Commercial v's Hobby

Beekeeping & Apiculture Forum

Help Support Beekeeping & Apiculture Forum:

Kevi 

New Bee
Joined
May 4, 2010
Messages
20
Reaction score
0
Location
Liverpool UK
Hive Type
national
Number of Hives
1
Noting all the things that hobbiest beekeepers do to look after their bees e.g. weekly inspections. I was wondering how do commercial beekeepers with several thousand hives look after their bees? It's one thing to inspect a hive every week when you have just a few hives, but surely this is not a practical proposition when you have several hundred or even thousands. I recently watched a beekeeping program dealing with the American problem of colony collapse. In this program, the commercial beekeepers were one or two man (woman) operations owning upwards of two thousand hives. These operations are based on the business of pollination rather than honey collection, so the hives did not have supers. Do they simply allow the bees to swarm? Where can I get information on the practicalities of commercial beekeeping? This is just for interest, I'm not planning on becoming a beekeeping Tzar!
 

admin 

Queen Bee
Beekeeping Sponsor
Joined
Jul 28, 2008
Messages
6,344
Reaction score
5
Location
Hampshire uk
Hive Type
national
Number of Hives
6
Have you tried the 2 main American forums ?
Beesource and Beemaster.

One guy in the states runs around 130,000 hives !!
 

Mike a 

Drone Bee
Joined
Feb 13, 2010
Messages
1,785
Reaction score
1
Location
Hampshire
Hive Type
langstroth
Number of Hives
Between 17-20
It's one thing to inspect a hive every week when you have just a few hives, but surely this is not a practical proposition when you have several hundred or even thousands Tzar!
For the most part they just lift one edge of the top brood chamber and check for any cells hanging below the frames. If they find any they pinch them or pull them out with a hive tool.
 

Adam 

House Bee
Joined
Mar 21, 2010
Messages
362
Reaction score
0
Location
uk
Hive Type
14x12
Number of Hives
8
Do they simply allow the bees to swarm? Where can I get information on the practicalities of commercial beekeeping? This is just for interest, I'm not planning on becoming a beekeeping Tzar!
Yes, let them swarm. They do a cursory inspection by breaking the double brood chambers and looking for cells. If they run young queens, they are unlikely to swarm anyway, so inspections are not cost effective.

Read 'Bad Beekeeping' by Ron Mishka. Quite eye-opening as to how commerical things really are.

Adam
 

jezd 

Drone Bee
Joined
May 12, 2009
Messages
1,539
Reaction score
6
Location
UK
Hive Type
other
Number of Hives
299.1
Not sure if that is their approach Adam, I do a little work with a commercial guy and I do remember a visit when he spotted a swam in a tree and was shocked at where it had come from - they dont run 'let swarm' policy more a 'manage swarm drivers' policy I think.

Jez
 
Last edited:

crazy_bull 

Field Bee
Joined
Jun 25, 2009
Messages
522
Reaction score
0
Location
Huntingdon
Hive Type
national
Number of Hives
60
I am by no means a commercial bee farmer but with experience you can easily get a full hive inspection done in under 5 minutes and should anything further be required then a readily available supply of spare equipment any manipulations can easily done, the key is to be prepared for anything/everything that way time isn't wasted by return trips to sort a problem.
 
T

Tom Bick 

Guest
I think that experienced beekeepers have an understanding what may be happening in the hive by a look at the entrance and that may save a bit of time
 

Somerford 

Drone Bee
***
Joined
Aug 24, 2009
Messages
1,783
Reaction score
224
Location
Wiltshire, Somerset, S Glos & S Oxfordshire
Hive Type
national
TOM - I had to laugh, sorry ! even a beginner could tell a few things from looking at the front of the hive - but even a commercial beek doesn't have x-ray vision !

For beginners and beefarmers alike - you could tell if the bees are working hard by the numbers alighting, also if brood is being reared by pollen coming in. You might be concerned if you saw a cluster hanging outside, but this is common on hot summer evenings, and doesn't mean swarming, just 'sitting' space.

Most beefarmers in the UK will, as has been suggested above, aim to do 40 hives in a morning, but they will be no more than a cursory inspection - are eggs present, larvae, volume of stores, number of frames covered, and perhaps even up a week with a strong hive. Speed is definitely of the essence, you might be shocked at the speed boxes are thrown back onto the hive....but time is money and a few squashed bees is the price they pay.

Yes swarms do issue, but like has been said above, they will try and keep young queens to prevent this. Alot of beefarmers take more time to breed their own queens rather than buy in new ones, and obviously this can be time and money well spent.

The American way, that of focusing more on pollination (and the income that brings) is different and probably quite alien to our hobbyist perspectives.


S
regards
 
T

Tom Bick 

Guest
Obviously someford the basic things at the hive entrance are obvious to everyone
What I was trying to refer to was that if the beefarmer as you refer to has inspected 1000s of hives over many years may recognise subtle differences at the hive entrance that less experienced and hobby beekeepers are not possible to see.
The subtle differences may change the inspection from one been of a few minutes to one requiring slightly longer
 

Kevi 

New Bee
Joined
May 4, 2010
Messages
20
Reaction score
0
Location
Liverpool UK
Hive Type
national
Number of Hives
1
Thanks to everyone for the info. Must admit, when watching the program on the American bee problem, I was quite shocked at the rough way in which all the beekeepers shown handled their bees - not really surprised they have problems. There has got to be better ways even for economically minded commercial operations.

I can appreciate that speed is of the essence when inspecting commercial hives but even at 40 per morning or 100 per day, this is still only 700 a week. If you have in excess of a thousand, what then? Probably mantaining young queens and plenty of hive room is the way to go.
 

wbchive 

House Bee
Joined
Aug 15, 2009
Messages
112
Reaction score
0
Location
Bingley, West Yorkshire
Hive Type
national
Number of Hives
3
I think that experienced beekeepers have an understanding what may be happening in the hive by a look at the entrance and that may save a bit of time
Have you seen that amazing video about the german beekeeper who can tell when the bees are going to swarm by watching how they behave at the entrance? Fascinating! He then puts a thing like a big sock over the entrance (It's a skep, not a hive) and catches the swarm as it comes out to sell it later. This is true, not a p*** take. He never wears gloves so in Spring his fingers are like twiglets. In Summer they're like sausages.
 

Mike a 

Drone Bee
Joined
Feb 13, 2010
Messages
1,785
Reaction score
1
Location
Hampshire
Hive Type
langstroth
Number of Hives
Between 17-20
I was quite shocked at the rough way in which all the beekeepers shown handled their bees - not really surprised they have problems. There has got to be better ways even for economically minded commercial operations.
I'm sure in time they will solve the riddles why commercial and some hobbyist beeks are suffering with so many problems, but to date there is just too many variables

Open feeding from barrels
travel stress
mono pollen diets
lack of fresh water as required
pesticides
varroa
imported non-acclimatised colonies

All of these and many more are far worse than rough treatment of the hives and a few bee deaths when so many hives need to be checked per hour as they only get paid for each hive if the hive is strong and out working in force.
 

BDaddy 

New Bee
Joined
Aug 31, 2009
Messages
68
Reaction score
0
Location
Cumbria
Hive Type
langstroth
Number of Hives
15
Some time ago I came across a book which deals exclusively with being able to determine what is going on inside a colony by looking at what's happening at the entrance. At The Hive Entrance by H.Storch is welll worth the read and has certainly expanded my understanding having read it. Thoroughly recommended. I notice that Northern Bee Books are currently offering it for sale.
 

trulli1 

New Bee
Joined
Feb 22, 2010
Messages
75
Reaction score
0
Location
Lordswood, Kent
Hive Type
national
Number of Hives
2
Admin - could you add a Commercial section to the forum?, I would really like to learn more about commecial beekeeping.
 

jezd 

Drone Bee
Joined
May 12, 2009
Messages
1,539
Reaction score
6
Location
UK
Hive Type
other
Number of Hives
299.1
Admin - could you add a Commercial section to the forum?, I would really like to learn more about commecial beekeeping.
I would suggest the only real way to learn the full picture is to spend some time with someone who is already commercial at different times of the season.

Just a thought.
 

Adam 

House Bee
Joined
Mar 21, 2010
Messages
362
Reaction score
0
Location
uk
Hive Type
14x12
Number of Hives
8
I would suggest the only real way to learn the full picture is to spend some time with someone who is already commercial at different times of the season.

Just a thought.
I'd suggest better still is to spend time with several commercial guys. ONe of our club members went over to Canada and, of course, it's completely different over there again.

Adam
 

Craig1961 

House Bee
Joined
May 13, 2011
Messages
100
Reaction score
0
Location
Old Radnor, Powys
Hive Type
wbc
Number of Hives
3
This is a great topic.
If you are a commercial beekeeper, then surley you would be selling the honey to the trade. So you would probbly selling at £1 or so per LB. Take into account you would need to treat all your hives and possibly feed, you would need to be turing over £100,000 plus per year. Then there would be the start up costs. A few hundred, or 1000 hives, plus bees, equiptment. Start up costs would be hefty. The time involved is great. If you were to employ anyone, then your annual income would have to increase. Mind boggling. And anyone who does this deserves a big medal.
Having said that, if 90% or so of honey is imported, there must be an opening in the UK for such people.
 

Latest posts

Top