Urban beekeeping in New Mexico's largest city.
What is the value of a double deep hive out of almonds vs. a nuc or a 3 pound package of bees? Please read and respond.
I am going to give my summary first followed by my experience of 52 years.
If I was beginning without bee resources I would rather spend $400 in March 2018 to make $750 dollars or more in honey by the 1st of June 2018. I would then prevent swarming by harvesting bees from my hive over a 2-month time (using the CC Miller or the Doolittle method) to make an additional $400 in sales or increase by July 2018. To me this is far more sure and profitable than to spend $400 in April 2018 on a package (plus needed equipment and feed) or a nuc (plus equipment and feed) in hopes of making some honey later in the late summer or fall of 2018. I would also hope my bees would not die out during the winter before they can make honey and increase the following year. The New Mexico area has a good early flow of fruit blossoms, alfalfa, cotton, clover mesquite and desert wild flower. The honey flow ends during the hot summer months until you move your bees to alfalfa and cotton or up to the higher elevations for clover. These bees need to be strong early to make the most amount of honey. Feeding packages and nucs to make them strong enough for a honey flow that may never come in the same season is a gamble.
The question is: “What is the value of a strong hive coming out of almonds in March vs. a package of bees delivered by truck in April or a nuc in May?”
Now, let’s look at the cost of bees from the side of the purchaser. A beekeeper purchases a package of bees. By the time they pay freight or a bee hauler the package with cage is going to run $160.00. Ten percent of packages fail for many reasons. Maybe the queen is released to early, maybe they just do not like the hive you put them in or not enough shade; any way 10% are lost. If you bought only one and that is the one that failed, you have a 100% loss and you make nothing for that year. If you bought 10… you know the math. Next, 30% of all packages supersede their queen in the first 30 days and if you do not catch it in time this hive will not reach a point that it can successfully overwinter, and it will die out. These are not my numbers, but national numbers and numbers used by our Bee Lab in Tucson. You will have the expense of feeding at least 4 gallons of liquid feed and about 4 pounds of protein. There is also the expense of medication. All this to bring a package up to strength to make honey. You must purchase the hive equipment which includes 2 hive bodies, 18 frames with foundation, a top and a bottom board. The cost is about $200.00 delivered from Mannlake LTD. Below is the list of the expenses for a package as I have noted them above:
Package of bees; $160.00
Feeders $ 6.00
Feed & medication $ 25.00
30% loss $ 48.00
Total Cost (and no honey) $439.00
Now let’s look at a person who purchases a nuc. We get $250.00 for our nucs across 4 states, but our nucs are strong, proven nucs. But, for argument’s sake I will use an amount of $200.00. You will still have the expense of feeding about 4 gallons of liquid feed and about 4 pounds of protein. There is also the expense of medication. All this to bring a nuc up to the same strength of a double deep to make honey. You must purchase the hive equipment which includes 2 hive bodies, 18 frames with foundation, a top and a bottom board. The cost is about $200.00 delivered from Mannlake LTD. Below is the list of the expenses for a nuc as I have listed them above:
4 Frame nuc with bees; $200.00
Feeders $ 6.00
Feed & medication $ 25.00
30% loss $ 48.00
Total Cost (and some honey) $479.00
Now let’s look at a person who purchases the $400.00 Double Deep in March out of almonds. We will still have the expense of feeding about 4 pounds of protein. There is also the expense of medication. But this hive is up to strength to make honey. You do not need to purchase the hive equipment which is included in the purchase price, i.e., 2 hive bodies, 18 frames with drawn foundation, a top and a bottom board and two feeders. Below is the list of the expenses for our double deep hive as I have noted them above:
Double deep hive with bees; $400.00
Feed & medication $ 15.00
Total Cost (Excluding honey) $415.00
Now let’s compare the honey production for year one translated into dollars @ $5.00/pound (I am using your figures from websites in the area and taking the lower number)
Package None -0-
Nuc 25-40 pounds $125-200
Hive 150 + $750 +
Now let’s look at the increase in bees just based on the value of bees after we replace the cost of frames and purchase a white wax 5 frame nuc box from MannLake ltd ($7.95), a queen from Koehnen or Olivarez: even though in most regions we would make a queen from our own bees and not purchase a queen. I am using the several methods outlined in CC Millers book “50 Years Amongst the Bees” pages 265 to 275 and I will use just 50% increase where he has an increase of over 600%. I make a minimum increase from these hives after honey production of 400%. When it comes to drawing out frames we are adding 2 new frames every 10 days on a honey flow in the lower two brood boxes to prevent overcrowding and to get drawn combs for our honey supers and to make nucs.
Increase 3 nucs at a value of $200 $600.00
Queens $ -75.00
Nuc Boxes $ -24.00
Feed and medication $ -70.00
Frames (15) $ -30.00
Increase in value/sales $401.00
To get my package and nuc ready for honey and increase in 2019 I will need to requeen my hive, feed a carbohydrate and a protein and protect from winter losses which run 30%. I did not calculate this expense into the equation because they will be the same for all examples here. This post does not take into consideration the value of pollination to crops for someone who depends on this service as we do in our two apple orchards or the fees that can be collected from pollination contracts or the other by-products a hive will produce.