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  1. #1
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    Mar 2014
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    Default What are the limits to growth? Expanding apiary.

    Hi,

    I'm looking for some advice from anyone who has ramped up the size of their apiary from a dozen or so to a couple hundred.

    I'm hoping to grow from my few hives to 250ish within a year or two. I'm grafting queens and planning to feed them back whatever honey they have left from the winter and also supplement with sugar throughout the warm months. I'm in the Southern Tier of New York. I know that they will be drawing a lot of comb and that will be taxing on them.

    Has anyone gone through something like this before or know of any good resources or articles? I know there are a lot of variables, but any guidance would be appreciated.

    Advice?

    Thanks,
    Mike

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
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    Brasher Falls, NY, USA
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    Default Re: What are the limits to growth? Expanding apiary.

    "supplement with sugar throughout the warm months."?

    I think you have need for more years of experience before expanding too far too quickly.

    I understand your great hopes and expectations. We all start out some time from where we are. "the greatest threat to the world's bees [is] still the incompetence of their keepers." Hannah Nordhaus on Langstroth's beehive in her book "The Beekeepers Lament". Which would be a good book for you to read if you would like to better understand "What are the limits of growth?"

    Best wishes. Don't let my comments discourage you. As if that is all it would take.
    Mark Berninghausen "That which works, persists."

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
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    Plainfield, New Hampshire, USA
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    Default Re: What are the limits to growth? Expanding apiary.

    I agree with, Sqkcrk.
    In my experience what I thought would take 2 years has taken me 4 years. Set some goals and see if you have any success in reaching them. I often found that I didn't reach my desired colony numbers within my given time frame but what I saw instead was increase in productivity and then an increase in overall colony numbers as I leaned how to mange more colonies over time. Beekeeping in my opinion comes from patience and hard work there is really no easy way around it.

  4. #4
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    Mar 2014
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    Default Re: What are the limits to growth? Expanding apiary.

    Regarding the sugar, I'm supposing that all that comb is going to take a lot of energy. I plan to feed in spring to give them a little better access to resources for all the building they'll be doing. I don't plan on feeding through the winter or making that a routine part of my management, it's just for the expansion.

    Thanks for your feedback. I'm asking these questions because I'm trying to gauge what is realistic and act from there.

  5. #5
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    Mar 2014
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    Ithaca, NY
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    Default Re: What are the limits to growth? Expanding apiary.

    So given that, what in your experience did growing your apiary look like? How many years did it take to get where? Both in strength of your colonies and number of colonies. Thanks for the feedback.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    Location
    East Peoria, IL
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    398

    Default Re: What are the limits to growth? Expanding apiary.

    How long have you been keeping bees? How many hives did you start with? How many do you have now?

    This will be my third year with bees. Started out with two then kept getting calls for swarms, have 21 now minus the 4 that died this winter. Not sure what will happen this summer, I have equipment to raise some queens and winter 30 nucs in the Mike Palmer divided nuc set-up. I'm reaching my limit without getting some extra help from the missus or the oldest kid (10). I have a full time job, a big garden, and like to do some mountain biking and have some family time too.

  7. #7
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    Mar 2014
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    Default Re: What are the limits to growth? Expanding apiary.

    This coming year will be my third. My first year was a year of terrific mistakes, but this past year I worked with an older beekeeper who keeps around eighty. So I definitely gained a lot from my year with him. I went into winter with 7 hives. I'll be reducing winter's survivors to small cell before I start splitting them. I'm also going with something of a mini-nuc set-up. However many nucs I wind up with, my current plan is to overwinter them on top one another if they are small. I have a part time job and no kids. I'd like to make bees my full time thing before something like a family comes along.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    Location
    Lee County, Illinois
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    112

    Default Re: What are the limits to growth? Expanding apiary.

    Get a job with someone with a few thousand hives. Learn for
    A year or two.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
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    Brasher Falls, NY, USA
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    Default Re: What are the limits to growth? Expanding apiary.

    Quote Originally Posted by mperry89 View Post
    Regarding the sugar, I'm supposing that all that comb is going to take a lot of energy. I plan to feed in spring to give them a little better access to resources for all the building they'll be doing. I don't plan on feeding through the winter or making that a routine part of my management, it's just for the expansion.

    Thanks for your feedback. I'm asking these questions because I'm trying to gauge what is realistic and act from there.
    Unless you experience a really crappy summer, bees won't take sugar then and don't need it then.

    Not being critical, but the statement revealed a lack of understanding perhaps from a lack of experience or understanding. Or maybe you didn't really mean what you wrote.
    Mark Berninghausen "That which works, persists."

  10. #10
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    Default Re: What are the limits to growth? Expanding apiary.

    Quote Originally Posted by mperry89 View Post
    So given that, what in your experience did growing your apiary look like? How many years did it take to get where? Both in strength of your colonies and number of colonies. Thanks for the feedback.
    It takes years to get the experience and knowledge and money to grow. So, growth is limited by the amount of money you have to invest. Then there are all of the other impediments which haunt us all.
    Mark Berninghausen "That which works, persists."

  11. #11
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    Default Re: What are the limits to growth? Expanding apiary.

    Quote Originally Posted by mperry89 View Post
    I'll be reducing winter's survivors to small cell before I start splitting them.
    This made me shake my head when I read it. As if small cell is some sort of magic elixir? Best wishes.
    Mark Berninghausen "That which works, persists."

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    Location
    Dawson Creek, BC, Canada
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    Default Re: What are the limits to growth? Expanding apiary.

    This is my third summer keeping bees on my own. I bought 2 packages in 2012' and entered winter with 10 colonies, after getting 2 hives given to me by my wife's grand father. Last spring I purchased 40 nucs, and entered winter with 48 regular colonies, and 20 supers of split box nucs.

    For me their are several limitations to expansion rate. 1. Money. With enough capital, you can do anything, but few of us have that privilege. I estimate $300/hive for capital, not including bees probably a bit low still. (Buildings, trucks, hive equipment, extracting equipment,etc) 2. Drawn comb, everything is more difficult without drawn comb. 1/2 the honey crop, twice the swarming, twice the beekeeper manipulation labour. 3. Beekeeper skill and winter survival.

    These are the first things that come to my mind as I expand, and plan for farther expansion.
    Luke

  13. #13
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    Jun 2012
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    Dawson Creek, BC, Canada
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    177

    Default Re: What are the limits to growth? Expanding apiary.

    Quote Originally Posted by sqkcrk View Post
    This made me shake my head when I read it. As if small cell is some sort of magic elixir? Best wishes.
    I though about adding basically the same thing to my post while typing it but decided not to for fear of starting a war, but seeing as you went there....

    Mperry, you will have more than enough on your plate without introducing small cell.
    Luke
    Last edited by sharpdog; 03-12-2014 at 09:17 PM. Reason: Typo

  14. #14
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    Mar 2014
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    Ithaca, NY
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    Default Re: What are the limits to growth? Expanding apiary.

    Quote Originally Posted by sharpdog View Post
    I though about adding basically the same thing to my post while typing it but decided not to for fear of starting a war, but seeing as you went there....

    Mperry, you will have more than enough on your plate without introducing small cell.
    Luke
    Well I guess this is a bad time to tell you that my bees are foundationless. Not to kick the proverbial beehive or anything . . .

  15. #15
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    Apr 2010
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    Plainfield, New Hampshire, USA
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    Default Re: What are the limits to growth? Expanding apiary.

    I have been keeping bees for about 10 years. I set out with a goal to be able to make a living from keeping bees 4 years ago. I knew how much income I would need to be able to sustain my current standard of living. At the time I started in 09 I had around 30 colonies and I would overwinter a couple dozen nucs as well. In 2010 I stopped using treatments for mites ( didn't plan on this when I started ) as expected I had HUGE losses. Since then I built up to manage 150 colonies for honey production and last year I made up 165 nucs, I also built up a mating yard to 176 mating nucs. Its been slow going but what I see today is really fascinating! Bees that have come from my own apiary, stocks that I'm maintaining and that are theriving within my local.

  16. #16
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    Default Re: What are the limits to growth? Expanding apiary.

    Quote Originally Posted by THALL View Post
    I have been keeping bees for about 10 years. I set out with a goal to be able to make a living from keeping bees 4 years ago. I knew how much income I would need to be able to sustain my current standard of living. At the time I started in 09 I had around 30 colonies and I would overwinter a couple dozen nucs as well. In 2010 I stopped using treatments for mites ( didn't plan on this when I started ) as expected I had HUGE losses. Since then I built up to manage 150 colonies for honey production and last year I made up 165 nucs, I also built up a mating yard to 176 mating nucs. Its been slow going but what I see today is really fascinating! Bees that have come from my own apiary, stocks that I'm maintaining and that are theriving within my local.
    Nice! Thanks. That's the sort of advice I was looking for. So it took you about four years to get to that level? Do you do any artificial feeding (and if so, how much at different times of development) or have you just kept to the honey?

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Location
    Milw, WI
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    126

    Default Re: What are the limits to growth? Expanding apiary.

    How do you regress your bees to small cell if they are foundationless?
    Technology is great.....when it works.

  18. #18
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    Dec 2013
    Location
    Austin, Texas
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    117

    Default Re: What are the limits to growth? Expanding apiary.

    An old beekeeper told me first learn to keep 40 alive then expand from there. I'd say if you are serious, buy 40 nucs and evaluate your progress next spring.

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    Tucson, Arizona, USA
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    5,318

    Default Re: What are the limits to growth? Expanding apiary.

    Small cell and natural comb are not necessarily the same thing. But, since I do some of both, my process to reduce larger cells in the natural comb hives, is to cut out sections of larger cells, use those combs with larger cells for honey supers only, or to harvest the beeswax from undesirable combs and let the bees do it again (hoping they do it over to my satisfaction - often they do). Or, better yet, I can add a little extra space for the drone comb, place it in the center of the brood nest, of genetically desirable hives, for raising drones to mate with my queens.

    Using PF120 and PF125 Mann Lake plastic frames for its small cell size, seems to work best, for me, to quickly obtain a preponderance of nearly perfect small cell combs, almost every time. They do it best when the new frames are placed between combs of brood in the brood nest and primed with a little bit of extra beeswax coated on the rims of the cell wall bases. And recently I've taken the time to trim nearly all of my brood frames down to 1-1/4" width, so I can now fit nine in an eight-frame super or eleven in a ten-frame super.

    Of course I only use small cell and/or natural comb because initially it was a little bit outside of "normal" beekeeping practices; and not because I expected it to provide me any overt protections from parasites. I did and do believe that foundationless combs help the hives health by not introducing possibly tainted wax where it could contact (and possibly affect) the bees and their young, right there, in their homes.

    As far as expanding an operation: I feel that you should try. Only by trying, can you learn for yourself what to do and what not to do, so you can succeed in your objectives.

    DaveCushman's website has several plans concerning how to expand an apiary. Several other websites also describe creating splits and growing an apiary. I'm sure there are books that also describe those types of manipulations. Here's another link at DaveCushman's site which may also be of interest.
    Last edited by Joseph Clemens; 03-12-2014 at 10:54 PM.
    48 years - 50 hives - TF
    Joseph Clemens -- Website Under Constructioni

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Location
    Massillon, Ohio
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    3,394

    Default Re: What are the limits to growth? Expanding apiary.

    You have a handful of hives right now, and you plan on expanding to 250 within a couple of years? You said you have only a part time job right now. I hope you realize that you will be spending at least $25,000.00 on basic equipment to build up to that level. That is only a fraction of the investment needed at the level you are talking about.

    For your first year or two don't expect to get much of a return on your investment. If you have money set aside for the venture, that's great.
    But I would also advise to take it a little slower and learn the ropes first before you dive into the deep water.

    Don't mean to be negative, just suggesting that a bit more thought be put into this before you make the leap.
    Last edited by Mike Gillmore; 03-12-2014 at 10:41 PM.
    To everything there is a season....

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