So, How Much Honey Can A Beehive Produce?

Even though they don’t make it specifically for us, it sure is nice of our bee friends to make a surplus of honey that we can collect.

holding a super with honey and bees
holding a super with honey and bees

This golden, wonderfully sweet stuff has been coveted and harvested from bees since time immemorial, and today it’s one of the most important and beloved foods around the world.

In fact, it’s usually honey that is the prime motivator for people to get into beekeeping.

But of course, we need to know how much honey we can expect for our endeavors. How much honey can one bee hive produce?

Bees in a healthy hive will produce anywhere from 10 to 120 pounds (5 to 55 kgs) of honey in a season, depending on the honey bee breed and availability of nearby nectar and pollen sources.

That is a remarkable amount of honey! At the upper end of that production scale, 120 pounds of honey is enough to fill up two 5-gallon buckets completely. Plenty of folks will have a hard time even carrying it!

But it’s important to specify that, unless you want to destabilize or collapse your hive, you generally cannot harvest all of the honey that your bees produce, and some seasons they won’t produce any honey at all.

But, it’s pretty easy to understand all of the factors with the information I’ll share with you below…

How Much Honey Does a Bee Make?

The amount of honey that a bee makes varies a litte bit, but one of the most commonly quoted measure is about a 12th of a teaspoon over the course of its life.

That doesn’t sound like a lot, and it’s not, although the investment in effort and materials required to make that honey means that a single worker bee has plenty to keep it busy.

But when you consider that a hive has tens of thousands of bees, and that queens lay thousands of eggs every single day during periods of peak production, that little 12th of a teaspoon will add up very, very quickly!

How Long Does it Take for a Bee to Make Honey?

Quite a while, considering it takes up most of their life once they mature. Worker bees make honey from nectar, collecting it on their tongues, and then allowing the moisture in the nectar to evaporate. What remains is honey.

When you consider how tiny bees are, the honey residue that is produced by any single worker bee is produced pretty slowly all things considered.

Since a worker bee will only live several weeks at most, the actual net production of honey inside the hive occurs slowly.

Still, the economy of scale means that a surprising amount can be accumulated quickly by our standards if all conditions are ideal.

Do All Bees in a Hive Make Honey?

No. Every bee has a job to do in the hive, but it’s only the workers that make the honey. Actually, it is the workers that do most of the work in the hive, not surprisingly!

Inside a bee hive, among the adult bees you’ll have a single queen, a few male drones, and then female worker bees. You already know what the queen does, she’s responsible for laying all of the eggs.

Drones are the male bees that don’t really have a job except to go out, mate, with and inseminate a new queen when she takes up her throne in a hive.

The worker bees are responsible for an awful lot, including the construction of the hive, gathering food, scouting for new hive sites and defending the hive from competing hives, predators and other invaders.

The workers are also, of course, responsible for making that sweet, delectable honey that we all love and that the bees will use as a stored food supply.

Do All Bee Species Make Honey?

No, surprisingly enough! In fact, most bee species do not make any honey at all. Only communal bees that live in hives, or nests, produce honey.

Your solitary species such as carpenter bees, mason bees, sweat bees, and others don’t make honey because they have no need for it.

They collect nectar as a food source along with other things, but they do not produce or store honey inside their own homes.

What Helps a Hive Produce More Honey?

Hives need several factors to be met if they are going to produce a lot of honey at a high rate, but most important of all is they need plenty of worker bees and ample access to high-quality sources of nectar.

If they have both of those things, honey production will be kicked into high gear.

But, besides this, hives need to be healthy, happy and calm in order to produce at the maximum rate. Hives that are beset by disease or that are kept in a state of stress by weather or predation will not produce as much honey.

Hives that are continually losing workers for one reason or another will see the rate of honey production slow accordingly.

There are other, direct factors that can reduce the amount of honey that a hive produces, but we will talk about those in just a little bit.

Does the Type of Hive Make a Difference?

Yes, somewhat. Concerning modern domestic bee hives, larger hives that can support bigger populations and hold more or bigger honey supers will be capable of yielding more honey for you to collect.

The design of the bee hive also matters: the popular Langstroth hive design will typically produce more honey on average than a comparable flow-type hive assuming conditions are the same.

What External Factors Will Reduce the Amount of Honey a Hive Produces?

There are several things that will reduce the amount of honey that a hive can produce, assuming it has a sizable population that is healthy and happy.

The farther away the food source is, the less honey overall will be produced both because the flight time to get there and back again will be increased and because the worker bees will need more food for themselves to maintain their energy levels.

Similarly, lower-quality food sources mean there will be a smaller yield of honey overall.

One of the most troublesome and also most difficult to predict sources of honey loss is in the form of competing hives which will play the part of robber bees against your hive.

You heard me right: competing bee hives, especially ones that are larger and not descended from your hive will enter your bees’ hive and actually steal honey away to carry it back to their own colony!

Depending on the difference in numbers this can actually lead to a substantial loss of honey across the entire season.

And lastly, there are various pests, predators and parasites that can either consume honey directly or ruin the honeycombs leading to honey loss and contamination.

Mice, bees, skunks, flies, mites bears and more; all of these are very bad news for you, and even worse news for your poor bees. Some can destroy the hive totally!

Do Bee Hives Need Their Honey to Survive?

Yes, they do! Honey is food for bees, and more than that it is typically the only source of food they will have, for every single bee in the entire hive, over the winter.

That’s because bees typically don’t have access to blooming flowers and other plants in the winter time, even if temperatures do warm enough for them to leave the hive and take flight.

This leads to one of the most common and disastrous mistakes of brand new beekeepers: if you’re high produces about 60 pounds of honey, which is a little less than eight full frames worth in a standard-size hive, and you take all of it your bees are going to starve.

You’re taking all of their food!

Accordingly, beekeepers must learn to assess the health and population of their hives and only take the surplus honey that the bees produce.

This ensures that the hard-working little creatures have enough to make it through the winter. This takes training, experience and insight into your hive.

Also keep in mind that if there are problems with a hive throughout the season, they may produce very little honey, or even none at all, and that means that they are going to survive they will need supplemental food from you.

But, don’t think you can take all of the honey and give your bees sugar water or bee food instead: neither is a complete nutritional source for your bees.

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