Every grower and beekeeper should sign a pollination contract to protect both parties in the agreement. A standard boilerplate contract is a good start, but you can step your pollination game up by inserting additional structure designed to reward your beekeeper and protect your bottom line. Here are some useful ideas to spice up your pollination contract.
Key details on grading
If you use results from grading to influence pricing (which you should), you need to define some rules around how hives are graded. The rules should cover who’s responsible for grading hives (whether you plan to send your own workers to grade hives or hire a third-party inspector), when grading should occur, and how many hives will be graded.
The timing of hive grading is critical, especially if you use results to determine pricing. Hives graded in late January typically grow a few frames in strength by the time bloom arrives. Grading hives early in the season is strongly recommended because it gives you time to address hive strength issues well before bloom, but keep in mind that early season hive strength results will change by the time trees start blooming. Don’t be too harsh on your beekeeper if you find a 6 or 7 frame average with a few weeks left before bloom.
Bonuses for strong hives
Paying out bonuses is a great way to encourage your beekeeper to deliver their best bees. There are a few ways you can do this. A simple method is to pay a flat rate bonus for hives above a certain strength (e.g.; $20 extra per hive above 12 frames). Another method is creating tiered bonuses that pay most for the strongest hives (e.g.: $20 extra for 12-14 frame hives, $30 extra for 15-17 frame hives, $40 extra for 18 frames or more).
Be sure to define how bonuses are calculated—whether you only pay a bonus on graded hives or if you extrapolate the sample size across the entire set. Here’s an example: If you grade 20% of 100 hives rented and you find five 15-frame hives, you could pay a bonus on just those five hives. Or, if you assume the graded sample is representative of the entire 100 hives, you could pay a bonus for 25 hives because a quarter of the graded hives were in the bonus range.
No payment for weak hives
Some growers have started putting language in their contracts defining a minimum level of performance for each hive. Hives below a certain strength (usually 4 frames or less) are not included when calculating the final price. Building on the example above, if 5 of those 20 hives graded only had two frames of bees, the beekeeper would only charge the grower for 95 hives.
Since hives below 5 frames offer little pollination value, the rationale behind this idea is that the grower shouldn’t have to pay for hives that don’t perform. With this approach, you run into the same sample size issue as above—whether to subtract only the graded hives under 5 frames or whether to extrapolate the weak hives found in the sample size across every hive rented. This debate can be avoided by grading every hive you rent.
Legal contracts are never the most exciting part of doing business, but ideas like these are easy to implement and could result in a huge payoff, whether through strong yield due to excellent bees or a discount on pollination.