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Discussion Starter #1
I've recieved on offer I'm finding hard to refuse. The orchard where I keep my hives wants me to expand. They are even willing to purchase some packages of bees to offset the price of increasing. (I don't charge pollination I am just happy to have a good place for my bees)
My question is...and its a dumb newbee one, but....How much more work is having 10 hives. Until now I've been a hobby guy with 2-3 hives and I only expanded to 5 through catching swarms through pure luck.
Any input would be appreciated.
 

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well, there are a few ways to look at it. Mr.B pointed out the obvious way. Anotehr way is to actually figure it out. lets make some assumptions based on the average new beekeeper. Lets pretend they spend 1 hour with the bees each week. what portion of that is puttign no the suit, gathering the smoker and hive tool, and fuel, and bee brush, and allthe other bee stuff? I'll bet that about 15 minutes or so goes into just getting ready to play with the bees. Then you have to walk/drive/ride over to where the hives are. for some this is a few seconds, for otehrs a couple mintues, for some, even more. The actual time at the hive is going to be "constant" I add quotes because you will become faster at doing whatever you want to do. I simply mean that the time per hive to check brood pattern is going to be about the same from hive to hive. After you're done with the bees you've got to get cleaned up and put gear away and find your hivbe tool that you KNOW you set right over there.

In my first yaer, I'll bet I spent half of my "bee time" just getting ready or cleaning up from bees. So, if you double your hive count, you're doubling the actual hive time, but the rest remains the same. so you're only looking at a 50% increase in total time to care for them.

Another way to look at it is "why do i do what i do?" In my first year, i liked to find the queen, see the eggs, look at the pollen colors, and just watch the bees doing their work. Towards the end of the season, i could still stand and watch for hours, but, if i had to get some task done, i could do it much more quickly and easily. By then i had figured out what gear worked very well for me, what gear was okay, and what stuff i thoughto be far to time consuming and full of hassle. So, in the secon year, you can skip the time wasting and just get to business, if you want to.

If your bees go from being pets, to being livestock, do you change your way of caring for them? Do they go from having gormet food to jsut eating whatever they can find flying around? Do you pamper them with treatments, or just get by withthe minimum to keep them alive, or even go TF?

This will be my first year with sideline pollination going on. I'll tell you what, I'm not going out to the farm every couple of days to jsut watch them fly. I'm not going to check every couple of weeks for swarm cells, and I"m not going to go out and rotate frames like I"m shuffling a deck of cards to try and get them to draw them a certain way. The working bees can be working bees and get by without much help from me. My 6 or so hives at the house I'll probably still care for a bit more closely, but thats becasue i want to raise more nucs after last years expiramenting with them.

Long winded, eh? I was just trying to illustrate that it can be what yu want it to be. It can be double the work, for sure, or it could be a net decrease in time spent with hives, as compared to last year. It's totally your call, but I'd go with more. you'll have more chances to have them make it through winter :)
 

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Not much extra work. Just last year I went from four to twelve hives and I found that it was less work than I expected. How much time do you really spend actually checking the hives? My bee yard is near my home but far enough that I have to load everything up in the truck and drive there. From the time I load up till I get the smoker going and pop the first lid is the same for four hives as it is for twelve. So take the amount of time checking and maintaining each hive times the number of hives. The big advantage is you will likely always have a hive you can take a few frames of brood or even a few bees for to help another hive. Extracting is where you will need the extra time. There again much of the time spent extracting is getting set up to extract and cleaning up after extracting. The time spinning the frames and filtering the honey is usually not that long.
This year I hope to get to 25-30 hives.
 

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Going from 5 to 10 hives only means a little more time in the field, but the pros far out weigh the cons! You have more resources to pull from such as frames of brood to boost smaller hives, more pollination production which will keep the land owner happy, more honey, and the possibility to sell splits if you wish to help off set costs and prevent swarming.

Its like having kids, the first one is the toughest to get adjusted to, after that its all the same!!
 

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Discussion Starter #7
The kid analogy just about knocked me off my chair. Ahhhh, the fond memories of being single and childless. I could have handled 100 hives then.
I like your response too Mr. Bush. I frequent your website and own your book. The way you approach beekeeping just seemed to click with me.
Extracting was a concern of mine. Last year I got 350 lbs off of 2 hives. (i took nothing from my swarms and one hive that had chilled brood and was queenless for awhile) Some of you might remember this hive from one of my posts. tower.jpg
Thanks for all the input everybody. The pros seem to outweigh the cons and I believe I'll go for it.
 

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My simple rule is doubling in size increases work required by 50%. If 5 colonies take up 5 hours per week, 10 colonies will take up 7.5 hours per week. Twenty colonies will take up 11.25 hours per week, etc. There comes a point in time where you run out of time in the week somewhere around 1000 colonies. At that point, automation of tasks is the only way to increase colony numbers. One man can manage 2000 colonies if he works at it full time and if he has a high level of automation.
 

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Are you planning on keeping all of the hives in the orchard after pollination? If so, aren't you at saturation for that area? Are you ready to expand into more bee yards? Just a few other questions for you to consider.
 

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Its like having kids, the first one is the toughest to get adjusted to, after that its all the same!!
Except for paying tuition and supporting them through University...then it does add up!
 

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Do you want more hives? Do you have extra time on your hands?
 

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If it has been a good place to keep bees, they produce honey and no pesticide problems, I would certainly do it. Especially since the orchard apparently wants to subsidize you! If you had TWO hives and that's all you ever wanted that would say something about you. If you have five that says you want ten.
 

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Of course now comes a extractor. Then a bigger one. then a honey house. And so on.
David
 

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Building the equipment and extracting the honey will probably consume most of the time. The actual hive management really won't take much more time. Now smokepole brings up a good point. Storing enough supers and equipment can take up considerably more room than just a couple hives. I am quickly running out of places to stack boxes.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Yup, equipment and extracting were my main concern. Time was third on the list. I have 2 jobs and work 7 days a week. I also have a 1 yr old and a 1 mo old at home. So I'll have to be sure to put in some extra credit time with/for the wife.
I do have a 4 frame hand crank extractor and an electic uncapping knife. So that helps. I figure I'll jump in with both feet and see how it works. It's such a good place for my hives, all fenced, no pesticides and the orchard owners and their family really like having the bees around. I've also made sure to involve them and their grand kids (this is where I got these photos) 2012-05-16 16.24.59.jpg 2012-05-16 16.21.52.jpg and whenever I show up I'm greeted by "Mike the bee guy!"
As for saturation I'm not too concerned about that. With the orchard, many agricultural fields and a large berry farm 1/2 mile away there is ample forage. Plus, it's so much easier having one yard. I have hives in 3 spots now and the travel and setup is the most time consuming. So 1 drive and 1 setup would be the most efficient.
Thank you all for the input!
 

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It woudl not be even close to double the work. but it might be double the cost.

here is why.l you spend the exact same time driving to ten hives as you do 5. It does not take twice as long to suit up or light the smoker. You will have twice as many hives to open inspect and keep track of. But this is a two sided sword. yes ti takes longer but there is also more motivation to become faster and more efficient. I spent my first year tending to 4 hives. taking my time making extremely detailed inspection. in year two I grew to 23 hives. inspections take minutes an are not nearly as detailed I also know more about what is goign in the hive before I even open it than I did in the first year after a full inspection. For me I actually spend less time actually working at the hives and more time managing on paper and planning with 6 times the hives. We do more of everything but we do it with much more speed.
 
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