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Discussion Starter #1
I am brand new to beekeeping and brand new to this forum. I've read a lot of posts covering every imaginable topic on this site and it looks like a terrific forum with very helpful members. In addition, I'm reading lots of books and subscribe to Bee Culture magazine.

My wife and I just purchased 130 acres of land in southeast Texas, specifically in Magnolia (near Houston). We are starting with 50 colonies and have already reserved the bees and ordered the woodenware, etc, so we should be up and running this spring. Our goals is to use the first year as a learning period and then next year increase the size considerably. Hence my first question. Are there any limitations on how many colonies can be supported on 130 acres? I realize that labor can be a limiting factor, but assuming for the momemnt that labor will not be an issue, I'm curius to know how many colonies the land size itself will accomodate. Incidentally, the entire surrounding area is rural including 4,000 undeveloped and heavily forested acres owned by a university trust directly adjacent to our proerty.

Second, I'd like to plant as many bee-loving plants/flowers/shrubs/trees etc as possble on our land. I realize that bees travel great distances to forage wherever they wish, but I'd still like to give them an opportunity to eat at home instead of always "dining out." In this part of Texas pollen is abundant (sneeze, sneeze) but plants high in nector are less abundant so it makes sense to plant high nectar producing vegetation as much as possible. Any suggestions would be welcome.

Thank you...

Lee
(Lee's Bees)
 

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First there was the Dot Com boom of the late '90s, everybody had to own dot com stocks. With little warning it imploded and billions of dollars were lost. Then came the real estate boom which in 2008 also with little warning went bust, billions of dollars were lost and many lives ruined due to foreclosures and sinking values.

Now we have the beekeeping boom, SAVE THE BEES!!! But this time it comes with decades of warnings...AFB, mites, CCD, IAPV...the BEES ARE DYING!!!
Fifty hives for a beginner in these times? Good Luck!!!:doh:
 

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Can't answer your question with any authority, but i can say welcome to the forum and welcome to beekeeping.

Good luck with your project. 50 hives will prove to be quite a handful but if you have the time and determination (and resources) I'm sure you will make it happen. Find a local "mentor" and that should prove to be your best resource.

Wayne
 

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Lee, I admire your gumption. As you can tell, some of us are worried for you. Keeping bees is not as easy as one thinks. You CAN do it. You're doing the research which is key. But please please please do not underestimate the problems you are going to have the first two years. We do hope you succeed.

Now, allow me to make a suggestion. Keep a diary. A log or notebook of your experiences, joys, heartaches. in future years you'll be so glad you did, when you can look back and read of your experiences. And if you have kids or grandkids, who knows? They might enjoy the story of the time Dad/Grandpa started with 50 hives of bees and went from there.

And keep us posted here... maybe title it Newbie with 50! or some such so we can identify you. Me? I got back in with 3, 2009 built to 14, going to 30 this year, and 50 in 2011. Man, no way would I attempt what you're doing. Keep us posted please, this is going to be quite an adventure!
Good luck, my friend! :thumbsup:
Steven
 

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Dude you are gonna work your ***** off, hope you have a lot of time :) You will be a pro in no time at that pace! Plant what ever you would like to see but it will be for your enjoyment of watching them for the most part. I have been told that more than 20 colonies in one place will not give more honey, for instance 30 colonies will produce the same surplus honey as 20. I read that but can not confirm it but you shoulld be able to keep 50 in one location no problem I would think. Let some others chime in. Most I have had total is 21 hives my goal for almost 5 years has been 50 hives but 18 seems to run me to death sometimes.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Thanks all, for your responses. Yes, I am well aware of the labor challenges and have already identified local bee experts to assist. Also, I will have plenty of help. I should have explained that I am looking at this as a commercial enterprise. That's why in my initial post I mentioned that I am aware of the labor issues. Although I don't discount or intend to minimize them, that's not my central concern. As I wrote, I'm mainly interested in how much colony density I can have on 130 acres and what I should plant.

In the book "The Complete Book of Beekeeping" I read the following: "If you do decide to pursue beekeeping as a business and your business grows, you may need to invest in a large building to house your equipment, but you'll never need acres of land. Beehives don't require tons of space." Is that a fair statement or would you advise differently? If so, why?

As for what to grow, it seems that the trick will be to plant a variety of nectar-intense flowers, trees, etc., that will bloom at different intervals throughout the long growing season here. If anyone knows what I should consider for this region of Texas (near Houston) I'd love to hear from you.

Again, I thank all the folks for your responses...

Lee
 

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I never owned a piece of ground to keep bees on. The number of hives per site is determined by the nectar producing plants within 2 miles of the location. Most commercial guys set 130 per yard. I have seen 600 hives in one yard producing 150 lb per hive. My best was 230 with 60 of them as after almond splits making 210 lb per hive in 12 weeks. Then they were moved to a second summer flow. In about 15 years you may have enough knowledge to make money. You must be a botanist, and know how to asses each nectar source. Did it get enough rain to produce? Is location A going to produce more than location B ? What the milage to A or B? A fixed location may be hit by drought for 4 years in a row. Now what do you do? When setting them in windy locations , set down wind from prevailing nectar crop. 10 hives are more than enough for the first year.
 

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50 hives and a first year rookie.....WOW!!!! My best advice is cut that number down to 5 or so hives the first year. Bees die, but your woodenware investment can sit in the barn until next year. Call your bee supplier back and tell them you have come to your senses and only need five packages.

Make your mistakes and get a feel for beekeeping on those five hives. Decide what management approach and equipment works best for your area. LEarn what's happening on the frames. Learn to understand what your bees are doing and what they need. Read....Read....Read... everything you can get your hands on. Ask a million questions.

Going with 50 hives the first year and zero experience....I think you are setting yourself up for a bad crash and losing your butt. You can work your tail off and sleep with your bees, but if you don't have knowledge, you'll crash and burn. I started with 10 and so far have lost four of the ten....all because I was learning and made mistakes.

Not trying to discourage you, just trying to give you a dose of beekeeping reality. By the way. I'm in Texas to, located in the panhandle. Let me know if I can help. Would be happy to share my experiences.
 

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"The Wildflower Center has a new asset in its quest to demonstrate the best of Texas wildflowers and native plants -- two on-site bee hives."

For native plants for bees of all kinds, the LBJ Wildflower Center has a lot of information. http://www.wildflower.org/feature/?id=35

Texas is a BIG state :rolleyes: :) and has a lot of associations/clubs for beekeepers,.. http://www.texasbeekeepers.org/clubs/ that would have knowledge about other nectar/honey producing plants.

As far as starting out with 50 colonies, because of lack of experience, you could end up with 25-30 hives at the end of this year or next spring. If you start with 20-25-30 colonies and with making divides next spring, you could have 45-55-60 colonies in 2011! Just wondering about the expense of all those nucs or packages here, [25 nucs/packs. X $70.00 = $1750]. With advice and/or assistance from local experienced beekeepers, I suppose it can be done,.:).

As far as the large building, not all of the boxes/supers and other equipment is left on the hives all year round, so you would need some place to store that to protect it from the elements and other insects [wax moths] or critters [mice?].
 

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I bet the responses you are getting are not quite what you expected, but it takes time and experience to be successful at beekeeping. Reading will help a lot but the bees do not read beekeeping books and therefore do not always obey the rules. You have to get out into a yard and get your hands dirty (or covered with propolis) to really discover what is going on. Right off the bat you have to make many decisions on the managment style you intend to use, for instance treatments vs. no treatments, that question alone makes a huge difference as to what equipment to buy and what type of bees to purchase ect. I think 50 is very ambitious for someone with zero experience. BTW you are just down the road from BeeWeaver Apiary.

http://www.beeweaver.com/
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Yes, I am a little surprised because, coincidentally, it was Danny Weaver himself who suggested that I start with 50 colonies during my first year. I met with Danny and his wife Laura at their apiary in Navasota, Texas on December 31. I honestly think the Weavers have a good grip on what I am trying to accomplish with my bee project and I have every reason to believe their advice is sound.

I didn't mention this before because I didn't see the relevance of bringing it up, but since so much of the discussion has been about labor, experience, and knowledge, I should have probably mentioned that I have a great deal of experience running businesses. I own a business that is now more than two decades old and employs some 75 people in two states. So I am looking at beekeeping through the same prisim. I plan to run it like a business and to me that means learning everything I can and hiring good knowledgable, ethical, hard working people to keep me from stepping in it. So, while I appreciate all the advice I am getting on this thread, I want to emphasize again that I am NOT worried about the labor issues. Getting my hands dirty is not the question nor the concern. I have experienced and knowledgable staff in place and am believe I fully understand the labor requirements. That said, I genuinely appreciate all the feedback about it because folks here are obviously concerned that I might otherwise fail... and that's what makes this such a terrific forum.

My questions are simply about what plants I should consider for my property and the ultimate density of colonies for the property. To those questions I heve received sevaral great and useful answers. Thanks again to all responders.
 

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My questions are simply about what plants I should consider for my property and the ultimate density of colonies for the property.

I can see that you are thinking ahead into your business plan. Some questions for you to think about are...

Do I want the most honey possible, or am I interested in producing the best quality? Who am I selling to, upscale markets or weekend farmer's market. Do I want to produce a varietal (single source) honey?

I would start here, then consider what plants will work for your land, then that will ultimately determine the number of hives you can support.

Here's someone elses approach just up the highway from you.

http://www.roundrockhoney.com/index.php?main_page=about_us
 

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You have an experienced staff...what do they recommend you plant? I assume they are from that part of Texas or have experience keeping bees in Texas. I'd be interested in knowing what your staff has to say although I'm in a different climate within the state.
 

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These folks are giving you good advice. I am a three time rookie, meaning this is my third time keeping bees. I am retired now and have time. I started back in May 2008 with a swarm I caught. Expanded to 3 hives in April 2009. I now have 2 live hives that are wintering well and will expand to 6 or 7 in 2010 I have farmed all my life and worked off the farm and made good money. I believe with the employees that you have at your disposal, labor may not be problem. But from my small experience your day job or business had better be very profitable to carry you thru your losses until you get it all figured. This is true on about any farming experience. Best of luck. You are gonna need it!! Oh,and I still have the 156 acre farm. Still not too profitable but I enjoy it and have had a lot of tax deductions. I predict you will too.
 

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Man I do not think you have a clue how much work is involved. I started 5 new ones last year and it was a lot. Just building frames, boxes painting etc. Building up to 50 or more is not unreasonable but I would really think about starting out with less. Good Luck
 

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MDN; I say go for it! Sounds like you have a good head on your shoulders and are well experienced in business. I've been in and out of the business since the 50's and my oldest son and I just started last April with 20 nucs and caught about 15-18 swarms. With splits, we worked our way up to 100 and hope to get to 4-500 this year. It's a challenge, especially for an old fart like myself, but I enjoy it. Can't give you any advice on good plants for that area but whatever you do, plant all the acreage you can! The Weavers and other local beekeepers should be able to help you with the local forage situation. Don't get discouraged with losses; everybody has them! Every loss is an opportunity to excel with the next batch of bees you put in that box! :D:D
 

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Yes, I am a little surprised because, coincidentally, it was Danny Weaver himself who suggested that I start with 50 colonies during my first year. I met with Danny and his wife Laura at their apiary in Navasota, Texas on December 31. I honestly think the Weavers have a good grip on what I am trying to accomplish with my bee project and I have every reason to believe their advice is sound.

I didn't mention this before because I didn't see the relevance of bringing it up, but since so much of the discussion has been about labor, experience, and knowledge, I should have probably mentioned that I have a great deal of experience running businesses. I own a business that is now more than two decades old and employs some 75 people in two states. So I am looking at beekeeping through the same prisim. I plan to run it like a business and to me that means learning everything I can and hiring good knowledgable, ethical, hard working people to keep me from stepping in it. So, while I appreciate all the advice I am getting on this thread, I want to emphasize again that I am NOT worried about the labor issues. Getting my hands dirty is not the question nor the concern. I have experienced and knowledgable staff in place and am believe I fully understand the labor requirements. That said, I genuinely appreciate all the feedback about it because folks here are obviously concerned that I might otherwise fail... and that's what makes this such a terrific forum.

My questions are simply about what plants I should consider for my property and the ultimate density of colonies for the property. To those questions I heve received sevaral great and useful answers. Thanks again to all responders.
Are you starting this business as a pollenation or honey business? If you are going for honey then you may want to have a coupke bee yards as to not over work one area. I don't know what grows in Texas how about clover. With the right weather it grows early spring through fall here.
 

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Contact Gene Weitzel in Cleveland, Texas; you and him are practically neighbors. He has some nucs for sale. He is experienced and gives good advice on this forum. Make a deal with him on his nucs, the price seems very reasonable, cheap in fact. His advertisement for his bees is here:

http://www.beesource.com/forums/showthread.php?t=236796

Good luck, don't be discouraged, 50 is not to many to handle with a little help and a lot of reading. I am sure you will catch on quickly with Gene's help. My probelm when I first started out is that I didn't have enough to satisfy my constant curiosity, 50 for me might have still been on the low side as I wanted to get into them constantly.
 
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