If you’ve ever thought about how tiny insects are able to fill an entire jar of honey, you’re not alone. Thankfully, these little insects work as a community of thousands to coordinate this effort.
Various factors can affect honey production so a realistically a bee hive can produce anywhere between 30 to 60 pounds (14 to 27 kilograms) of honey per year. However, a strong hive can produce significantly more, potentially up to 100 pounds (45 kilograms) of honey per hive per year.
When you are ready to harvest honey from your hive, it’s important to have the appropriate equipment so you can do it efficiently without wasting excess honey. Consider investing in a honey extractor that will, not only make the extraction process quicker but also preserve the honeycombs in the frame so your bees can reuse them. See our list of the best honey extractors.
What Factors Affect Annual Honey Production?
There are several factors that determine how much honey a bee hive produces every year.
The overall temperature and amount of rain determine how often bees leave the hive for foraging. If there is too much wind, bees are not inclined to leave their hive. This is also true for when it rains. In warmer temperatures, bees have more time to forage for pollen and nectar and you can expect more honey.
Bees need to access nectar and pollen from flowering plants to make honey. Forager bees will fly up to a five-mile radius to look for nectar. It’s important to consider the hive location and whether there is enough flowering vegetation to support your hive’s honey production plans.
Diseases and Pests
Diseases and parasites are a great risk to a hive. Varroa mites are probably one of the most severe threats to bees. Varroa mites will attach to bees and suck their blood. They also feed on brood which will kill off an entire colony. Other diseases and pests include nosema, wax moth, and foul brood. An infected hive will be under a lot of stress resulting in less honey production.
Sometimes, a colony of bees will enter another colony’s hive and rob them of their honey. Bee robbing can result in aggression and even fighting between two hives. This stressful situation will cause honey production to decline as worker bees fight to protect their queen and their food.
Why Do Bees Make Honey?
Our step-by-step guide on how bees make honey goes into detail on how bees make honey- from collecting nectar to sealing a honey-filled cell.
Bees make honey so they have food to survive the winter. Unlike other insects, bees do not hibernate during the winter. Instead, they create a cluster around their queen to protect her and retain heat. They vibrate their bodies to produce heat and that movement requires a lot of energy. Bees feed on the honey they stored during the warmer season in order to survive the winter.
Check out our article on wintering a beehive to learn more about what bees do during the winter.
How Much Honey Do Bees Need To Survive The Winter?
A strong hive will produce about 2-3 times more honey then what they need. So it’s important that a beekeeper does not harvest all of the honey, but only a portion. If a hive is not strong, the beekeeper will need to adjust how much is harvested for personal use.
The amount of honey that can be harvested depends on the severity of the winter season. If the winter is less harsh, bees can survive on about 40 pounds (18 kilograms) of honey. During a severe winter, bees may need a lot more honey, up to 90 pounds (40 kilograms).
There is no precise way to predict how much honey your hive will need so it’s good practice to be conservative and leave more honey than needed. Otherwise, beekeepers will need to feed bees with sugar syrup to supplement the hive’s lack of food. In fact, many beekeepers are choosing to harvest honey in the early spring instead of the fall so their bees have all the time they need to make more honey during the upcoming warmer months.
How Many Hives Should I Start With?
As a new beekeeper, you may be wondering how many hives you should start with if you want an abundance of honey for consuming or selling. Maintaining more than one hive can be intimidating however, it’s recommended that a hobbyist always starts with two hives. Why? Because you can compare the behavior and patterns to each other. This is a great way to learn all about typical honeybee behavior. At the same time, you’ll be able to identify any abnormal behavior that may need to be addressed. Additionally, it’s simply to equalize the two hives by adding bees to the weaker hive. Maintaining an additional hive will not require a lot of extra time. Typical hive inspections should only take about 15 minutes per hive.
If you’re worried about confusing the bees with two hives being close to each other, don’t worry. Each hive has a unique smell that bees can decipher. Bees tend to keep to themselves so they won’t bother each there. You can keep two hives a few inches apart to make it easier for you during routine inspections. Try to keep the hives at least 8 inches away from each other.
By maintaining two hives, you not only learn about honeybees quickly, but you also harvest double the honey!
On average, a bee hive can produce anywhere between 30 to 60 pounds of honey. However, under optimal circumstances, a hive can produce up to 100 pounds in one year. Many factors determine how much honey a bee hive produces per year. These factors are weather conditions, hive location, diseases and pests, and the potential of bee robbing.
Remember that bees make honey to survive the winter. They don’t hibernate, but rather huddle together to retain heat and protect their queen. They need an energy source so they work during the warmer months to create and store honey.
Bees normally produce 2-3 times more food a year than they need so beekeepers can harvest the excess honey. Beekeepers should begin with two hives so they can learn quickly about bee behavior and potentially produce double the honey.
Always remember that the honey belongs first and foremost to the bees. Ensure that they have more than enough honey to survive the winter. After that, enjoy having a direct source of pure, raw honey!