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beefree

The sustainability of making reasonable money off breeding bees.

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1000 hives between three of you, one of whom is already experienced in managing large numbers of hives = sounds like you've got a headstart over those who are simply dreaming. The fact that you are going into it with a mindset that the current sometimes crazy nuc prices shouldn't be considered indicative of future returns also bodes well. Some questions that you need to consider relate to upfront capital outlay and cash reserves. Debt servicing obviously has a big impact on profits, so does being so close to the wire that you can't afford to do things like feed when necessary. Put together a decent plan including all expenses (high estimates) and all incomings (low estimates) and see if it looks plausible. I wonder if there would be merit in talking to a bank with the plan you put together, even if you don't want to use debt facilities, it would be a positive sign if the bank read through your plan and were prepared to get involved - at that point you don't have to go ahead and borrow from them ;)

 

as an aside, and related to the post re the shortage of nucs/entry gear for aspiring auckland beekeepers - it would be really interesting to find out the survival rate through to November the following year for nucs or hives bought by people new to beekeeping.

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it would be really interesting to find out the survival rate through to November the following year for nucs or hives bought by people new to beekeeping.

That would be a great survey to be able to do, however, I wonder if people would be honest enough to participate.

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I just would like to get opinions on the sustainably of bee breeding as a future business. So to be open about it, me and two other friends have a common goal to come together and get into the bee breeding and queen rearing, we have a ruff idea of building up to around 1000 hives.

 

What concerns me is the situation of manuka, I'm told there was little money in bee breeding before manuka, but how little? Much above minimum wage at the time, better than working in a super market? So the concern is based on what if the manuka industry crashed and I find myself with nucs and queens that I can not sell, or for such little money it barely covers cost. It's putting me off a little, but should I be worried? I'm not after making great money, just a fair honest income and the rest of the rewards will come in the form of my passion for bees.

 

On other note, how about the international market, could this be cracked as to avoid depandence on the local market? I'm told by an older fellow at asurequality that Canada for example is a huge market, perhaps even North America in general. Could there be hope in exporting bees alone?

 

Thanks for any advice, I am super serious about it all, but I also want to balance my enthusiasm with caution as I don't want to end up disappointed, though I am prepared to do what it takes to be successful.

 

Well there certainly is a lot of expert advice given here in relation to beekeeping and what to expect in launching into such a venture and while I can't add to that I do have a view on ensuring both you and your partner/s in the business first of all set out the ground rules as to how you will behave in the business together.

Things change and for instance you need to consider how all parties are protected in a situation where one party wants to leave. Or a new party comes into the business.

Best to sort all these issues through an shareholders agreement if this enterprise does come to fruition. In other words seek legal advice on how best to lay the foundation of the entity created so all parties agree on how matters between themselves will be resolved.

 

All the best

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Firstly thanks everyone for contributing, I highly respect the opinions presented here. When they say beekeepers have many opinions, well everyone seems to be on the same page this time around which hits the points home, also I have achieved my goal of tapping into a wealth of wisdom, again a great example of why forums are awesome.

 

 

No extraction plant is fair enough - you can always get it contract extracted or sell to an extracting packer, but trust me, you will be 'bothering with honey'.

 

As above, whether or not honey is your primary focus, you will need to deal with it, and in a timely fashion or it will very quickly stuff up your breeding operation.

 

 

I appear to me making some misinformed assumptions regarding the honey, from what I understood if I'm constantly splitting hives for nucs and feeding back excess honey for winter, would I still end up with excess honey to sell? Or was your point in the respect of needing to sell honey as another source of income?

 

Stuff up my breeding op, you mean I could end up with brood boxes full of honey and no room for much else if I'm not focusing on collecting it properly?

 

 

 

No. (Regarding 1000 breeding hives being easier than 1000 honey)

 

Can you elaborate on this please?

 

 

 

Don't discount what Meerkatt's saying easily - he's right on the mark. Maybe not all of those circumstances are likely to happen at once, but they do happen, and they do come in bunches.

 

I didn't imply that I was discounting what he said at all, in fact I brought my second hive off him and I can appreciate that he's a very good and experienced beekeeper. What I meant was, that at first glance, cutting all expectations in half makes it all seem rather off putting and scary, almost to the point of thinking why would I bother? But it's certainly a clever way to approach a new business and quite necessary I think given the unknown future of the industry.

 

By the way Thanks Deejaycee for your input.

 

 

Go ahead but try not more than 100(one hundred) hives each of you(3x100). See what happens after the first season. You will see where to be more careful or make a change and where to work harder with your plan. Good luck.

 

1000 sounds like something I probably pulled out of my behind and I do admit I ain't put enough thought into it, I can't afford to buy many hives outright, so naturally I will progress through to a 100 or so as I build up my own numbers, therefore I should have enough time to decide if it's the right path for me.

 

 

 

 

1000+ hives per beekeeper was the normal workload before varroa and even with that many hives they often struggled to make a living.The other problem is I doubt if you can find anywhere even in the South island where you can fit 1000 hives without treading on a lot of toes. I know a lot of people just don't care any more but it does make you any friends.

 

So are you saying 1000 hives now is often unprofitable?

 

The one thing I don't want to do is step on anyone's toes, I figure if I can score many sites that are unappealing to other beeks, perhaps ones near residential zoning, I may be ok. For example, I scored a site that can hold 100 hives, up a valley in the port hills near Cashmere in CHCH, good food sources around, good shelter, not bothering anyone, only a few hives around. To be bold, I do care, otherwise I wouldn't be here being open about what I want to do, sooner or later I am going to be known and i want to be known for being a good beekeeper who is mindful of others around me.

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If you have watched fat bee on you tube one of his sayings is honey is always getting in the way of his breading .

This has got to be one of the better threads on the subject so far every one is being well behaved very good information so far.

I'm on my way to building up my hives as well slowly very slowly was hoping to of had a few swarms by now .

Any good business is not made overnight

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from what I understood if I'm constantly splitting hives for nucs and feeding back excess honey for winter,

that is the fastest way to get yourself into trouble, kill your business and wipe out everyone around you.

now this is precisely why i tell hobbyist off for breaking afb rule no1, because when they go big scale they still do bad beekeeping.

 

most likely you will still have a core group of hives that will still pull honey in which needs to be dealt with. you could leave it on (rather than feed it back) but with current prices you would be crazy to do so and you may still have far more than they will need, so extraction is highly likely and most likely a much needed income.

 

as far as selling nucs and queens go, think who you are going to sell to. there is very few sold on TM and you will be needing to sell a large amount every year. relying on hobbyists, which come and go, is difficult. most breeding outfits that i've seen are tied to another commercial crowd (or two etc) as their bread/butter income. hobbyist sales are a nice little extra.

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that is the fastest way to get yourself into trouble, kill your business and wipe out everyone around you. now this is precisely why i tell hobbyist off for breaking afb rule no1, because when they go big scale they still do bad beekeeping.

.

 

I understood this already, sorry I didn't not mean to imply "feed back" but I meant "leaving on" the honey from the same hive. Besides the AFB spreading spore issue, it would be alot of work to fluff around collecting all the honey, store it, and then feed it back again, I could imagine crystallization could be an issue too.

 

But anyhow I think I can now appreciate that it makes little sense to leave honey on, too valuable, Though is random multi floral honey even worth anything?

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........as far as selling nucs and queens go, think who you are going to sell to. there is very few sold on TM and you will be needing to sell a large amount every year. relying on hobbyists, which come and go, is difficult. most breeding outfits that i've seen are tied to another commercial crowd (or two etc) as their bread/butter income. hobbyist sales are a nice little extra.

 

The commercial guys is my goal, I couldn't be bothered with trademe, but this could be a bonus.

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Though is random multi floral honey even worth anything?

still get reasonable money for it. theres still a good price difference between bottom grade honey and sugar.

 

i had an interesting talk with a vineyard owner some years back. he was saying most vineyards fail due to the marketing and supplying shop shelves problems, even when they make excellent wines.

point is you need to get the selling chain up and running first. i would be chasing those commercial customers first. if you can't get a foot hold in then you might as well flag the idea.

 

don't forget with nucs most would do them inhouse. queen rearing is more specialized and more often farmed out.

you need a few crowds you can do replacements for. doing nucs for build ups or start ups is ok but that doesn't last for long.

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don't forget with nucs most would do them inhouse. queen rearing is more specialized and more often farmed out.

you need a few crowds you can do replacements for. doing nucs for build ups or start ups is ok but that doesn't last for long.

 

There is obviously a huge demand for nucs right now, but was there a time when they were difficult to sell? Also if hive losses become more of a significant wider spread issue (perhaps CCD territory) then I could see the demand for nucs staying high, even if Manuka levels out.The dude at Asurequality believed that was the best way to sell good queens is with a nuc, rather than alone.

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Yes, there was a time when nucs were difficult to sell, or at least, for a worthwhile price.

 

And yes again, the best way to make money from a queen is to sell it with some bees. Years ago that was not the case though.

 

Personally I doubt we will be getting major nationwide hive losses due to CCD type scenarios any time soon. I hear gossip about the odd guy having big losses but it's mostly beekeeper error. The thing with good honey prices is many beekeepers are running less hives than they used to have to, which allows for more intensive and better management. There's also new players going through learning curves but I think most of our kiwi beekeepers are pretty smart. Each in their own way of course LOL.

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Yes, there was a time when nucs were difficult to sell, or at least, for a worthwhile price.

.

 

What back when house prices and petrol was under 1/2 the cost that they are now? I guess it's all relative right.

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Leaving a box of honey on the hive for the winter is too much. You will treat the hive so that honey will be contaminated with chemicals and it will be more difficult to sort it out(you can not sell it).

 

As Tristan said every excess of honey should be extracted. That means from some hives you will have more honey and from others less and then you can complete here and there with sugar syrup in autumn. This also means you can not mix honey boxes between hives(taking from one hive with large stores to give to another one with small stores). The best and the healthiest way is to extract what you can and you always can add syrup if needed.

 

As you can see you will not have the opportunity to run away from honey extraction + you have to make queens and nucs. I think this is what Tristan said as you will actually have more work rather than just making honey. Never mind you will be 3 of you.

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If you are treating you can always put the box of honey above the hive mat while the strips are in. Hey presto, no residue!

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Dont forget the hives you will be using for cell raising will be needing honey boxes as well :)

 

Theres soooo mch more work in raising queens/bees than in doing honey which is why so many beekeepers prefer to buy in queens and cells.

 

Ive been hearing of mating success as low as 15% in some parts of the north Island this year due to bad weather.

 

The demand for queens and nucs is over a very short period in spring from August till about mid November.

 

Anything you supply in August will be from wintered over stock, you wont be able to start raising new season queens in Canterbury until September.

 

Your mating yards will need to be well protected from the Nor west and the Southerly or you will suffer from alot of queen loss. The sites need to be warm and sheltered with an abundance of natural forage.

 

Just looking at the people I know who raise queens and nucs you will need to run at least 1000 nucs each for mated queens then whatever nucs you can make on top of that.

 

All of the queen raisers in our area are one man/woman bands with hired help when needed.

 

Theres definately a living to be made while manuka is booming...there wont be after the boom.

 

We budget on 50% matings and in an aversge year will get 75% but always under estimate what you think you will acheive.

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Theres soooo mch more work in raising queens/bees than in doing honey which is why so many beekeepers prefer to buy in queens and cells.

 

I get that now, however where I was coming from, was not work overall, but specific to having the hives in one place avoiding huge traveling times, and back breaking work of spending weeks removing boxes off honey of hives, as it turns out it seems like i will be having to do that to some degree anyway. :)

 

 

Your mating yards will need to be well protected from the Nor west and the Southerly or you will suffer from alot of queen loss. The sites need to be warm and sheltered with an abundance of natural forage.

 

So if I have a sheltered site, wouldn't the queens fly away and be exposed to the winds anyway? OR is the idea to create a drone congregation area within that sheltered area from your own hives?

 

Just looking at the people I know who raise queens and nucs you will need to run at least 1000 nucs each for mated queens then whatever nucs you can make on top of that.

 

Do you mean 1000 mating nucs? Or nucs to simply stock the queens?

 

 

Theres definately a living to be made while manuka is booming...there wont be after the boom.

 

This again is what worries me the most, what if I got so far, manuka levels off and I find myself making no money, I guess if there is a will there is a way. How did you get on before the manuka boom?

 

Also I ask you this, if you were in my position now Frazz and knowing what you know now, what would you do, would you even bother?

 

Thanks Frazz! I was quietly hoping you would chime in, very helpful to have the input of a breeder who is clued up on south island conditions.

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Great topic.

It takes me back to my childhood playing marbles.

At about 10 YO I would go to a marble game with with my 10-15 precious marbles and play onezies or twozies, win some and lose some.

At the end of the day Id break even.

Then I got a paper round and saved enough to buy 100 marbles.

Id rock up to a game and play in a much more relaxed style, taking some risks and honing my game.

Before long I was playing for much larger stakes and winning.

Soon I had a huge bag of marbles.

The moral is, CAPITAL COUNTS.

If you have capital and a determination to learn and succeed you are way ahead.

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Anyways are you planning on breeding Italians or Carniolans or Random Mutts @beefree ? Where are you getting your foundation stock from? Any specific qualities you will be looking to breed for?

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This again is what worries me the most, what if I got so far, manuka levels off and I find myself making no money

Yep that's a worry, but that's what beekeeping, business, and life are all about. Good beekeeping businesses adapt and make the most of the opportunity that exists at any time. Maybe now you choose to specialise in queens, but you may well become a specialist in royal jelly or in building that one bit of equipment everyone needs. Your plan should be for five years, not a life-time. There is no long-term these days.

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Yep that's a worry, but that's what beekeeping, business, and life are all about. Good beekeeping businesses adapt and make the most of the opportunity that exists at any time. Maybe now you choose to specialise in queens, but you may well become a specialist in royal jelly or in building that one bit of equipment everyone needs. Your plan should be for five years, not a life-time. There is no long-term these days.

Or as the saying goes "dont put all your eggs in the one basket"

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There is no long-term these days.
Wise words.

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my prediction is the manuka game will be running for a long time still and i'm really no optimist.

the future will be some guys producing nucs and hives wile others burn them in pollination and manuka battles.

queen breeding is not anyones cup of tea.

unless you have a talent for it you won't stick with it.

it is very stressfull at times.

when a season gets really bad you find yourself in the middle of failing production and stressed, pissed off customers.

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My dad's just broken his femur and got a totally new (for the 2nd time hip), I'm lining him up for manuka dressings. They are huge (overseas) everywhere but here. I gather the district nurses use them. The American military is using them. We are marketing manuka in this way extremely well.

I'm with @tom sayn I think that the manuka will always be marketable. The 'big guys' are planting it in areas in Gissy soon. Anyone pulling out pines ain't going replant them again! Life's gonna get a bit interesting.

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Had a fight with my wife's kitchen Ninja...A really bad cut on finger so put some Manuka umf 10+ on a bandage and wrapped it up, changed dressing every three or four days for two weeks..healed up very well no infection

 

The demand for top quality Manuka honey is not going stop any time soon

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