Most productive honey flows in nz

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14
2
Canterbury
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Commercial
Honey flows of nz
As a semi comercial beekeeper in canterbury trying to survive in the current beekeeping climate it has me thinking of how much more honey can a beehive make if the right honey flows are targeted. Here in canterbury our flows aren't huge when i compare our yields to across the ditch in australia.
Im sure we could make a living off 190kg hive yields but 25kg is hardly worth the effort unless you can keep costs super lean.
I wanted to start this thread and hear what honey crops other beekeepers are chasing and have success in.
Here in canterbury our spring flow is good but at best you might make abox off a combination of dandelion, willows and a few other short flowering sources but this carries our hives through to the main flow which is clover and blackberry where we might finish up with 2-3 full depth boxes for the season.
 
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maungaturoto
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Commercial
it really comes down to what honey sells better and if its worth the cost to chase it. everyone's costs are different.
keep in mind that 30kg per hive is roughly nz average. plus you need to factor in how often you get a good year. the old 3in1 or 4in1 rule, which got blown away due to increased hive numbers.

the other factor here is semi-commercial.
traditionally semi-commercial was a short lived stepping point from hobbyist to commercial (and a very risky one). you worked a day job while you increased numbers to be able to go full time.
its only with mega high value honeys that semi-commercial became a permanent thing.
both semi's and one man bands lack economic volume and lack of size to make shifting hives around worth while.
there is not many semi's and one man bands with the equipment to move a lot of hives on their own.
 
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14
2
Canterbury
Experience
Commercial
it really comes down to what honey sells better and if its worth the cost to chase it. everyone's costs are different.
keep in mind that 30kg per hive is roughly nz average. plus you need to factor in how often you get a good year. the old 3in1 or 4in1 rule, which got blown away due to increased hive numbers.

the other factor here is semi-commercial.
traditionally semi-commercial was a short lived stepping point from hobbyist to commercial (and a very risky one). you worked a day job while you increased numbers to be able to go full time.
its only with mega high value honeys that semi-commercial became a permanent thing.
both semi's and one man bands lack economic volume and lack of size to make shifting hives around worth while.
there is not many semi's and one man bands with the equipment to move a lot of hives on their own.
Iv been quite lucky in how i have set up an established but thinking long term i have to increase my honey yields as i think i think if placed onto better flows the bees will do alot more, from what iv been reading and learning from the Australian honey crops is its not a single honey crop that makes the high yield, it is the combination of multiple honey flows following after one another to create the huge surplus in comparison to ours here in canterbury.
 
8,918
5,356
maungaturoto
Experience
Commercial
Iv been quite lucky in how i have set up an established but thinking long term i have to increase my honey yields as i think i think if placed onto better flows the bees will do alot more, from what iv been reading and learning from the Australian honey crops is its not a single honey crop that makes the high yield, it is the combination of multiple honey flows following after one another to create the huge surplus in comparison to ours here in canterbury.
if you compare nz to elsewhere, you will go mad. other countries can have missive flows which totally changes how they beekeep. you can waste a lot of time and effort chasing your tail trying to match other people.

one thing to keep in mind, if it was worth moving the hives to a different flow the big crowds would be doing that already. especially as they tend to have the gear and setup to do it economically.
for small players, like when i started, shifting a small amount of hives took a lot of man power to do so. we used to shift to a few specialty honey sites, but they where often being shifted out of orchards anyway so it wasn't a big extra cost. plus fuel was a lot cheaper 20 years ago.
if you have the gear to shift a lot of hives easily, then i guess you would be already doing that.

you need to know what crop you could get, how reliable it is, and if its worth the extra cost (can you even sell it?). plus be able to afford the bad seasons because you now have higher costs.
 

Alastair

Founder Member
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8,824
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Auckland
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Semi Commercial
it is the combination of multiple honey flows following after one another to create the huge surplus in comparison to ours here in canterbury.
Can't comment where the biggest flows are but just for interest, back when I was in Canterbury, Leeston based back in the 1970's, the common wisdom was that the first box paid the years running expenses, and after that was profit. There was no varroa then so no expense associated with that, and we would expect to harvest a minimum of two full boxes per hive. Bray and Gosset where I worked we spaced the frames in the honey boxes out to 8 frames per box which allowed a surprising amount more honey per box than 10 frames, and it extracted easy as it was non manuka, so we could get close to 100 pounds per box, whatever that is in kilos.
 
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8,918
5,356
maungaturoto
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Commercial
Can't comment where the biggest flows are but just for interest, back when I was in Canterbury, Leeston based back in the 1970's, the common wisdom was that the first box paid the years running expenses, and after that was profit. There was no varroa then so no expense associated with that, and we would expect to harvest a minimum of two full boxes per hive. Bray and Gosset where I worked we spaced the frames in the honey boxes out to 8 frames per box which allowed a surprising amount more honey per box than 10 frames, and it extracted easy as it was non manuka, so we could get close to 100 pounds per box, whatever that is in kilos.
thats about 45kg.
but you also have to factor in that i bet those guys where kings of keeping costs low.
the problem many face today is costs have gone up a lot. a lot of that was hidden by the high incomes, which have now disappeared.
i know a few crowds that have reduced there hive moving because of increased transport costs.

i curse those 8 framers, but at least you guys spaced them out. i still see 10-1 framers out there (run 9 frames but don't space them).
 
14
2
Canterbury
Experience
Commercial
it really comes down to what honey sells better and if its worth the cost to chase it. everyone's costs are different.
keep in mind that 30kg per hive is roughly nz average. plus you need to factor in how often you get a good year. the old 3in1 or 4in1 rule, which got blown away due to increased hive numbers.

the other factor here is semi-commercial.
traditionally semi-commercial was a short lived stepping point from hobbyist to commercial (and a very risky one). you worked a day job while you increased numbers to be able to go full time.
its only with mega high value honeys that semi-commercial became a permanent thing.
both semi's and one man bands lack economic volume and lack of size to make shifting hives around worth while.
there is not many semi's and one man bands with the equipment to move a lot of hives on their own.
What honey flows do you target in your neck of the woods?
 
8,918
5,356
maungaturoto
Experience
Commercial
What honey flows do you target in your neck of the woods?
we do bush in the spring, then pasture in summer. thats without moving hives. thats just the nature of the country side around here. downside is its a real mixture. we don't get good SI style clover or a crop of Rewarewa etc.
we shift a few hives in for manuka. we used to do Pōhutukawa down the coast. we shift a lot for pollination, but thats a big tradeoff as we loose spring honey doing that. every area has its pro's and cons.

some areas i know the beeks only have one flow and do one harvest. for us its multiple harvests for the different honey, that adds to the cost. you need to strip weight off the hives to shift them easily, but still have the hives big enough so you don't overcrowd them or have lack of stores and end up starving after you shift them in.
there is advantages to keeping hives in one place.
 

Alastair

Founder Member
Platinum
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Auckland
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i curse those 8 framers, but at least you guys spaced them out. i still see 10-1 framers out there (run 9 frames but don't space them).

The 8 framers were better for extracting because the combs were built out thicker so when they dropped through the uncapping knives there was not much cappings left on the comb needing to be manually scratched afterwards. Combine that with 20% less combs needing to be handled, you could put more boxes through easier.

Frames were all wood and wax then. I have tried spacing to 8 frames with plastic, just doesn't work the same you get heaps of burr comb, which is a problem with prickers instead of knives. So now I run 10 frames in the supers. 45 kg sounds a lot per box I don't think we ever got that, (I did say close to 100 pounds), but 80 pounds would not have been unusual. Now I'm in manuka and kanuka country the frames get left pretty sticky and the boxes can still be pretty heavy even after extraction, but down in Canterbury with their clover and other runny honeys the boxes get left pretty dry and light, you definitely get more out.

And re the running expenses back then yes, beekeeping was a poorly paid profession back then, most outfits were bare bones running expenses, wish I had some photos but the trucks we ran were ancient even by those standards, double de clutch gearboxes, all that stuff. The site owners were given a 5 pound tin of honey once a year, one year the harvest was not good, the landowners were given no honey. But back then all Canterbury sheep farmers wanted bees on their land to pollinate the clover, having an apiary on the farm was considered a big plus for your pasture.
 
18
29
Nz
Experience
Retired
Hmmm … Hi guys I’m back and rebranded… living the dream as a Carer in the UK…waiting for the rain to ease and warmer and longer riding days on the bike.
But…. When I kept bees in Canterbury we chased two flows…. A main flow on the coast, and a late flow of Dew back in Canterbury…. The dew was always a bonus as it was’nt every year that it yielded.
So… budget on one crop, and if you are lucky to get a second, stick in the bank for a rainy day!!
 
14
2
Canterbury
Experience
Commercial
Hmmm … Hi guys I’m back and rebranded… living the dream as a Carer in the UK…waiting for the rain to ease and warmer and longer riding days on the bike.
But…. When I kept bees in Canterbury we chased two flows…. A main flow on the coast, and a late flow of Dew back in Canterbury…. The dew was always a bonus as it was’nt every year that it yielded.
So… budget on one crop, and if you are lucky to get a second, stick in the bank for a rainy day!!
Is that you jamesC ?
Im not quite geared up to go over the coast and chase kamahi/rata flows. There must be places around canterbury that can time in multiple flows
 
14
2
Canterbury
Experience
Commercial
i alive on the "coast" and when you get a good rata flow each hive can collect 100 kg/ hive in 6 weeks
Yeah but is that something like 1in every 7-8years? Pretty neat when it happens. The kamahi is probably still worth chasing and there are pasture flows to be had also. Do you produce a good average most years over there?
 
8,918
5,356
maungaturoto
Experience
Commercial
The 8 framers were better for extracting because the combs were built out thicker so when they dropped through the uncapping knives there was not much cappings left on the comb needing to be manually scratched afterwards. Combine that with 20% less combs needing to be handled, you could put more boxes through easier.

Frames were all wood and wax then. I have tried spacing to 8 frames with plastic, just doesn't work the same you get heaps of burr comb, which is a problem with prickers instead of knives.
the 8's work well when there is big flows. we still deal with manley's which are better (lugs a bit bigger, less weight than fd). plastic frames break the lugs off if they get to heavy. wood is much better for that. however even wood/wire still bridged like crazy if flows where slow.
the picker's handle it ok, the main issue is separating the frames, even for the decapper. still had to manually cut the bridging so it would load into the knifes properly.
8's good with big flows and beeks who space them apart properly. still get people who don't space them so you end up with normal filled frames and one big mess at the end of the box. we stopped doing 8's/9's because it took to much time to space the frames out.
 
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18
29
Nz
Experience
Retired
I think for you chasing flows you are better to have a pollination contract on radishes, pakchoi and hrab the bix or two of honey that comes with it.
Years ago Old Mate advised me never to chase a flow, coz by the time you got there you had missed it.
Better to Target a flow!
 
14
2
Canterbury
Experience
Commercial
I think for you chasing flows you are better to have a pollination contract on radishes, pakchoi and hrab the bix or two of honey that comes with it.
Years ago Old Mate advised me never to chase a flow, coz by the time you got there you had missed it.
Better to Target a flow!
Pollination is definitely worth chasing at the moment, we managed another year on a Pollination which is a bonus if only you could get 2 or 3 rounds of Pollination off the hives you'd be onto a winner i reckon.
 
8,918
5,356
maungaturoto
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Commercial
Pollination is definitely worth chasing at the moment, we managed another year on a Pollination which is a bonus if only you could get 2 or 3 rounds of Pollination off the hives you'd be onto a winner i reckon.
depends on location and what you have to give up to do it.
up here you loose a lot of spring honey crop to do it which includes manuka.
what i havn't seen is a jump in beekeepers chasing pollination. with the downturn you would think they would be jumping over each other to do it but that hasn't happened. even for us, we pulled out of a lot of pollination because we where loosing money doing it. its good for cash flow, but lousy for making profit.
your area may well be a lot different.

the other issue is being setup well enough, or have enough staff, to be able to shift enough hives fast enough.
 
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14
2
Canterbury
Experience
Commercial
depends on location and what you have to give up to do it.
up here you loose a lot of spring honey crop to do it which includes manuka.
what i havn't seen is a jump in beekeepers chasing pollination. with the downturn you would think they would be jumping over each other to do it but that hasn't happened. even for us, we pulled out of a lot of pollination because we where loosing money doing it. its good for cash flow, but lousy for making profit.
your area may well be a lot different.

the other issue is being setup well enough, or have enough staff, to be able to shift enough hives fast enough.
What sort of pollination were you doing?
 
8,918
5,356
maungaturoto
Experience
Commercial
What sort of pollination were you doing?
we do avocado pollination. we still do it but only for a few customers these days.
the point here is you need to balance the pro's and con's. the extra cost of shifting hives and missing out on honey crop vers reliable income.
 
14
2
Canterbury
Experience
Commercial
we do avocado pollination. we still do it but only for a few customers these days.
the point here is you need to balance the pro's and con's. the extra cost of shifting hives and missing out on honey crop vers reliable income.
Honey crop and pollination in my area is about on pa with each other , im guessing you chase abit of manuka to gain a higher value crop as a trade off to early pollination?
 


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