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Poll
Question: For those with less than 50 hives now, are you working to.....  (Voting closed: April 28, 2009, 07:44:54 AM)
Stay at the numbers you are now? - 9 (9.7%)
expand but stay at a small number. - 37 (39.8%)
expand so it would be a nice side income? - 35 (37.6%)
expand into a fulltime operation one day? - 8 (8.6%)
Not sure yet, I can't keep alive what I have now. - 4 (4.3%)
Total Voters: 92


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Author Topic: Where are your bees taking you?  (Read 4421 times)
BjornBee
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« on: March 29, 2009, 07:44:54 AM »

a couple months back, I gave a talk at a county club. I usually in my opening comments ask some questions to get the feel for the group. It might be for a natural group questions on comb choice, SBB, fogging, etc. This group had asked for an overview of my operation and wanted to know what I was doing in the industry.

So I asked:
How many of you are making a living or a partial income from your bees?  No hands went up.
How many here have 50 hives?  Nothing.
How many would like to build up to 50 hives? Nothing again.
Who wants to do this beyond being a hobbyist or backyard beekeeper? Nothing.

I keep thinking about that. I never had a group such as that before. And there was close to 80 or more attending.

So I wanted to get a feel for the group here.

Thank you for participating.
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« Reply #1 on: March 29, 2009, 08:38:38 AM »

 I make a little side income now and would like to expand into a full time one day after the kids are out of college and on there own so that would be another 8 years! I just figure it will give me time to get my numbers up so I can make a living selling nuc's, queens and honey crop.
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vermmy35
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« Reply #2 on: March 29, 2009, 09:00:53 AM »

I really can't answer this since I am waiting on my first package I can say if everything goes good for the first year then maybe up to 50 just for fun.
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« Reply #3 on: March 29, 2009, 09:03:57 AM »

Bees are my only source of income. I have about 50 colonies, I am getting an income but most of it is going back out in buying honey as i am not able to satisfy the demand wth my own honey. Hope to change that by year end though.  
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« Reply #4 on: March 29, 2009, 09:11:03 AM »

I am waiting on my first bee package in 19 days.  My intention was to have one hive to help pollenate my garden and to teach my two young boys more about nature.  As I have been reading more about honey bees I am getting more interested in items like catching swarms and raising queens.  Who knows where it will go.  I might get 10 stings the first day and be posting them on craigslist   grin

Anyway, I am counting the days until they get here and the learning can go from theory to practical.

Mike - we met at the Lehigh Valley beek meeting earlier in the month.  I look forward to learning from your experiences....
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tlynn
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« Reply #5 on: March 29, 2009, 11:01:53 AM »

For us it is a hobby.  We are looking to replace the money spent with honey sales and don't look at it as a profit center based on time invested vs. financial return.  We'd have to grow a lot bigger for that, which doesn't interest us.  Last year was our first year and we gave away all the honey our bees produced.  After someone asked me if I could give them a another pound of honey and really meant "give" I realized I had devalued our product and apologized to our bees.  And I also realized if I had sold all that honey it would have put a big dent in the investment we had made thus far.  So, we are adding a couple more hives this year and will be selling every bit of it.  With all the people asking us for honey we surely will be able to pay for what we have spent to date.  Return on the invested $ + enjoyment of the bees = worthwhile adventure.
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JP
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« Reply #6 on: March 29, 2009, 11:32:25 AM »

This year I would like to keep up with them better and make bunches of honey. As it is right now demand is high and people are waiting for my next harvest.

My nephew doesn't know it yet but he will be helping me more this year than ever before and my wife has expressed interest, but I haven't put her to the test yet.

My main issue is of course man power and time to do it all.

I lost a good bit of hives this winter for a variety of reasons. I went in with 50 and am now back up to near 40.

One day I honestly would like to expand, but I'm not sure exactly how much or what the exact intent would be.

Don't believe I would ever want to be a migratory beek, but breeding them, making honey for sale and setting other people up has my interest.

Of course, all this is between catching swarms and doing cut outs. tongue


...JP
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Brian D. Bray
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« Reply #7 on: March 29, 2009, 11:58:31 AM »

I'm into sustainable farming.  my bees are primarily a source of food, candles, soaps, and balms for the family (extended) and for barter.  I also raise chickens and rabbits for the same reason.  Food for the extended family and barter for other things I need.
It's surprizing how many people right now are willing to work for a couple dozen eggs for a 1/2 days work.  Throw in a dressed out hen or rabbit and you have a day laborer.  It's the same for fruits and vegetables.  This summer I will pay my day laborers with Jars of honey, eggs, meat, fresh vegetables, fruits, and berries.
I'm not running a business (it's against the Trust the property is under) but I can grow and barter all I want.
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RayMarler
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« Reply #8 on: March 29, 2009, 12:25:13 PM »

At one time I was working towards expansion and maybe a small almond pollenation contract. Things change, the back doesn't get any stronger over time. I'm working at staying small, maybe 4 to 8 hives and some mating nucs.
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WLF1961
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« Reply #9 on: March 29, 2009, 12:50:05 PM »

Hoping to build up to maybe 50-100 over the next 8-10 years by the time I retire. Only have 8 right now so we will see. If 8 or 10 is all we end up with then that's ok too cause we enjoy the publics interest when they find out we have bees. Never, ever have enough honey, we get calls year round several times a month for honey. It's all fun and rewarding for us!
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« Reply #10 on: March 29, 2009, 02:16:18 PM »

I started with two hives last spring, and lost one of them over the winter.  I've ordered another package of bees, meanwhile, my remaining hive is threatening to swarm.  So I might have 3 in a little while Smiley

Keeping bees is a hobby for me, and if I get enough honey out of the deal to make holiday gifts and have honey all year I'll be happy.
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Rich V
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« Reply #11 on: March 29, 2009, 04:22:32 PM »

I have six colonies of bees now. Never wanted that many but last year had to do splits, had no one that wanted the extra bees. This year it looks like the same will happen. I need to find them a home. Have honey comimg out of my ears. This year I'll try some comb honey.
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BjornBee
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« Reply #12 on: March 29, 2009, 04:46:08 PM »



Mike - we met at the Lehigh Valley beek meeting earlier in the month.  I look forward to learning from your experiences....

Hello Dave.
What a great turnout at the meeting! Unbelievable how many new beekeepers were there.

I'm glad to say that Lehigh Valley Beekeepers Association has also added their name to the growing list of participants for the National Honey Bee Awareness Day.

And experience works both ways. I always want to know what the next guy is doing.

Take care.
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« Reply #13 on: March 29, 2009, 05:23:47 PM »

I currently have two hives and another two 3lbs packages on order. I plan to keep it at a hobbyist level and a fun thing to do.
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« Reply #14 on: March 29, 2009, 05:25:39 PM »

I have six colonies of bees now. Never wanted that many but last year had to do splits, had no one that wanted the extra bees. This year it looks like the same will happen. I need to find them a home. Have honey comimg out of my ears. This year I'll try some comb honey.


Rich I wish I could have know a month or 2 ago I could have taken some off you hands.  Let me butter up the wife and see what she thinks since I will only have one hive, I might Be able to talk her into letting me place another one. grin
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mlewis48
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« Reply #15 on: March 29, 2009, 05:48:04 PM »

 This is the first year that I was out of the red. It was good to see some money out of my hard work. Most, if not all of the money prior to this year went back into it for more equipment, better equipment, bigger extractor, and the list goes on. But with that said, I have 40 colonies now and will be well over 60-100 at the end of this year. I hope to see more profit out of it this year. I have more and better out yards than last year with more potential for a good crop. Like most of you said, finding and management  of time will be the hardest thing for me. Help is hard to find and it just means I have to do more and enjoy the out come of my work.
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« Reply #16 on: March 29, 2009, 06:49:30 PM »

For 21 years I've kept bees strictly as a hobby.  I had up to 9 hives and all the money I made from honey sales was strictly to pay for all the equipment and medication.  I think that in all those years I broke even and had fun doing it.  Now I do not expect to have more than 4 hives and that is strictly for my own personal use and perhaps to give away to friends and neighbors.  I am retired and do not need a money making business out of beekeeping.  I still do extractions and bat removals for money but also as a hobby.  I am just playing around before I die.
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« Reply #17 on: March 29, 2009, 08:14:31 PM »

Right now the plan is to start out small but grow fast, Two packages in April, then whatever I can get from swarms. I would like to end the year with 5-7 hives and finish the second year with 25. Eventually I would like 50. At that point I would have to see just how I am doing as I have the option to keep expanding or just staying at that size. I already have plans for selling honey, wax products and I am interested in raising queens and Nucs, guess we get to sit back and see how I do.
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« Reply #18 on: March 29, 2009, 08:58:36 PM »

Granny Goodcook says " their taking us to the poor house "

Bee-Bop
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« Reply #19 on: March 29, 2009, 09:09:52 PM »

I just started with one hive last May and wish over again that I had started at least two.  I plan on spliting this Spring and hopefully getting some swarm bees in the area.  Would like to have three to five hives, just for hobby.  I would sell the honey and also give some to friends and family.  Not sure if I will try wax products or not yet.

Mark
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« Reply #20 on: March 29, 2009, 09:13:08 PM »



  Are you guys expecting me to believe that there is a possibility of making a dollar or two doing this? Wink
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« Reply #21 on: March 29, 2009, 09:22:31 PM »

I'm with Brian on the sustainable farming / barter approach. After starting last year with 1 hive that died just before spring in an unusual cold weather event, I'm starting over this year with 4. No idea what a realistic goal is for number of colonies -- maybe it is to quadruple the number each year until I discover it  Wink
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« Reply #22 on: March 29, 2009, 09:50:44 PM »

I mostly like just having the bees, but a dollar is a dollar and I never have enuff honey for everybody who wants to buy it from me.I have 6 hives now, but have had up to 10....I like having alot and plan on getting a bunch more swarms this year...Its like any hobby...If its not growing, its gonna get boring sooner or later!(At least thats what Ive found out happens to me).
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« Reply #23 on: March 29, 2009, 10:33:30 PM »

Have had 1-2 hives over the past 3 years. Will hopefully have 4 hives this coming Spring. Totally for the fun of it and I donate my honey to the yoga school where I keep my bees. Have spent quite a lot of money and see it only as a hobby.

Would like to continue for as long as it remains fun and I can help the bees. I still consider myself very new at this and always learning, learning, learning.
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« Reply #24 on: March 30, 2009, 01:04:29 AM »

I'm starting the year with 5 hives and hope to grow to 8 through collecting swarms.  My goals for the next few years are to learn how to successfully keep bees in the Pacific NW without using chemicals; to select for naturally resistant colonies; and to have fun.  Expect to lose a fair number of colonies in the first few years but as I learn and stumble upon a hardy hybrid hope to reach a steady state of about 10 hives with sales of perhaps half a dozen nucs to offset some of the expense.  Hard to imagine I'll ever make a profit from this  Wink.

SH 
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mastro
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« Reply #25 on: March 30, 2009, 02:33:31 AM »

I really can't answer this since I am waiting on my first package I can say if everything goes good for the first year then maybe up to 50 just for fun.

Where in the chicago area are you located? 
I live in Naperville

I'd like to expand to a full time business, but I have limited land available to me right now.
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« Reply #26 on: March 30, 2009, 02:43:44 AM »

I have six colonies of bees now. Never wanted that many but last year had to do splits, had no one that wanted the extra bees. This year it looks like the same will happen. I need to find them a home. Have honey comimg out of my ears. This year I'll try some comb honey.

I sent you a pm.

I don't believe you, too much honey? Smiley That's just not possible.
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SlickMick
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« Reply #27 on: March 30, 2009, 03:40:20 AM »

I had 2 hives in my suburban backyard for 15 years. I now have 3 and will take it to the limit with 4 from swarms that I hope to catch this coming season

Mick
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« Reply #28 on: March 30, 2009, 08:01:02 AM »

I really can't answer this since I am waiting on my first package I can say if everything goes good for the first year then maybe up to 50 just for fun.

Where in the chicago area are you located? 
I live in Naperville

I'd like to expand to a full time business, but I have limited land available to me right now.

I live over on the good side of Midway Airport Smiley
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« Reply #29 on: March 30, 2009, 09:50:03 AM »

Not realy sure where I am goning with my beekeeping. Quite often I daydream about having a ton of hives and polination contracts and such. But I realise that I don't know what I am talking about. No idea what it takes to run such a thing. probably much different than the fun I am having now with it.

I will say that I am an addict. I have 4 hives this spring and I want more. I plann on getting as many swarms as I can this spring! I think that I could put 5 or six more in the backyard before the neibors got fussy. Then what? I guess to look for out yards.. Farms, BLM or Forrest land not sure...

Then how will I sell it all? That's assuming there will be tons of product. Local roadside, not for me done my time sittin by and waiting for a sale. farmers market? better but not by much. Maybe internet. If I sell it off in bulk to a packer(now were talking big here) it looks like the price is too low to make it worth while. Sell it myself and I become a salesman and am no longer a beek.

These are the thoughts that go through my head when I think of expansion. It would be great to hear from those who have made the transition from a couple of backyard hives to a bigger opperation. What are the realities? How do you sell or market. What was your progression? At what point did you begin to make money? And most important did a great hobby deteiorate into work and drudgery?

In the meantime I plan to merrily catch swarms and build boxes untill the wife or the local code officer make me stop.
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« Reply #30 on: March 30, 2009, 08:26:49 PM »

so Bjorn what you think of the votes so for???
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BjornBee
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« Reply #31 on: March 30, 2009, 08:43:07 PM »

so Bjorn what you think of the votes so for???

TwT,
About what I thought. I have always been told that for every 100 new beekeepers, possible 5 of them would get it to a sideline level, and if 1 of them became commercial, that would be good. I am just wondering about the next generation and even the possibilities of a huge demand for bees (nucs/queens) but lack of a supply, especially in the north. I see a local pollination demand from year round angle, instead of the traditional migratory business setup. Just trying to get a feel for the industry.

I am also probably getting out of many of my commercial pollination contacts this year. Yet, I have nobody that could handle the numbers. I also wish there were many more northern breeders to pass along some of the demand too.

I'm hoping that this whole CCD thing, and the influx of new beekeepers can be seen "growing bee business'" in the future. We also need to produce more honey as so much is shipped in to the country. I also wish we did not need to fly thousands of packages in from other countries. It is a real shame we are a importer of bees and honey, capable of not even producing what we need.

Will the bee industry benefit from so many hobbyists getting into the business, or will we just see a passing fancy hobby fade out over time?
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« Reply #32 on: March 30, 2009, 10:16:38 PM »

Will the bee industry benefit from so many hobbyists getting into the business, or will we just see a passing fancy hobby fade out over time?

Perhaps.  I think we're moving into a new era, one where small business entrepreneurship trumps the big guys, where a new economy is rebuilt from the ground up.  Barter networks will be reestablished in the US after decades of dormancy as cash becomes scarce.  The hobbyist beekeeper will be just one link in this network.  Someone here just commented on how people will readily work as barter for goods, and he uses his honey as that currency.  It's what real estate investors did in the 70s in the last big recession and during the 80s when interest rates were double digits and the banks weren't lending money - they traded assets to make deals.  They were called exchangers.  They got creative because they had to.  There is a resurgence in that strategy because we're in a similar situation now.

We've gotten lazy and stopped thinking and that will change out of necessity.  More people will take up beekeeping just as much as a form of currency as a hobby.  People in the suburbs are building vegetable gardens and raising chickens and bees.  Is that a fad?  Will they get rid of the farm animals and go back to eating out three times a week and burning a hundred bucks in the jet ski on the weekend when their house goes back up to 2006 levels - maybe, but that's not happening anytime soon.

This just isn't another recession, folks.  This is a fundamental swing in behavior and thinking happening, and it's just getting started.
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« Reply #33 on: March 30, 2009, 10:32:57 PM »

While I went with the majority in currently viewing it as a hobby there is the little voice in the back of my head hinting at something more  grin.  In fact it would be ideal if I could work into queen production eventually.  Not terribly interested in pollination contracts although I have to admit Bjorn your year round contract arrangements have got my wheels turning.  Only time will tell.  Started with 1 hive last year and hoping to end this summer with 4 or 5.
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« Reply #34 on: April 12, 2009, 12:31:11 AM »

I think the way you asked the question is perfect. I'm brand new to beekeeping so I will see where they take me. My most immediate goal is to have around 4-8 next year. deciding whether to pursue certified organic, play with Langstroth vs top bar; a combination topstroth langbar foundationless - I dunno - I'll experiment and see how I fit with the girls.
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« Reply #35 on: April 12, 2009, 06:44:49 PM »

I'm just learning.  Just began my first hive.  I do plan to expand to 2 by next year.  But the expense divided by the return is extraordinary.  The only way I can see someone making money at this is by doing field pollenations for farmers etc or setting up hundreds or even thousands of hives for big honey production which also means access to crops that produce the best honey, as well as selling bees and other products to other beeks.  I have some land and resources and am using them in a modest fashion but I don't believe there is any reality to becoming a pollenation or honey mogul.
I just really enjoy the local honey, the bees, and what they do for the countryside.
When you do something for a hobby that means you put in more money than you expect to get out.  And if you break even then you are ahead of the game.
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« Reply #36 on: April 13, 2009, 03:33:54 AM »

I'm just getting started this year... my first three packages arrive later this month.  It's something I've wanted to do since I was a small child.  Now that I have 1 1/2 acres in the country, thought it was time to do it, especially since we have a small apple orchard down the road a bit, and tons of berry bushes of every variety, as well as your varied assortments of wildflowers of all denominations.  All of the neighbors are supportive (we have a wonderful group of families here) and have offered to take all of my excess honey off my hands (and they'll even pay for it...)

I also have a farm and a commercial orchard/berry farm wanting to talk to me about renting some hives, so if things go well this year, I plan to expand.  Don't plan to get rich, I really just want to help out as much as possible.  Any profits would go right back into the bees for the following year, trying to make it a self-sustaining hobby, if there is such a thing!
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pdmattox
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« Reply #37 on: April 13, 2009, 07:52:27 AM »

I started out just looking to rent some bees for my 30 acres of watermelons and could not find any to rent. I did find a guy that had 21 hives for sale due to health reasons but did not feel i could take care of them so I only bought 4 that Friday from him. By Saturday night and sunday morning I was bitten by the bee bug. Monday came along and I then owned 21 colonies and still not a clue of what to do. Long story short I never intended on being a beekeeper but now run around 200 colonies and rent bees from other beekeepers to keep up on all the pollination in my area. I don't do this full time but it is a great sideline.
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« Reply #38 on: July 03, 2009, 10:32:34 PM »

i have two hives now (1 is struggling) and intend to stay @ 2-3 hives in the future.  friends and family have paid a small fee to "sponsor" 1 side of medium frames and take whatever honey comes from that frame. (likely i'll just divide the honey by sides of total frames and divvy it up... i hope to avoid actually "selling" honey Smiley

we'll see, i've got the talkin' part done.
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