Cost of Increase (increasing costs !)

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Joined
Sep 7, 2013
Messages
322
Reaction score
285
Location
Loughborough
Hive Type
14x12
Number of Hives
11
6 years ago, I started out in beekeeping, buying (locally) a really healthy colony in a 14x12 Paynes poly-nuc - for £150. At the time, I thought I was paying marginally over the odds, but was very happy (for a number of reasons) to commit.

So, today, I am being invited by a farmer where I have an out-apiary to rapidly expand the number of hives I have on his site (currently 6), and he wants to support this financially. Potentially, this means immediately doubling the number of production hives for 2020. Clearly, if the urgency was not there (on his part), I could write 2020 off as a year of increase, and do some early splits from my existing stock. However ...

... I want instead to consider just buying some new stocks, to hit the ground running.

As such, I would want colonies that are of a profile (population, queen fecundity) that are ready to explode in Spring 2020, reach full-size fairly quickly, and therefore give a decent 2020 crop ... all other things being equal.

Oh, and I keep my bees on the 14x12 format.

The obvious option is to put my name down for some overwintered 14x12 nucs - which I would presumably be able to take around late April.

However, the going rate for these seems to be somewhere between £240 and £290. Lol. Realllly ??!!!

Package bees might be an option (at the £150-£160 mark), but I am uneasy about the risk of Queen introduction and - more fundamentally - the speed at which the colony will fully establish.

To be honest, these prices are just barking mad - in my opinion.

The other option I might consider are auctions (e.g. Lincoln/Newark), where I have seen full hives of bees change hands for less than £150. Apart from there being no guarantee of what comes to auction though (or what price it fetches), there is, more importantly, no guarantee of provenance, absence of disease etc... doing this.

... Likewise, with the option of waiting to see if anything becomes available via my local association.

Finally, my eye has fallen on (waiting for the tomatoes to start raining down) ... importation. For various reasons, I keep my eye on the German beekeeping market, and am always astonished that EVERYTHING (bees, hives, jars, syrup - you name it) can be bought there for about half the UK price - even allowing for the crap exchange rate.

So, seeing prices for packages (with Queen) of around €80 (nucs at about €140 - though I would possibly then choose to shook swarm onto my own frames due to the frame dimensions - thereby losing an inherent advantage of a nuc (brood)), it rather begs the question as to whether I should be looking at this.

I presume there are hobbyists and farmers alike on this forum with some experience of importing (package?) bees from Europe ?? Is this worth a look ? If so, are there any suppliers which come recommended ?

A lot to take in, but any thoughts / advice appreciated on how to keep costs down.

Sent from my Google Pixelbook using Tapatalk
 
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Where is the risk of introducing queens with a package? As there ain't one.

Break in wather so off with dogs I will return to this.

PH
 
Where is the risk of introducing queens with a package? As there ain't one.

I am here to be educated, given that I've never bought a package. The way I understand it is that you get a 3lb box of bees and a caged Queen to introduce them to, and there is some risk of the Queen being rejected (?)

If that's an extremely low risk then that's something I'm happy to hear.

The package (being broodless) taking longer to establish is obviously another concern. No new bees for a month. mmmm... Maybe that soon works its way out also.

As I say, happy to learn from those who have done it - especially as it's a damn sight cheaper than buying a nuc.

Look forward to your full comments, PH ! Thanks
 
You say the farmer will support this financially...so the question is: what does the farmer want (honey or pollination or both) and how much will he/she pay towards this?

Also, when are your main honey flows? If most of it comes early (OSR) then that ship has sailed. If you normally get a good crop in July/Aug then much more time to grow. Don't you have any nucs of your own going into winter?

From what I see it may be difficult and expensive to get 14 x 12 nucs. ITLD imports packages from Italy quite early in the season so you could try him, and there must be others. I agree that nucs are crazy money, which is why I am starting to sell them next year!

I think if I was doing it and money was tight and time was of the essence I'd probably get package bees, but I'd aim for May in my area. After shaking the bees into their new hive I would also add a frame of sealed brood from other hives. Package bees are not a balanced colony but IMO adding some sealed brood can help with that. You would then need to feed lots until they had drawn out all foundation & maybe borrow brood from other hives if they can spare it to get all hives good and strong for a Summer flow.
 
Steve (Walrus) ... Thanks.

The financial side is still under discussion, but he is going to be chucking money at me for 1) him owning the hives/stock and 2) me managing said hives. His interest is solely honey (small scale). Probably best to draw a line under that, as that could be a thread in its own right.

In terms of the bees / flows, it is important to say that we generally have two good (main) flows - though neither were as strong this year as last, strangely. After the Blackthorn has kicked us off in early spring, these are generally early-mid May (OSR), and then again in July (wildflower, balsam etc...)

I guess the thinking is to get some hives with laying queens and bees onto some stands before 01/05/20.

As you indicate, my feeling is that, using packages, I would not reap the benefit of the first main flow, let alone the second.

I do have 2 nucs of my own. Assuming they overwinter (I am not hopeful, as they had some late wasp interest), then I might be able to chuck those into the mix for him, but I don't want to count on it.
 
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Ok so your package arrives iwth the queen in a cage. Her pheromones will be swilling through the bees as they have been together for probably a good three days. There is no introduction risk here.

You are on *that* frame size and good luck to you with it. Not for me as double broods are so much more flexible. Regarding that issue it's not an issue. As said often on here you put a bit of board over the nuc with a nice big hole in it and the hive you want on top and they will go up and when the queen is laying up top you put in a bit of excluder and that's it. Three weeks later remove the lower nuc and that's you up and running.

Now then the nucs. LOL you have been keeping bees for 6 years and have no nucs? For shame sir for shame and now it's biting you in the bum eh? Learn from this and run nucs. You can sell them, use them for expansion and or swarm control A nucless apiary or operation is working with one hand tied off. My nucs are a self supporting operation. I make up nucs from the nucs and they give me a very tidy return in Spring.

Your farmer.... I would be very wary here. Do you really want a "boss" saying I want this and I want that? So keep your independence as any relationship can change suddenly and usually for the worse. Could you cope financially if they turned round and said well I want you gone oh and I want that thousand back , now please?

There is always a cost to expansion and the cheapest way is do it off your own bees and if your farmer cannot understand that it does not bode well.

Good luck,

PH
 
... the cheapest way is do it off your own bees and if your farmer cannot understand that it does not bode well.

Duly noted. I don't want to be beholden to him, but I (maybe foolishly) trust his intentions. I have been on a journey with him for a while (not understanding that bees work seasonally, and that he can't just move the hives to cut his hedge :))... but slowly, slowly, I am bringing him to some kind of common understanding. He has observed my own increase this year and last, so knows how it works and that he won't get the instant honey returns that way)

Thanks PH for the advice generally here. As I've said above, I do have a couple of nucs, but can't count on them this year. Also, I wasn't expecting to have to magic-up 6 new production colonies! I have long since been meaning to ramp-up my annual effort in nucs ... not only for contingency, but also to be able to make a few quid off any that are surplus at the start of the following season
 
Let me explore the business side..


You will supply hives, bees and expertise.
He will supply money and expects honey.

What will you be paid? By honey? Fixed amount or % of crop?
What happens if no honey?
How many days a week?
Who will extract and bottle and sell?
You run the risk of being a very busy poorly paid slave..

And - being blunt - do you have the expertise and time - and bodily strength - to run 20 colonies..? And you will need nucs to cater for swarms ... have you thought of that?

I extarcted from 8 colonies last year and it takes a lot of time and energy...

From three t0 20 colonies at once is a huge step...
 
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It's doable actually.

I went from three to over wintering 14. I then took on Craibstone and was running 50. I had a wonderful mentor though and was working offshore so had blocks of "free time" except said time was rather spoken for.

It took me years to learn how useful nucs are and I am now learning how difficult it is to type with a determined whippet on my lap!

PH
 
just for clarity, ITLD's packages last year contained a pheromone substitute in the package box for transport, with separately transported queen plus attendants in a plugged queen cage. Pheromone strip is removed from apiary completely (to avoid confusing bees) when package is hived, and queen cage added. Had one queen escape during introduction (my fault) and she was immediately balled. Other 11 successfully introduced. Very good bees; extremely quiet and productive
 
Ah, I wasn't aware of that, so yes, I can see the confusion.

Yes, they are rather good bees. :)

PH
 
given that I've never bought a package. The way I understand it is that you get a 3lb box of bees and a caged Queen to introduce them to, and there is some risk of the Queen being rejected
Not that much rejection risk - you are buying a box of queenless bees shaken out from a a multitude of hives piled into a box together, so no common 'mother' and a totally confused pheromone footprint, they're in swarm mode if you like so 'any' queen will keep them happy.
 
madasafish, thanks for the candid opinions. If we must unpick the "commercial" side of this:

Let me explore the business side..
You will supply hives, bees and expertise.
He will supply money and expects honey.
What will you be paid? By honey? Fixed amount or % of crop?
What happens if no honey?

...Who will extract and bottle and sell?

Nope - he will own the hives and the bees (we have agreed a nominal £x outlay per hive) - so he transfers me the money and I buy the fixed assets, so to speak.

I will then manage the hives for a fixed monthly fee over the 12 months of a beekeeping 'year' (which we have defined as May to April). That fee is calculated based on my time (both on site and off site, for maintenance, honey processing etc.) over the season at £x per hour, plus estimated cost of consumables (e.g. frames, foundation, feed, treatments, jars, labels), plus some contingency, divided over 12 months.

To that extent, it's a fixed fee arrangement.

Even if there is no honey crop, I still get paid my monthly fee.

I will jar the honey for him. He will get a saleable product for his fee.

How many days a week?

Let's not get ahead of ourselves, it's only 6 colonies initially (on top of the 6 hobby colonies I already have on his site). I have reckoned on 2.5hrs per week for those additional hives on AVERAGE, for 30 weeks of the year (to cover processing also)

You run the risk of being a very busy poorly paid slave..

Agreed. We will both review it next year to see if it has worked for BOTH of us, if we want to grow it more, and if anything needs tweaking (or tearing-up). I understand your skepticism. Maybe, for example, I have underestimated the time

And - being blunt - do you have the expertise and time - and bodily strength - to run 20 colonies..?
Yes - all three. That is not supposed to sound conceited.

And you will need nucs to cater for swarms ... have you thought of that
Yes.
(I currently have 4 poly-nuc boxes (2 occupied), and will be doubling that ahead of next season - in addition to two emergency correx boxes I have)

I extarcted from 8 colonies last year and it takes a lot of time and energy...

From three t0 20 colonies at once is a huge step...

I appreciate the forewarning on that. I started this season with 3 colonies, went up to 11, finished with 8 (6 hives, 2 nucs) ... and will update my profile here with the 'final' 2020 opening position in the spring. As such, I have some idea of what an additional 6 hives will entail. Also, bear in mind that these new hives will be at the same location as the majority of my hobby hives, so will get inspected at the same time.
 
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Not that much rejection risk - you are buying a box of queenless bees shaken out from a a multitude of hives piled into a box together, so no common 'mother' and a totally confused pheromone footprint, they're in swarm mode if you like so 'any' queen will keep them happy.

Good to know JBM. Thanks.

... as is the intel above about the pheromone strip ITLD uses
 
Actually you have the basis of the 6 new colonies sitting in your two nucs. Build them up onto double broods then split into 6. Sorted. 24 frames devided by 8.

That gives you your 6 new colonies and also the two nucs.

PH
 
Totally agreed PH.

That presupposes that both my nucs are going to make it, and also that I have a patient farmer. I guess that, whatever approach I am going to take to getting a solid launch into 2020 for him, I will be doing some judicious splitting and nuc-building next year ;-) ... either way
 
You say the proposed new hives will be at the same location as the majority of your hobby hives. Don't forget to factor in competition for forage. Doubling the number of hives on a site does not guarantee twice as much honey.
 

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