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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
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    proctorsville, vermont
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    192

    Default hobbyist to commercial

    how many hives does one need to be conciderd a commercial beekeeper ?
    and how does one build his numbers to achieve the status ? does one build numbers slowly or does one just buy the nucs,
    queens, or packages to achieve the numbers ?
    thats the way i roll.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    Auckland,Auckland,New Zealand
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    7,265

    Default Re: hobiest to comercial

    My definition of a commercial beekeeper is someone who makes his living by keeping bees.

    There are many ways to get enough hives to be able to do that but if a person has to buy them all rather than build up numbers himself it is also likely he won't have the needed skills to make a living from the bees he buys.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2014
    Location
    Sandpoint, ID, USA
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    665

    Default Re: hobiest to comercial

    Quote Originally Posted by Oldtimer View Post
    My definition of a commercial beekeeper is someone who makes his living by keeping bees.

    There are many ways to get enough hives to be able to do that but if a person has to buy them all rather than build up numbers himself it is also likely he won't have the needed skills to make a living from the bees he buys.
    Haha, wow very well said!

  4. #4

    Default Re: hobiest to comercial

    I am a serious sideliner I bought out our local bee Inspetor. He had about 20 hives at that time in some ways it was a bad buy and other way it was good. The bad was just as much my fault. Didn't inspect before before the deal was finalized. Lot of junk Equipment. The good accounts for honey sales. Yard all ready set up to a point. Payment was some cash and painting his home. The main way that I have built up to about 100 hives are queen bought and swarm cell. Have burnt a bunch of junk equiment. But I feel that the real value use the honey sells accounts that I moved right into. Do I make a living no. But I hope to have it help my retirement fund. If I ever stop spending $$

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Location
    Brasher Falls, NY, USA
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    33,418

    Default Re: hobiest to comercial

    "hobiest to commercial", a leap too far.

    The question you should ask is, "How do I grow from a few hives in my back yard to a sideline business, with multiple yards?" One step at a time.
    First get some bees. Learn to keep them alive. Grow your apiary by adding more hives each year and you will either learn to keep your hives alive and expand or learn that you can't and then decide you don't really want to deal with anymore than what fits in your back yard.
    "Beekeeping. It's a journey, not a destination." Mark Berninghausen

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
    Location
    Sacramento, CA, USA
    Posts
    4,963

    Default Re: hobiest to comercial

    Once you feel like you can handle a commercial operation then
    go buy out a few bee yards. Then continue to grow your operation
    until you can rely on the bees to make a living. For some it is a long process, for
    others it is only a dream, someday!
    Don't mix foreign bees into a virgin hive. She might get balled 100% of the time! When will you ever learn, huh?

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Location
    Hamilton, Alabama
    Posts
    1,939

    Default Re: hobiest to comercial

    Put some numbers around it and figure out if you are cut out for this.

    One man working long hard days and with a highly mechanized setup can manage about 2000 colonies for honey production.

    There is a point roughly at 100 colonies where the equipment required to manage the colonies exceeds the capacity of most hobby/sideliner equipment. Said another way, you have to get serious honey handling and bee managing equipment to run more than 100 colonies. This is kind of an arbitrary limit and not really set in stone. In other words, many on here will argue about it.

    Decide where you want to make your money. Pollination requires one set of skills. Honey production requires slightly different skills. A full time pollination business will run one man to death with about 800 colonies. Just ask SqkCrk.

    The investment in hives and foundation represents about $150 per colony counting woodenware and foundation and allowing for a lot of sweat equity. Do you have any idea how long it takes to build 100 double deep hives plus honey supers? I spent 8 hours painting 10 hives including top, bottom, and brood boxes. If I were doing this on a commercial scale, I would need a paint sprayer and would have to do the same job in an hour or less.

    Now think about investing $600,000 or more in a 2000 colony operation including truck to haul hives, honey house with extracting equipment to manage the crop, setting up locations with bee stands, etc.
    DarJones - NW Alabama, 46 years, 24 colonies, sideliner, treatment free since 2005, 14 frame square Dadant broodnest

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
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    Auckland,Auckland,New Zealand
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    Default Re: hobiest to comercial

    2000 hives per man?

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
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    Sacramento, CA, USA
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    4,963

    Default Re: hobiest to comercial

    I wonder how many one person operation do we have that can handle
    2000 hives on his own, either in the states here or around the world?
    Don't mix foreign bees into a virgin hive. She might get balled 100% of the time! When will you ever learn, huh?

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2015
    Location
    Frio County, Texas, USA
    Posts
    572

    Default Re: hobiest to comercial

    Quote Originally Posted by sqkcrk View Post

    First get some bees. Learn to keep them alive.
    BAM! Well put sir.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
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    Brasher Falls, NY, USA
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    Default Re: hobiest to comercial

    Quote Originally Posted by beepro View Post
    I wonder how many one person operation do we have that can handle
    2000 hives on his own, either in the states here or around the world?
    None.
    "Beekeeping. It's a journey, not a destination." Mark Berninghausen

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
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    Brasher Falls, NY, USA
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    Default Re: hobiest to comercial

    Quote Originally Posted by Fusion_power View Post
    One man working long hard days and with a highly mechanized setup can manage about 2000 colonies for honey production.
    Where did you get that number from? The most I ever had was 800. I'm not the best example of what someone can do, but I run about 500 to 600 hives and that's all I want to do. And I have help some times.

    Someone more dedicated than I could, maybe, keep 1,000 colonies mostly all by themselves. But they would have to be good at juggling work and family and have a spouse who does everything other than the bees. Being a workaholic Type A sort of person would be required, I would think.
    "Beekeeping. It's a journey, not a destination." Mark Berninghausen

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
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    Brasher Falls, NY, USA
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    Default Re: hobiest to comercial

    Quote Originally Posted by beepro View Post
    Once you feel like you can handle a commercial operation then
    go buy out a few bee yards. Then continue to grow your operation
    until you can rely on the bees to make a living. For some it is a long process, for
    others it is only a dream, someday!
    I took out a loan from the USDA FSA and bought a 200 hive outfit. And then I did it again with a similar sized outfit, which turned out to have quite a bit of AFB. It took a long time to clean that problem up. Then I got a trailer to set up my extracting equipment and after two years use the trailer caught fire and destroyed all of my extracting equipment. For the last 20 years I have been paying someone else to extract for me.

    You have to be able to take a hit and keep going. Or you have to do something else. Many are able, fewer are willing.
    "Beekeeping. It's a journey, not a destination." Mark Berninghausen

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    Auckland,Auckland,New Zealand
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    7,265

    Default Re: hobiest to comercial

    Back when I started there was no varroa and not all but a reasonable number of outfits here worked at 1000 hives per man, and I worked for one outfit with 2,500 hives run by 2 men. But no varroa and little hive migration made things a little easier but all the same it was very physical, plus the beekeeping was rough there just wasn't the time.

    When varroa got here most of these type outfits dropped to around 700 per man, just more complex with varroa. But now 300 to 500 a man is common here with the high price we now get for NZ honeys bees are worked pretty intensely, although there are still traditional type operations with guys running a lot of hives. Believe it or not there are some mom and pop operations here with less than 300 hives supporting the entire family.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Location
    Herrick, SD USA
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    5,939

    Default Re: hobiest to comercial

    1,000 is pretty doable if you are well equipped and have additional seasonal harvest help. We are closer to 1500 and wouldn't want to try to run many more. 2,000 is a pretty high number while still getting necessary things done in a timely manner.
    "People will generally accept facts as truth only if the facts agree with what they already believe."- Andy Rooney

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
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    Suffolk, NY, USA
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    2,025

    Default Re: hobiest to comercial

    Quote Originally Posted by Fusion_power View Post
    ...................
    Are you speaking from experience? or conjecture?
    If the former, great. Please tell more. If the latter, say so.

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Location
    Richardson, TX, USA
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    366

    Default Re: hobiest to comercial

    Dang. I'd be embarrassed to say how many I could handle by myself.

    I'm wondering though, how often are you guys that manage 500+ hives per man actually going into each of those hives? and how many on average would you keep in a yard?

  18. #18
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    Feb 2006
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    Herrick, SD USA
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    5,939

    Default Re: hobiest to comercial

    Quote Originally Posted by RichardsonTX View Post
    Dang. I'd be embarrassed to say how many I could handle by myself.

    I'm wondering though, how often are you guys that manage 500+ hives per man actually going into each of those hives? and how many on average would you keep in a yard?
    Ahhhh, you must be talking about those regular "full inspections" I often hear discussed here on Beesource? . We check an individual hive if we feel there is a problem not much time for anything else.
    "People will generally accept facts as truth only if the facts agree with what they already believe."- Andy Rooney

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Location
    Richardson, TX, USA
    Posts
    366

    Default Re: hobiest to comercial

    Quote Originally Posted by jim lyon View Post
    Ahhhh, you must be talking about those regular "full inspections" I often hear discussed here on Beesource? . We check an individual hive if we feel there is a problem not much time for anything else.
    Not really, since an "inspection", if it should be called that, for me, is usually different at different times of the year. I don't even really know how I'd define a "full inspection". There's some things I am always looking for but usually the primary reason for opening the hive is different most times.

    I've never been anything close to what would be called a commercial or even sideliner beekeeper. But, I've wondered about how a commercial pollinator and/or honey producer beekeeper manages their labor force and seeing the comments on this thread about how many hives per man prompted the question. Having managed a manufacturing facility in a cyclical industry kind of causes a person to wonder how it's done in another commercial industry. And also, because I am reasoning that if a commerical honey producer beekeeper has a system worked out that is efficient for them, it might be a good idea for me to learn from that and try to duplicate it (or parts of it) even though I only have a few hives to contend with. I like efficiency.

    One thing I've wondered about lately is how much return is a beekeeper really getting from doing inspections for queen cells on every hive, every 10 days or less. Is it better to just make early spring splits, replacing all but your breeder queens, making quick inspections for food stores/laying queen/health/bee volume, and relying on that for swarm prevention management?

  20. #20

    Default Re: hobiest to comercial

    In the world of efficient beekeeping...I am the poster child for what not to do.
    If I were a young man with a family, mortgage and such...I'd approach it all differently. In fact, I wouldn't even consider beekeeping. And when I was in that situation I had an entirely different working career that would support those needs.
    Today, my children are grown, educated and independent. The mortgage long since settled. And I don't really 'want' anything...so beekeeping is doable. And that's what I do.
    Keep in mind, I live alone so...I just finished this week's laundry. I'll do my own grocery shopping, cook for myself and everything else necessary for living....and then I keep bees.
    No bobcats for loading supers and hives. No automatic uncappers. Full inspections a couple of times a year. Partial inspections....make sure there's healthy brood several more times. I retail 70% of my product. I bottle label and sell it.
    Having said all of that...in my situation, I am pressed to manage 200 hives.
    Time to get to the beeyards. I've got to get a space ready to move a dozen hives. Once I get them moved...the old fashioned way....I've got to get honey bottled and labeled for the market....and then with every spare minute, for the next six weeks, I'll be pulling supers and extracting honey...again...the old fashioned way.
    I am a damned fool...by choice.
    Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted. - Emerson

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