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  1. #1
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    Default Watermelon pollination

    I posted this in the general forum first because I don't consider myself a commercial beekeeper by any stretch of the imagination. I am working up to being a sideliner. No responses over there, and I thought you guys might could help me with my questions since y'all do this for a living.

    Had a guy stop by the house tonight and ask if I offered pollination services. I live on a busy country road with the hives in view.

    It's not him, but a friend of his has a 10-20 acre field planted in watermelons. Asked if he sprays, and he said the only thing he uses is a spray for mildew. Told him right off the bat that there would be a charge and they couldn't spray with the bees there. He said that the guy bought some hives off of someone, but that he feels like there aren't many bees going in and out.

    Never done this before, but have thought about getting into it. Haven't had time this year so far as I've been spending lots of time on cutouts. As they say, opportunity knocks....

    Questions -

    - how much to charge, and in what unit of measure (meaning hives per acre, per month?)
    - how many hives would be needed?
    - how do you guys handle spraying?
    - which hives should I take? I have 18.

    Four are hives that I started this year, all of which are 4-6 boxes high. They all swarmed a couple of weeks ago. Epic fail on swarm prevention.

    Luckily I caught all the swarms. I have two hives that are two week old swarms.

    Three more month old swarms.

    Two are cutouts.

    Two are 1.5-3 month old splits.

    I'm thinking I could use the swarms since I'm feeding them anyway and they'd be easier to move. I've heard that you have to feed when the bees are on watermelons. There is forage around this location, so I'm not too worried about it.

  2. #2
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    Brasher Falls, NY, USA
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    Default Re: Watermelon pollination

    I think you should wait until your beekeeping skills have developed more before jumping into doing pollination work.

    How much to charge? I have no idea what the going rate is. Find out what others in your area are charging. Then ask for a little more. Say, $5.00 more. Just to see if you can get the price up a little.

    How many would be needed? Your County Extension Office should be able to tell you what the per acre recommendation is.

    How do I handle spraying? In the pollinations I do I talk to the grower and find out what they spray and when and see if it is something I can tolerate and if not then no bees go there. You and your grower should understand each others needs.

    Which hives to take? The strong ones.
    Mark Berninghausen
    The answers are the end. The questions are the journey. Journey on.



  3. #3
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    Default Re: Watermelon pollination

    Whatever you do, as soon as the flowering is over, get the bees out of there. SHB love watermelon fields. Rotting watermelons are very attractive to SHB. The concentration of SHB around watermelon fields can be so great that they can quickly slime hives.
    “Don’t tell me how educated you are, tell me how much you have travelled.” - The Quran

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Watermelon pollination

    I would charge $100 per hive for 8 frames of brood. On single boxes I would halve it. In reality bees will die in watermelon fields without other wildflowers for forage. Also make sure that you are out about 4 weeks before they do the last pick and that you have access. Get money on delivery not on completion. Get a contract with penalty if they spray.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Watermelon pollination

    Quote Originally Posted by Cliffton Leverett View Post
    I would charge $100 per hive for 8 frames of brood. On single boxes I would halve it. In reality bees will die in watermelon fields without other wildflowers for forage. Also make sure that you are out about 4 weeks before they do the last pick and that you have access. Get money on delivery not on completion. Get a contract with penalty if they spray.
    The best estimate I got was $30-$60 per colony.That was from a study I found online. Decided to go with $40 since this was my first foray into pollination. The president of the bee club got back to me after I talked to the grower and said that $50 was about average. I'll go higher next time. Are you getting $100 per colony? Is that for a two story hive?

    There are tons of wildflowers along the road over there. It's amazing to me as it's only three miles away and there's nothing along my road. I weighed the hives before I took them, so I'll keep a close eye on the weight and feed if necessary. The guy only wanted two hives, against my recommendations, but I did a contract anyway. I modified it to state that they will not spray any chemicals whatsoever. It has a penalty section as well. Got paid upfront too.

    Thanks everyone for your responses!

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Watermelon pollination

    Too late for this it seems.

    Go high now and come down if you have to. Raising the price next time is harder to do. Go w/ the higher price and be prepared to get rejected and be prepared to walk away. This is not something you have to do. You are providing a service and stressing your bees. Placing hives in pollination is not a walk in the park. Moving hives is stressful to you and your bees and you don't know what will happen to them when out of your sight.

    If $50.00 is about average I would go for $60.00. So what if you get turned down. If you ask for $50.00 when he would have said okay to $60.00 you lost $10.00. Maybe that isn't much to you. It is to me. It's just like selling honey or anything else. Money left on the table is lost.

    That's this mornings sermon from Rabbi Berninghausen.
    Mark Berninghausen
    The answers are the end. The questions are the journey. Journey on.



  7. #7
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    Default Re: Watermelon pollination

    Yes... listen to the Rabbi... he was ordained in a Methodist Church.....!!
    “Don’t tell me how educated you are, tell me how much you have travelled.” - The Quran

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Watermelon pollination

    I'm talking double deeps with at least 8 frames of brood. single charge half. I mean you will make some honey but bees starve in watermelon fields plus more hives you put in the fields the less honey you will make.

  9. #9
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    Shreveport, Louisiana, USA
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    Default Re: Watermelon pollination

    Quote Originally Posted by mgburton View Post
    The best estimate I got was $30-$60 per colony.That was from a study I found online. Decided to go with $40 since this was my first foray into pollination. The president of the bee club got back to me after I talked to the grower and said that $50 was about average. I'll go higher next time. Are you getting $100 per colony? Is that for a two story hive?

    There are tons of wildflowers along the road over there. It's amazing to me as it's only three miles away and there's nothing along my road. I weighed the hives before I took them, so I'll keep a close eye on the weight and feed if necessary. The guy only wanted two hives, against my recommendations, but I did a contract anyway. I modified it to state that they will not spray any chemicals whatsoever. It has a penalty section as well. Got paid upfront too.

    Thanks everyone for your responses!
    Your reasoning is sound; your implementation is good. The fields were close. This could lead to future opportunities. You should be giving the advice. (But ask for a couple of watermelons.) Let us know how it worked out.
    "Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example." Mark Twain

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Watermelon pollination

    Before he has any experience? Let's see what the exit interview reveals.
    Mark Berninghausen
    The answers are the end. The questions are the journey. Journey on.



  11. #11
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    Default Re: Watermelon pollination

    Quote Originally Posted by sqkcrk View Post
    If $50.00 is about average I would go for $60.00. So what if you get turned down. If you ask for $50.00 when he would have said okay to $60.00 you lost $10.00. Maybe that isn't much to you. It is to me. It's just like selling honey or anything else. Money left on the table is lost.

    That's this mornings sermon from Rabbi Berninghausen.
    All great points and I agree. If these folks come back next year, it'll be hard to go up on my price. For this first one, the way I look at it is that I traded some $$$ for some experience. Did the same with cutouts. I did the first few for free just to get a feel for it. Now I'm charging and my phone isn't ringing anymore, but I could care less. That service requires a lot of labor and expense, and the success rates for the transplanted hive aren't all that great. I, or anyone else who does them EARNS every penny that they work for, and if I'm not getting paid I won't do them.

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Watermelon pollination

    Thanks for the vote of confidence Riverdewent. I'm not sure that I should be offering the advice, but I can say that I learn best through doing. I find that I can come up with all the reasons in the world not to do something that I've never done before, but then I never do it. Like employers who are looking for people with experience. I always wonder, how do the inexperienced get experience if only the experienced get hired? That's not to say that it's bad to hire people with experience, obviously, but how did that person get the experience in the first place?

    I envision a business where I offer cutouts/swarm removal, honey, and pollination services. I've done all three now, and with each one, I had people coming to me before I was actually offering the honey or the service. I've found in my very limited experience, if you're selling honey, your customers want it now. If you're offering a cutout/swarm removal service, or offering your hives for pollination, they want it yesterday. The answer always has to be a confident YES. Yes I can cut out your colony. Yes I can rent you my hives. The people who wanted to rent my hives came by on a Friday and again on Monday morning. Wait too long and someone else will sell them honey, or get hired for a cutout or pollination service. Then you've made nothing AND lost a customer, probably for good.

    With all that being said, I do want to make sure that I am doing things right and providing excellent service. I knew that I wanted to offer cutouts/swarm removal and pollination and did lots of research last winter before doing either. I tend to research things to death, and spend a lot of time on Beesource asking questions.

    I did a cutout this year for a homeowner who had a swarm move into their house for the third year in a row. The last two times, they paid an experienced beekeeper to remove them. When I got in the hive, there was old comb from the previous infestations and empty space. He got rid of the bees, but basically left behind a bait hive. The folks that were asking to rent my hives had purchased a 10 frame deep hive from a beekeeper last year. They swarmed in the middle of the season, then died over the winter. They purchased another 10 frame medium hive from him again this year. It's already swarmed and is low on bees. The beekeeper knew that they were buying it for pollination only and that they weren't beekeepers, but didn't advise them that the hive would grow and need more space. Neither customer was happy.

    Thank you ALL for your help, advice, and assistance!

  13. #13
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    Edgefield County, South Carolina
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    Default Re: Watermelon pollination

    I think I know where you are..... My mentor rented 350 hives and I helped him till he quite five years ago. He was only charging $35 a hive may have increased to $40 a hive the last year. I told him, if I were he, I would not do it for less than $50 a hive. He did charge per crop and not season. The cost of gas was approaching $5 a gallon. And the cost of feed late summer. He was wholesaling his honey at $3 a pint, I tried to bring him around but stuck in the old days.. He finally had back issues at 80 and had to quit the pollination. He now has 40 hives just for honey and I think fairs just about as well. Sells his honey now for $5 a pint out the door. I still tell him too cheap!

    When he stop pollinating he had 5 hives up the road above you on Hwy 25 toward town. I offered to take on the 5 hives for the owner to pollinate his squash, cukes, and strawberries. I told him I would do it for $50 a hive. He looked me in the eye and said he was not worried about renting bees, he just wanted the honey. I guess so at $3 a pint.

    A different manager at the stand now. The guy that supplies there honey now, wholesales it to them for $8 a pint (so I hear?). They sale it for $14. He supplies a few pollination hives for no charge.

    With all that said never will see $100 a hive in this area.... IMHO. I would start at $60 and then take no less than $50 in the future. That is $50 per crop. Other words if they plant two planting in the field or you have to move them.... another $50.

    The old timers are few and far between now and so are the pollinators. Set you expectations high and stick to it or just save the gas, vehicle wear and tear, sweat in the near 100 degree heat and broken back and keep them on honey for your $11 a pint IMHO.
    sc-bee

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Watermelon pollination

    Quote Originally Posted by mgburton View Post
    All great points and I agree. If these folks come back next year, it'll be hard to go up on my price. For this first one, the way I look at it is that I traded some $$$ for some experience. Did the same with cutouts. I did the first few for free just to get a feel for it. Now I'm charging and my phone isn't ringing anymore, but I could care less. That service requires a lot of labor and expense, and the success rates for the transplanted hive aren't all that great. I, or anyone else who does them EARNS every penny that they work for, and if I'm not getting paid I won't do them.
    Then why, this being your first venture into pollination, why are you charging a pollination fee and not doing it for free to gain experience, to get a feel for it. I doubt that your phone isn't ringing because you now charge to do cut outs, not everyone knows you charge for that. I understand how you feel, I've been there. I'm just saying it's not good business. The watermelon grower doesn't charge a new customer a lower price, why should you? But he should work at getting his price up or inflation will set him back over time. Let's all go forward in mutual benefit.

    Whether your grower knows it or not he wants to pay you more simply because paying you what you are worth will keep you in the pollination business and having a dependable source of anything has its own value/worth.
    Mark Berninghausen
    The answers are the end. The questions are the journey. Journey on.



  15. #15
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    Default Re: Watermelon pollination

    Quote Originally Posted by sqkcrk View Post
    Whether your grower knows it or not he wants to pay you more simply because paying you what you are worth will keep you in the pollination business and having a dependable source of anything has its own value/worth.
    That is an interesting perspective on pricing.

    When you buy a watermelon do you worry about whether the price you are being asked to pay for that watermelon is high enough for the grower to stay in the watermelon business?
    Graham
    USDA Zone 7A Elevation 1400 ft

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Watermelon pollination

    Quote Originally Posted by Rader Sidetrack View Post

    When you buy a watermelon do you worry about whether the price you are being asked to pay for that watermelon is high enough for the grower to stay in the watermelon business?
    Welll.. Mark did say.... "Whether the buyer knows it or not". I would think very few would know it.
    “Don’t tell me how educated you are, tell me how much you have travelled.” - The Quran

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Watermelon pollination

    Quote Originally Posted by Rader Sidetrack View Post
    That is an interesting perspective on pricing.

    When you buy a watermelon do you worry about whether the price you are being asked to pay for that watermelon is high enough for the grower to stay in the watermelon business?
    I don't, do you? There are folks who concern themselves w/ Fair Trade Products, like coffee.
    Mark Berninghausen
    The answers are the end. The questions are the journey. Journey on.



  18. #18
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    Default Re: Watermelon pollination

    Think how much each unpollinated watermelon blossom costs the farmer? Two bucks? I don't know what retail is but roadside is 2 for $5 small or 2 for $8 large usually and I live in watermelon country. (kinda) If 50 blossoms get pollinated and he sells those watermelons he has paid your fee per hive. The reality is that you need a lot of bees there to pollinate the blossoms and do it very well. So if there is a ton of bees there in the field. There is not going to be the nectar supply to make the honey. Because the first bee gets the nectar, then the second bee has to go to the next blossom etc etc which is great for cross pollinating but bad because there is not enough nectar to make honey. So while your bees are pollinating you are going to see less of a honey crop. Don't you make more then $40 bucks a hive with a crop of honey? I know I do. Granted I'm not saying you won't make any honey but for me I would make a lot less then if I was in a bunch of mesquite trees and you have to worry about pesticide sprays, paying for gas to and from the work your bees, security of your hives, transportation of the hives ...etc etc. Granted with the other wildflowers around they should be able to get some good forage.

    I'm just of the mindset that bees are essential so beekeepers should be paid what they deserve. In reality he will either find someone else to pollinate his fields for that cheap or if you do a good job he "should" recognize that good and reliable business relationships are hard to come by and pay you more in line with what is fair in your market. If he can't do either of those and you don't do it cheaply then he will lose money and if he has been farming for a while and has business sense he should recognize your value.
    Last edited by Cliffton Leverett; 07-02-2014 at 05:53 PM.

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Watermelon pollination

    Before I set up for pollinating melons I ask how many hives they want per acre, I tell them its a 1 month contract or to end of bloom or until they want the bees gone - whichever comes first. I need at least a 3 day notice prior to any spraying that will be done (herbicides or pesticides), the price per hive, AND that when the coyotes start munching on melons I'm coming back and taking some watermelons for my own use. Then we shake hands and I write the invoice and tell them we can do half up front - half when we're done (or pay when the pollination is over if I've done business with them before). Migrating bees is something I looked forward to the first time, now I have to mentally prepare prior to the 'move'. And hey, having a contract ready with all that's mentioned above doesn't hurt a bit either. Have fun
    Zone 5a @ 4700 ft. High Desert
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