Last Updated on August 16, 2021
One of the most common questions I get asked is how much honey can you get from one hive? This is a bit like asking how long a piece of string is. When we look at how much honey a beehive can produce, we have to take into account a lot of factors. Beehive honey production is a function of the environment, bee healthy, beekeeper competence, and bee genetics.
Beehive Honey Production
As we have already discussed, when a beehive gets strong we place honey supers on the hive. These supers provide space for the bees to store honey. We ensure that the hive has a good young queen by either replacing the queen or splitting the hive. New queens help to prevent swarming.
A skilled beekeeper manages the hive to make sure the population is strong when a honey flow starts. In nature, bees do not know a honey flow is coming. They will start rearing brood when resources become available and increase the number of workers. These workers collect honey and the more workers the more honey.
If however, the bees use a lot of resources to make workers, and the honey flow ends before these workers hatch, the bees will produce little honey. Beekeepers use tricks to ensure that a big population of bees is ready for the honey flow.
How Much Honey Can A Beehive Produce?
A bee has a limited number of miles of flight that it is capable of in its life. If your bees are situated close to a strong nectar source, they do not have to use up their flight miles quickly to produce honey.
I have seen beekeepers harvest many hundreds of pounds of honey from a single hive in Eucalyptus tree plantations. These trees are a very very strong nectar source and a strong beehive will produce an extraordinary crop on these trees. The bees literally just jump out of the hive – fly a hundred yards, land on two or three flowers and fill up and fly back. Then they repeat this every 15 minutes the whole day.
I have also seen beekeepers harvest 20 pounds of honey from a hive per year in arid regions. These bees had to fly 3 or four miles and scratch around in clumps of thorns and scrub for a flower here and a flower there. They worked for the honey, and, the honey actually tasted amazing.
So in this, we have a lesson – sometimes it is not the quantity of honey, but the quality of the honey. Sidr honey as an example, harvested from the arid regions of Yemen, sells for over $300 a pound. Eucalyptus for a 100th that price.
Learn more about: How Much Do Beehives Cost?
What You Can Do To Increase Honey Production From Your Hives
As with any agricultural practice, keeping notes helps a lot. You can correlate honey production to rainfall and temperature. You can keep notes about when flowers of a specific species flower each year, and this allows you to predict when your bees need to be strong.
Your notes should record yearly honey production, and specifically, the amounts harvested per hive, and when you harvested this. This allows you to rapidly optimize your beekeeping management.
Adding Frames To The Brood Nest
I like to add two undrawn foundation combs to the brood nest two months before the mainspring honey flow begins in my area. This forces the bees to draw fresh comb in the middle of the brood nest, and the queen will lay this full of brood. This gives you a significant spike in the worker population.
Feeding Your Bees
In the past, I have fed my bees dilute sugar solution to encourage brood rearing. This definitely produces a good spike of brood rearing. I have however stopped this practice in my area as it seemed to cause an increase in diseases. Now I manage my hives more conservatively so that they have adequate stores to use for spring build-up.
Multiple Queen Hives
Sometimes we can just play a bit and have fun. I have in the past experimented with hives where I had a double brood box with one queen, a super, and another brood box with a second queen.
This hive got completely out of hand. It produced clouds of bees. At night the whole hive swarmed with a layer of hissing bees. It was mean and angry. If you shone a light at the hive you could see steam rising from it and it sounded like an air-conditioning system.
The honey flow started and this hive went completely insane. We stacked it with supers and it just filled them and we harvested and every time we came back the supers were full and capped. Eventually, we put too many supers on the hive and we came to the apiary one day and it had fallen over and all the bees had absconded.
Quality Versus Quantity
When we ask how much honey can you get from one hive we may miss the point. The real thing you want to ask is how much money can a beehive produce. If you have a truly exceptional nectar source, and your bees produce unique rare honey you can sell this for more.
You may find that your bees produce 40 pounds per hive of amazing honey, and in another area, you get 100 pounds of insipid syrup like honey that has no flavor. This will then be down to the old quality versus quantity calculation.
I have always felt that as beekeepers we should be explorers – find unique little bits of biodiversity where we can produce a unique special type of honey. Own your honey – sell it up, talk it up and make people see why they should pay more for your honey.
We hope that this article has helped you answer the question of how much honey a beehive can produce. You now have the answer – it is up to you, your bees, notes, and biodiversity. And if you produce a small crop – sell it for more – it is limited edition. Please share with friends. We need a world where quality is more important than quantity.
Dr. Garth A. Cambray is a Canadian/South African entrepreneur and beekeeper with 28 years of experience in apiculture and specializes in adding value to honey. His Ph.D. research developed a new advanced continuous fermentation method for making mead that has resulted in a number of companies globally being able to access markets for mead. His company, Makana Meadery, exports honey mead to the USA where it is available to discerning connoisseurs. He has also developed technologies to commercially manufacture organic honey vinegar in Zambia for export globally. He holds a few patents globally in the ethanol industry and believes in technology and knowledge transfer for human development and environmental sustainability. One of his proudest achievements is the fact that the wind farm he started at one of his old apiary sites has essentially made his hometown carbon neutral.