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Hobby means 1 or 2 hives....

4921 Views 25 Replies 11 Participants Last post by  shannonswyatt
Well I am losing about 67 to 75% of my bees in 2013, and in 2014.

And the only hive I lost in winter, the queen swarmed off, a freeze occurred and drones were thrown out during the freeze, and the virgin took off, eventually to return unmated and appear on the screen of another hive (I had merged her bees.)

I lost 3 hives to EFB last year, out of 5, got that cleared up, acquired my neighbor's hot bees when split and requeened his hot hive (miserably hot but they were bees), that got me to 3 hives, did a small split with a new queen, so 3 plus a nuc. Had to send the nuc away they were getting robbed out, kept them at a friend's. My big double deep EFB survivor VSH queen swarmed off and her virgin failed to mate, 2 plus a nuc.

Requeened the hot bees 5/16/14, they are now my only surviving hive. Queen swarmed from one hive, virgin failed to return from mating, newly installed queen died leaving 4 or 5 queen cells, and i sold off the hive the nuc developed into

Drought, drought and drought. No fodder except a 3 month flow... I am almost glad to be down to one hive... Will buy a couple of queens and split it in August or September. Meantime it has enough bees to defend the honey and I got about 3.5 gallons of honey.
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I forget who first said it, but it is hardest to keep bees when you only have a couple of hives. The beekeeper with two hives who loses one has a 50% loss, whereas the beekeeper with 20 hives is hardly affected by the loss of one. If the fellow with 20 hives is hit with a 50% loss, he still has resources to build back up.

I am in the same boat as you. I have always kept between two and four hives in the past. This year I am looking at things differently. I don't think I can manage 20 hives, but I would like to get up to at least eight, and see where I can go from there. I am going to learn how to produce my own queens, and I hope to learn more about sustainable beekeeping.

Something else I have realized is I need to be more fluid in my thinking when it comes to the hives I have. I need to be better at splitting strong hives when they need it, and combine weak ones, rather than just nurse them along. And if I can raise my own queens, I can have more control over requeening mediocre hives, replacing their queens with genetically superior ones.

This spring, I could hardly beg, borrow or steal bees. The packages I ordered arrived dead. The nucs I paid for were a month late. Luckily I was able to catch a couple of swarms in April--without these I would have been a beekeeper with no bees. I think in the future we will have to become more sustainable in our own apiaries.
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Between the normal lack of forage in my area and the drought, most of what I do for bees is feed bees. I have beenup as high as 7, down to 5 when I combined, but in my area there is grassland, some wildflower, trees, and no neighbors watering their flower beds so the drought hits particularly hard. Before I buy bees to deliberately get over 2 hives, I need to buy land somewhere else. Mostly I need to have very strong hives to defend from foraging ahb and ehb robbers in July and August. About to do a cutout, and bring them home. If my bees try to attack will have to start all over with robber guards or rebalance the bee count again. Good thing: almost no varroa. Robbing seems to not help the mites out.
it sounds like you need to find the balance between really strong and swarming strong. thats a lot of work to be at one hive. not that i do better.
Between the normal lack of forage in my area and the drought, most of what I do for bees is feed bees.
Maybe in your area the hot bees are the only ones that can survive. I feel blessed that I live in the land of good and plenty when it comes to bees. I don't see owning land as a solution because if there isn't water there isn't much life. I am guessing it would be cheaper to feed a couple of hives rather than irrigate the land that it would take to support those hives.
If I am doing nothing but pouring sugar water in, I cannot sell honey, I cannot support the genetic diversity to raise queens, why on earth should I continue to increase my number of bees.

When I started my business I established a rule. the day it doesn't make a profit I shut it down. I enjoy the hobby of bee keeping but except for charging for cutouts, in this drought/dearth, and where I live, there is no way to make a business of it.

I fed a couple of hundred pounds of sugar every year for the past 3 years. Last year during EFB I pulled about 50 lbs of honey, as I had to confiscate it to stop the disease. I harvested 3.5 gallons, guessing around 35 lbs of honey last weekend, one of those hives didn't swarm, it was a split, the newly purchased queen didn't make it. Left 4 queen cells and a frame of brood before she died, I don't think she lived 3 days... Texas queen breeders have issues - more fire ants, more crazy ants, etc... queens are scarce this year. so I just shut down the hives and merged them. It will take that new queen a while to lay enough eggs for a swarm and by that time the old bees from those 2 hives will have long since died off. I stole the honey cap too...

Probably doing a cutout Thursday. If they make it, I'll have 2 hives. Plenty with only my yard for fodder.
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If I am doing nothing but pouring sugar water in, I cannot sell honey, I cannot support the genetic diversity to raise queens, why on earth should I continue to increase my number of bees.
I am not sure anyone was telling you to do that.
When I started my business I established a rule. the day it doesn't make a profit I shut it down.
There are very few business start ups that turn a profit from day one. Usually there is a plan to go from red to black.
I got two hives in bunches of locations. I have found that some areas I lose them both and other areas I get more honey off of one than all of the others combined. I did not replace the yard that I lost them both but it is getting to be a lot of running around. My neighbor asked nice for me to take my hive count down so hopefully he will not mine that I have about 10 nucs here now.
If I count nucs I also lost 75%. First time I tried it I got all through the winter. Second year I lost all my nucs.
Mine lost money for 3 months. That is when I set the rule, and I have followed it for 15 years. My exhusband lost enough money for 10 businesses and he only had one.

No one told me I had to sell honey or queens, or propolis, etc, but if you plan to make a profit at bees it is that or pollination contracts, as I understand it. In all honesty my location is not good for much except a fair isolation from diseases, so I can cut them out, clean them up, requeen and maybe sell a hive now and then. As soon as I decided one hive was plenty one of my queens came home mated and I picked up 2 cutouts on friday, lol. (paying mind you.)
My exhusband lost enough money for 10 businesses and he only had one.
It is nearly impossible to start a business or keep one going if your partner doesn't like you.

I am absolutely certain you can make money by just making wooden ware and not owning bees. It is not what you do that separates you from the competition it is how you do it. The other key element to a successful business is marketing and sales and you either have it or you don't.
Whatever Ace. I am not a woodworker. I have other skills that are more lucrative. Dadant stuff is fine. My concern is keeping beekeeping from breaking my budget, and making it at least marginally profitable or not a huge loss. Hobby expenses, doesn't matter if I make a profit. Large expenses must have a long term return at least somewhat possible..

I spent 10 years as a cheerleader for hubby, had software sold to a large chain of local companies, so he didn't write the software, he wrote a game. that never sold 1 copy. I sell what I can do WELL. At least I know I'll show up.

I hear a lot of frustration in your post. I'm not going to tell you everything is going to be OK, or try to play cheerleader. Instead, I'm going to make an observation, and you can make of it what you will. It is provided in the spirit of support and with good intentions.

If you're getting cutout calls, wouldn't that indicate that there is ample forage in your area, and that bees *can* support themselves? Maybe it is time to assess what it is that you are doing, and determine if you can do so better in the setting in which you find yourself. Perhaps management techniques that tend to work well elsewhere just aren't appropriate for your situation.

The cutout calls are up in dense wealthy neighborhoods that water their flowerbeds and have lush st augustine lawns but the 2 I took out Friday were glorified swarms, with almost no stores of any kind. Very young, white comb, there was brood/eggs but no brown brood comb and the bee tree hive was starving. And both have either taken off or merged with my hives. one had mites so badly I could see them in the comb with the uncapped larva. But they needed removed and so I removed them. I did not see either queen, so I assume my mite count in my hives JUST went up
And both have either taken off or merged with my hives. one had mites so badly I could see them in the comb with the uncapped larva.
So why merge them or give them a chance to merge? If you have a struggling hive adding mite ridden bees is not going to help.
I should have just broken out the Raid Ace.
OK, I don't know if you are being sarcastic or not but I would not have put the bees together.
well thank you for your advice. you would have put them in your spare bedroom maybe? Neighbor's garage? Kinda have limited options. I did not dump them in my hive and am about to pull the frames so my bees can't rob them out. I am fairly suspicious of the house bees.
I would suggest that you do this. If you are going to keep bees as a business, write up a business plan. You will need to determine realistic goals in your business plans as well as costs. A business plan will help guide you moving forward.

Coming up with a plan is the easy part. Sticking with a plan and making it come true is were the work comes in. Keeping bees is a form of farming, and farming is always a game of chance to a certain extent. You can increase your odds and offset risk, but there is cost associated with that as well.

I honestly think that you probably should view this as a hobby with the potential for profit up until you get your hive counts up and are able to absorb your loses better. Each year I view the money I'm spending on bee stuff as an investment in my bee education. I probably will never run a for profit business, but maybe someday when I retire I can sell some nucs in the spring or produce more honey or something to offset what I am spending now.

I think Ace's point is that it is easier to sell woodenware and make money, I don't think that he is suggesting that you get a table saw and start ripping boards.
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I understand where Gypsi is. She is not independently wealthy, so she wants to break even on her bees. That is workable situation in her area. She seems to have more problems with her bees than do most of us. Gypsi's area has been in a three year drought, and the bees that aren't within the metroplex have been the worst drought in a hundred years. The weather forecasters are now saying that the "el Nino" is moving into a favorable condition for our area to return to normal rainfall. With the rain will come much more forage, and it will be easier to be successful with bees.
Thank you all for your input. And thank you Lazy for explaining our weather. It is not just the sugar bill. The drought reduces shb, this is true, but increases European Foulbrood (bored nurse bee syndrome when no flow), and I think the bees are not as healthy raised exclusively on sugar water and pollen sub.

I build aquatic filters, am 10 times as good at that as I ever will be with a table saw. Bees are a sideline to aquatics for me, and really where I am headed is more permaculture, which to do properly will mean buying land where it is reasonable. Not too bad around here but $60,000 an acre it isn't worth it. At $10,000 a 1/6th acre lot my permaculture and bee business plan will need a move, water and sugar bill aside.

I did want to see how many other people were making these cut back decisions based on weather and forage though.
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