I am a new beekeep (less that 1 year) that has been lurking around here for about 2years. Really cool community here. Love that there are 10 ways to do everything. I have 6 colonies currently and am looking to expand. Currently have some Langstroth 10 frame and some Layen 12 frame super deeps.
I am really interested in pollination much more than honey. I would like to get to 150ish colonies, 100 of which would make the 8ish hour drive to Almonds. I suspect this will take a few years to get to that scale. I was hoping to get some advice as I maybe be in the somewhat enviable position of getting to basically start from scratch as I ramp up my equipment.
1. First off, is 100ish colonies even worth it to a grower/broker or will these be hard to place?
2. Equipment. I know standard seems to be 10 frame deeps with either a medium or another deep on top. Is it preferable to just run deeps or are people ok with the mediums?
3. Are 8 Frame deeps acceptable or looked at as a lesser or more annoying system to have to deal with?
4. Anyone use only mediums? Just more of a curiosity.
5. What about something totally different…like Layens hives that were palletized so they can still be inspected. Is that a major headache for the grower/inspector/etc? Obviously the frame calculations would be different. So far the Layens hives have actually seems to be easier to manage and seem to be growing stronger given my low sample size.
6. I have read a few pollination contracts. Do most contacts pay any portion on delivery or is it all at the end of the contract?
7. Do any of your do any kind of impact analysis on your bees pre and post almond deployment? Like getting lab results about *cides/varroa/etc present before vs after visiting the almonds?
8. What about any metrics about hive health comparisons of hives left at home vs hives taken to the almonds?
I am sure I will have more questions but are the questions I keep wondering about so thought instead of wondering I would ask.
Thank you so much!
I don't want to come across as cold, but please do yourself a favor and do some research. This topic has been covered on this forum many times before. Most beekeepers I know are happy to share knowledge, but are going to share more if it is clear you are doing your homework. This particular question tends to put some folks on edge, especially if it seems like you are putting the cart before the horse. On that note, try to find the opportunity to do some work work. It is 100% the best way to see how all the moving parts fit together.
Before answering your questions, answer these:
What condition are your hives in in February? Wintering beehives is relatively easy. Consistently wintering a strong 8 frame pollinating unit is a whole different. As to your equipment question. Popular configurations are double deeps, 8 frame or 10 frame, or 10 frame deep and western. I see stacks of all mediums sometimes as well, especially in areas with a lot of queen production. It really doesn't matter, so long as your equipment is standardized within your outfit for easy transport AND, more importantly, that you can show your growers or brokers that your equipment is stuffed full of bees.
How will you physically handle your migration? a ford F450 with a 12 ft bed can fit about 80 double deep 8 frame and only be slightly over weight which means you absolutely are eligible for tickets. How do you plan on transporting your hives? Do you have access to a forklift on either end? Will you be hand loading? Have you ever hand loaded 100 hives onto a truck? A better idea is to find another beekeeper and share a semi load. This means palletizing. have you ever seen a semi loaded with bees?
Do you know other beekeepers? How will you feed? Can you buy syrup from someone else or will you fill a tote from one of the suppliers? Have you ever seen robbing and a mass scale?
Last, What is your current job situation? Can you take time off in February and March? Your bees need tending to while in CA. They need to be graded and placed pre-bloom. They will need feeding and mite treatment. Also, if you put good bees IN, you generally get really good bees OUT, which takes attention. Some brokers will take care of some of this for you, for a price. Can you take time to work for someone else? Mentoring is the best thing in the business. Find someone who you can work for, who will show you the ropes. Go to CA, work for two months. See how things are orchestrated. See what the bees look like. It also gives you the opportunity to show a few people you are serious about the endeavor. A beekeeper who is willing to work 16 hour days in order to see how the business works is going to get a lot more respect than someone who asks questions online and expects to get the answers they need. It is a learn by doing business.
By the way, Are you going to the state meeting in Florence later this month? It is the perfect venue to make connections.