Our adventure continues as we went on our first trip to pollinate almonds this year. We tagged along this year and sent about 80 hives as part of a larger load. This was a pretty big step for us in learning what it takes to become a commercial beekeeper. We learned a ton loading up our bees to take them to a holding yard before they got onto the truck to head to California. This included sticking just about every vehicle we have in the mud as well as a string of luck getting out of the muddy farm with a truck load of bees. Our flatbed trailer blew out a tire and we were rescued by our good friends at Moore Honey Farm. All in all, it was a success despite some setbacks and our bees got to vacation in sunny California while we worked to prepare for their return.
Springtime in the life of a beekeeper is the most fun and also the most exhausting. Justin has been practically sleepless, waking up before the sun rises to pick up, drop off, or load up bees, working his 8-5 job, and caring for bees before the sun goes down (and sometimes after). The labor is continuous – building boxes, painting boxes, waterproofing boxes, feeding bees, moving bees, fulfilling honey orders, bottling honey, prepping for splits and nuc sales, and all the things in between. We have been preparing all of our boxes for spring growth – for us, this includes: painting, branding, and dipping it in wax for waterproofing.
Beekeepers tend to spend more time “prepping” than working bees and we’re no exception – much of the time is spent on ways to make his job easier. From modifying the farm truck so that it can carry our Donkey forklift on the back (as well as hives) to building a hive carrier that can more easily transfer a hive from one pallet to another, it’s helpful to focus on what you’re going to be spending time doing and coming up with a plan for how to execute that activity with as much ease and as little time as possible.
Right now, we are prepping for our next big adventure for the year – splits. We’ve got nuc orders to fulfill and a bee yard to grow. We have queen cells ordered and bees on the way back from California so we’ll be ready when they get here. It’s likely that we’ll do some shake outs for packages to help prevent swarming again this year on the hives we don’t have time, energy, or equipment to split or turn into nucs.
Since we have such a focus on growing our numbers, it’s a little sad to see the bees go, but selling bees in the spring helps pay for equipment and is an absolute necessity. Like in most businesses, financial logistics can be challenging. We’re avoiding taking out bank loans, keeping expenses down to a minimum, and trying to grow exponentially – this means we’ve got to put money back into the business. So, if you’re growing your bee business on a budget, be prepared to sell bees, honey, wax, propolis, or whatever you can monetize so you can continue to increase through splits, acquisitions, or whatever means you’ve got available to you.
Small pollination contracts have been a great way to get our feet wet and make local connections that are “win-win”. The farmer gets pollination for their crop, we get a nectar/pollen source, and our bees get some extra practice. We’ve had some remote and private yards that have even been conducive to a small trailer of bees being left intact so we didn’t have to load/unload when we got there. For us, this is helpful since we’re still light on the “big boy” equipment. We use the forklift to load the pallets onto the trailer and haul it to the destination.