Beekeeping is an exciting and highly educating experience. Although you need to put quite some effort into it, managing a healthy hive, observing your bees and constantly learning new things about them, as well as getting to enjoy your own honey at the end of the season surely is rewarding!
However, many beekeepers are disappointed to find their hives empty with no honey, and they are struggling to find out what they have done wrong and how they can boost their bees’ productivity. You will possibly come across a situation like that too, whether you are a beginner in beekeeping or not.
The beehive is a living system affected by many factors. Keeping this in mind, you can easily understand that there can be several reasons why your hive has no honey. The weather might be too cold, too wet or too dry. The number of workers and nectar resources might be insufficient. You could be facing a case of robbery, or maybe it’s your first year beekeeping and it’s simply too early.
So your hive has lots of bees but no honey and you are wondering what is going wrong. The answer is not that simple, as the external conditions, which directly affect the beehive, vary, and all colonies are unique. In a few words though, we could say that the key here is observation – and of course, patience.
Observing your beehive regularly is crucial for you to be able to enjoy the fruits of your work. A careful, periodic inspection during the warm months of the year will help you ensure that your beehive is healthy, with the workers building up honey and the queen laying her eggs. You will also be able to check if there are any signs of possible robbery, as some wasps, beetles or other stronger intruders could be stealing your bees’ honey away. Making sure that there is enough space for your colony to expand is another thing you should have on your checklist each time you inspect your hive. The more you do so, the easier it will be for you to recognize any possible signs that something is wrong, and the more you will learn about your bees – which is probably the most fascinating thing about beekeeping in the first place.
There is no specific rule on how often you should open your hive to inspect it, but if you are just getting started, it is recommended you do so relatively often. Just make sure that your movements are always careful and gentle. Opening the beehive should be avoided during the cold months (when your bees are eating through their honey stores and clustering to keep warm) to help it maintain its valuable heat.
For more information, see our article: How Often Should I Inspect My Hive
If you are wondering why your beehive has lots of bees but no honey, then you should probably wonder if there is enough nectar and pollen in the area. Unless there is a particularly strong flow, you will most likely have to feed your colony with sugar water. Letting your bees do their own thing and just coming back at the end of the season to gather their honey rarely works. In most cases, you will need to step in and give them a little boost to get them going.
Having lots of bees but no honey in your beehive can be quite disappointing. But if this is your first year as a beekeeper, you need to learn to be patient, as being able to harvest your own honey might take a while. You should focus on learning as many things as possible and becoming a good beekeeper, rather than constantly asking yourself how soon you will get the honey. Observe your bees on a regular basis, do your own research whenever a question arises and don’t ever be satisfied with limited knowledge.
Reasons Why Your Beehive Has No Honey
With so much to learn as a beekeeper, making a mistake somewhere along the way is inevitable – yet your mistakes are certainly an opportunity to further expand your knowledge. The more familiar you become with your bees, the easier it will be for you to recognize a problem and identify its cause.
Having no honey in your beehive is simply a sign that the conditions are not right. The reasons why your bees are not filling those honey supers may vary. It might be a matter of timing or lack of nectar and pollen resources. The health of your beehive, as well as whether your colony has sufficiently increased in size or not, are also going to decide how much honey you are going to get.
Reason 1: It’s Your First Year Beekeeping
Bees are genetically programmed to produce more honey than they actually need – and this makes them so valuable to us. We can harvest our bees’ surplus honey and they will normally still have enough food to get them through the cold winter months. But there is quite some work to be done before the bees can start storing surplus honey, as the colony needs to establish itself – and this takes time.
If it’s your first year beekeeping and your beehive is empty of honey, then your bees are probably not ready yet. Their priorities are in raising lots of young, building brood comb, collecting food to feed both the young and the other colony members, caring for the hive’s temperature and defending it from any external threats. All this takes a lot of energy, so it is highly likely you won’t see any honey at first. Even if you do, it is advised not to take any honey during the first year, as the chances are that your bees are not strong enough yet and they will need every single drop to make it through winter.
Reason 2: There Are Not Enough Bees
The number of bees in the hive will also determine the amount of honey that will be stored. A strong hive will have plenty of worker bees that will often be observed during warm months just from the traffic at the entrance, especially in the morning. But if you want to be sure about how the colony is developing, it is better to open the hive and carefully inspect it. You should be able to see bees hanging on the frames and covering the brood comb. When opening the hive and pulling out a brood frame, it should be covered in bees watching over the larvae. If this is not the case, you might be witnessing a sign of a population at risk. If you notice that the size of your swarm is not growing, you will probably need to feed your bees, as feeding will stimulate an increase in their population.
Reason 3: There Are Not Enough Nectar/Pollen Resources
Given the fact that nectar and pollen are an essential part of your bees’ diet, having insufficient resources around might also be a reason why your beehive has no honey. When you inspect the hive during the warm months of the year, you should always examine if there is some incoming pollen. With strong nectar and pollen flow, your bees will normally fill those honey supers in just a few days.
You should, however, take into account that the months on the calendar don’t always guarantee that there will be enough nectar and pollen resources. A long winter could lead to a late-blooming season, whereas the flowers will dry up early if there hasn’t been much rain throughout the year. So observe your bees and consider feeding them if there is little or no foraging, building and making honey.
Reason 4: Your Hive Is Not Healthy
The final thing to examine is the health of your beehive. If your goal is to have your bees produce honey, you should focus on having a healthy hive with a large population. But you should not assume that your hive is healthy based on just the level of bee traffic at the entrance. Sometimes, noticing a problem from the outside means that it has progressed too far to be reversed. So inspect your hive and get to familiarize yourself with what is normal for your bees – this way you will be able to recognize any possible changes.
With the beehive being a living system affected by many different factors, finding little or no honey at the end of the season can be due to several reasons; the weather conditions, the nectar flow, the strength and population of your hive, and of course timing. Inspecting your beehive is crucial, and, when done properly, it can give you the chance to fix a problem before it is too late. But to do it properly, you first need to learn as many things as you can about your bees, and focus your efforts on becoming a good beekeeper, instead of worrying about harvesting honey. So be patient. And don’t forget! Bees are such fascinating creatures and getting to learn about them is definitely the best part of beekeeping!