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Getting into beekeeping as a hobbyist


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Hi,

 

I currently live on a bush block predominantly comprising manuka and totara and would like to give beekeeping a try. I thought I'd start with one hive - is this advisable? From what I understand, one can reasonably expect ~45kg of honey per hive if it's managed correctly - please forgive me if this is naive thinking!

 

With regard to purchasing a hive, is it more cost-effective to buy a complete hive with bees included (there are a few on Trade Me for North of $350) or to buy the individual parts and build it yourself? Also, what are your opinions on the more sophisticated hives that allow for harvesting honey without disturbing the bees...too much - are these hives worth the extra cost? They're often marketed as being able to provide honey on tap - the Flow Hive is an example.

 

Cheers,

David

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It can be done, one is all I started with. However it is often advised to start with two, so that if some disaster happens to one of them, it can be re-colonized from the other one.    

My perspective as a newbee, that may be of use in your information gathering.  I just finished my first year as a hobby beekeeper, though I spent years before attending a beekeeping workshop, an AFB c

I am not trying to put you off and beekeeping can be absolute magic but you do need to realise that  there are way too many beehives in New Zealand already and  if you are anywhere near manuka then th

10 hours ago, Alastair said:

Caring for a beehive, and learning how to care for it, involves quite a bit of time and effort

This is a very important  bit of advice

An introductory talk I attended suggested if you don't have an hour to devote to your hive every weekend in spring- then don't even start.

It takes a lot of experience to become more efficient than that.

Its the most expensive way to buy honey if that's your end game- there is more than the cost of the hive to consider.

However, it is a most engaging and fascinating hobby  and if you are interested the book 'Practical Beekeeping in New Zealand' by Matheson & Reid is essential reading, along with hours browsing the forum. Don't be put off by threads such as 'the most painful place you have been stung'

 

BTW - welcome to the forum

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Hi and  Welcome to to the forum DavidY :) 

 

Umpteen other Beekeepers with have their say shortly I am sure. My two cents worth:

 

If possible get alongside another beekeeper, they can show you the basics and you can get an idea if it is for you. It is not for everyone.

 

While the initial purchase price is important, getting a clean healthy hive is paramount. There is no point buying a cheap hive if it is full of diseased or heavily infested bees.

My preference would be to start with new gear and a nice new Nuc colony, you can start with smaller numbers of bees and get used to them as the colony grows.

 

Contrary to popular belief, bees actually need to be handled and checked regularly. Putting them in a flow hive and leaving them to it is signing their death warrant. The flow hive is a fantastic design, but it was developed in Australia, where they do not have Varroa mites. In New Zealand, a hive left to its own devices will die. Like any other form of livestock, there will be ongoing costs/inputs; varroa treatments, foundation sheets, new supers, gear and of course time. If you are prepared to commit, then go for it.

 

As for yield, from 0 - 50+ kgs! The size of your Colony and its health, where you site your hive in relation to Sun, Shelter, Forage, Competition and how well you manage it to prevent swarming and then keep ahead of the flow is what determines the size of your harvest.  Knowing how much honey to leave on for feed and how much to take for yourself, these are things that you will learn over time. Did I mention learn? Learn, learn learn. There is something new all the time! :)

 

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14 hours ago, DavidY said:

From what I understand, one can reasonably expect ~45kg of honey per hive if it's managed correctly

for a hobbyist forget about how much honey you will get. its a byproduct of a hobby, not the reason for the hobby.

i highly doubt you would get that anyway. nz average is a lot less and any decent manuka block in northland will have a ton of bee hives around it. quite common to get sweet stuff all these days.

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I am not trying to put you off and beekeeping can be absolute magic but you do need to realise that  there are way too many beehives in New Zealand already and  if you are anywhere near manuka then there are probably hundreds if not thousands of hives within a 5 km radius. The National average production is closer to 30 kg and that doesn't take into account the amount of sugar people feed. I had a hobbyist friend who once got 200 kg off one hive in one year but with overstocking crops have decreased dramatically in a lot of areas and expenses have gone way up. As a very rough rule of thumb I expect about half of hives owned by new beekeepers to die in the first year. Those with good mentors do a lot better and those without often far worse. There are also some very good beehives for sale and some very poor ones and without knowledgeable help you could easily end up with something you didn't want. Unfortunately there are a lot of unscrupulous people out there these days.

Join a local beekeepers club or at the very least read a few good books such as Practical beekeeping in New Zealand. There are also regulations and costs to owning a beehive. There are a lot of airy fairy bee books out there written by people with wonderful ideas and very little knowledge so you have to be a bit careful who you believe until you have some good practical experience. 

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2 hours ago, john berry said:

 There are also some very good beehives for sale and some very poor ones and without knowledgeable help you could easily end up with something you didn't want. Unfortunately there are a lot of unscrupulous people out there these days.

 

Re that, we often think that something more expensive must be better. Based on what I have seen on TradeMe, that rule does not apply to beehives. There is some absolute rubbish sold for extortionately high prices, and there are some good looking hives sold at very reasonable prices.

 

I know a beekeeper with 1,500 hives who closed his business last year. He was not able to sell as a business so ended up selling hive by hive to whoever would buy. Most hives were sold as 3 deckers, the first 1/2 or so went for $250, then to get rid of the other half he had to drop the price, mostly to $150. That was for mostly 3 decker hives, in good health, and average equipment. 

 

Buying a hive without expert help is playing Russian roulette. A starting out beekeeper definitely needs his bees inspected by an experienced beekeeper before buying.

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On 7/27/2020 at 12:29 PM, john berry said:

As a very rough rule of thumb I expect about half of hives owned by new beekeepers to die in the first year.

well we know half of newly registered beeks don't have hives the 2nd year. so i suspect its a lot more than half that loose their hives.

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23 hours ago, Alastair said:

Buying a hive without expert help is playing Russian roulette. A starting out beekeeper definitely needs his bees inspected by an experienced beekeeper before buying.

a local here bought 20 hives, then burnt them all. thats a lot of $$$ up in smoke.

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My perspective as a newbee, that may be of use in your information gathering.  I just finished my first year as a hobby beekeeper, though I spent years before attending a beekeeping workshop, an AFB course, beekeeping association educational meetings, access to others' hives, and lots of reading. ( I wanted to be able to look after my bees properly once we moved to a bigger property).  Sadly, both my hives have died off this Winter, and fortunately I learned enough to be able to work out that they got knocked back too much by varroa in autumn, despite treatment,  an episode of queen loss, and there were not enough winter bees to take them through winter. They chilled to death because the colony was too small to generate enough communal warmth. (No, no AFB, checked every frame).  I am currently making hiveware to start this Spring with 4-5 hives, because I must have bees in my life again.  You learn a lot in that first year, but mainly that you never stop learning - even after decades as a beekeeper, the veterans tell me.  My experience is that you need more time than you think visiting your hives, reading what is happening inside, assessing and treating for varroa.  I have quite a stash of beekeeper-related paraphernalia now, so you need a designated space for that, especially if you decide you want to make your own storeys and frames to save money.  Add in the time it takes to paint your hives, and wash your beesuits and gloves, and weed your apiary and make swarm boxes and record what you saw/did each visit for each hive etc etc.   However, I figure if my hobby was golf it would cost more, in equipment, club membership, green fees,  suitable footwear and clothing,  and time, so it is all relative - and that is what I tell my family.

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After reading through all these posts I think you should have an idea of what is involved, most start up topics are covered with excellent advice from the semi experienced hobbyist through to the expert commercial beekeepers. I have nothing further to add as it is all covered. I hope you make a wise decision based on this advice. Beekeeping is not just a hobby, it is a lifelong enjoyable experience with it's ups and downs. The more you learn about it, the hungryier you become for more information. (hungryier is not actually a word) 

Happy beekeeping!

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