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  1. #41
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    Default Re: I would like to be a commercial beek

    I was just making an example. I never said I made 20 grand off blueberries. I never said I was some large-scale beekeeper. Not to be gruff (I don't feel gruff, so it's not my intention to come off that way), but you seem like you're just reading my post out of context and picking it apart, but I don't think the things I wrote there were particularly outlandish things to say in the greater context of the thread.

    You probably know a lot better than I do about the right way to center his business, as I am a novice beekeeper just looking to expand myself, so I defer to your judgement. I was just making what I thought was an innocent suggestion about forage.

    On a semi-related note, how is 20 grand from 200 hives an outrageous amount? That's like 100 dollars a hive for the year's production. Unless you're getting really low yields or selling your honey for basement prices with no other revenue stream from your bee business, I would think you could clear that. As I said earlier in the thread, I'm a new beekeeper, so I don't mean to come off as being rude. I'm sure volume business has all sorts of other concerns, economic constraints and labor focuses than a small-scale operation.

  2. #42
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    Default Re: I would like to be a commercial beek

    I have a yard surrounded by managed HB blue berries, rarely have I seen the bees working the flowers. On the other hand the low bush blue berry mountains up the road a stretch seem to provide enough extra to put some weight on the hives.

  3. #43
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    Default Re: I would like to be a commercial beek

    Expenses hedges. What about the expenses?

    What does it cost to maintain a viable hive of bees? Maybe some of the Commercial Beekeepers can tell us? I have never tried to figure that out in my own operation, but a friend of mine w/ 7 times the number I have says it's something like $175.00 annually. So, even before you can imagine making a Profit your hive has to more than pay for itself.

    There's a lot more to doing commercial beekeeping than most people can imagine, let alone know.
    Mark Berninghausen "That which works, persists."

  4. #44
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    Default Re: I would like to be a commercial beek

    Well, I guess it depends on where you draw the line of expenses and where you draw the line on profit. I mean, you could reinvest every cent you make back into expansion and say you don't make a dime as a beekeeper. But if he's at a point where he's got a stable infrastructure built out, and he wants to get to ~200-300 hives which he manages himself, then the expenses are certainly lower, to say the least. He's not paying labor.

    If he's woodworking with cheap supplies, let's say he's spending...20 bucks on a nuc. and selling them for what? 100 dollars? (to use rounded numbers). So, a healthy hive can give him say 2 nucs, conservatively, early in the season, and net him 160 bucks...and still allow him to pull off nurse bees and/or split for pollination and/or build up a modest honey harvest. His other listed activities would have to operate at a net loss, and then his other maintenance expenses would have to eat up 60 bucks to get back under the 100 dollar per hive level.

    I'm not trying to be snotty. I'm really not. But what are the other huge expenses?

  5. #45
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    Default Re: I would like to be a commercial beek

    I am going to be the south end of a north bound mule:

    There is a catch 22. Any smart beekeeper is not going to teach you everything he knows for free. That is giving the farm away for free. Alot of their knowledge is hard earned, and they would be a fool to hand it out freely.On the other hand, anyone willing to educate you for free MAY not have knowledge worth having.

    Add one more skill to the list: Microbiologist. We seem to be adding new pests faster than cures.



    Crazy(at least I got that part right) Roland

  6. #46
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    Default Re: I would like to be a commercial beek

    I guess I could get out my Profit or Loss from Farming and read it off to you, but I'm not going to do that.

    I need a new deck on my truck and new tires too, on my F-450. I can't write them off, since I claim mileage. Fuel is one of my bigest expenses. Repairs and maintanences. Nuf for now.
    Mark Berninghausen "That which works, persists."

  7. #47
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    Default Re: I would like to be a commercial beek

    Quote Originally Posted by hedges View Post
    Well, I guess it depends on where you draw the line of expenses and where you draw the line on profit.
    First off u forgot to mention Loss. It doesn't matter where I draw the line of expenses and where I draw the line on profit. The way I understand it, Profit is what moneys are left over after you have subtracted Expenses from Income. If there is anything left over that's the Profit. To get $20,000.00, your number of choice, you'd have to have $100,000.00 Income and $80,000.00 in Expenses. Many years that has been hard to do.
    Mark Berninghausen "That which works, persists."

  8. #48
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    Default Re: I would like to be a commercial beek

    hedges, we go thru this discussion once or twice a year. I don't mind your questions or statements. I hope you don't mind my replys. I tell it like I have seen it, have lived it.
    Mark Berninghausen "That which works, persists."

  9. #49
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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 ....

    ......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.
    This is indeed food for thought, and I appreciate this input greatly. Yes, I have toyed with the idea of turning shirt revenue into beehives, and going from there, but I don't stay up late into the night learning more about the shirt business, I leave that to the long term girlfriend who has been great to both my son, my bees, and I. That's her passion, I just invested in it, and help out when the bees want me to leave them alone, so to speak.

    I don't go to shirt printing conventions, I don't buy volumes, nor intend to about it, I don't even remotely want to go to school for it. But it is doing well for me and quenches my thirst for being involved with bees by taking what little I do know, and observe as beautiful, and turning it into a design to sell to some other beek who wants more than just hives in the yard, who wants a shirt to show off as a conversational piece when they are out in the human hive.

    What it boils down to, is I am not passionate about shirt printing like I am about plants and bees, or the natural world in general. I could see myself keeping it up small time, but it is not ideally how I would like to spend my life, nor to make my mark. It is providing income right now so it will continue, until I get something else built up I really like to spend my energies on. I like plants, plants got me into bees, the symbiotic relationship just seems to fit with who I want to be(e), what I want to work with, and around, ya know?

    Quote Originally Posted by hpm08161947 View Post
    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........ But there is nothing wrong with a 200 hive sideliner operation - but these guys are not called commercial beekeepers.
    Are we thinking about the same totes? I was thinking about those squarish white plastic containers, they sometimes use in aquaponics, or for rainwater catchment and the like. of course chemical storage and all that as well im sure....

    Anyway, you are probably right, but I wouldn't quite say I am limiting myself to 200 hives. I would like 200 hives to be a 2 or 3 year goal, see what it takes, what the potential is for me, and go from there. Be it stay at 200, or exponentially grow. I don't think I can split my way up to 2000 in a reasonable time, and personally I would worry about inbreeding after awhile, but I'm not too sure how that starts to play in over time.

    What I do like, is to entertain the idea of having 200 hives one year, and deciding to go out, and pollinate, start growing, and see where I could "hover" to make a comfortable income. After 200 hives, I would probably need employees. I have no idea what to pay an employee in this line of work, but that's later on.

    Your 2000 hives figure is what I was looking for. It is your opinion that it takes that many to live "middle" class comfortably. This is what I was looking for. So this year, I know how to manage 4 hives, next year hopefully the learning curve (personally) will allow me to learn how to manage 20-40 hives. The next year is dependent on so many things, but before I start to even fathom where I am going, I was trying to get some opinions on what it would take to be a small(er) commercial outfit, or if it was even feasible, without inheriting a company, or knowing the right folks, or some unknown. For example, I can't go open up a bank because I like working with money, it would just require too much. Too much red tape, too much money (If i had that kind of money, I wouldn't want to be a banker anyway!) those kinds of things.

    2000 makes sense. I'm not sure what your definition of "middle" class income would be in this day and age, or if that is profits etc etc.

    I can understand why someone might say $20,000 from 200 hives, when I first started pipe-dreaming, that's what I was thinking. One of the apiaries around here makes about ten splits from an established hive. I say 5 is realistic. 5x100 hives @ 125 per split (the nuc you make) take ten for the cardboard box, ten for frames, you are roughly profiting around 100 a split, @ 500 splits, it just seems like good money. Take the other 100 and send them to almonds or something at 135 a hive, or 125 a hive, and add that, and the additional splits to restock your apiary....in theory.....

    But then reading into it, I'm thinking this sounds too good to be true....What about how many hives fail in winter, disease throughout the year, swarms, feeding cost because you have a ton of hives in a small area with not enough forage, replacing broken equipment, the time it takes to run all this, etc etc and the suspected profits start to blur. So you supplement by selling queens, but it still doesn't seem right.

    So what I did, was in addition to trying to find technical books on the matter, try to find one about becoming more commercial, tried to find some videos, tried to find SOMETHING and came up empty handed. So I thought I would toss the idea around here some. I wanna know, how much is reasonable for a one man operation, with some help time to time I suppose, to make a living from? Then, what about actually taking it from sideliner, to hardcore sideliner, to commercial. I'm trying to figure out some goals, and where as idealistic as i am, think I might fit.


    Quote Originally Posted by hedges View Post
    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.
    I like the idea, but I would have to work up to having so much more land. I plant 2 acres of buckwheat, and 2 acres of clover for my current hives, plus the garden, plus my stock of plants to take cuttings from for sale or excess, what have you. There will always be plants here we try to grow and sell, or eat, but I think after so many hives, pick your own would become a liability, and I would be moving on to other ventures, such as pollination anyway. Great idea though, I do love to see the cells fill up with dark honey just after it starts to bloom!

    Edit: Oh, and as far as the wood, sound advice. My dad has been in the wood industry my whole life, my dad knows what kinds does what under what conditions, where any supply I might get comes from, anything I could ever want to know and then some about the wood. He would be giving me the direction as to what woods to use. After all, it is what he does, a customer says, I need wood for such and such, and he says, well such and such wood is good for that, and so forth.

  10. #50
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    Default Re: I would like to be a commercial beek

    Quote Originally Posted by hpm08161947 View Post
    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.
    In blueberries you feed that is why you charge more. You get pollen but, BB is not great for bee's real hard on them. IMHO

    Yes totes are the white boxes http://www.gottagosurplus.com/Pallet...ers_photo1.jpg

  11. #51
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    Default Re: I would like to be a commercial beek

    Its kind of hard to make generalizations about expenses with such a wide range of differing operations in different parts of the country. Also, economies of scale can substantially reduce per hive overhead costs. I would think, though, that most commercials should be able to stay in the $100 dollar per hive range. For us the major expenses are labor, freight, feed and woodenware/foundation replacement, pretty much in that order. Major capital expenditures are trucks, forklifts, extracting equipment, and facility upgrades. On the other hand spending more may well net you a far greater return....no better example than a well run pollen sub program or a migratory relocation.
    "People will generally accept facts as truth only if the facts agree with what they already believe."- Andy Rooney

  12. #52
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    Jan 2013
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    Randolph, NC, USA
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    Default Re: I would like to be a commercial beek

    I did not see this last page before I posted. haha.

    I was seriously thinking along the lines of hedges about this, but admitingly don't know much about how the business works, obviously.

    I know there are expenses, but I cannot fathom how much expenses are, besides feed, and treatments if you go that route. Yea, eventually mortgage and stuff, tires as previously mentioned, but I'm just not seeing how one can't make a decent living on 200 hives, not even factoring in honey production. I've solely been contemplating queens, nuts, and every once in a while selling pollen to health food stores and the like as pollen bound hives are a plenty around here.


    I am not expecting someone to hand me over their years of hard work in gaining knowledge, but surely there has to be some starting point for someone in my (and hedges?) situation. So rather than killing bees, and loosing years of my life investing in something I possibly have been way, way off about just waiting for the final days I see return that never happen, I was looking for a good starting point.

    I just don't see the huge deal, other than work ethic and high start up costs. Yea, those are indeed big deals, but with every apiary around here A) ALWAYS sold out of queens, nucs, and packages, additionally, most seem to be sourcing their stock from georgia, why not cut myself a niche and be a local guy? Surely it can be done. Perhaps I am too hopeful and unrealistic, but at least hedges and I were on similar pages in our thinking.

    I don't think anyone is being a smarty, direct, yes, but not purposfully mean. It can be quite difficult to communicate with others face to face, just think about all the tone, body language, and word emphasis to name a few we are missing out on in this forum, only reading words from others.

  13. #53
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    Default Re: I would like to be a commercial beek

    Quote Originally Posted by jim lyon View Post
    Its kind of hard to make generalizations about expenses with such a wide range of differing operations in different parts of the country. Also, economies of scale can substantially reduce per hive overhead costs. I would think, though, that most commercials should be able to stay in the $100 dollar per hive range. For us the major expenses are labor, freight, feed ,......
    That's one of the main things I am trying to figure out. What does it cost, roughly, to freight say, 100 hives from say the eastern seaboard to the west, and back.

    What bits of information I miss out on, is obviously weight of a hive, full of bees and comb, how high you stack them, how all this gets moved on and off, do pallets stack 2 high? three? Just seems like alot I'm missing.

    100 hives seems more than reasonable in my current trajectory in 2 years time. 3 maybe. Just trying to see what I might profit from say a "dream" (just seems so common, a good place to start rather) almond contract? Getting them on something early seems to make sense for making splits to sell, or grow with, etc etc....

  14. #54
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    Default Re: I would like to be a commercial beek

    Guy: The tough thing is getting to a profitability point when you are starting from scratch. You are getting some good advice here, from some pretty experienced guys. First learn a bit more about the business and the lifestyle required to be successful with some first hand experience. Sure it can be done, but you can also fail at it just as easily because unless you have some pretty good cash reserves you have so little margin for error. You must make a large investment both in time and money but the good news is that currently honey prices and pollination rates are at all time highs so the potential is there but so is the risk.
    "People will generally accept facts as truth only if the facts agree with what they already believe."- Andy Rooney

  15. #55
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    Default Re: I would like to be a commercial beek

    Quote Originally Posted by GuyDurden View Post
    That's one of the main things I am trying to figure out. What does it cost, roughly, to freight say, 100 hives from say the eastern seaboard to the west, and back.

    What bits of information I miss out on, is obviously weight of a hive, full of bees and comb, how high you stack them, how all this gets moved on and off, do pallets stack 2 high? three? Just seems like alot I'm missing.

    100 hives seems more than reasonable in my current trajectory in 2 years time. 3 maybe. Just trying to see what I might profit from say a "dream" (just seems so common, a good place to start rather) almond contract? Getting them on something early seems to make sense for making splits to sell, or grow with, etc etc....
    The short answer is $3 per loaded mile, one way to haul 1 lb. or 48,000 lbs.....but you have to have trucks to pool them, equipment to load them, someone you trust to handle them on the other end, though it's best to travel yourself to care for them personally which requires feed, supplements, facilities, equipment and of course none of this is cheap. It's a bit difficult to put a simple price tag on all of this. But just 100 hives in this scenario I am afraid just really dosent pencil out unless you can "piggy back" with someone.
    "People will generally accept facts as truth only if the facts agree with what they already believe."- Andy Rooney

  16. #56
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    Default Re: I would like to be a commercial beek

    Quote Originally Posted by jim lyon View Post
    But just 100 hives in this scenario I am afraid just really dosent pencil out unless you can "piggy back" with someone.
    I am 300 hives and I am still not commercial. Just a sideliner. I take my hives to almonds but, that is because I can drive there in less then a day.

    The title of this thread is a bit deceiving there is no way to go from 2 hives to commercial in less then 5 years unless you buy an existing operation. So not sure what we are going to get out of this thread.

  17. #57
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    Default Re: I would like to be a commercial beek

    Quote Originally Posted by sqkcrk View Post
    I need a new deck on my truck and new tires too, on my F-450. I can't write them off, since I claim mileage. Fuel is one of my bigest expenses. Repairs and maintanences. Nuf for now.
    Mark, have you ever looked into incorporating? Saved me some real money in my business.
    Regards, Barry

  18. #58
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    Default Re: I would like to be a commercial beek

    Quote Originally Posted by GuyDurden View Post
    I know there are expenses, but I cannot fathom how much expenses are,

    selling pollen to health food stores and the like as pollen bound hives are a plenty around here.

    why not cut myself a niche and be a local guy? Surely it can be done.
    Of course you can fathom it because you are on the outside looking in at all you see probably seeing ther trucks and other equipment not realizing that that new truck belongs to the Bank not the beekeeper. They just let him use it for a hefty month fee.

    Selling pollen to healthfood stores? There is a reason no one else in your area is doing it. The economics of it. Not worth the trouble and the costs.

    Cut yourself a queen and package niche? Sure, you could do that. But again, why hasn't someone else already done that? There are reasons why the major queen and package producers are, and have been for decades, further south from you.

    I don't mean to rain on your parade. But you are dreaming too big and too much right now. I'm sure you will come out of it eventually when the rubber meets the road. Go see your local commercial beekeeper, as Herb suggested. Take him to lunch or dinner and see if you can pick his brain for an hour. I bet you'd get an education on why things are the way they are in NC.

    Get him to let you go out to the bees w/ him once a week or more. He might even pay you. He might need a Grunt and a Gofer. Though he probably won't let you do the fun stuff like run the skidsteer.
    Mark Berninghausen "That which works, persists."

  19. #59
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    Default Re: I would like to be a commercial beek

    Quote Originally Posted by GuyDurden View Post
    That's one of the main things I am trying to figure out. What does it cost, roughly, to freight say, 100 hives from say the eastern seaboard to the west, and back.

    Just seems like alot I'm missing.
    $2.50 to $3.00/mile.

    Yes, there is. I think u may be doing a lot of cart before the horse thinking which could be quite discouraging.
    Mark Berninghausen "That which works, persists."

  20. #60
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    Default Re: I would like to be a commercial beek

    Quote Originally Posted by Barry View Post
    Mark, have you ever looked into incorporating? Saved me some real money in my business.
    Thought about it. Didn't see the benefit. Maybe we should talk. Things I could learn too.
    Mark Berninghausen "That which works, persists."

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