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How do beekeepers with more than 10 hives do it?

Can you please enlighten me on how on earth you do your hive inspections?

So it’s been 2 weeks since I carried out the following
It took me 3.5 hours today to inspect just 11 hives!
That equals to an average of 19 mins per hive!

That included, inspecting for eggs/ larvae (not searching for the queen!)

Cleaning out frame feeders and pollen patties because they had SHB larvae on them! I didn’t give them more than they can handle! Or at least I thought so. Anyway, straight into a bucket with soapy water, rinse, put back in the hive and…

Partially filling the feeders

Cleaning up some burcombe

That’s it! I didn’t have any supers to remove or anything, just pop the lid and inspect.

I know some of you will probably say that I can split inspections on different days, but that’s not the point :grin:

My back is so sore and I’m really demotivated from expanding my operation.
How on earth do you do it???

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Hello Rani, I’m up to about 35 hives and few I look after for people that have found bee keeping is not for them but like the idea of having hives.
I’m at it 7 days a week with my apiary and other bee keeping commitments and to stubborn to take time out. I do a lot of forward planning in my inspections and think the way I work is time efficient and a minimum of heavy lifting. I plan what I want to do for my inspections but if I see something more is needed on a hive then I will do that while the hive is open and calmed down with smoke. I find a straight forward inspection takes about 15 minutes, but I’ve been doing it for 47 years.
Maybe you got involved with too many hive too early and finding it over whelming now, but it does get easier as you fine tune your inspections.
Are you still feeding your hives? What I’m hearing from guys in the Sydney area is that they have stopped feeding and there is heaps of pollen and the start of a worthwhile nectar flow happening after the recent rain.
Cheers
Cheers

Suggestion: Number your hives and inspect one or two hives on different days over a week or two.

Wish I had a garden big enough for 11+ hives :cry:

I totally agree with numbering hives, when I close a hive I do a pencil note about that hive and then update my computer records when I get home. By the time I get home I have no idea in my mind of knowing what hives I had checked let alone what I found. There is no way at my age to remember what I have done, all I remember is another enjoyable day at the hives. :smiley:
Cheers

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Lol you do make me laugh Pete :rofl:

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Laughter is a good medicine Dean, and as we get older we more a higher dosage. Old age doesn’t come on it own, it bring friends like short term memory loss, but I’m happy as I can remember where my hives are in the morning and how to get home as the sun goes down. But without writing down what I have done as I do it I’m buggered. :laughing: :laughing:
Cheers

Hi @RaniK, what part of Sydney are you in? you shouldn’t need to be feeding your bees, there is a lot of flowering trees and plants all over Sydney. I haven’t been able to keep up with my honey harvests this year and I am collecting up to 2 cups of pollen per day from some hives. There was a slowing over January but all my hives are full again already, I have a market this weekend so the honey extractions will need to wait to the following weekend. I spend 1-2 hrs max for 10 hives, this will include removing supers, and then examining 3 to 4 frames per hive for disease, eggs, larva, pollen & honey. I leave the lid honey alone as feed and remove any burr comb, replace any full honey frames in the brood box with foundation, replace the chux for beetles and then onto the next one.
What is your goal with the hives? 10 hives has the potential to yield a ton of honey per year in the right conditions, do you have a market or outlet to sell through without devaluing your honey or time by selling at a low price?

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That’s a brilliant question.

I will never have more than 3 or four hives and want to keep my beekeeping as a hobby. Out of curiosity, how do you people find a market or outlet beyond selling to family, friends and neighbours?? Is there like a co-operative or something that buys honey from backyard beekeepers?

I sell the bulk of my honey to three green grocery stores that are local to me, my local Men’s Shed has 70+ members and they have a steady demand and a few locals that I have got by advertising on GumTree. I’m increasing my number of hives to meet the demand for my honey, I guess I regard my bee keeping as a full time hobby, it keeps me busy.
Cheers

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I reckon @Peter48 is on a good wicket there… you start small and if you target the right area, the demand grows. As for a co-op, there are a few websites allowing you to trade honey for money or goods, I have advertised on some of them but to be honest none has lived up to the hype. My local butcher sells a few dozen jars of my honey a month and there is a steady trade at the honesty box by our front door but by far the best seller is local markets, especially if you can build up a bit of name for yourself. Its not just about beekeeping but you have to become the marketing guru and push your story, get some awards, and create something that the buying public can’t buy in the local shops or supermarket and most of all is to ‘constantly innovate’… I am sounding a bit like Tony Robbins but people like to see something different on your stall everytime they visit. Oh and if you can, make sure you have some bees close by to show that you are the real deal.

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So far all my honey has been given away as ‘samples’. That said, the demand from family members is outstripping supply at the moment… :sweat_smile:

If people don’t believe I’m the real deal… I just show people picture of my swollen face from my last bee sting. Time to start charging I now… and people can think of my face when they tuck into the sweet liquid gold…

Rani, you’re doing better than I. I caused a stir last month when I performed an inspection of 2 hives in around that time… I’m getting quicker though. Last night I opened up 2 hives and performed a split - took me 1 hour all up to light up, smoke, inspect, split and close shop.

I guess those with more than 10 hives wouldn’t necessarily inspect all 10 in one day…

I’ve also seen videos of commercial operators handling hives, whilst I believe they care about the bees, they’re less worried about squishing bees than a hobbyist…

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Good to read that you did the split last night and didn’t wait till the week-end Fred. An hour all up to a spit from start to finish is respectable.
Far better to take your time and work slow and smooth with less stress to the bees and inevitably less squashed bees than to rush. Each of us have our pace depending on our ability and what we find during an inspection, if you are taking too long the bees will let you know but better to close up knowing that the hive is right than having doubts about what you should/could have done.
I’m happy to do about six hive inspections in a stint then take some time out, beyond that it feels more like a job than an interesting hobby. :thinking: :smiley:
Cheers Fred

Definitely got a point there Peter, I have to keep reminding myself that I only started late October and now 16 hives later with very little experience.
Caring for them is not the overwhelming part, but the actual time and the pain it’s causing for my back constantly leaning forward looking inside the box etc. I already put them on milk crates as stands but I think it’s still too low. Gotta think of something.

Me too! lol
Not my land

Macarthur mate. You’re right, feeding them was a mistake, will remove all feeders Monday

Just started using the chux, absolutely love it! When do you replace yours? I find it the older the chux the more beetles it traps as it’s so fuzzy…
I tried the CDs, but if anything it was becoming a SHB castle! Wax was making it’s way in there and beetles were laying eggs in it! So many cases I opened had SHB larvae

Great question, I don’t actually plan on selling much honey, I “believe” selling nucs will be the less labor intensive approach. Since I only started 5 months ago, I haven’t approached any local shops etc and I don’t actually know how well my local markets would be.
I heard something that was a little disappointing the other day. A friend of mine said that he heard you can buy local honey 50kg wholesale price for about $200? That’s $4/kg. That’s what makes out local honey undervalued

You opened them at night? I made that mistake only once (yes I used a red light) and they wanted to devour me!

So my goal of asking the original question was to find out how on earth commercial beekeepers do it…
I know they have staff etc, but surely they don’t take 20 mins, 15, 10, or even 5 mins to inspect each hive…

My bee keeping is a bit diversified in that I sell all the honey I produce. Bees wax from extracting my Langstroth hives is in high demand by surf board riders. I don’t sell nucs as JeffH is only 18 K’s away and he sells nucs so I won’t compete with him, but I make new hives, everything is new, and build up splits in them with a new queen to the point that they are a brood box and a super with frames of honey, a sort of deluxe hive with an em-lock, mouse guard and a hive mat and they are an easy item to sell on Gumtree.
Setting up the height of a hive is critical if your spending a lot of time at your hives to prevent back issues, Lifting a full frame of capped honey and twisting around to put it into a travel box can get tough as the day goes on.
As for inspection times, I don’t do them to a time limit and it depends why I’m doing an inspection, is it routine, a hive with an issue? But when I am closing up a hive I’m confident that the hive will be fine till my next routine check.
At 72 years old I can be very stubborn and deny to myself that my back aches at the end of a day :smiley:
I’m not a commercial bee keeper, it is just a very addictive hobby and interest to me.
Cheers

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You are definitely an interesting character Rani. Keep us updated with your journey. I find you fascinating.

In four years I’m up to just two hives and I struggle…

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Hahaha wanna hear the best part? Haven’t bought a single colony :grin:

Hi Rani,

I think you may be in for a bit of a surprise, I know some beekeepers out your way, conditions over the past year and a half have not been great with low honey yields. But when the gums turn on the nectar your hives will fill quickly and if you don’t get the honey off they’ll get honeybound which will see your colonies decline. Not sure if you have experienced this yet but it can be a difficult problem for those managing their hives as a single brood box. At the height of a nectar flow here in Sydney my bees are filling 10 frame full depth boxes every 2 weeks for 4-6 weeks so be prepared with extra frames, boxes, a good extractor and lots of food safe storage buckets.
Be wary selling Nucs unless you are breeding queens, hives can turn aggressive after a few generations of brood if not properly mated, its the reason why most breeders live and work remotely to control the genetics of their drones. Best way around this is to buy in properly mated & docile queens from a reputable breeder, the last thing you need is your urban customers suing you when their bees start stinging the kids, neighbours and their dogs.

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Thanks for the heads up. I’ll keep that in mind and have lots of spares.

Well I did breed my own queens couple of months ago and it was a great first run with 6 out of 9 hatching. Though 3 splits have failed due to being too weak. No splits under 2 frames of brood with bees.
Also next time I’ll churck in a couple of drone foundation to populate drones of my own choice in the vicinity around the time queens hatch

Between 5pm and 6pm. There was still daylight.

Guys been wanting to start looking around for a good Extractor.
Something that holds at least 4 frames and is electric, do I need reversible? Or perhaps getting a manual and converting it to electric like in this video https://youtu.be/dVzESa8zyfg

What do you guys recommend?