It might seem an easy job, but from building a beehive to filling it with honey, the bee world is quite fascinating and leaves us wondering how is it possible. Bees are incredibly efficient insects — they each of defined roles in the hive, all of which combine to sustain their lives.
While this efficiency is key to producing high yields of honey, there are other factors at play that deem how much honey is made per hive and indeed, how hives are made in the first place.
How Do Bees Make a Hive?
As social insects, living in a large and well-organized family, communication is the key to the construction of a complex hive, defense, environmental control and division of labor. Without this, a beehive simply wouldn’t last.
Thousands of worker bees cooperate in perfect harmony to build the nest, rear the brood and collect food. Each member of the colony has a task, but surviving and reproducing takes the effort of the entire colony.
Bees make hives so they can store honey and feed themselves in the winter season when it’s impossible for them to go out and forage for food.
Typically, hives are made of hexagonal tubes — a design optimal for honey production since they require a small amount of wax and can store more honey.
Worker bees eat the honey, which is then converted into wax. When it becomes wax, it exudes through the pores in the honeybees’ bodies as flakes.
Worker bees chew these flakes until they’re soft, bonding them piece by piece to form individual cells, which make up the entire beehive.
How Does the Hive Get Full of Honey?
Foraging worker bees have to fly at least 55,000 miles to produce 1 pound of honey, even though only one bee visits up to 100 flowers per trip.
Bees as individuals don’t make much honey. Each honey bee will only produce around one-twelfth of a teaspoon of honey in its life. This means a lot of hard-working bees are needed to produce a decent amount of honey.
Making honey starts with honeybees foraging flowers when the weather starts warming up. They will collect most of the nectar from flowers within a 600–800m radius from the hive.
Once they’re back at the hive, the nectar is passed from one bee to another, mouth-to-mouth, in a process where the bee enzymes will turn the nectar into honey.
This final product is then placed into wax cells, called honeycomb. These cells are hexagonally shaped and previously built, with the purpose of storing the honey, covering it with wax once the cell is full.
When the hive is filled with cured and capped honey, it means that the beekeeper can start getting ready to harvest the honey.
How Much Honey is Made Per Hive?
Each hive can produce between 60-80 pounds of honey per year, depending on various factors, such as:
- Hive placement
- Geographic location
- Local flora
- Pesticide exposure
Of course, when all the conditions are perfect, some hives will have higher yields of honey. But, keeping in mind that external factors can affect the colonies, then an average quantity would be around 30 to 60 pounds per hive.
There’s a peak in every bee season when, sooner or later, the honey production reaches its stride and bees bring into the hive the maximum amount of nectar possible. This is called the honey flow, and it’s the highlight of a beekeeper’s year.
Worker bees spend a lot of hours foraging when everything is going right in the hive. So, when that’s the case, a single bee can visit more than a thousand flowers per day. If you multiply the flowers visited per day by the number of bees in a hive, that’s a lot of nectar being produced.
To reach this kind of honey production, a high number of flowers need to be close to the hive. Additionally, a decent rainfall level in the off-season needs to occur for the flowers to bloom. This then makes the flowers richer with nectar.
For an optimum amount of honey made per hive, the more sunlight, the better. Bees like to fly from sunup to sundown. When the weather is warm and sunny, flowers will be able to secrete nectar at a maximum level.
The amount of honey production in a hive will be influenced by many external and internal factors, such as the environment around the hive and weather conditions. If all these factors are optimal, the hive can produce an optimum amount of honey. If any of these factors work against the hive, the honey yield can reduce.
Setting a hive up in a location that has viable weather conditions and a rich source of pollen is key to a high honey yield.