still kind of feeling the waters so to speak. My bee supplier is the biggest woodenware supplier in my area, he is close to 90. I believe and one day will retire. I would like to be established well enough by that time to take over his clientele.

    My sales were actually quite minimal, when you consider the potential once I am better established. My reward for all my work this year is the resulting increases in my apiary size and improved stock.(Not to mention everthing I learned)

    A problem I have now is all these people want me to teach them or come to their clubs to speak. I absolutly do not want to do that, but they are insistant. I hate it when someone does something for a month or two, then thinks they are an expert. I have achived a lot and am pretty happy with how things went, but I know there are many details I don't know yet. All I can do is talk about what I did to get this far...read beesource, find some money to invest and work long hours. I'm busy and a bit on the reclusive side and talking to people for more than 10 minutes is not my favorite thing. I'll just have to figure out where I fit in to that whole aspect. One of my problems is I tend to give too much information too fast and people get the deer in the headlights look in a hurry.

    Most of my customers came out more than once and bought more queens than they planned. It's rare to hear a grown man giggle, but I heard that over and over when I'd take out the frame with the big fat queen and show her and her pattern of brood. LOL.

    They liked not having to pay shipping for a small order and being able to see the queen in her mating nuc..seeing her laying pattern,etc. I never banked my queens and they were fresh from their nucs to their new hives. I charged $20.00- $25.00 for the sale of my purchased queens out of the nucs and packages after they had built up enough to harvest the drawn frames, $30.00 for my locally bred queens and $40.00 for those that were marked 'Keepers'. I never had anyone squeek at my prices. They were attracted to my Glenn Daughters especially, but I kept most of those daughters myself for my VSH stock. (Plus I had to cull a fair percentage of those Glenns do to poor performance. They had a wide range of reliability)

    I had another breeder queen who's daughters far out performed the first generation of the Glenns and I grafted mostly from her this year.
    That's why I wish I had insemination equipment. Crossing the most prolific daughters from these two lines in a controlled setting could be amazing.

    Also I would assume being a woman beekeeper makes me stand out somewhat. Many people have come out here, looked around at what I have going on with the bees, horses, garden etc. and tell me, "You're livin' my dream"
    It makes them want to come back and bring their friends.
    Last edited by Lauri; 11-30-2012 at 04:23 PM.

  12. #52
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    Default Re: Here is Where I'm At - How Do You Suggest I Move Forward?

    >OD Frank overwintering challenge. Beyond those hives are three more not in OD Frank overwintering challenge. Beyond those hives are three more not in OD's challenge

    LET'S CLEAR SOMETHING UP HERE !!!!!!

    IT IS NOT MY CHALLENGE. DUFFUS BRAIN CHARLIE B SET OUT THE CHALLENGE WITHOUT MY PERMISSION AND JUST NAMED IT AFTER ME!!!!
    FUNNY GUY, CHARLIE B !!!!

    I don't give a bee's poop how many of your hives died this winter, how many queens you raised, or how many bait swarms you catch. I just want to sit all winter in my shop next to my wood stove fueled with hive manufacture scraps holding my WTK brad hammer in my old wrinkled hands nailing together and wiring frames while the delicious scent of wafting pine and redwood smoke swirl around my bald old head. I will also set aside some time to mail out some BeeBee Tree whips and eat a few scones topped with eucalyptus honey and heated atop my woodstove.

  13. #53
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    Default Re: Here is Where I'm At - How Do You Suggest I Move Forward?

    frank, never underestimate the value of a bee's poop, and while you're sittin' there, pass me a scone.
    journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  14. #54
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    Default Re: Here is Where I'm At - How Do You Suggest I Move Forward?

    Quote Originally Posted by Lauri View Post
    Also I would assume being a woman beekeeper makes me stand out somewhat...
    I am actually noticing that more and more women seem to be taking up beekeeping. I've been 'into' bees my whole life, and believe me, it wasn't something that generally "got ya dates" for most of that time.

    But now it seems that if the subject gets mentioned at a gathering or something, it seems that more women are interested in it than the men are. I'm not sure if it's the connection to nature, a healthy environment, or what, but there seems to have been a marked shift in the bee demographic.

    Of course, that's a personal observation, and maybe there are statistics which show a different picture. But that's the view from my house.

    Adam

  15. #55
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    Default Re: Here is Where I'm At - How Do You Suggest I Move Forward?

    Quote Originally Posted by Adam Foster Collins View Post
    I am actually noticing that more and more women seem to be taking up beekeeping.

    ...
    Of course, that's a personal observation, and maybe there are statistics which show a different picture. But that's the view from my house.
    Simlar view from our house. We actually host the extractor for the local club, so, any members that want to use the club extractor, have to come here to get it. At least half of the folks that picked it up this year, were women. A couple of them had a hubby along to help with the heavy lifting, but, no mistake about it, they are 'her bees', and he's just there to fullfill the role of 'strong back' getting the extractor loaded onto the pickup.

  16. #56
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    Default Re: Here is Where I'm At - How Do You Suggest I Move Forward?

    It could have something to do with the baby boomer generation being broke, or at least uncertain of our economy. Priorities and spending habits for many have changed.

    99 % of my customers are still men. I only had two women all summer. Most women I talk to shudder at the thought of bugs and they put bees in that catagory. My mother in law won't even come out to our house anymore since I have bees.

    Half my vegetable seedling sales are to men too. If I had flowers, I'd get more women I think. Women raised in the country are generally willing to try things like hunting, fishing and beekeeping, etc. Things most city raised women would never consider doing. Generally speaking of course, but that's been my experience.
    I guess what I am trying to say is they have to be introduced to it. Take for instance the movie, the Hunger Games. Archery has been dominated by men for years. Now there is a flood of young women learning to shoot because of that movie.

    Let's get Angelena Jolie into beekeeping. Then see how many woman tend bees
    Last edited by Lauri; 11-30-2012 at 06:29 PM.

  17. #57
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    Default Re: Here is Where I'm At - How Do You Suggest I Move Forward?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ian View Post
    The other question is how does mother nature manage the disease pressures naturally? The answer is looking like she wants to manage mites exactly the opposite way we want to keep our bees
    Interesting you mention that. My reading has led me to believe, that's essentially the trait that has allowed the Primorsky (russian) bees to co-exist with the mites as well. Smaller clusters, and, a propensity to swarm.

    If that's what the folks running sakatraz are finding, guess that's what research is all about, and, more often than not, the hard data doesn't point in the direction one had hoped it would lead....

  18. #58
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    Default Re: Here is Where I'm At - How Do You Suggest I Move Forward?

    [QUOTE=odfrank;871682 I just want to sit all winter in my shop next to my wood stove fueled with hive manufacture scraps holding my WTK brad hammer in my old wrinkled hands nailing together and wiring frames while the delicious scent of wafting pine and redwood smoke swirl around my bald old head. I will also set aside some time to mail out some BeeBee Tree whips and eat a few scones topped with eucalyptus honey and heated atop my woodstove.[/QUOTE]

    Ah winter. If eating scones with eucalyptus honey doesn't crack a smile on that "bald old head", I guess nothin' will.

  19. #59
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    Default Re: Here is Where I'm At - How Do You Suggest I Move Forward?

    OdFrank, are you throwing out another challenge?
    How about warm, man sized chocolate chip cookies right out of the oven?

    (Nice thing about winter..I don't have my veil on and can actually eat something.)


  20. #60
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    Default Re: Here is Where I'm At - How Do You Suggest I Move Forward?

    Lauri, we've seen most of your queen set up in bits and pieces in various threads, I would welcome a thread dedicated to how you solved each of the hurdles you encountered as you gathered everything to graft, grow, incubate and incarcerate the virgin queens until you put them in a NUC. I'm particularly in the dark about a source for those finishing frames and special cages you use. TIA

    Thanks for starting this thread Adam
    LeeB
    I try to learn from my mistakes, and from yours when you give me a heads up :)

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