FREQUENLTY ASKED QUESTIONS
answered by xander

Q: Where can we find your raw honey?

A: For the local consumer close to Port Elizabeth, come to our farm shop (details at www.apiarista.co.za) or contact us so that we can direct you to the closest store that sells our Badgers Gold products.

A: For the national consumer, contact us to locate the store closest to you.

Q: How do we go about selling your honey?

A: Go to "Services"/wholesale page.

Q: Do you do crop pollination? We need some bees.

A: Yes, go to "Services"/pollination page.

Q: We want to start up and need equipment or hives. Do you sell any?

A: Yes. Please visit our farm shop www.apiarista.co.za under "Equipment".

Q: How many times have you being stung?

A: Thousands ++

Q: Are you making money from beekeeping?

A: No. we produce mostly honey and our supply is directly related to what nature gives us.

Q: OK then do you make a living from your beekeeping?

A: Yes. We are very fortunate that we still can and thankful to God first.

Q: Is it difficult to start?

A: Yes, if it is commercially /  but No, if you want to start as a hobbyist.

Q: What qualification do you need to start?

A: Surely no degrees needed, but a basic one day course will clear up many misconceptions!! You will also need a high level of determination to do it for a living.

Q: Does it cost much to start?

A: No, if you start as a hobbyist.

Q: Do you offer beekeeping courses?

A: Yes, we do offer basic courses from our farm shop. Details at www.apiarista.co.za.

Q: Don't the bees do all the work? I mean all you really need to do is take the honey, sounds like not much to do?

A: Yes they do "all" the work, and so do cattle graze by themselves and potatoes grow by themselves.

If you do anything commercially, as a primary income, then there is a little more to do than just picking the fruit.

Q: Should I quit my job and start beekeeping commercially?

A: NO, please please no! Grow into it from a hobbyist until you feel you know and have enough. If you ever get there,          please also be aware that the transition phase from a medium scale to commercial operation is most of the time very challenging.

Q: Do you have competition? Are there many others?

A: Our perspective on competition is slightly different - we don't see others as competition, but as people in the same boat. 

Yes, there are many others that sometimes copy and paste us and even cut us knowingly and suppose we have to add

unknowingly also ... but we really just focus on our ideas and do our best with what we have or receive and trust for the            outcome. "Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?" Matt 6:27

Q: Is there a future for beekeeping?

A: Yes, but circumstances in many parts South Africa are not ideal and make it difficult for the commercial beekeeper.

 

Q: How much honey does a hive produce per year?

A: Under normal South African conditions, anything from 0 - 20kg per year (please make sure you see the zero number also).

 

Q: How much honey do commercial beekeepers produce per year?

A: For the commercial beekeeper in the Western and Eastern Cape (Capensis bee species), a yearly hive average that includes your dead/disease hives which where part of your operation, is between 5 and 15kg of honey per year. The average could be slightly more for the northern operations with the Scutellata bee species. (better

Q: What do commercial beekeepers get paid for their honey?

A: Between 1/4 and 1/2 of the price you see on the shelves (depending on what type of shop you visit).

Q: Honey production or pollination - what should I do?

A: Everyone starts out by keeping a hive to produce honey... after a few years of getting to know the bees some might slowly move into pollinating crops. This will bring a reduction in total honey yields, but the beekeeper does get paid a fee for the pollination from the grower (pollinating crops do not normally produce yields worth harvesting, hence the payment from the grower). Every area is different - some lean more towards honey and some to pollination. Every year could be different also. At the end it will be what suits you and your style of beekeeping.

Q: How do you know what style of beekeeping you should invest in?

A: Very difficult question. Everyone needs to work out what works best for them. This can take easily 10 years before you have your personalized style of operation that works best for you.

Q: Do pesticides have an effect on the bees?

A: YES!! and many other factors...read our page on conservation.

Q: How many bee hives do you have?

A: Please answer this first - Why is it important to you? 

And why do you think we humans have this fascination about the size of things/operations/gatherings etc?

What I can tell you is that you won't get too much done/paid with less than 800 hives if you employ people and have                    overheads/family etc.

Q: How many hives do you need to make a living?

A: Well depend on what you live for...

  1. The white picket fence life, overseas holidays, fancy cars, buying extra properties for the kids, the latest and best things, paying insurance on everything to feel somehow more secure/securing the future etc ....you need thousands of hives!

  2. A normal life, content with some rust and dust and having more time for other people than yourself. You don't need thousands. We would say around a 1000 is a sustainable number if you take into account the massive theft and vandalism factor of some areas.

Q: How does theft and disease affect the industry?

A: Expect losses between 5 and 15% due to theft/vandalism. Disease is not such a major concern as it is overseas, but we can say  about 5-10%. These figures do differ depending on the area of operations.

Q: According to your definition the difference between: hobbyist, professional and commercial beekeepers?

A: I will explain size and situation:

  • Hobbyist/small scale : Person that keep bees for himself / family and friends, not necessarily selling the honey but ending up giving it away, enjoying the outdoors, love watching the bees interact, take honey not always at the best times, mess up the kitchen for a day with stickiness all over, involving kids and friends to help, getting some unnecessary stings etc. Could sometimes do with more training especially when it comes to safety. Keeping 1-20 hives.

  • Professional/medium scale: Someone that normally progressed from a hobbyist to naturally keeping more and more bees or someone that bought his way into it, with a goal in mind to use it as a additional income and to have a more serious part time job for most weekends of the year. They normally sell their honey more directly to anyone for a good price and the odd small businesses. They talk a lot, especially about how much honey they make from the bees (like to talk about their best hive yields, not the average yields) and sometimes have lots to say about other beekeepers and their operations. Very business minded and have a 1+1 must equal 2 approach. Keeping anything up to say 300+ hives (active hives).

  • Commercial: Someone that most of the time just carries on with their full time bee work without looking too much into how prosperous they will be (this may differ), but rather just tries to focus on being productive and making a living. They don't always talk about their bees although it is constantly on their mind. Get a lot of "how much money you make" questions and in trying to avoid these conversations (because they really don't care that much) sometimes get misunderstood because: the smaller scale beekeepers talk so much about the amount of honey they get from one hive or their best hives (with no or little overheads) then multiply this amount with the amount of colonies a commercial has and you get this amazing figure! Yes you get the figure and then comes the subtraction of all the costs. They produce mostly honey or supply pollination services and get a lot less than store prices. Vandalism and honey imports also count against them, because many of the Chinese suppliers are so cheap in selling glorified syrup. Keeping anything from 800+ hives. Although 800 is just crossing the bridge and difficult to make it work commercially in some areas.

PLEASE NOTE THIS IS MY PERSONAL OPINION / DEFINITION as someone that can relate to some of the above and personally working his way through the beekeeping ladder the hard way with many humble mistakes. 

Q: Why then do you do it commercially?

A: It is somehow still enjoyable, suppose a mix of the following helps: Farming heart, hands/body that doesn't mind doing the things(physical labour) others shy away from, active lifestyle, work to eat principle, stubbornness in not just giving up easily, seeing nature in full bloom and with no bloom with our Creator's intricate designs that blow your mind, being your own boss but still reliant on what nature gives, every season is different, nothing is ever the same. There are a few more...

But definitely not for the money! (if you think you going to become rich then you in for a massive surprise)

Q: As a commercial beekeeper is there something you can give me relating to how viable this is?

A: Let me be very brief and you do the thinking. For every 10 tons of honey/income, you need to factor in 7.5 tons worth of input costs. We have never had a season with higher than 25% profit margin, total expenses vs total income(even 25% is a rare occasion). Commercial operations are mostly pressurized from different angles, because everyone wants a cut of the pie (with clean hands and zero risks).

Q: What does the industry need in South Africa?

A: Less theft and vandalism, more recognition / support as bees pollinate 1/3 of what the world eats. Fewer "chancers" that are mostly after financial gain when they start out and soon see that this is not what they get. Give people that are doing it for a living a bit more understanding into their risks, low reward, no support from outside.

Q: Why is it that beekeepers sometimes seem very self sufficient and innovative?

A: The industry that we find ourselves in is not that well designed/oiled like overseas (1st world countries). We are more      forced to make our own plans etc and the cost of importing machines etc for the larger beekeeper is very high, mostly due to our exchange rate. 

Q: I am a beekeeper, how do i sell my produce?

A: Either in bulk to other beekeepers/bottlers or get in your car and go search for places that would be interested in your products. But... make sure you do not make empty promises, be real in what you can produce and dont cut out fellow beekeepers with clever promises/deals to the client. Be patient it takes years to build trust among consumers!

Q: How many beehives can I keep on one property and how do i find places?

A: It all depends on the location, season and takes many years to see what is viable for that specific area. Go and search for places by driving around and humbly ask landowners for a place to put your hive/s. If there is already a beekeeper on the property the general industry agreement is one beekeeper per property/landowner. My personal opinion and how we work is that we would always grant the opportunity to a hobbyist to keep a hive or two on the same property as long as it is not close to our hives and don't influence the production of our hives (remember this is our livelihood) 

Q: (added by xander) Why do some beekeepers pee against every tree?

A: Greed I think. I have heard beekeepers say "stay out this is my area". I have seen beekeepers placing only a few hives on larger properties to reserve them for themselves year after year. But never even get to expand. I have come to so many larger farms where the land owner will tell you they have someone already keeping bees here and a few sentences further you realize it is only a few hives. Be real with yourself on how many places you keep bees and give others a chance also, especially those that do it for a living. If you loose interest in beekeeping don't just abandon the place and sometimes leaving the place in a mess that the landowner never want to see a beekeeper again. Contacting a fellow beekeeper that can take over the hives or location is a very responsible way of keeping the industry in good standing with landowners.

Q: When is the best time to buy a Nuc colony?

A: Spring time

© 2020 RAUTENBACH APIARIES

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

GLOSSARY