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My brother and I are taking the leap and going commercial size next year. We have been thinking about pollination lately so this is us putting our feelers out there, we are specifically seeking advice on almonds, but we have yet to ask the experts. Our biggest question and concern is the spraying and long truck hauls, what should we expect for losses from spraying and the long truck hauls? Generally speaking I am asking, I know things may vary year to year. We would be going into it with fairly strong colonies after wintering in Texas. (Next year will also be our first year wintering in Texas, so we really don’t know what to expect with how the bees will do with 20hr hauls). Our bees have never left Minnesota. I am also a firm believer that one should never place all his eggs in one basket, so the plan would be to keep a portion of the colonies home to split and help recover from losses out west. Is this a smart approach? Any and all advice pros and cons are appreciated.
 

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Currently at 200 hives now, the plan is to get to 400 by the end of this year if everything works out.
 

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Talk to all the beekeepers in your area that are successful in similar practices. Ask for their advice. If moving bees from east Texas into almonds make sure you get every fire ant off.
 

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there are a lot of bees in scott county so make sure you dont place hives right on top of someone. i personally have 50+ yards. And there are other commercials there also.
 

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there are a lot of bees in scott county so make sure you dont place hives right on top of someone. i personally have 50+ yards. And there are other commercials there also.
I assume from the tone of your statement that the yard jumpers and thieves thrive in MN also? Welcome to beekeeping 2014!!!!
 

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there are a lot of bees in scott county so make sure you dont place hives right on top of someone. i personally have 50+ yards. And there are other commercials there also.
We live in Scott county, but our bees are up north. We aren't the type to step on anybodies Toes. MNbees, we are curious about commercial operations, I wonder if we can help each other out? Trade help in your yards this season for showing us the ropes on a commercial size operation. We are seeking someone to take us under their wing and help us get first hand experience in a commercial operation to help us learn if this is where we want to go, if I should quit my 9-5 basically. Let me know if you want to speak offline.
 

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We live in Scott county, but our bees are up north. We aren't the type to step on anybodies Toes. MNbees, we are curious about commercial operations, I wonder if we can help each other out? Trade help in your yards this season for showing us the ropes on a commercial size operation. We are seeking someone to take us under their wing and help us get first hand experience in a commercial operation to help us learn if this is where we want to go, if I should quit my 9-5 basically. Let me know if you want to speak offline.
That is a very good plan, work for someone to show you the ropes.
 

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To answer your questions, we've never had a problem with hive deaths from spraying in CA. They usually come back looking really strong. We usually plan on about a 10% death rate for each long haul that we take. So each trip from MI to GA to CA to Ga to MI we usually plan on 10%. It's usually less but we like to plan for worst case. This year we sent a little over 2000 to CA and so far the ones we've gotten back look really healthy.
 

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Thanks for the input fellas, good information for sure! I am not sure if my next question should be a new thread starter or not. I dont want to get to ahead of myself, but I was wondering when we do get to that 400 colonie mark, when does it make sence and justify purchasing a semi rig and trailer? We plan on transporting to 1. almonds, 2. minnesota for honey, 3. texas for wintering. I have no idea what freight goes for, so knowing that information is key to figuring this question out. Any input?
 

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If I knew roughly how much it would cost to move the bees from MN to CA I suppose I would know if I could justify spending the money. But if it's only 2k or so then I could understand forgetting about buying a rig. I could be thinking too far into the future, but I'm a dreamer :) suppose it never hurt to call a carrier and ask for a quick quote.
 

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If you want to be truck drivers, that would be another forum.

The problem with buying your own trucks is that if you have enough hives to justify the cost, you still can't justify driving time. We paid approx $11400 round trip per semi from central Wisconsin to Chowchilla, CA this year. We have sent up to 6 semis a year each way and never considered buying a semi. We've had friends that tried going that route and quickly changed their mind after spending weeks on the road that could have been spent caring for the bees. Leave the trucking to the truckers, one less headache to worry about ( or at least less of one).

As for how the bees do on long hauls, I have heard people throw around a 10% queen loss on every move but I have no clue where that number comes from, we have not seen it. Hives are going queenless all the time and will do it on the road, sitting in California, TX or MN. The better wintering conditions and the pollination check more than make up for the stress of the trip. Compare your 20 hours of moving to 20 weeks of below minus frigid temps and snowdrifts. It is our experience that bees do MUCH better either wintering in Texas or California and we aren't even talking that pollination $$ yet. Tough to think about making up winter losses in a year like this one here in the north country. Our California bees come back about 3-4 weeks ahead of anything wintering in Wisconsin. Holding bees back in MN to "make up losses" does not make sense to me. First, you will have less losses from colonies sent somewhere warm (all things equal) and you will have better hives and better weather in which to split..
There is a reason commercial keepers (typically) don't winter in WI, MN.

Also, we've never had any spray losses though we know those that have, not from pesticides but fungicides. Didn't kill the hives but killed some brood.

It is usually a good idea to not put all one's eggs in one basket and doing lots of "firsts" in one year throws lots of variables into that basket. Are you piggybacking on another keeper in Texas? Do you know where you are getting syrup, cells, sub from in TX? Grower or broker in California? Listening to and learning from those who've done what you want to do is your best option for success. Don't try to reinvent the wheel.
Sheri
 
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