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Thread: How Much Effort

  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2012
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    Dexter,MO,USA
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    124

    Default How Much Effort

    Okay, just finished making up 10 frames, currently this is a personal goal i must achieve every day when i have frames and wax available.
    I am only a newbie and have 5 production and 13 nucs. but got to thinking today about how you production folks calculate stuff. how prepared are you for the following year. do you break it down into manageable chunks

    1) calculate how many new boxes you will need and of course the frames
    2) buy the frames or build them. i hate building these and they are labor intensive. is there a point where you could not build these fast enough?

    Thanks
    Gary

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Location
    Walker, Alabama, USA
    Posts
    923

    Default Re: How Much Effort

    I am SMALL potatoes but even I streamline--use jigs, staplers and the like to make it all go easier and faster. I gave up making frames one at a time after the first box! There's plans for a jig on here and there are several more on the web, any one of which cuts assembly time WAY down.

    And, yes, I figure what I need each fall so that I can build it over the winter and have it available by spring. And I ALWAYS need more than I planned on.



    Rusty
    Rusty Hills Farm -- home of AQHA A Rusty Zipper & Rusty's Bees ( LC and T)

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    Location
    Vancouver, BC, Canada
    Posts
    1,344

    Default Re: How Much Effort

    Does one ever catch up? ..unless you plan on expanding every year. I am hoping to get to a number of hives that generate an anticipated gross and stay at that. It will be a bleak future if I never get enough wooden ware
    Janne....first hives April 2013, 19 hives, treat, plant zone 8b, at sea level, latitude 49.13, longitude 123.06

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    Ojai, California
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    972

    Default Re: How Much Effort

    Gary -
    I'm in expansion mode, and recently moved shop, so calculations are done in reverse order as if I'm where I want to be next year, looking back.

    Before starting, go and get your county beekeeper number and order (or make) your branding iron(s). I can't afford to make woodenware that others will steal and use to compete with me for the prime locations, and I doubt you would want to.

    I start out anticipating what my limiting factors will be - this year it should be money, a lack of available, free, scrap wood. Running around gathering scrap wood is an option available to someone who is still small scale enough that time is not the limiting factor, as the scale of the operation grows, it is not an option - gotta' sawmill and cure the trees yourself, or buy the cut & kiln-dried lumber, depending on your location, zoning, and how you're set up.

    My truck bed has space for 20 pallets, or 80 colonies. Right now, I use a pallet jack and a ramp, so I can't stack them 3 high. I plan on making 2 runs with the truck, so 40 total pallets, or 160 colonies. Later, when I can afford a forklift, I can stack 3 pallets high, that's 60 pallets plus whatever I can fit on the trailer that the forklift doesn't take up, but that's not this year.


    Shop efficiency is my first concern - one might be tempted to take a cheaper route and buy mere doability - but that can be an evil trap and should be avoided. Put you money into decent production equipment and don't waste time. I have to schedule time and money for building tools, machines, jigs, and fixtures, and leave enough time and money for making bee equipment.

    Atop that list are a box assembly jig and a frame assembly jig. Also on my list of priorities: double chop saw; an out-feed table for the saw and the planer; 2 router tables; a finger box joint sled; some gang-frame cutting fixtures for top bars, side bars, and bottom bars; a pallet assembly jig, a dipping tank for linseed oil, and a production saw. The production saw will take some time, and I do not anticipate completing it this year, but will be happy with some essential parts. If time runs out, it waits. Meanwhile I will continue to use the table saw - doability that will make way to efficiency in 2 years, when I will be big enough to need it. 2 more solar wax melters, capable of holding 5 frames each, will be in order during this year.

    So next year's goal is 160 colonies. I need 40 screened bottom pallets. I use 10-frame medium Langstroths, 3 brood chamber boxes each, plus 3 honey supers, so 6 boxes per colony. 160 x 6 = 960 boxes and 9600 frames. Figure 200 commercial tops with metal - I like tops that last.

    Many beekeepers are not former carpenter/cabinetmakers, and they consider that boxes are easy enough to make, but frames are not. Most of them buy knock-down frames and do the stapling on the assembly jig. Larger beekeepers don't have time to "play woodpecker", and just buy the assembled frames, some even the knock-down boxes. Most have at least a compressor, a staple gun, and a paint roller. I'm still making my own frames from scratch, as I'm still small enough that cash is less plentiful than time, and I have the carpentry background. Making parts fit is not too challenging for a former machinist, but I understand it's not easy for those who have not done it most of their life.

    I try to aim for about 11 times as many queens as I have colonies. Not all will make it to next year's splits, some will be used in over-wintered nuc's, some for re-queening, those left over are for sale. 160 x 11 = 1760 queens. I'll build that many queen bank cages, even though they won't all be banked at one time. At 40 cages per queen bank frame, that's 44 queen bank frames.

    My queen cell bar frames handle 32 queen cells each. 1760 / 32 = 55 queen cell bars, used over a 5-week breeding season, so I really only use 11 at a time, but keep at least 3 times that so I don't get caught behind, I'll make only 33 of them. I'll make 2,000 queen cell cups. a sixth week of grafting can get me out of a shortage - down here I may get good nectar flow for 10 weeks of grafting or more, but I don't like to go that intense for that long. (OK, I suppose I can run 12 cell raiser colonies instead of 11 - that's 3 per day on a 4-day rotation - and I throw in an extra day - a 5 day queen rearing cycle - for sanity )

    160 colonies, I'll probably try 160 nuc's to overwinter. My boxes have partition slots for use as double-nuc's, so 80 extra medium 6 5/8" Lang's, some of which will be unused honey boxes, but 800 extra frames.

    Excess queens will probably go into cardboard or styrofoam nuc' boxes - I'll buy those, and mark the cost up a little bit to pass along to the customers - gotta mark up to stay even with inflation. I don't set these out for mating, though, a customer gets a new box with his/her colony.

    I sell queens with a Laidlaw push-in queen introduction cage. Laidlaw cages are not large, store easily, and have a long shelf life, so they'll be mass-produced in lots of 1,000.

    Remember - I calculate for some % more equipment than I need, depending on the item. Don't run financial projections expecting 100% bee resource success on your target number of colonies, but know that you will NOT be making MORE than these limits! It's all you have equipment for, this year.

    There are as many ways to skin this cat as there are beekeepers, plus a bunch more - this is only a peek at how a plant engineer might look at the question, "How much to produce of what?" Other factors will be more important for other beek's in other situations, mine is a view from a small guy in expansion mode. I hope this helps.
    Last edited by kilocharlie; 07-23-2014 at 10:06 PM.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2003
    Location
    Manitoba Canada
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    6,243

    Default Re: How Much Effort

    "how prepared are you for the following year. d"

    Annual spending planning

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Location
    Herrick, SD USA
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    4,457

    Default Re: How Much Effort

    No real sophisticated planning here, we know what we ran short of last year and just make a bunch of new equipment each winter to keep the help busy and hope to heck it's enough.......no actually we hope it's not.
    "People will generally accept facts as truth only if the facts agree with what they already believe."- Andy Rooney

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Sep 2011
    Location
    Reno, NV
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    3,075

    Default Re: How Much Effort

    This past year I set a specific goal. That was a 9 fold increase of my apiary. At the time the goal was set we had 23 total colonies over half of them nucs. This meant a goal of 207 colonies by the end of this year.

    Winter was spent calculating equipment needed. now this was tricky because we had no income being generated to buy equipment. Most of the winter equipment we made ourselves. So job one was to make the money to buy equipment.

    A note on the making equipment. factor in the risk of working in a shop into the cost of making equipment. hands down buying and assembly beats making.

    We did eventually bridge over to buying and assembly only.

    I also had a plan to reach that increase goal. that plan worked almost perfectly and to the exact numbers except for one detail and that was successfully gettign virgin queens mated. and that almost utterly failed. in all my plan got completely derailed and we are struggling to see even a doubling of our apiary. If I attempt it again wi till be with only a hand full of hives. this past year I did it with my entire apiary. it cost us just about any profit we could have made. It did get a boat load of equipment purchased though.
    Stand for what you believe, even if you stand alone.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Dexter,MO,USA
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    124

    Default Re: How Much Effort

    I appreciate the answers.

    KiloCharlie so in the summer months you are full time with 160 production hives, I guess you are pretty much full time in the winter too.
    This is good information. I want a manageable number of hives and i have a full time job too. I guess i was trying to ascertain how many i need. I don't want to be full time beekeeping.
    I like to be prepared, nothing like having resources pre-built and just grabbing what you need.

    The number of nucs to run for sustainability had slipped my mind. So there is a 1:1 with the number of production hives approximately.

    Something else i never considered much, was the constant supply of queens. I am not much of a successful grafter yet, been notching. however if one was to 1:1 production hives to nucs that might ease the need for such an intense queen rearing program. like you said there are many ways to skin a cat.

    That is a lot of frames, 10500. do you have to account for frame rotation?

    I plan on expanding, but like most money is key. I need to get smarter and produce a little extra to pay for my new resources instead of being out of pocket.

    G.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2012
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    Dexter,MO,USA
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    Default Re: How Much Effort

    What i really need to do is sit down with pen and paper and design a realistic plan. then stick to the plan. however like you said Daniel you need money to make resources and bees to make money.

    And i am a point where i have not made any money, but i need to spend more for next year. kind of the chicken and the egg really. maybe this is the risk factor or something.

    20 nucs will be 20 production hives 3 deep.

    60 boxes
    600 frames
    600 wax sheets
    20 SBB
    20 inner covers
    20 outer covers and aluminum sheeting

    And that is without any spare equipment.
    Last edited by garusher; 07-24-2014 at 07:32 AM.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Location
    Manitoba, Canada
    Posts
    120

    Default Re: How Much Effort

    Quote Originally Posted by garusher View Post
    What i really need to do is sit down with pen and paper and design a realistic plan. then stick to the plan. however like you said Daniel you need money to make resources and bees to make money.

    And i am a point where i have not made any money, but i need to spend more for next year. kind of the chicken and the egg really. maybe this is the risk factor or something.

    20 nucs will be 20 production hives 3 deep.

    60 boxes
    600 frames
    600 wax sheets
    20 SBB
    20 inner covers
    20 outer covers and aluminum sheeting

    And that is without any spare equipment.
    Credit card, line of credit, personal loan. You alone decide your risk level.

    Want to lower your risk?.... Slow down your expansion.

    Be prepared to sink your hard earned money into your bees while you expand. The more skin you have in the game the more important being successful will become.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Location
    Manitoba, Canada
    Posts
    120

    Default Re: How Much Effort

    I set up spreadsheet formulas and play with them all winter entering what ifs.... and try to prepare for the best case scenario.
    That way when spring rolls around I always have extra equipment..... except for drawn comb of course. Having to run 10 frames in my supers this year so I can draw out 4 extra frames per super.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Location
    Sudbury, Ontario
    Posts
    151

    Default Re: How Much Effort

    I've tried to combine building with buying.

    I buy boxes and frames unassembled. I buy inner covers, outer covers, bee escapes... assembled.

    Frames I've discovered it's worth spending a bit extra buying the "name brand" frames... bought a couple hundred frames from a small-time producer, had problems with wood splitting, and now I'm having the frame sides split apart at the "spacer" section... the frames are propolized together, and the wood splits apart with relatively little force. Never had that problem with the frames that cost me a few pennies more.

    Bottom boards... I build my own. Plywood board, 1x2 edge with a dado cut on the table saw. Not screened, but I don't use screened bottoms. I can build and paint solids for less than half of the cost of buying. Find someone who will offer a discount for large orders, find someone local who wants to split an order.

    Foundation... I'm split between wax and plastic. Wax takes a lot longer to assemble, as I cross-wire with 2 strands of wire. That means pushing eyelets into frame bars... which can be done while relaxing infront of the tv, but makes a bit of a mess with wood shavings. Plastic inserts snap in fairly easily. This year I tried doing similar with "snapping in" the wax foundation into grooved top and bottom bars... instead of nailing the top bar in place. The wax flexes just fine, and removed the step of nailing. I assemble a pile of frames ahead of time filling boxes, then grab a box, "snap" in a sheet of wax into a frame (has vertical wires), run the horizontal wire (nailed in place), and embed with 12v DC electric transformer.

    Not against the plastic... I find the wax gets drawn a bit better. Plastic is harder to destroy... easy to scrape off burr comb and let them start over. I reused a nearly brand new sheet of RiteCell this year after a bear destroyed the wooden frame, ate all the wax/brood, and left just the plastic sheet. I cleaned it off, grabbed a new frame, and popped it in.

    Looking to do a fast expansion, consider finding used equipment. Scorch the inside of boxes with a big propane torch if you're concerned about AFB buildup. Good drawn comb is an incredibly valuable tool.

    When it comes to assembling, it's all about finding efficiency. I use a jig for frames, staples and glue. I assemble a stack of boxes, ideally paint them before I fill them with frames. Then I insert the foundation into the frames a whole box at a time.

    I build my own nuc boxes... for less than $10 in material I can build a 5F deep nuc box, 3/4" ply ends, 1/2" ply sides. Separate bottom w/ 1/2" ply and 1x2 rim. Separate lid w/ 3/4" ply and 1x3 caps (like migratory lid style). Downside to this lid is you can't put a patty under it... I need to add a rim to the lid. Everything being separate allows me to stack nucs if needed.


    My nucs are made up mostly to sell, but my winter losses are relatively low. Under 10% (ie... a couple of hives) every year. 2/22 last year.

    I could have doubled my number of hives this year, but instead I made a pile of nucs to sell, as well as sold a few singles and doubles. As it is I still added a few hives. The profit from the nucs this year will pay for more equipment next year.
    Beekeeping since 2009; currently running 20+ hives.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Dexter,MO,USA
    Posts
    124

    Default Re: How Much Effort

    looks like i will be hoping for a good honey harvest to offset the lumber costs for what ever my expectations will be next year. Since this is going to be my only money source this year. Also if i can get even half a dozen more nucs up and running @ $100+ a nuc that would help out a lot in the spring time too.

    I make everything except frames and wax. i also do the TV frame and was installation. lol. thats what got me thinking about the daunting Effort and expansion. I could not imagine having to build several thousand frames each year with a hammer, nails and glue. might need to make a jig or two.

    I can see on a smaller scale [what if's] do not make that much difference, but as your operation grows they become noticeable issues to contend with.

    I try to buy the best equipment i can afford whenever i am beginning a project, so i have a good tablesaw and miter saw, they alone make box building really fast.

    Also just bought a 20 frame dadant extractor Monday, so look out honey producers. lol

    Gary.

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