How Much Honey Does A Bee Make? [Updated 2024]

A beekeeper checking a hive for honey production

In the warmer months, worker bees dedicate their lives to collecting nectar which is transformed into honey. While it’s a sweet treat for humans, honey is essential for the colony’s survival through winter.

If you’d like to know how much honey a bee produces, 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 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. Twelve pounds of nectar requires 1400 bees to fly sixty thousand miles, visiting over two million flowers. All this collection work will result in two 9.5-ounce 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.

An infographic explaining how much honey a bee makes in its lifetime

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, and production levels may be much higher during peak production.

Not all honey is available for collection by beekeepers. It is critical for honey bee survival during times of nectar dearth. The hive must have food within the hive, or it will starve to death.

How do bees make honey from nectar?

worker bees make honey by collecting nectar from flowers and transporting it back to the hive. Other worker bees then push the nectar into their stomachs, combine it with enzymes, spit it up, then repeat the process.

The substance is then passed to other bees through their mouths until the nectar has 20% moisture content. At this stage, the nectar becomes honey and is stored in wax cells until needed. Check out our in-depth guide about how bees make honey to learn more.

Closeup of honeycomb

How much honey do 10-frame hives produce?

A healthy hive will produce 80-100 pounds of honey in a traditional ten-frame deep box. Expect 40-60 pounds from super or medium boxes with 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 search for a new location to start building a new home. If the bees don’t swarm, the excess honey they’re housing could 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. Hunger is much more likely if the hive is struggling or 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 a hive’s surplus honey. The colony will have a greater dependency on honey reserves in areas where nectar-yielding plants are in low supply.

Can you eat honey right from the hive?

Eating honey directly from the hive is okay, but it’ll contain parts of dead bees, pollen, and beeswax. It’s best to filter raw honey first to remove the impurities. Honey sold in stores is 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 greatly impact how much honey a colony can produce. The bee population is another important factor, with more honey bees resulting in higher production levels.

May to August are the best months for honey production in many parts of the United States, 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 yearly 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 volume may not sound like a lot, but remember that a colony has thousands of bees, mostly collecting nectar.

Experienced beekeepers understand that honey levels will vary based on various factors. No two hives are the same, so you won’t know how much honey a hive produces until it kicks into action.

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

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