The right number of hives to keep it fun - Page 3
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  1. #41
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    Default Re: The right number of hives to keep it fun

    I've only been keeping bees for five years and somewhere around my second year I was sure I wanted 50-100 hives. Three years later and twenty some hives spread in three yards opened my eyes to the real work it takes and have since decided to stay between 10-15 in two yards. I had a much larger than expected crop of honey with only eight production hives the past two years, so I see no need to increase numbers in my current situation. Between kids sporting events and 50 hour (regular job) work weeks, I will postpone the 50-100 hive dream till after I win the lottery (Too bad I don't play the lottery).

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  3. #42
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    Denver, Colorado
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    Default Re: The right number of hives to keep it fun

    I've been keeping bees for about 4 years now, but still feel like a beginner. I've only had 3, mainly because I never bought more hive boxes. I'm 50 now, and having more would kill my back. I've been bad at mite management, and prepping for the winters in Colorado, as I am lucky if one hive survives, hopefully the one that survives is healthy enough to split. I actually have 4 hives this year, one being a slovenian hive in a shed, which I eventually plan to transfer all hives to slovenian style, then I think I can start to grow to 10 hives, as I won't be killing my back. 3 hives has actually been working out for me for the last 4 years, as I cannot remember ever having to buy honey since. It's just me and my wife eating the honey, and a few jars we give to relatives. I do mainly keep bees for the honey, and the polination is an added bonus for our fruit trees.

    I also have a brother in law that keeps 8 hives on my property, so if I ever lose all my hives, I just catch one of his swarming, or he splits a hive and gives me one to keep me going. I've lost all hives once and bought new hives, but the swarm hives always seem to do much better than the one's you buy.

    When I do have 3 hives full, and need to split, or catch a swarm, I just sell one as a nuc.
    Last edited by acraiger; 11-07-2019 at 08:37 AM.

  4. #43
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    Default Re: The right number of hives to keep it fun

    Quote Originally Posted by little_john View Post
    So much depends on a person's reasons for keeping bees ...

    If you're 'just keeping bees' - then I'd say that 10 or so is a pretty good number - for exactly the reasons already stated: enough colonies to weather most calamities without needing to re-start from scratch, and yet a manageable number for treating/ winter feeding etc. without becoming too much of a burden.

    But I find there's a problem with such a number if you plan on doing anything more than 'just keep bees'. If you want to raise queens, for example, the more colonies the better able to make an initial breeding selection. Then there's the issue of following the daughters (plural) and grand-daughters ('plural-plural') to see if your chosen traits have persisted.

    One of my interests is comparing different types of hive, and again ten colonies really wouldn't be enough to do this (especially when queen-rearing as well) - and so the colony numbers just keep creeping upwards !

    This is such a good thread topic, for 'hive-creep' has become an ongoing problem for me too. At the end of each season as feeding for winter begins (my only significant expense) I make plans to decimate the hive numbers down to maybe just 20-30 - but just as soon as the new season starts the familiar "oh - just one or two more extra nucs" begins, and so 'hive-creep' rears it's seductive head yet once again.

    But - I've yet to find 'self-discipline' listed in any of the beekeeping supplies catalogues.
    LJ
    Good post LJ, close to My Option as well. How many is a somewhat personal thing, some folks can "be happy" with 4-6, that number scratches most of the places they need. At some level say 12-20 one learns to be more efficient by necessity, and tools can be afforded like an extractor or a numismatic nailer. with 2 hives one can be very inefficient and who cares. With 50 more thinking before the doing really matters. like do i want to try Quilt boxes, making 50 becomes a project. I am somewhat an analytical, so for me the math and optimizing IS a part of it. I had heavy loss last year like 50% , but was able to splt back and make some gains, so I am going into winter with 25, Hope to make 10 hives this winter and target 30 ish next winter. However I am a parent and work full time, so Am currently a "weekend" bee haver. Also have 3 properties One being a 200 + Acre Farm to manage, so I need to optimize the time parts or I cannot have more hives. Also mentoring 3 people at this time so I am right at the point of not able to grow hive count much, unless I want to sleep less. In the summer I am tied up with the farm and hunting property, in the winter I am in the wood working shop. Somewhat subscribe to GregVs Set it and forget it approach, I do not have the time to coddle weak bees. Today every bottom and top and hive body is in use, some that really should be retired, so In Need of a good winter build, and can tolerate 10 dead outs and be at 15 in the spring. I would have 10 in production and take the 5 to do increase.
    GG
    GG

  5. #44
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    Aug 2018
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    Richmond, VA
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    Default Re: The right number of hives to keep it fun

    Thanks for posting this message as it gives me something to think about. I am at 29 total right now-22 full sized hives at 3 outyards (all near home) in addition to 3 full sized hives and 3 nucs at home. It is a lot to keep up with work and family. I will be making some splits to sell in the Spring and trying queen rearing--so should have plenty of stock to work with. I am just thinking that 20 full sized hives would work just as well and then I could dedicate one outyard to nucs and/or queen rearing.

  6. #45
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    Lynn Haven Florida
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    Default Re: The right number of hives to keep it fun

    For me this is a two-part answer. a) How many hives can I manage without swamping other areas of my live , and b) how much honey can I either sell or give away.

    This is my third and most successful year with about 200 pounds of honey. We had a spring and a fall harvest. Spring harvest sold all 103 pounds very quickly. Just had the fall harvest and sales are much slower. I will eventually dispose of the harvest, but it will take longer. I have four production hives. Three did not produce in the spring harvest.

    For me, I need to balance the # of hives with what I think I can easily manage, but more importantly with a solid customer base that will purchase what I can provide. I suspect if all four hives have a good spring harvest, I may have issues.

    My guess is four will be my sweet spot.

  7. #46
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    Default Re: The right number of hives to keep it fun

    Quote Originally Posted by Cloverdale View Post
    I agree also; too much of a chore and I’m only at 20. I want to enjoy this.
    I'm with you Deb, 20 is all I want and can comfortably manage. Hope to sell an equal number of nucs each year.
    Thankfully, the bees are smarter than I am. They are doing well, in spite of my efforts to help them.

  8. #47
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    Default Re: The right number of hives to keep it fun

    Quote Originally Posted by LAlldredge View Post
    Started with 4 this year and ended with 5. I’d love to hear from backyard beekeepers about the fun threshold and the right number of hives for them and why. My 5th colony was a swarm and its presently overwintering in 1/2 of a resource hive snuggled up to a big colony. Right now the best number seems to be 5 regular sized colonies and 2 nucs within a resource hive. Anything more would seem like work. I love the bug. I also like having a population threshold to share resources. Not even interested in honey if I’m being honest about it. Have you started with larger numbers then scaled back? Or the opposite?
    Me, once I began consciously to treat for mites late summer/early fall, and had high numbers/percentages of hives wintering over, then my basic +-20 count became a drudgery. Where before, that is about what I needed going into winter to have enough come spring to continue on without buying bees or nucs. Yes, truly sad.

    My bent in beekeeping , just a beekeeping addicted putz-er. Not in it for the money, or health. It's just all about the fascination of them bees, and my part was to simply assist them wintering.

    Now, I can/do successfully winter healthy hives, (due in large part simply to annual mite treat) and am not just splitting the "few" (1-4) that made it out of +-20 back into high hive numbers (+-20) and all fairly weak come winter (see any problem? I did too!). Now, I get strong field forces built before the flow, which also provides me with this bothersome stuff called honey. Which I sell by the 5 gallon bucket to prevent the nickle and dime-ing of quarts all year, or at a Saturday market, (Reminder, I'm in it for the putzing!) But now, there is also the need to split to prevent/control swarms. And even doing a fake swarm split of queenie away with a couple frames, it still doubles hive numbers.

    So me, have literally been very neglectful of hive management recently because I was over my "max!" 20 hive count earlier this year, and literally was nearly praying for a mega hive number crash that would put me back in that realm of manageable numbers next spring. ie. I have bodies for +-23 complete double deep hives and supers. A wintered hive is easy (nearly required) to split in two come the flow. 10 hives doubled = 20 total during the flow. 15 doubled = +-8 more hives than my bodies.
    20 healthy hives through the flow gives me way more surplus than I want to bother extracting with my 4 banger hand crank extractor.

    Right now, am down to only 10 hives. That's about the right number to winter, but dang, that sticks me back at near 20 late next spring and I just detest having to manage that number of hives and their bounty. Dang bees!

    For me, I can double hive numbers easily doing splits in spring. And part of the joy of beekeeping is going and capturing swarms, of which I get called to do every year. And the number of "fruitful" places to put baithives near other's pollinator hives or feral hive locations seems to be a benefit each year to increase hive numbers.

    Dang, dang, dang. Determining that optimal hive number for me is very difficult, because it keeps changing through the year. Hmmm. Maybe I need to simply make my minimum 5??? Sooo, do I go ahead and sell off 10 of my bee-less hives?
    Dang! Decisions, decisions!

  9. #48
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    Default Re: The right number of hives to keep it fun

    Quote Originally Posted by jnqpblk View Post
    Me, once I began consciously to treat for mites late summer/early fall, and had high numbers/percentages of hives wintering over, then my basic +-20 count became a drudgery. Where before, that is about what I needed going into winter to have enough come spring to continue on without buying bees or nucs. Yes, truly sad.

    My bent in beekeeping , just a beekeeping addicted putz-er. Not in it for the money, or health. It's just all about the fascination of them bees, and my part was to simply assist them wintering.

    Now, I can/do successfully winter healthy hives, (due in large part simply to annual mite treat) and am not just splitting the "few" (1-4) that made it out of +-20 back into high hive numbers (+-20) and all fairly weak come winter (see any problem? I did too!). Now, I get strong field forces built before the flow, which also provides me with this bothersome stuff called honey. Which I sell by the 5 gallon bucket to prevent the nickle and dime-ing of quarts all year, or at a Saturday market, (Reminder, I'm in it for the putzing!) But now, there is also the need to split to prevent/control swarms. And even doing a fake swarm split of queenie away with a couple frames, it still doubles hive numbers.

    So me, have literally been very neglectful of hive management recently because I was over my "max!" 20 hive count earlier this year, and literally was nearly praying for a mega hive number crash that would put me back in that realm of manageable numbers next spring. ie. I have bodies for +-23 complete double deep hives and supers. A wintered hive is easy (nearly required) to split in two come the flow. 10 hives doubled = 20 total during the flow. 15 doubled = +-8 more hives than my bodies.
    20 healthy hives through the flow gives me way more surplus than I want to bother extracting with my 4 banger hand crank extractor.

    Right now, am down to only 10 hives. That's about the right number to winter, but dang, that sticks me back at near 20 late next spring and I just detest having to manage that number of hives and their bounty. Dang bees!

    For me, I can double hive numbers easily doing splits in spring. And part of the joy of beekeeping is going and capturing swarms, of which I get called to do every year. And the number of "fruitful" places to put baithives near other's pollinator hives or feral hive locations seems to be a benefit each year to increase hive numbers.

    Dang, dang, dang. Determining that optimal hive number for me is very difficult, because it keeps changing through the year. Hmmm. Maybe I need to simply make my minimum 5??? Sooo, do I go ahead and sell off 10 of my bee-less hives?
    Dang! Decisions, decisions!
    So find a bee club and offer to sell NUCs Split off your overwintered Queen and 3 frames of bees into a 5 frame NUC, give it a couple weeks and sell it. Gets you the swarm control and a re queen and cuts some of the increase and helps others to not need to buy packages. Be easier than the gallons of honey and have a control valve on hive count. You will find comb going out the door so keep feathering in foundation at the same pace you sell it off. 8 or 10 NUCs could net you 150 each. Then you continue what you like and move a few out the door as "baby hives for sale" You may find the "build" as fun as the "harvest" or more so. I would rather hatch a queen and see it turn out well than extract a super. Also may be able to sell full hives to pollinator type folks.
    Build and paint a 2 deep, fill it with bees and sell the whole thing, not sure on the price to set here but may also work out to be something to enjoy. I would find a buyer first, ask them what wooden ware they want, or have them provide it to you, fill with a colony and set a price. Increase can be sold if you go about it in the way a buyer would want, selling increase can remove the too many hive issue as well you found something you can do well,, you just need to sell/market it well
    GG

  10. #49
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    Default Re: The right number of hives to keep it fun

    First, I'm not a particularly successful beekeeper. Last year was a disaster. One survived winter very weak, and the swarms I caught both quickly developed wrinkled wings and heavy mite loads. Mite strips didn't help and they both died in the fall. The weak hive struggled along but finally absconded when the beetles got bad. So zero.
    Caught a nice swarm this Spring and split it into 5, all of which are still alive and apparently healthy. Hoping to get several through to Spring. If so, hope to do maximum splitting and get up above 10 hives.
    I have two good locations and can easily handle 10-20 hives. I feel that will give me the margin of safety I need to be sustainable. More than that will have to wait a few years until I retire.

  11. #50
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    Default Re: The right number of hives to keep it fun

    Quote Originally Posted by little_john View Post
    So much depends on a person's reasons for keeping bees ...
    I think a lot has to do with attitude. As someone who was born having fun, fun is easy for me. But for others?

    This summer we had a young man come work here. He had been working for a commercial migratory. Said he got tired of being yelled at, called an idiot. Tired of boss throwing things and running stressed and working day and night. He left last week for another job...I got him a winter job with a migratory operation. Before he left he said this was the best summer of his life. Said he never knew beekeeping could be fun. We aim to please.

  12. #51
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    Don’t be too hard on yourself AR1. 1) If you originally started with all swarm catches, swarm are likely older queens with lower survival rates, unless the hive manages to requeen. (Or you can force it to requeen). 2) Learn from your mistakes. Monitor mites often and treat them (with or without using chemicals) before the colony collapse. 3) Glad you’re trying again. Get a mentor to guide you through it. You’re not alone.
    It’s the availability of diverse resources for my bees, not me per se, that allows my hives to explode.

  13. #52
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    Default Re: The right number of hives to keep it fun

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Palmer View Post
    I think a lot has to do with attitude. As someone who was born having fun, fun is easy for me. But for others?

    This summer we had a young man come work here. He had been working for a commercial migratory. Said he got tired of being yelled at, called an idiot. Tired of boss throwing things and running stressed and working day and night. He left last week for another job...I got him a winter job with a migratory operation. Before he left he said this was the best summer of his life. Said he never knew beekeeping could be fun. We aim to please.
    Having visited your place last year (with Pat) I agree! Nice KNOWLEDGEABLE people and polite honey bees, it was the best experience ever. I wish I had found the maple ice cream though! My cheerful heart is slowly coming back, that would have given me the much needed kick start. Deb
    Proverbs 16:24

  14. #53
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    Default Re: The right number of hives to keep it fun

    Quote Originally Posted by JWPalmer View Post
    I'm with you Deb, 20 is all I want and can comfortably manage. Hope to sell an equal number of nucs each year.
    Yes. I started bees for “me”, at a much needed time in my life. I love the bees and don’t want to grumble about caring for them.
    Proverbs 16:24

  15. #54
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    Default

    Great thread, LAlldredge. I appreciate you tossing the question out there as I really enjoyed reading the responses. I suppose for now I am not yet content until all the woodenware is full, which works out to something slightly north of 20 for me. But as they say about the best laid plans...

    Thanks again for posting.

    Russ
    Ecclesiastes 11:4

  16. #55
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    Default Re: The right number of hives to keep it fun

    Quote Originally Posted by Litsinger View Post
    Great thread, LAlldredge. I appreciate you tossing the question out there as I really enjoyed reading the responses.
    I agree - a really good thread - one of the best threads in ages, as work-load is not a subject often discussed. I particularly liked MP's post - for "having fun" is not something normally associated with professional beekeeping (but why not ?). Indeed, I doubt very much you'll find 'fun' listed within the indexes of any beekeeping books ...
    LJ
    A Heretics Guide to Beekeeping http://heretics-guide.atwebpages.com/

  17. #56
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    Default Re: The right number of hives to keep it fun

    michael
    I think a lot has to do with attitude. As someone who was born having fun, fun is easy for me. But for others?

    This summer we had a young man come work here. He had been working for a commercial migratory. Said he got tired of being yelled at, called an idiot. Tired of boss throwing things and running stressed and working day and night. He left last week for another job...I got him a winter job with a migratory operation. Before he left he said this was the best summer of his life. Said he never knew beekeeping could be fun. We aim to please.
    I will use a line from the Dirty Harry movie.
    "A man has to know his limitations"
    I know myself very well and know my weaknesses. I am lazy, introverted,hate selling and interested in fun. I could not do what you do but find around ten hives to really fit well what I do.
    I agree with LJ that this has been a great thread. I enjoy the process of thinking about what makes me happy about what fits my situation of bee keeping. I also enjoy thinking about your situations. I have really enjoyed this thread and all the posters to this thread.
    Cheers
    gww
    zone 5b

  18. #57
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    Default Re: The right number of hives to keep it fun

    Like I said in my "blog" if I recall - I realized what I have been doing is a "reality game" - that is really the fun factor.
    We, in the family, enjoy playing strategy games (a good example - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carcassonne_(board_game))

    I do the same, only on an area of several square miles and with the time scope going in years.
    Lots of variables; many of these are outside of my control (weather, landscape, people, beekeepers with their own bees and methods, regulations, etc, etc).
    My goal is to survive the environment and get the high quality returns with the least possible effort.
    I have hard time explaining to my kids the concept of my game.

    Outsmart, outplay, survive - "The Survivor. CBS".
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

  19. #58
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    Default Re: The right number of hives to keep it fun

    There is such a thing as "being in the zone" as a beekeeper. Like a professional athlete who has the ability to focus intensely, move with great intent and stay relaxed there is a zone for us as well. There can be great activity but beneath it all is a calm. I used to rock climb in my early 20's and had conversations with some of the best in the world. You can imagine hanging on a sheer rock face with only the smallest nubs of rock holding you on. And yet inside that great strength is tranquility and peace and focus. So it's not a surprise that Michael Palmer has the ability to manage the number he manages and still be relaxed and having fun. It is an artist at work.
    I'm smart but at the end of the day I'm still the help.

  20. #59
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    Default Re: The right number of hives to keep it fun

    If I was just to use a rough number its around 100. I grew up in beekeeping so less than that feels like I just have some bees sitting around. But every summer the colony counts starts to get out of hand and it becomes too time consuming. In fact between April and September I'm always "right sizing".

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