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Author Topic: How rapid is rapid?  (Read 8356 times)
wm21m9
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« on: February 25, 2008, 04:27:51 PM »

How rapid is rapid?

Howdy, I'd like to start by thanking you for the forum in general and this forum in particular as its right up my alley! I'm just getting started, but eventually I'd like to take beekeeping/honey producing full time. Make no mistake I have no interest in getting rich, my family and live quite simple.

My tentative "plan" is to double up (at a minimum) each year by "splitting" existing hives (double stacking/queening) starting next year, over a 10 year period (allowing for "issues), eventually reaching my goal of 250 hives (a number I feel I can maintain on a 3 week to monthly visit basis).

I'll also reinvest any income to equipment & whatnot as I expand my venture, and more bees & hives in an effort to reach my goal as quickly as possible.


The county I live in is rural & 75% state forest, 10% timber, and the remaining 15% split between ag & residential. The surrounding counties are heavier ag, so I don't think I'll have trouble finding room for them.

I think I'm in fairly good shape as far as a market(ing) goes as well.

This'll be a "slow burn" venture but I'm excited to get started, please please poke any holes y'all can think of in any of my plan while I'm still in the infant stage! Thanks! Jeff
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Michael Bush
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« Reply #1 on: February 25, 2008, 08:52:15 PM »

How rapidly you can grow an operation will depend entirely on the weather and the bees.  In a good year, with a good hive, sometimes you can split a hive several times.  In a bad year, sometimes you can't split any of them.
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pdmattox
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« Reply #2 on: February 25, 2008, 09:16:21 PM »

How rapid is rapid?



I think that is relitive. I had a friend that went from a little over a 100 hives to over 800 hives in 2.5 months. keep in mind he had all the equipment already,labor (helpers) and bought alot of queens. just how energetic do you want to be. One suggestion I would make is to let your hive build up to double brood box strength and then start pulling nucs out of them. keep the doubles strong and feed feed and feed.
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Sir Stungalot
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« Reply #3 on: February 26, 2008, 01:47:42 AM »

Sounds pretty well thought out to me. I bet you could do it in less than 10 years EXCEPT for the cost of eqpt. - that is the smak in the face.
One thing I have found is that each year, I find a cheaper way to grow. Learning what to avoid buying (that perhaps in earlier years you thought was a good purchase) and finding where to look for good deals is something that to me, is as important as being a good beekeeper.
There are shortcuts (for the lack of a better term) when it comes to eqpt. that you begin to see over time.
Like mentioned prior...some years you can split the heck out of them and others....blah. My hives, so far, are going to be blah. I had planned on a 50-80 hive increase this year but..well, thus far, the bees #'s are just not there.  Last year they were booming. One just never knows! Still time though-
Good luck!
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wm21m9
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« Reply #4 on: February 26, 2008, 08:51:57 AM »

 Well at least nobody's told me I'm crazy! To be honest I hope to reach my goals much sooner than 10 years, but being honest with myself I'm allowing time for bad years & various other setback issues.

 I don't have a problem with an "investment" attitude and every penny made (+) will go into the operation, and I'm not afraid getting by on minimal equipment & doing things the hard way until I can afford to upgrade. I'm also pretty good at making the most effective use of my money.

 I'd wanted to keep bees as a kid but never got serious enough to get started & when a friend mentioned it a handfull of years ago it really set a fire in me. My wife & I have wanted to make a living in the ag industry as producers (as in wanted to farm) since we were children (she grew up on a tobacco farm) but its nearly impossible to start up these days. The closest we've gotten is a big garden, lol. When I started really looking into beekeeping it began to look like this may be our shot, and if we can pull it off it'd feel like retirement...thanks for the uplifting input! Jeff
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peggjam
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« Reply #5 on: March 19, 2008, 09:14:07 PM »

Equipment will be your biggest hurddle.  When you think about doubling every year, that is like buying enough equipment to house all the bees you have now, all over again.  It can get to be a daughting task to say the least Wink.
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Brian D. Bray
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« Reply #6 on: March 19, 2008, 11:29:06 PM »

Equipment will be your biggest hurddle.  When you think about doubling every year, that is like buying enough equipment to house all the bees you have now, all over again.  It can get to be a daughting task to say the least Wink.

A strong double deep can be split into as many as 7 nucs.  At three frames per nuc that equals 6 plus 2 extra frames--the 7th nuc.  If all you are looking for is numbers and pollination contracts the 1st few years you can split each double deep into 7 nucs twice each season.  That is at the max end of things.  I would do 4 frames for each nuc = 5 nucs from each double deep.  Twice a season makes 10 fold increase so if you start with 10 hives you can have 100 by years end and 1000 at the end of the second year.  But again that is the upper edge.  You will have some losses splitting them that thinly.  With a little luck and good weather, you could reach 1000 from 10 in 3 years even with moderate losses.  Would I recommend it?  No, but it can be done.  Depends on your long term goals.  Many commercial beekeepers here in the states stay in business making splits like that--they also experience huge losses.  It evens out for them. 

Me, I like my bees too much to turn them into a piece of machinery.
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Carriage House Farm
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« Reply #7 on: April 01, 2008, 11:57:45 PM »

Interesting article in Beesource about this...sort of.  Just got it today.

All about making splits.                       
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Richard Stewart
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wtiger
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« Reply #8 on: April 23, 2008, 05:55:51 PM »

link?
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Paraplegic Racehorse
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« Reply #9 on: April 24, 2008, 02:56:44 PM »

My tentative "plan" is to double up (at a minimum) each year by "splitting" existing hives (double stacking/queening) starting next year, over a 10 year period (allowing for "issues), eventually reaching my goal of 250 hives (a number I feel I can maintain on a 3 week to monthly visit basis).

Doubling every year is pretty ambitious. For myself, the plan is to double for each of the first three or four years, then cut back to about a 50% increase until I reach my target numbers. However, thats only how hard I want to push things for splits! I'll still be buying packages and trying to catch swarms. I just want to be sure I keep a few hives in production so I can draw some income to help pay for my expansion. Smiley

Still, it's going to take a few years to reach my 500-hive goal from my existing five. It would have been shorter, but I had a 100% loss on last year's bees and, this year, in less than one week, I have a 50% loss of packages (two DOA, two too weak to be viable and perished in less than four days, one fly-away queen). The rest look pretty healthy, though, so I should recover just fine.
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abates99
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« Reply #10 on: May 02, 2008, 12:00:08 PM »

It sounds like you have thought this out very well, in fact it seems that you have developed quite an impressive business plan.  I wish you well.  I have goals of expansion and business development similar to yours, but not quite as agressive or as well thought as yours.  Good luck.
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hankdog1
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« Reply #11 on: June 14, 2008, 10:56:42 AM »

If equipment cost is a factor you could do one of two things buy the woodworking tools to make your own.  This could be another suggestion go to your local vocational school with some plans and have them make it for you.  Your still going to have to buy frames of course but it could cut down the $$$ that needs to be invested.  Also try to stay away from two deeps around here if your going for honey production our flows in this part of the state aren't enough to support a hive that large plus provide surplus honey for sale.  But if you just want to make splits like crazy yeah it's probably not a bad idea.
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« Reply #12 on: June 19, 2008, 12:51:37 AM »

That does sound like a well thought out plan. I only plan on getting to around 30-40 hives in the next 7 years.
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BearCreekBees
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« Reply #13 on: June 21, 2008, 08:12:45 AM »

Sounds very exciting Jeff. Can I offer some advice from my own experience?

First thing- if you can find a beekeeper in your area who runs around 250 hives, see if you can work with him/her for awhile. Even if it is just an occasional day on a weekend now and then it would be enormously helpful to you. Volunteer your time- the tuition you get will be priceless and could cut years off the learning curve for you. It will also help you to get a sense of the amount of time and effort that 250 hives require- then you can decide if you really want 250 hives or not.

I generally advise newcomers to avoid purchasing used equipment- too much room for error. You could wind up with pests/diseases you don't want to expose your other bees to. But, in my early beekeeping days, our state bee inspector (who, btw, is the one who first put the idea in my head that I could be more than a hobbyist and make $$$ at it) used to call me when other beekeepers were looking to sell out. On his recommendation I was able to buy out 3 retiring beekeepers- not only did he provide the info, but he also evaluated the bees and equipment (on his own time, not on the clock, lol) and helped with advice on pricing so I never got ripped off. Expanding through purchased bees/equipment can be a very expensive way to go about it, but if you can find good deals, I'd go for it. I wound up with a lot of boxes and frames which went right into the wood stove, lol, BUT, in those cases I also bought a honey crop along with the "kindling". So, if for example, I spent $1000 on equipment, I might have harvested $600 worth of honey, made enough $$$ to purchase new woodenware, and still had the bees as a bonus. It's work, but beekeeping generally is. So, make friends with your bee inspector and maybe he can help you out. But, DON'T go around buying used hives from people you don't know, at least not until you get some more experience under your belt. You might get lucky, but you might get burned. And unless you are getting a really good deal, it usually isn't worth it anyway.

If $$$ is a factor, and it usually is, avoid spending a bunch of it on honey house equipment. Join your local beekeepers association and use theirs, if they have it, or hook up with other members who have their own equipment. You help them with their harvest/extraction, then use their facility to do your own. It's a win-win. Plus, again, what you will learn from their experience is priceless. And IMO, there's nothing better than a day spent working bees, or in the honey house, with good friends- takes a lot of the work out of it and makes it fun.

Since recycling is another hobby of mine, I was able to save a whole bunch of money early on by scavanging wood and making a lot of my own equipment. I usually bought boxes and frames, but made all of my tops, bottoms, SBB's, hive top feeders, nucs, pallets, and I guess just about everything else made out of wood. Takes time, but less time than working to earn the $$$ to buy the stuff new.

Don't expand too fast- beekeeping is a hobby (addiction) that can get out of hand real fast!!! Keep it fun, and keep your numbers at a level where you can manage them effectively. Develop a market for your honey/hive products and sell direct to the consumer at premium prices. I used to help a friend of mine who ran between 300-500 hives. At the time I was running 80-100 of my own. I think that I always did better with my 80-100 than he did with his 300-500, and I had a whole lot less $$ invested and didn't work nearly as hard as he did, yet my bees were healthier, and more productive than his were. The reason I said he ran 300-500 is that he always lost a lot of his hives every year- sometimes as many as 50% of them. That gets expensive fast. Then, when I was selling my honey at $3-4 a pound, he was selling his to the packer for 80-90 CENTS a pound. Never made any sense to me. My friend was very smart, and an excellent beekeeper, and I learned a lot from him, but in the end he was a lousy businessman. I still have hives today, and he has none- he went broke last year.

Last advice- be conservative when you figure the income side of the equation. Figure what you think you will earn in an "average" year, but never count on earning more than half of that. Then, in the years when you lose a lot of bees, a drought hits and the bees don't make a honey crop, etc., you'll be able to weather the dearth.

Good luck to you, and I hope you will visit often and share your beekeeping adventures with us.

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Melilem
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« Reply #14 on: October 04, 2008, 01:25:14 AM »

Great post and replies, thanks guys
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mathispollenators
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« Reply #15 on: November 12, 2008, 07:08:36 AM »

Sounds like a good plan to me.  As mentioned it's the cost of equipment that's going to be the thing.  When you buy new stuff get it for the size operation you will have.  What I'm saying is buy bigger instead of smaller.  Also 250 hives do you plan on moving them to honey flows?  If you are then you'll need a flatbed truck and most likely a lift of some sort.  Most of the larger operations all have that.  We have a 1 ton truck, swinger lift, and a gooseneck trailer for our Dodge dually.  When I roll with both trucks I'm moving around 180 to 200 hives at a time.  That gets all our bees moved in about 10 trips (we have 1500 to 2000 hives). Also we don't carry all the bees to one honey flow something about putting all the eggs in one basket.  I know of some people that have their bees on trailers they can move the whole trailer where they need it and never take them off it seems.  With you being in Virgina you may can get into some apple pollination for more than a honey income.  We make the most of our income pollinating melons in North Central Florida.  That is a good place to put some good increases that won't make you honey.  Also remember storage and extraction you'll need a honeyhouse your garage isn't going to cut it any more.  You'll need somewhere to store supers and such and set up extractors permanently.  You may can find used stuff to buy where someone has lost beekeeping interest but be carefull it's easy to get over your head too.  A 10 year expansion is good gives you time to learn as you grow rather than buy a operation and have a few hive one day and hundreds the next.  I promise managing 20 or less is very different than 250 and 250 is very different then 2000.  We manage pallets of bees and beeyards as a whole not each hive you'll see when you get there.

I saw somewhere you felt it would be like a retirement.  Sorry wrong  after you get to 250 you'll most likely find it's a pretty busy sideline business.  You and 250 and 400 is what I would consider enough for a full time job for one person and little outside help. 

Good luck and enjoy the new business
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« Reply #16 on: January 03, 2009, 08:16:36 PM »

My goal is now 40 colonies, healthy, and wintered over this time next year.
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Richard Stewart
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« Reply #17 on: January 03, 2009, 08:50:54 PM »

My goal is now 40 colonies, healthy, and wintered over this time next year.

40 is a good round number.  So tell us how many you have now so we know how much you have to grow $$$$$.  Growth means poverty because you always have outgo before you have income.
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« Reply #18 on: January 03, 2009, 10:39:08 PM »

I have six currently.   grin
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Richard Stewart
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