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Honey vs Bee Production

2870 Views 8 Replies 8 Participants Last post by  jbraun
This post will be mostly thinking out loud. Comments will be appreciated though.

My reasons for keeping bees where twofold when I started. I'm a gardener and I have fruit trees and flowers that I wanted pollinated. I have a bad reaction to eating sugar but not from eating honey. I think we all have a sweet tooth to some degree.

After starting out with 2 nucs in 2012 I needed someplace else to keep my hives other than my regular sized yard. In 2013 I got permission from a market gardener to keep bees on his property(60 acres). Two splits went there. I only harvested 10 lbs of honey that year. This year I started to take care of another CSA'S bees on his property (23 acres) but 45 miles from my home. I also put one more hive at his place. It looks like I may only get 10-40 lbs of honey from there. The other place swarmed and I'm probably not going to harvest much from there.

The swarming hive this year produced 6 frames with queen cells on them. I made 6-4 frame nucs plus two OTS nucs. The nucs haven't done extremely well as I didn't feed them. They started on 5/1/14. Of the nucs 1 is down to 1 1/2 frames of bees and no brood. That one I'll probably shake out. 1 is up to 5 frames after having a second frame added later for them to requeen. 1 I new paper combined with a swarm I caught, it's doing well. 3 are doing very well and are getting up to having stores for the winter.

Of my other 3 hives they are 2 deeps with 1-3 supers strong. But they haven't seemed to stored much in the super. The 1 hive that has 3 supers really should only have 1 super. That hive I over estimated how well they were building comb and filling it in. Of these I'm probably going to split at least 2 of the three and see how that translates into production for next year.

So the reason for the title comes in after my history. I would like to harvest honey for my own use. So far that hasn't happened much. I do however seem to have a fair amount of success with keeping bees alive and making more bees. After 3 years with the bees I'm now aware that there are multiple measures of success in different areas of bee keeping. Next year I may try to sell nucs locally. At least a few to help cover my equipment costs. The bee club I'm in has a nuc and queen selling area in their web site. So that may help move this out of the hobbyist category and help me justify my expansions. Also there are quite a few farmers markets growers that I may rent out hives to. I'm about 100 miles from St. Louis, Mo and just past the suburban sprawl into a rural area.

Thanks for taking the time to hear about my thoughts.
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I maybe off so please don't take what I say for concrete. I also grow bees and not honey for commercial reasons but my thought is... if you were able to stay on top of the swarm cells by cutting them out or knocking them down and keep supers in front of the bees then you should be able to make good honey.

I'm putting this out there so someone else could say yes or no to my thought process.

Also, I like your nuc idea. Try to in courage new beekeepers to try nucs instead of packages.
From what I've seen (and everything I've read says the same), a bigger hive produces way more honey than 2 smaller hives. IE an 80k bee hive will produce 1.5 times more honey than 2 40k k hives combined. I would try to avert them even thinking about swarming by adding more space to the brood nest before it gets to that. Keep the queen too busy to swarm. Stop doing splits and let the hives get big. I would rather have 3 big hives than 8 small hives.
There's the old saying that you can make bees or you can make honey. I'm sure that's tru in some places. Here early spring / summer is about all the flow we get that will provide a surplus. There are some maintenance flows so I don't have to feed but I can't get much honey from them.
It's pretty much all over by the end of June. At that time I switch from honey to bees. This year has been odd. Can't seem to make honey or bees.
I would move around more brood keeping it open. To start with. Early on order some queens and pull a frame of brood and spilt it. I am really liking Mike Palmer double nuc set up. More ways to move brood. Move more brood. Remember you can add cap brood back to the main hive. I have been moving around brood once a week in a lot of hives. I feel like I am finely past swarming. And yes I did have a couple swarm on me.
I would rather have 3 big hives than 8 small hives.
I would rather the opposite.

On April 1 I had 27 hives each of which consisted of 2 x 8 frame medium boxes plus another box of foundation with an average of 3 frames of drawn comb in the top box. I also had 10 boxes of nice drawn honey comb that I deployed around May 1 when our flow really got going.

On May 1 I sold 25 8 frame medium "nucs" that I had split out using purchased queens - for about $100 profit per each. This sale equaled more than a third of the comb I had going into spring. I was a little concerned about how sustainable that would be.

But all that comb has been replaced and then some. Now I have about 95 boxes of drawn comb and it looks like around 150 quarts more or less of honey to harvest. And I have also produced plenty of new queens to head into winter with about 30 hives. A side benefit has been that splitting out all those nucs minimized my swarming headaches. So not a lot of time spent on that.

For about a month I was spending a lot of my time beekeeping, but since mid May I'm back to about 5 hours or so a week. In a few days I will have to put some work into harvesting and extracting honey.

150 quarts isn't a lot of honey from 25 hives. Last year I harvested 120 quarts from 3 hives. This years method is a lot less work though. As in - more but smaller hives = more honey with less total work.

This might sound like bragging, but the point is that you CAN make a useful profit from your hobby by selling both bees and honey - if that is your goal and you make a reasonable effort.
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jbraun- I'm assuming you have deeps for nucs. If you want some honey let those 5fr deep nucs go up with a second deep, in the spring,
and they will take off nicely. I bought 20 nucs my 2nd yr, and did that. I supered each one as they grew crowded in the second deep, and
harvested 550 cut comb honey along with about 150lb of liquid honey. Those nucs do work for honey or for brood, either way its the
beekeepers choice.
You talking about me. Ha ha i think the secret to swarm control and honey production is drawn comb.
I must be slow on the uptake. I thought that if you didn't have drawn comb you couldn't open up the brood chamber. I finally get that you can insert foundation or foundationless frames and they will draw it out fast enough to give the queen the laying room she needs.

I'm going to do my splits to increase my apiary this summer and I'll keep adding frames to keep them from swarming this summer and fall.
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