Ever wondered how much honey a single hive of honeybees can produce? The amount of honey a particular beehive can vary due to a number of different factors. However, as a general guide:
- An eight frame Langstroth beehive can be expected to produce approximately 40 to 70 pounds, or 18 to 31.7 kilograms or more of surplus honey per year.
- A six frame Flow Hive can produce between 20 and 70 pounds, or 9 to 31.7 kilograms or honey in a year.
Surplus honey is the honey you decide to harvest that is in excess of the bees needs.
Factors That Affect How Much Honey A Beehive Produces:
Number Of Bees Inside A Hive
The number of bees inside a hive will significantly influence the amount of honey the hive makes. The more bees inside a hive, the more honey it will produce, because there are more foragers available to collect the nectar and store it.
An average beehive contains several hundred male bees, or drones, and between 20,000 and 80,000 workers or female bees. The exact number of bees in a hive also depends on the age of the hive and changes with the seasons.
Age Of The Hive
The age of the hive you have is a relevant factor in how much honey you can expect to harvest. A new hive in its first season should be allowed to build up numbers and strength before any honey is taken.
A colony that is left alone to gain strength in its first season will produce more surplus honey for you to harvest in subsequent seasons. For more information, see this post on how long it takes to get honey from a new hive.
Type Of Bees In The Hive
The genetic characteristics of the queen bee within your hive can affect the amount of honey produced, because the queen passes on her genetic traits to her progeny. A mated queen may have been bred with specific characteristics in mind, such as the ability to produce progeny that forage earlier and longer, therefore gathering more nectar than average to be stored as honey.
In the warmer weather when the days are longer, foragers have more opportunity and time to gather nectar, so you can expect there to be more honey. Foragers tend to leave their hive when the temperature reaches 16°C (60.8° F).
The amount of rain can also determine how often bees leave the hive for foraging. If there is too much rain or very strong winds, bees are not inclined to leave their hive because it’s difficult for them to fly. Heavy rain can wash away nectar from flowers meaning there is less for the bees to collect.
The term ‘nectar flow’ refers to the time of year when an abundance of native flora are in bloom. It’s characterized by a busy hive with many foragers coming to and from the hive collecting nectar.
Bees are usually less aggressive at this time because they are focused on nectar collection. A strong hive with many foragers can collect much more nectar than usual during a nectar flow.
If possible, choose nectar rich plants for your garden and place them in groups and within range of your foraging bees. Select plants with wide, open style flowers as they allow the foragers easy access to the nectar. For more information on the best types of plants for your garden, check out these posts on choosing flowers to plant in your garden and why bees collect nectar.
Diseases And Pests
There are various diseases and pests that can seriously affect a bee colony and hence its ability to produce honey. Many of these affect weaker hives, so it’s essential that beekeepers keep their hives strong to help them resist any infection or infestation.
Some diseases and pests attack the bees directly, affecting their ability to collect nectar and pollen. Others affect the stored honey, pollen or brood by using it as a source of food, therefore reducing the amount of honey available for harvest.
By practicing good hive management, being observant during inspections and keeping an eye on your hive whenever you’re in the garden, you can detect possible problems early before they take hold.
In Australia, there are a number of predators that can adversely affect the amount of honey a beehive can produce. However there are measures you can take to minimize or prevent
them from affecting the colony.
The cane toad, an introduced species, is widely spread across northern Australia. Its presence can affect the honey crop because it will wait outside the hive to catch foragers entering and exiting the hive.
Mice may attempt to nest inside a warm hive during Winter. They affect the amount of honey by eating the comb and generally making a mess by dragging in nesting material.
Ants can be a significant pest in Australia. There are many types of ants and they can rob the hive of honey, pollen and brood, sometimes even taking adult bees from the hive. The honey produced can be seriously affected.
The robbing of colonies by masses of robber bees can occur when there is a shortage of nectar and other colonies of bees are desperately searching for food. They are fast and aggressive and attack the hive in large numbers, quickly depleting the amount of honey in the beehive.
Fortunately, if you’re observant, you can take measures to restrict robbing behavior.
On a daily basis robbing attempts are made by individual intruders, and if you watch the entrance to the hive you will see the guard bees pushing away the other bees.
The intruding bees usually gets the message and move on. Potential robbers that are pushed away from the hive have different markings from the colony they are trying to infiltrate.
How Much Honey Can You Yield Per Frame?
From one full depth Langstroth frame you can yield approximately 8 pounds or 3.6 kilograms of honey. Therefore, in a ten frame full depth Langstroth hive, you can expect approximately 80 pounds or 36 kilograms of honey.
From one medium Langstroth frame, you can yield approximately 6 pounds or 2.7 kilograms of honey. Therefore, in a ten frame full depth Langstroth hive, you can expect approximately 60 pounds or 27 kilograms of honey.
How Much Honey Does A Single Bee Produce?
A single bee produces approximately one twelfth of a teaspoon of honey in its life.
Bees make honey from nectar using a two-step method:
- An enzyme is added to the nectar by the forager bees and then the hive bees. This enzyme accelerates the conversion of sucrose into fructose and glucose.
- Water is then removed from the nectar by evaporation. Forager bees transfer their nectar to the hive bees. The hive bees receiving the nectar expose a small amount of it to the warm air of the hive.
This process continues for approximately twenty minutes, after which time the partially ripened honey is transferred into a cell where the warm air circulating in the hive continues the evaporative process. When the cell is full of ripened honey the cell is capped with wax.
Making honey is not an easy task for bees. Foraging bees make approximately ten trips each day to and from their hive, visiting between fifty to one hundred flowers each trip. To find suitable nectar rich plants they can travel between one and six kilometers from their hive.
How Much Honey Should You Take From Each Hive?
The amount of honey you should take from each hive depends upon how much honey bees have been able to store and how much honey the colony will likely need over Winter. The climate in which the colony lives is also a factor.
In the U.S., in warmer climates, approximately 40 pounds or 18 kilograms should be left for the colony. In areas where the Winter can be extremely cold, 90 pounds or approximately 41 kilograms is the suggested amount to leave.
In Australia, as a general guide, a strong hive should be left one super nearly full of honey. So an eight frame hive should have approximately six to eight frames of honey.
A weaker hive should be left three to four full frames of honey.
If you are in doubt as to how much honey to leave your bees, it’s better to be cautious and leave too much rather than not enough. That’s because starvation is the most common reason colonies die during the Winter.
Summing Up… How Much Honey Does A Beehive Produce?
The amount of honey a single colony of bees can produce varies widely and depends upon a number of factors. A strong colony that has been well managed, with ideal weather conditions and maximum nectar flow could produce a total of up to 200 kilograms of honey.
However, even if your colony does produce that amount of honey, you should only expect to harvest the honey that is surplus to what your bees need. Precisely how much honey you should take depends upon the strength of your hive and the severity and length of the Winter they will have to endure.