1000 hives, how many acres?
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  1. #1
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    Default 1000 hives, how many acres?

    How many acres would 1000 hives need to be healthy, honey producing hives? Could 1000 hives be kept on one property, spread out in 10-12 bee yards? I am hoping to invest in my own, fairly large, beekeeping operation. I want to operate a hybrid of a pollination/honey producing bee farm. The area I live in has tons of blueberry, apple, cherry, strawberry, blackberry, pumpkin, and other fruit farms. There are also a number of dairy farms in the area. I am under the impression dairy farmers like having beekeepers keep a beeyard on site, to help them pollinate and increase their cover/grazing crop, i.e. clover, alfa etc... I hope to have beeyards spread out on different fruit and dairy farms under contract, while keeping a portion of the bee's on my own property(s), allowing them to forage for nectar on clover and other wildflowers. I want to bottle and retail my own honey, making honey the main source of revenue, while also offering a pollination service to local farmers. What kind of acreage do I need to make this sort of bee farm a reality? Would it be better to purchase a number of smaller properties that are spread out?

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  3. #2
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    Default Re: 1000 hives, how many acres?

    Bees fly effectively two miles. If you purchase property just to put 25 beeyards on (40 hives/yard times 25 equales 1000) plus the cost of the bees and equipment you will either go broke very quick or if you pay cash you will never NEVER geta return on your investment. If you purchase a large farm and since bees fly 2 miles you woudl need thousands of acres....not a wise move. You would be much better off finding farmers who would let or want you to place bees on their farm. I usually give them a gallon of honey per yard.

  4. #3
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    Default Re: 1000 hives, how many acres?

    But say I have 1000 hives, each hive produces 75-100+ lbs. of honey a year, each lb of honey I sell at retail value for $3 or 4... That makes $225-350k revenue from honey alone. Subtract fixed and variable costs, guess that to be around $200k for the start up year and around $50-100k each year after...the payoff period should be 3 or 4 years, and I should be netting $140-200k+ just from honey after 4 or 5 years, not including other hive products. Granted, this would be hiring minimal labor, running an efficient operation, and being able to sell most if not all of the honey produced.

    You're probably right that it would end up being a better investment to find farmers/land owners' wlling to use their property to keep my bees on...

    How do you go about finding people willing to let you keep bees on their property? How do you find property that will have a good honey flow? Is it generally difficult to find people that are willing to let you keep a beeyard or a few on their land, or is it usually not a problem?

  5. #4
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    Default Re: 1000 hives, how many acres?

    "But say I have 1000 hives, each hive produces 75-100+ lbs. of honey a year"

    They could produce that much in a decent year, but not packed together in just a few yards...you need to spread them out over a large area. And don't forget there are other beeyards competing for the same resources as yours, so you need to have a fair idea of what each area will support. I usually try to spread mine out in yards with 20 or fewer hives, but that requires an even bigger area in which to place my hives...
    "I reject your reality, and substitute my own." Adam Savage

  6. #5
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    Default Re: 1000 hives, how many acres?

    Actually, camwhite, the best advice you've been given so far is to let others own the land, you provide the pollination service for a fee, and keep any honey that is a by-product of the pollination. That seems to be your business model anyway. You don't need to own the land to do the pollination.

    But first, do you currently have bees? If so, how many and for how long? If not, you might want to either start out small and build your way to your goal, or work for a commercial beek to get a feel for the business. If it was easy to make money in bees, more people would be doing it. Simply by reading the postings on this forum, you ought to get an idea of the pitfalls, and the annual losses many beekeepers sustain. Plus you've got to consider the capital start up costs as you buy or make the equipment to run 1,000 colonies and harvest the honey and process the wax, etc etc etc.

    One beekeeper philosopher has said that the easiest way to make a million dollars in beekeeping, is to start with two million.
    Regards,
    Steven
    "If all you have is a hammer, the whole world is a nail." - A.H. Maslow

  7. #6
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    Default Re: 1000 hives, how many acres?

    most of your dairy farms are not going to let thier hay go far enough to bloom, at most 10-15% bloom as it will really cut down on the quality of their hay. I am not sure what other cover crops they are growing that would bee good for bees. I would like to know what they are. now you may get some honey from clover in the pasture. but some dairys do very little pasture they just hay and grow corn and feed it just depends on how the dairy is set up.

  8. #7
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    Default Re: 1000 hives, how many acres?

    peggjam- Makes sense...I'm trying to find the right location & balance of space for a central location & beeyard, a number of surrounding yards, orchards needing pollination, and distance between them. I'll need to be as efficient as possible. Sacrificing the volume produced, however, does not seem wise, so your right. Do you get usually get a good crop with 40 hives on a yard?

    stevenG-I understand commercial beekeeping isn't easy, that it costs alot to get into, and that it can be unpredictable. I'm not getting involved to make easy money. I expect to have a tremendous amount of responsibility managing many hives. I'll have to work hard and smart to be successful. I don't own any bees. I'm a 19 year old college student. I am planning to start a business with my parents financial support. They'll provide most of the capital I need. Finding work with a beekeeper would be very helpful. I've read a couple books and done a lot of research online. Hands on experience would help me gain a much better understanding. I should find work with a beekeeper somewhere this summer. Thanks for your advice.

  9. #8
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    Default Re: 1000 hives, how many acres?

    one thing to remember is that if you are propared to profit 100k a year you have to be propared to lose 150k a year -

    beekeeping is a break even business- you make enough to keep the lights on and try again next year

    as for asking the parents to help out thats really nice but at about $300 per hive x 1000 is $300,000 - thats for the hive and 3lbs of bees - and then it costs about $100 in sugar per hive for the first season - per month that you feed so thats $100,000 per month- most area's feed for 2 months - so that $200,000 in sugar before your first June

    so you need half million dollar load from the perents - in your first 6 months

    i think id take up a Surgons Degree for that price - you will have a chance to pay back some of your loan ... and your back will be straight

    starts small - learn from as you go ... and if it all fails you will only own them a couple thousand

    best of luck

  10. #9
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    Default Re: 1000 hives, how many acres?

    Listen to concrete advice. He knows well whereof he speaks. Not a joke.

  11. #10
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    Default Re: 1000 hives, how many acres?

    "A ten thousand mile journey begins with one step." The first year I ever gardened I tried packing 36 tomato plants into a postage stamp plot and got nothing but a jungle of green tomatoes come frost. The next year I tried 12 plants and I had more ripe tomatoes than I knew what to do with.

    If I were you, I'd put two hives out in the backyard this summer, and maybe an observation hive inside and let the bees teach you something that books can't and then rethink jumping into a thousand hives. You'll probably love it, but the chances of becoming a beekeeper overnight are akin to becoming a skilled hunter after one season.

  12. #11
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    Default Re: 1000 hives, how many acres?

    not to discourage you or anything but i honestly think it would take 500k or more to start 1000 hive operation. when you are buy equipment on scale like that it takes alot of money, whether the equipment is used or new. making a 100lb honey crob takes alot of boxes and good bees to pull this off. alot of areas can't make these volumes of honey. and then there's trucks, loaders, buildings, extractors, fuel, feed, labor, insurance, income tax, and so many other expenses that i cant even think of off the top of my head. and also remember there are soooo many variables when making a honey crop. honey crops are not always a guarenteed thing. i'm not sayin it cant be done, but it will take a good part of your life to build a decent bee operation. i am quite sure that there are other beekeepers that could back me up on this.

  13. #12
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    Default Re: 1000 hives, how many acres?

    Quote Originally Posted by elkridge View Post
    If I were you, I'd put two hives out in the backyard this summer, and maybe an observation hive inside and let the bees teach you something that books can't and then rethink jumping into a thousand hives
    I couldnt agree more Start small, build up, stay debt free. Get a few hives and LEARN then build your business model. Jumping into 1000 hives with no actual experience WILL be a disaster. Good luck but please take the advice provided.
    A government large enough to provide everything you need is strong enough to take everything you have. T. Jefferson

  14. #13
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    Default Re: 1000 hives, how many acres?

    Quote Originally Posted by CamWhite View Post
    But say I have 1000 hives, each hive produces 75-100+ lbs. of honey a year, each lb of honey I sell at retail value for $3 or 4...
    If you can sell 44 tons of honey for $3-4/lb you could the marketer of the year. Not that it can't be done....Bill Gates sold us Windows. And you should be able to get a good deal on that many jars.

  15. #14
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    Default Re: 1000 hives, how many acres?

    In a good area with constinat honey flows, yes you will make a decent crop with forty hives to a yard...but I like to hedge my bet alittle bit and only place 20 hives to a yard...
    "I reject your reality, and substitute my own." Adam Savage

  16. #15
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    Default Re: 1000 hives, how many acres?

    This is from my experience....everything looks good on paper. It's when you actually start beekeeping all the variables rear their ugly heads. The pollyanna view quickly fades and you find yourself scrambling for answers.

    1000 hive beekeeping equals large scale agriculture. Agriculture equals large investment of money and high risk from year to year. Kind of like a high stakes poker game, only worse.

    Start small. The two hives in the backyard scenario is wise advice. I started with one. Learn the bees and everything that can go wrong.....or take your $300,000 and go to Vegas. You'd be farther ahead than going "all in" on a 1000 hive start up.
    "you can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink"...well that horse ain't got nothing on a bee.

  17. #16
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    Default Re: 1000 hives, how many acres?

    CamWhite,

    Start off w/ 100 hives, purchased from a beekeeper, already on location. Then branch out from there, learning about how many hives YOU like working in one yard. Then travel around where you want to keep your colonies and locate potential yards. Find the landowner and ask them about putting some hives on their property. Explain to them what you want to do, where you thought about putting the bees and why it's a good location for you and a benefit for them. They get polllination and some honey for letting you use their land. Be a good tenant.

    I hope that helps.
    Mark Berninghausen

  18. #17
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    Default Re: 1000 hives, how many acres?

    Quote Originally Posted by concrete-bees View Post
    - and then it costs about $100 in sugar per hive for the first season - per month that you feed so thats $100,000 per month- most area's feed for 2 months - so that $200,000 in sugar before your first June
    Come on now, even at $ .50 a pound thats 200 pounds of sugar per hive/ per month. I think your #'s are a bit off.

  19. #18
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    Default Re: 1000 hives, how many acres?

    I put an ad in the paper for getting beeyards. I siad something like year round pollenation (i leave a couple bihind when i go into pollenation) and all the honey you can eat. I got 4 calls on an ad that ran for 2 weeks and got 3 yards out of it. I let 2 of the yards go after a year and the other yard has had bees ever since (4 years now) and it's a very nice yard.

    If I had the money I'd like to buy properties with 5 - 7 acers each in rural areas where i could rent out the house, rent out an out building (for shop or storage), rent out the pasture for hay, and have a yard of 120 hives in the back. Best part is the people renting the house are like camp guards. I think if I had 5 - 6 such properties that would be nice but since I don't, I, like most of the beeks on here, keep my bees on other peoples property.
    Will Gruenwald Chilliwack BC

  20. #19
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    Default Re: 1000 hives, how many acres?

    CamWhite, you've had some excellent suggestions made here. I'm not sure about your time frame, but you could start this year with a few colonies, and by time you're out of college you'd know if this was truly your cup of tea. Each year you could build your colony numbers, and line up pollination clients. In addition, you could decide whether or not you wanted/needed to build your own equipment. Then you'd have the business experience to figure out how to take the plunge into commercial beekeeping.

    I mentioned on the "No Treatment" thread wondering if anyone just starting out, to build up to be commercial, was starting out treatment free. I honestly don't know how feasible that is, but I would think it would be more workable starting from the beginning. If you tried it both ways, early on, you might discover which would truly be the most econonically viable for your business plan.

    I don't recall if anyone mentioned this, but it doesn't hurt to repeat... see if you can work for a commercial beek. That would save you a lot of grief in your learning curve. You can do this, and I wish you great success!
    Regards,
    Steven
    "If all you have is a hammer, the whole world is a nail." - A.H. Maslow

  21. #20
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    Default Re: 1000 hives, how many acres?

    Lets just do some simple math. Say you have someone in your area you can buy out because if you are going to try and make a go of it with 1000 packages your chances of seeing any honey the first year and managing that many hives is pretty slim.

    But lets say you could get 1000 double hives out of Calf. after almonds at 140 ea. That's 140k just to get the bodies. Then add in supers with drawn frames...cause if they are not drawn then again you won't get much of anything. So three supers per hive is 3000 at 12 bucks ea. That's another 36K just for hives and supers. So with no other equipment you have 176k. Like others have said, to move these hives into yards you will need a swinger, truck, and trailer. Don't forget that you will also need a place to store supers before they are extracted and then you have to extract and get the supers back on the hives. That means running extraction a couple of days a week just to stay on par with your hives production. A good extractor set up not including the building will run you 85k min. That doesn't include barrel movers, barrels, drip boards, dollies, ramps, scales, and storage for the extracted honey.

    The costs and work it takes to get a 1000 hive operation up and going is really a lot...and that's if you have the yards lined up. Most people I know that don't buy into an operation work their way up. I work with a guy that runs over 4000 hives and does very well, but he has being doing it his whole life and took over for his father...he has accumulated the equipment to run such an operation. Even he couldn't run out and buy everything new.

    Anyway, good luck. Think about working with a commercial guy for at least a year before going at it on your own. You will save tens of thousands of dollars by learning what not to buy which is as important as what to buy.
    Life is tough, but it's tougher when you're stupid. John Wayne

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