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i am expecting a call for my first pollination contract this week, it was previously filled by the beek i bought out. it's a pie cherry orchard about 75 miles from home. the beek i bought out said he charged 40 per hive, but in mid may his hives were pretty poor, no sub or syrup fed and some were brand new splits. it seems to require 1 trip to set hives, 2 trips to close them in during spray ( i don't know what they spray) and picking them up. i would like to charge 45 per hive (which i don't think he'll have a problem with) i just wonder if i am screwing things up for others at that price.the local commercial beeks who could fill the contract are not usually back from cali by then. i am also wondering if it would be ethical to put 3# packages on drawn comb with sub and syrup 3 weeks to a month before the contract begins and charge for those.packages don't usually arrive until mid april and the contract should start mid may. i went into winter with 32 hives, and i believe the orchard will take up to 50 so if everyone survives i would be taking 18 of the new package hives. thanks for advice and opinions. justin
 

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I have no idea about what the lease rate for cherries would be so won't comment on that. As far as getting the packages... setting them up will cover maybe 3 frames with bees and a month later you'll still only have 3 to 4 or maybe 5 frames of bees which is not many for a pollination contract.

What you might be able to do to help that out is, set up 32 packages early in the morning in the spot where your current 32 hives are, after moving the originals to a new location a few feet or more away. The packages will collect some of the workers from your original hives to help boost them up quicker, put feeders and pollen on them. The original hives will lose some workforce, but will have brood to make up for it. Also, remove a frame of sealed emerging brood from each original and give to each package as you set them up. I'm thinking that this way you'll get 64 hives or at least the 50 you need strong enough in time for your cherries contract.
 

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What could your bees make if you kept them near home? You mentioned 4 round trips of 150 miles each. A 1 ton truck costs $35000.00 today. by the time you add finance charges , license fees, insurance fuel and tires, you must estimate your cost per mile at $1.00 per mile. Truck cost $600.00 Driving fast and average 60 miles per hour. Labor for you the truck driver at $10.00 per hour, another $100.00. You have $700.00 moving expense. Don't go broke in the trucking business while trying to make a profit with your bees. I pollinated cherries at $45.00 and they were 12 miles from home. The area was a good wildflower area and I would split every hive in the last week of the job. Your farmer may not know what he is doing. Pie (sour) cherries do not need pollination. Best of luck.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
my 1 ton cost 4000.00 and i would only drive it the first and last trip. i could take the 2wd ranger for the spray trips. there is not much blooming when the cherries start so i don't feel like i would be missing much at home, although i may need to rethink that. i believe they will build up better there than here and would still be home before the major flows. i don't have the experience to know if it's worth the trouble or not. as far as the distance goes, this week work was 90 miles round trip so it doesn't seem like to long a drive. thanks justin
 

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Justin, welcome to the pros ;)

First of all, have you had a chance to check your overwintered colonies to see how they are doing? I would be a little nervous promising bees without having done this. Those packages will need their help.
Remember, packages lose bees every day before the first new bees emerge, so Ray is right about boosting the packages to help them along. Switching colony positions to pick up field workers is something we sometimes do also, but with the colder nights where you are, be careful you don't lose so many workers they lose brood in the original colonies. You might need some of that brood to even them out a bit more before taking them to the orchards.

I am curious, when you go to close them up for spray, do you need to wait around for them to spray to open them again? Would that be an additional trip? If you had to wait or make another trip I would try to get someone at the grower's to pull the screens. Is there potential that the spray will have a negative effect on your bees?
I don't really know anything about cherry pollination or reasonable fees but the distance, both in $$ cost and time is something you need to analyse, with estimated honey production both at home and on the pollination site being considered.
And finally, while the numbers may not add up now, they might with a larger number of bees. If you plan to expand, and there would be additional contracts available as you grow, it could mean getting your foot in the door for those larger contracts. It might not be an opportunity to pass up, especially if there is better early forage as well.
Good luck,
Sheri
 

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Discussion Starter #6
thanks everyone, sheri the beek i bought out lives close and would pull screens for me, he might even save me the 2 middle trips altogether. i do plan on expanding and as you said it it could pay off in the long run even if it just breaks even now. i will find out more about the spray, i can't imagine it would be an herbicide since the plants are just blooming.some kind of fungicide maybe? i'll find out. i will be collecting data this year, and will make sure i have some bees at home during the contract to see what the others are missing. now i just need for the guy to call. thanks again justin
 

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I'm guessing that at this point you are not making a full time living off of this. So if you do a year at $45/per hive and don't make much then at least next year you will have a much better idea of what to charge. As you stated earlier the guy you bought out from is closer than you so that's probably why he was charging the $40 per.
Now is the time to make mistakes when your income does not completely rely on your bees.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
well i am loaded up to go to the orchard in the morning. those bees i was planning on taking all died last winter (early winter) which i was not real suprised about but disappointed none the less. i went to cali and helped a commercial guy make nucs and got 64 of my own for my time. we made mine on april 2nd. 30 of them just got 2nd decks and the rest are almost ready for them. i wont be getting the 45 bucks per hive but am looking forward to filling the contract. now i need a forklift. loading those doubles onto the flatbed was a bit much. wish me luck. justin
 

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Good luck Justin, and keep us posted! It is fascinating and informative watching the trials and tribulations of a sideliner as he grows into the pros... helpful for all of us.
Regards,
Steven
 

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Justin

Make yourself a long ramp with good traction when wet so you don't have a steep incline or find one of those aluminum moving truck ramps. Use a dolly/cart to load and unload the hives. A trailer that is lower to the ground makes it easier also. Once those doubles get filled with honey and/or syrup you will with regret loading by hand when you are half way done and you pull a muscle in your back. Then you are down for weeks.
 

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Justin, good luck on the pollination; hope it leads where you want it to for your business. That was enterprising of you to help the other operator to get bees and recover from your winter losses. Interesting thread -- let us know how it comes out.
 

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i am also wondering if it would be ethical to put 3# packages on drawn comb with sub and syrup 3 weeks to a month before the contract begins and charge for those.

If you use a fruit tree sprayer to fill frames of syrup, and leave the middle 4 frames of drawn comb with no syrup....dump a 2 pound package of bees in and in 3 weeks you will have 4-6 frames of sealed brood. This is my experience, and what I have observed with other bees.

Try to get your packages as early as you can.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
thanks for the advise country boy. i ended up making nucs instead of going the package route, although it sure sounds like a fast way to get packages to produce. as i had hoped the cherry blossoms were just opening up but the dandilions were in full swing. i should be in really good shape coming out of there in a few weeks. thanks again justin
 

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Definitely keep us posted! I'm slowly working my way up, as I don't want to incur debt nor get too overwhelmed. This thread has been helpful!
 
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