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  1. #21
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    Default Re: I would like to be a commercial beek

    Quote Originally Posted by hedges View Post
    I also have aspirations of becoming a more serious side-liner next year. I only have 2 hives right now, but I love it, have a lot of enthusiasm, live in a relatively rural place, and have the youth to be willing to gamble my time.

    Right now I'm just saving money for the supplies to create my own hives. I read a post a couple weeks ago extolling the virtues of plastic foundation - that while bees generally don't like it quite as much, most bee keepers will replace foundation every 3 years, so being able to just clean it off and reinsert saves large amounts of money in the long run.

    My idea for next year is to establish hive sites at 5-6 locations, with 8-10 hives per location. At the end of next summer I'm going to start a more serious job, but I figure if I can have the things built and setup, in following years I can do most of the inspection work on weekends, allowing me to keep my 50+ hives going, and sell splits as necessary to keep my sideline in sideline territory.

    After that, if I feel that I'm losing an opportunity by not pollinating, I'll start doing that. But the problem with pollinating here is that most production sites are cranberries, and with the pesticides and weak forage, those are pretty hard on bees. So, with my lack of experience and a new operation, I'm much more concerned with building up a strong and resilient stock in the next couple years before further complicating it all with the logistics and potential pitfalls of loaning out my bees.

    I say good luck. If it's interesting to you, and you think it might work, TRY IT! But always be aware that you can fail, and don't overextend yourself. I think starting small isn't a bad idea, but more important is knowing how much is too much to bite off. And that, no one can tell you.
    I really appreciate your encouragement. It seems we are in a similar boat. I am young, and looking for somewhere to start spending my time. I realize that sometimes, I do indeed bite off more than I can chew, and so I am balancing that in this venture.

    I feel like I am young enough to start making some mistakes and learning from them, as you said (I bolded.)

    My dad has been a veneer salesman most his life. I have inquired about acquiring solid wood, of good quality for this project, he has informed me he has the connections I need to get a very affordable, regular supply of wood(s). My goal this winter is to build 100 hives, and not all will be used the following spring. I have the free time to invest, I guess I am just going to have ot figure out where to invest my time. I figured making the resources to house the bees was a good start. It will at least save me some start up cost and hopefully get me ahead in the coming years of growth.

    There are some excellent queen rearers around here I am learning from, and plan on starting, for practice, next year, as most of my splits are going to need queens, obviously.

    I do not think I ever want to get above much over 250 or so hives, 300 max. In theory, from what I have learned, this should provide me nucs to sell, as well as a small, manageable pollination outfit, and help cover losses. I have a screen printing business that I hope will help me cover bad years, and plan on starting an herb business as well.

    I do not plan on really getting into honey sales, or woodenware sales. My focus will be on nucs and queens, and possibly pollination, depending on life circumstance and the logistics of such an endeavor. I still have much, much, much to learn about becoming an even small scale pollinator.

    Quote Originally Posted by EastSideBuzz View Post
    So true. 300 is a full time job and with a full time job one gets in the way quite allot. There are many days I am at work knowing that I have to do something since the weather is nice but, cant because of a meeting. Several swarms probably happened because I had to work to pay the bills. Spending every weekend and most evenings drives my wife nuts. This is a true test of our marriage. I might be sleeping with the girls some day and it will be my fault. At least the dog house would be more cozy.


    You need 2 deep brood boxes and 2-3 deep supers and 2-3 western supers per hive. So you can rotate them out of one honey crop into another one and extract in a timely fashion. That is a lot of work to build and paint etc. No way to do more them 100 hives extra each year unless you have a crew to help in the off season to build. Forget vacations.


    Good luck and keep your day job until you grow large enough. You will need the cash. Also if I had it to do over I would do 8 frame deeps.
    Thank you also for your post, this is helping me put things into real terms.

    I figured around 70-120 hives starts becoming full time, which is why I'm trying to get to 100 +/- hives in the next two years, and decide what to do from there.

    I am assuming, that by western super you mean a medium box. Why wouldn't I keep all the boxes the same for bee production? This would help aid in making splits, and selling nucs in deep frames, or keep it all mediums and making medium frame nucs? Wouldn't the more universal setup, keeping it all one size, make it easier to checkerboard as well?

    Why wouldn't I just grow more slowly, and sell some splits and use some to grow, and have it more set up to pay for the materials to grow?


    Quote Originally Posted by sqkcrk View Post
    I wasn't ready to reply w/ a detailed explanation at the time. I imagine that you have heard the saying "Be careful what you wish for, you might just get it.", haven't you?

    If you are going to be successful at making beekeeping you occupation you will need a lot of time, money, and hard work. Putting in the hours will take you from your son when you might rather be w/ him. I don't know how old he is, but there are only some times when it will be practical for him to be w/ you when u are working your bees.

    There are plenty of other commercial beekeepers on beesource who can answer your questions perhaps better than I. Hopefully they will chime in.

    Find out, by doing, what it really takes. Find a commercial beekeeper who will employ you or even just go out w/ them for a week. Establish a knowledge of Accounting/Bookeeping. Small Business courses. Access your talents and abilities. Determine how strong your desire is. Will anything stand in your way?


    Best wishes. Doing what you bring up here can be quite fulfilling and at times quite discouraging. It's farming unlike any other farming most people think of when they think of farming.
    Well I appreciate you coming back and elaborating.

    My son is two, I am divorced from his mother, which is why I only have him from thursdays until mondays. I hope that when he gets older, I will get him suited up and working with me. Right now, I am trying to develop a strategy to incorperate homeschooling into our way of life. Counting days of lifecycles, crunching finacial figures, and seasonal changes seem to be an interesting and applicable way to incorperate lessons into his day. He is not old enough for him to travel with me on contract work, but his mother has entertained the idea when he is old enough, so that he can travel a bit, and earn it, whilst learning and applying skills. We will see how that goes, and ultimately this will shape the direction I take with my business ventures.

    I find myself, as others find me, fiercely tenacious, and hyper focused even. The ex says I focus so much she thinks I have the kind of focus that constitutes me having asperger's syndrome, I guess being focused and committed isn't as valued in my generation as before. But it has been in my experience that the focused and dedicated are the ones that excel and achieve.

    Quote Originally Posted by sqkcrk View Post
    Don't try to understand the tone here. We are just trying to be honest and forthright w/ our advice and outlook.
    And I appreciate it, I just haven't posted a ton here, and wasn't sure of the general mood. Thanks though.

    Quote Originally Posted by hpm08161947 View Post
    The tone is serious. If you know enough to consider being a commercial beekeeper, then he will hire you.

    There will be no commute. You will be in CA,. FLA, NC, NJ, and ME and perhaps some other states I can't think of. You will learn to drive a rig, balance a load, position a spreader, strap it, net it,load 3 pallets of double deeps at a time - things you will never learn building your own frames out back. Too many other things to mention here.

    Never forget... a commercial beekeeper is not a big hobbiest.
    I go every so often to two local apiaries, this seems to fit my current schedule. I'm learning the basics of apiary management, gaining valuable networking, and learning general practices. I wish I could seize the opportunity you offered, before I had my son, I would have been on that like white on rice.

    Quote Originally Posted by Rusty Hills Farm View Post
    I am not a commercial beek, but have been at this since the 90s, so I've learned a few things. Since nobody seems to have mentioned it, I will: Namely, the bees do not always cooperate with our plans for them. If you want to be commercial, you NEED to be able to recognize what you are looking at in a hive and already know what to do for it. Bad choices cost you time, money, and bees. That's where working for someone else comes in. They already know these things and can teach you what you need to learn. Any accountant can crunch numbers, but it takes a beekeeper--and a dang good one at that--to manage 50-100-500 colonies without losing half your operation to normal beekeeping catastrophes. Knowing what to do and when to do it is job one.

    Consider this: just this week there have been 3-4 posts from hobbyists about their harvests of 10 lbs per hive. Now look at the posts from the commercial guys about what a banner year they are having and how a few are expecting harvests of 200 lbs from a bunch of their hives. Just HOW do they do that--that's what you need to learn if you expect to feed your family from your hives. They already know how to cover their yearly losses. They already know how to build their numbers. They already know WHERE to place their hives so they won't lose half their bees each year to chemicals. And they know how to extract the resulting crop and sell it for the best prices. Selling 20-40-60 THOUSAND lbs of honey profitably takes a whole different set of skills from selling at the local farmer's market.

    All of these things are VERY learnable. The trick is to learn them from OTHER PEOPLE'S MISTAKES and not your own.

    Good luck with this. If I were just starting out, I'd be thinking the same as you and looking hard at the beekeeper's life, too. Have fun with your journey!

    JMO


    Rusty
    Thanks for the encouragement!

    What I am currently trying to figure out, aside from more advanced skills and practices, is exactly how many hives I would like to average, and what kind of income and time commitment each "tier" supports. For example, 10 hives is much different from managing 100 hives, which is different still from 300 hives. I'm trying to figure out what number is going to best work for me. 10 hives does not seem like enough, 500 seems like too much, but also opens doors. Trying to learn from other beekeepers with varying numbers of hives, and how they manage them, and their potential average income the number of hives support is where I am.

    I simply do not know if 100 hives is enough to make more than supplemental income, or if I might as well have 200, andmake a decent living.

    So realistically, do I want to be a hardcore sideliner, earning substantial income from 100+/- hives, selling cuttings from herbs and plants I grow, or do I want to go small scale commercial and have 200+/- and rely mainly (because of time restrictions) on bees for income?


    Quote Originally Posted by sqkcrk View Post
    You mentioned being in the Navy. (Thanks for your service.) So you know hwo to take orders, I assume, and have lived under someone else telling you what to do and when to do it. You may have also learned to do things when you can and not when you want to. Are you selfmotivated? Are you your best employee or do you work better and harder for someone else?

    If the weather isn't ideal, maybe raining even, will you be out in the bees putting on supers or getting soaking wet moving bees to another location?

    Are you a workaholic? It wouldn't hurt.
    Right on. I definitely learned that things need to be done on or even before they need to be done, and not when it is convenient for me. I am very self motivated. I work hardest for myself, because I work hardest when I fully understand the goal, and not some ambiguous direction bestowed upon me by someone else's goals and desires. I enjoy working independantly, or in small groups.

    Rain, not a problem. Mind over matter makes me a stronger person.


    Quote Originally Posted by MNbees View Post
    First you need to be: trucker, mechanic, plumber, electrician, carpenter, machine operator, and most of all, crazy!!
    Crazy: check.

    Quote Originally Posted by hpm08161947 View Post
    This reminded me of a rather large commercial beekeeper (3500 hives) - who when queried about why he would not hive a guy with 20 years of experience.... replied "It would take me 20 years to unteach him what he already thinks he knows!" "Blank Slates" can be very trainable. Besides the only real requirement seems to be a strong back and a strong work ethic - a CDL would not hurt...
    That makes sense. It seems harder to unlearn something than to learn something.....

  2. #22
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    Default Re: I would like to be a commercial beek

    Quote Originally Posted by hpm08161947 View Post
    Yea... I like it. Pretty sure that a Commercial Beekeeper and a hobbiest are two different critters. Perhaps that explains the tension that exists between the two groups?
    Yea, There is a difference. I am at 300 and they still give me flack. They consider me a hobbyist. If you have a day job then you are not commercial until your sole income is from bee farming. Even then it is up for discussion with retirement and SS adding to the pie.

    Hobbyist think they know stuff and they do on a small scale. Keeping 2 hives alive is different then 10k and it is not just a multiplication factor. They/we have no idea what it is like to do it on a mammoth scale. You cant feel the stress and pain until you are large.

    I am still small compared to commercial guys with thousands of hives. The largest guy in my state has like 17 beekeepers working for him and he is 50 times bigger then me. I cant even fathom it. He buys a dozen tankers of syrup --> I buy a tote --> hobbyist buy a bucket, Big difference.

    So yes there is friction. Most big commercial guys don't post here. There is nothing in it for them. They have their circle and they call each other. They are typically old timers and have been doing this before us yuppie computer guys. There is not much place for computers in a large operation but, in the back office. There is no software that you cant take out in the field that will help you do a better job. A queen dies your replace her and keep count. Knowing which hive produces more out of thousands is not important, a over achieving yard is good to know. You equalize them and keep going.

  3. #23
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    Default Re: I would like to be a commercial beek

    I have no idea what at tote of syrup would cost, or even how many hives that would feed. I cannot imagine what a tanker of syrup would cost! That's a ton (literally?") of syrup......

  4. #24
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    Default Re: I would like to be a commercial beek

    Do what you do best and pay for the rest.

    A Professor when i was in school in Ohio posed the idea that a Dairy Farm only needed enough land for what it took for the barn, milk house, grain and hay storage and acreage necassary to spread the manure on. The Dairy will be more profitable buying all of the feed, rather than owning or renting land to grow crops on and not having to own all of the special equipment for the planting and harvesting.

    The same may be true for beekeeping. The time one spends building hive bodies and supers from locally milled lumber may be better spent doing something income producing. Like more t-shirts.

    Food for thought.
    Mark Berninghausen
    Squeak Creek Apiaries



  5. #25
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    Default Re: I would like to be a commercial beek

    Quote Originally Posted by GuyDurden View Post
    I have no idea what at tote of syrup would cost, or even how many hives that would feed. I cannot imagine what a tanker of syrup would cost! That's a ton (literally?") of syrup......
    250 gallons times 12lb/gallon at .45/lb =$1350.00/tote feeds 250 hives once. Often one needs to feed more than once just to get bees to a nectar flow time.
    Mark Berninghausen
    Squeak Creek Apiaries



  6. #26
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    Default Re: I would like to be a commercial beek

    Quote Originally Posted by sqkcrk View Post
    Do what you do best and pay for the rest.

    A Professor when i was in school Food for thought.
    Well said, Mark
    NUTRA-BEE feed supplements

  7. #27
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    Default Re: I would like to be a commercial beek

    Quote Originally Posted by Keith Jarrett View Post
    Well said, Mark
    Thanks Keith. That means something to me, coming from you.

    I have no idea how to make Protein Substitute and almost no desire to learn how. Too bad you aren't closer. My wife will be visiting our daughter near Sacremento. But I don't think she can bring back enuf of your product in her baggage to make it worth while. lol
    Mark Berninghausen
    Squeak Creek Apiaries



  8. #28
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    Default Re: I would like to be a commercial beek

    Quote Originally Posted by GuyDurden View Post
    I have no idea what at tote of syrup would cost, or even how many hives that would feed. I cannot imagine what a tanker of syrup would cost! That's a ton (literally?") of syrup......
    A tote usually weighs in around 1.5 tons.....

    Sounds like your real desire is to be a sideliner, since your are immobile and limit yourself to around 200 hives. To sustain a "Middle Class" lifestyle seems to require about 2000 hives at least IMHO. I have not seen many split there way to that level, it usually means buying operations, which means a credit line, which requires some work experience.... so I am back to Timmy Holt But there is nothing wrong with a 200 hive sideliner operation - but these guys are not called commercial beekeepers.
    “Don’t tell me how educated you are, tell me how much you have travelled.” - The Quran

  9. #29
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    Default Re: I would like to be a commercial beek

    Quote Originally Posted by GuyDurden View Post
    I have no idea what at tote of syrup would cost,
    Cost me close to a grand weighed 3k or so. That was one feeding. Even my forklift had a tough time getting it off the truck. Oh yea you need a truck that can handle 3k.

    The price break is at 17 totes. Could not get that together this year.

  10. #30
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    Default Re: I would like to be a commercial beek

    Quote Originally Posted by sqkcrk View Post
    Thanks Keith. That means something to me, coming from you.
    Thanks for the kind words Mark... but lets not get carried away here. lol

    But you bring up a very important point Mark, do what you do best and buy the rest. I buy all my assembled boxes from Shastina mill works & all my pre-assembled frames from Dadant, I think it was around 3,000 this winter. They do a good job, and I don't want to compete against a machine to find out who can do it the cheapest.

    It's not much different than my Nutra Bee sub, what pushed me in that direction was the stuff at the bee supply house's just wasn't getting the job done, as I sell alot of bees in the spring, I want something that works.
    Last edited by Keith Jarrett; 07-09-2013 at 01:53 PM. Reason: adding
    NUTRA-BEE feed supplements

  11. #31
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    Default Re: I would like to be a commercial beek

    My only real piece of advice is to make sure you know what the wood is you're getting. Kiln-dried stuff won't warp, but costs more. It's all about weighing the cost vs reward, but I can't imagine warped hives are worth much.

    Beyond that, if you're going to have a yard, you should look into planting a good crop that gets good yield increases from pollination and has a good value at market. Raspberries come to mind if you can plant them in such a way that they don't get out of control - raspberries get a ~30% yield increase in weight from aggressive bee pollination (they don't produce more fruit, but the fruit are substantially bigger) and raspberries can sell for a premium. Other fruits like apple get larger yield increases, but perhaps aren't quite as nutritious, shall we say, to bees.

  12. #32
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    Default Re: I would like to be a commercial beek

    Sorry hedges, I disagree, I know no commercial beekeepers who plant bee feed plants. I have as yet not been shown the economic worth/benefit to planting bee feed. Commercial Beekeepers take advantage of naturally occuring sources of nectar and pollen or nectar and pollen plants grown by other farmers.
    Mark Berninghausen
    Squeak Creek Apiaries



  13. #33
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    Default Re: I would like to be a commercial beek

    Well, I wouldn't call this a conversation about professional beekeepers - the reasons having been delineated earlier in the thread. I also think you misunderstand me. The man lives on a small farm. My point was that if he's going to have an apiary there, he'd be adding easy revenue to have a high profit, low maintenance crop which received some benefit from the extra pollination he's providing with it. The principle is really the same as any agricultural pollination.

    If I can make 20 grand with my apiary, or 20 grand with my apiary and also have a booming u pick blueberry field, or better yet - something easily harvestable which has a high retail price (Chinese chestnuts come to mind, idk) that brings in an extra 5 grand a year, it seems like a no brainer.

  14. #34
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    Default Re: I would like to be a commercial beek

    Quote Originally Posted by hedges View Post
    If I can make 20 grand with my apiary, or 20 grand with my apiary and also have a booming u pick blueberry field, or better yet - something easily harvestable which has a high retail price (Chinese chestnuts come to mind, idk) that brings in an extra 5 grand a year, it seems like a no brainer.
    To make $20,000 from 200 hives is doing extremely well - particularly without pollination contracts. What kind of acreage are you planting to feed your bees?
    “Don’t tell me how educated you are, tell me how much you have travelled.” - The Quran

  15. #35
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    Default Re: I would like to be a commercial beek

    $20,000 from 200 hives and he does not have to move them. I want that gig.

    We get so side tracked so easily.

  16. #36
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    Default Re: I would like to be a commercial beek

    Quote Originally Posted by hedges View Post
    Well, I wouldn't call this a conversation about professional beekeepers - the reasons having been delineated earlier in the thread. I also think you misunderstand me. The man lives on a small farm. My point was that if he's going to have an apiary there, he'd be adding easy revenue to have a high profit, low maintenance crop which received some benefit from the extra pollination he's providing with it. The principle is really the same as any agricultural pollination.

    If I can make 20 grand with my apiary, or 20 grand with my apiary and also have a booming u pick blueberry field, or better yet - something easily harvestable which has a high retail price (Chinese chestnuts come to mind, idk) that brings in an extra 5 grand a year, it seems like a no brainer.
    You wouldn't? It's right there in the Thread title. And this is the Commercial Beekeeping Forum. I guess I missed the part where he mentioned living on a small farm. More money to be made on the hay than the nectar or pollen from it.

    Have you CLEARED 20 grand your apiary? Have you grown a blueberry crop? The guy whose blueberrys I pollinate could probably teach us all a thing or two. He grows blueberrys and I manage beehives. He does what he knows how to do and I do what I know how to do.
    Mark Berninghausen
    Squeak Creek Apiaries



  17. #37
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    Default Re: I would like to be a commercial beek

    great thread here

  18. #38
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    Default Re: I would like to be a commercial beek

    Quote Originally Posted by sqkcrk View Post
    Have you grown a blueberry crop? The guy whose blueberrys I pollinate could probably teach us all a thing or two. He grows blueberrys and I manage beehives. He does what he knows how to do and I do what I know how to do.
    Did you get a big honey crop off those Blueberrys? Seems like I remember feeding them a little syrup

    I've never seen blueberries produce a honey crop to speak of. Guess they do get some pollen.
    “Don’t tell me how educated you are, tell me how much you have travelled.” - The Quran

  19. #39
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    Default Re: I would like to be a commercial beek

    No I didn't. But I heard I was getting some Jelly off of them. lol
    Mark Berninghausen
    Squeak Creek Apiaries



  20. #40
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    Default Re: I would like to be a commercial beek

    Quote Originally Posted by sqkcrk View Post
    No I didn't. But I heard I was getting some Jelly off of them. lol
    Soon, very soon.

    Maybe that's how Hedges made the $20,000.... selling blueberry jam..... A lot more jam than honey.
    “Don’t tell me how educated you are, tell me how much you have travelled.” - The Quran

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