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How Much Honey Does A Bee Produce?

A beekeeper checking a hive for honey production

Worker bees dedicate their life during the warmer months to collecting pollen and transforming it into honey. While it’s a sweet treat for humans, honey is essential for the colony’s survival during the long and cold winter months. If you’d like to know how much honey a bee produces then keep reading. We’ve created this guide to answer all your questions about the production rate of a worker bee.

How much honey do bees produce?

On average one honey bee will produce one-twelfth of a teaspoon of honey throughout its life. Twelve honeybees will make a total of one teaspoon of honey in their lifetime. Keep in mind that production rates vary widely depending on factors like weather and flower availability.

To make a substantial amount of honey, a swarm of bees will need to do a lot of work. To gather twelve pounds of nectar, roughly 1400 bees will need to fly sixty thousand miles, visiting over two million flowers. All this collection work will result in two 9.5 oz. jars of honey!

Thankfully for honey bees (and humans), an average colony contains 20-80 thousand bees. This mass of hard-working insects may produce several hundred pounds of honey.

How many bees are needed to produce a 16oz jar of honey?

To produce an 8oz jar of honey it will take an average of 390 bees. There are many variables though and during times of peak production, they could produce a much larger amount.

For newcomers to beekeeping, it’s important to understand that not all honey can be collected. Some will need to remain in the hive or the bees will starve to death. This is especially important just before winter.

How do bees make honey from nectar?

To make honey, worker bees collect nectar from flowers and transport it back to the hive. Other worker bees then push the nectar into their stomachs, combining it with enzymes, spit it up, then repeat the process.

They then pass it to other bees through their mouths a continue until the nectar has 20% moisture content. At this stage, the nectar has turned into honey and can be stored in wax cells until needed. Check out our in-depth guide about how bees make honey to learn more.

How much honey do 10-frame hives produce?

A healthy hive will produce 80-100 pounds of honey in a traditional 10 frame deep box. You can expect 40-60 pounds from super or medium boxes which have less capacity.

What happens when honey goes unharvested?

If a beekeeper doesn’t harvest the honey, the colony will probably swarm as it rapidly outgrows the hive. It will go in search of a new location to start building a new hive. If the bees don’t swarm, the excess honey they’re housing will be targeted by other bee colonies and insects like ants.

Is it cruel to harvest a beehive’s honey?

Harvesting honey doesn’t impact bees if the beekeeper uses ethical practices. The keeper must take measures to reduce bee stress during collection and only takes surplus honey that the honeybees won’t miss. 

Do bees starve when we take their honey?

If a beekeeper takes all a colony’s honey, they will begin to starve. This is especially the case when there’s a short supply of nectar. A small colony needs around 35 pounds of honey to survive through winter.

An experienced beekeeper will only take honey that’s isn’t needed by the hive. Keep in mind that in areas where plants yielding nectar are in low supply, the colony will have a greater dependency on honey reserves.

Can you eat honey right from the hive?

Honey can be eaten directly from the hive, but it’ll contain parts of dead bees, pollen, and beeswax. It’s best to filter raw honey first to remove the impurities. Honey that gets sold in stores has been pasteurized to destroy sugar-tolerant yeasts, resulting in smoother honey with a longer shelf life. 

Frames filled with honey that you could eat.

What factors affect a colony’s honey production?

Environmental conditions like weather conditions and available forage have a big impact on how much honey a colony can produce. The bee population is another important factor, with more honey bees resulting in higher production levels.

In many parts of the United States, May to August are the best months for honey production, although the Southern states will enjoy a longer peak season. 

To reach peak product hives need:

  • High rainfall before bloom to increase the nectar levels.
  • Sunny warm weather and lots of daylight.
  • Space for storing the honey.
  • Highly concentrated areas of flowers like buckwheat, clover, and alfalfa.
  • A large population of healthy bees.

Fast facts about honey production

  • Honeybees are responsible for pollinating 80% of all vegetable, fruit, and seed crops in the United States.
  • To fuel a bee’s flight around the world, it would need one ounce of honey.
  • A bee visits 50-100 flowers on a single flight from the hive.
  • Research by Cornell University found that honey bee pollinating directly contributes $14.6 billion each year to agriculture in the U.S.
  • An average hive must fly over 100,000 miles to produce two pounds of honey.

Summing up

One bee produces 1/12 teaspoon of honey in its lifetime. This may not sound a lot, but keep in mind that a colony has tens of thousands of bees, all created to collect nectar.

Experienced beekeepers will tell you that honey levels will vary based on a range of factors. No two hives are the same so you won’t have an accurate idea of how much honey a hive produces until it kicks into action.

If you enjoyed this article, you may also like to learn more about the life cycle of a honey bee.

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