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Something from Nothing

Winter is a season for dreaming, and we like to dream big. As we spend the month talking about apiary expansion, this is our own growth story, from two backyard hives in 2016 to almost 200 going into 2022.

Our bees arrived on a plane from New Zealand. They were in long cardboard tubes and we anxiously dumped them into empty boxes in our brand new backyard garden. We didn't have proper bee suits and we had no idea what to expect except that we wanted to harvest enough honey to make ourselves some mead.

We are the kind of people, though, that launch ourselves 110% into everything we do (Know anyone like that? I'm pretty sure most beekeepers are similar). The learning curve was steep, but we climbed it like we were on a race to summit Everest.

That, combined with a whole lot of great weather and luck, meant that we had a very successful first season. By the time we harvested our humble honey crop, we were hooked.

The next year, those two hives became four, and then eight. We decided to turn our new hobby into a sideline business. It seemed easy after the fantastic first season we had (Don't worry, we would quickly learn that beekeeping is NOT the get-rich-quick scheme that we initially thought. Oh, how I laugh now at our naivety).

In our third season, we purchased 10 nucs. That was the only time we purchased bees to expand our apiary. For the past three seasons, we have grown naturally through splitting hives in early spring, and sometimes again in late summer.

Over three seasons, we managed to grow from about 15 hives to our peak at 200 this past summer. Currently, we have 165 hives overwintering as we combined some hives going into winter.

While doing this, we were also able to sell enough nucs to finance all of the additional gear required to grow this much.

For now, we are pretty comfortable sitting at 200 hives and plan to stay there for a year or two. For now. We do have a habit of chasing dreams that just keep on getting bigger...

Whether your own goals are to do your first split to turn one hive into two next spring or to start building a small business yourself, I hope that this month will help you lay out a roadmap for doing so in a way that is affordable and sustainable.

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