How Much Honey Should Be Left In A Hive For Winter

honeycomb dripping with honey

As a general guide, in warmer climates you should probably leave behind about 40 pounds of honey for a hive of average size (let’s call ‘average’ a full hive occupying a 10-frame deep box). In moderate climates that experience some colder temperatures, 60 pounds of honey is the general rule. In extreme environments where harsh winters are possible, 90 pounds or more is the recommended amount.

In the below paragraphs, we will take a more detailed look at this topic.

Being able to collect honey is one of the more pleasant aspects of beekeeping. It is probably not a stretch to say that more than one amateur beekeeper got into the hobby specifically out of a desire to have access to free honey. The fascinating thing is understanding how important honey is to the bees themselves. That importance underscores the equally important task of figuring out how much honey do bees need for winter at the end of the summer.

If you are a first-year beekeeper, you’re probably wondering how much honey is enough to get your hives through the winter. Don’t stress. It is a pretty common question among those new to the hobby. And if you don’t get the right answer, it’s not the end of the world. You can still feed your bees manually if you discover you have not left enough honey.

The Purpose of Honey

Before I get to a discussion of how much honey to leave bees for winter, let’s first talk about the purpose of honey. Suffice it to say that nature did not begin producing honey solely for the benefit of human beings. In its natural state, honey is food for the bees that produce it.

The beauty of honey is that it is calorie rich. Just one tablespoon of honey contains 46 calories along with additional nutrients that are healthy to both bees and human beings. Bees produce honey throughout the spring and summer. What they do not consume gets stored in honeycombs for future use. That much you know because you have observed your bees stocking up.

The challenge for honeybees is the fact that they have very little means of producing honey come winter. Without access to flowers and nectar, they lack the raw materials for honey production. This is why they store so much for the winter. They make excess during the summer so that they have plenty of food during the winter.

Every Hive is Different

Moving on to the question of how much honey does a hive need for winter, there are some generally accepted rules that will be discussed later on. Those rules are just guidelines, though. What must be understood is that every hive is different. You can follow the general rules for all of your hives only to discover that you left too much honey in one and too little in another.

Trying to pinpoint how much honey a hive will need to get through the winter is no different than trying to pinpoint how much food your family will consume during that same period. There are a ton of variables you just cannot account for.

Your total winter food consumption is going to depend on a lot of things. For instance, how often will you skip dinner at home in favor of eating out or going to a family member’s house to eat? How often will you have guests over to your house during the 12 weeks of winter? Will you be cooking less this year because your family got smaller over the summer?

Bee hives are subject to different variables, but the point is still the same.

Note: The amount of honey any one hive will need can be influenced by everything from the number of bees in the colony to how well a hive is insulated and the temperature fluctuations your local area will experience throughout the winter.

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In short, there is no way to know for sure. You just have to estimate based on the generally accepted rules and the size of your hives as compared to what is considered average.”

The Generally Accepted Rules

A quick search of the internet reveals some numbers that act as a good starting point. As I mentioned right at the beginning of this article “in warmer climates you should probably leave behind about 40 pounds of honey for a hive of average size (let’s call ‘average’ a full hive occupying a 10-frame deep box). In moderate climates that experience some colder temperatures, 60 pounds of honey is the general rule. In extreme environments where harsh winters are possible, 90 pounds or more is the recommended amount.”

If you are not sure of where your climate falls on this 3-step scale, you’re better off erring on the side of caution.

Tip: It is better to leave too much honey than not enough.

As for weighing the honey, you can pull out your frames and weigh them individually or just work on general estimates.

How Can You Know the Weight of the Honey?

A typical deep frame can hold about 8 pounds of honey when full. A medium frame holds about 6 pounds. That means you are looking at leaving behind about 10 frames of a typical deep box if you live in an extreme environments with harsh winters.

If you are still unsure, take an empty frame and put it on a scale. Then weigh a full frame and do the math. Subtracting the weight of the empty frame from the weight of the full frame will tell you exactly how much the honey comb and honey weigh together.

As a general rule, honey weighs about seven times as much as honeycomb. For every 8 pounds of total weight, you have 1 pound of honeycomb and 7 pounds of honey. Just take your total weight and divide it by eight and you’ll know roughly how much the honeycomb weighs.

Check Your Brood Boxes

One last thing to note: do not make the mistake a lot of first-year beekeeper’s make by not checking their brood boxes. It’s not wise to assume brood boxes are full just because supers are. It doesn’t work that way. More often than not, bees do not begin moving honey to the brood box until late fall. You have to check brood boxes to see how much honey is there before you decide what to do with your supers.

Taking too much honey when brood boxes are not full could put your bees in a precarious position. Not only will adult bees struggle for lack of food, but eggs and larvae down in the brood box will also have a much tougher time as well. Enough said on that.

If all else fails and you absolutely don’t know what to do, look around your local area and see if there are more experienced beekeepers willing to help you. If they won’t come and give you a hand collecting honey, they might at least be willing to advise you on how much to leave.

Lastly, do not discount the internet. This article is just one among hundreds of articles discussing how much money to leave for the winter. A little time spent researching the subject should yield at least some of the answers you’re looking for.

How Much Honey to Leave in the Hive for Winter – Conclusion

In conclusion, leaving enough honey for your bees is crucial for their survival and well-being. While it may be tempting to harvest as much honey as possible, taking too much can leave your bees without enough food to sustain themselves through the winter months. By following the general rule of leaving at least 60 pounds of honey per colony, you can help ensure that your bees have enough resources to thrive. Additionally, regularly monitoring your hives and adjusting your honey harvesting practices as needed can help you maintain healthy and productive bee colonies for years to come. Remember, as a beekeeper, your priority should always be the health and welfare of your bees.

Beekeeping Disclaimer:

Beekeeping, like any agricultural activity, involves inherent risks. It is important to understand these risks and take appropriate measures to mitigate them.

Potential risks associated with beekeeping include:

  1. Bee stings: Honey bees are generally not aggressive but can become defensive if they feel threatened or their hive is disturbed. Bee stings can cause allergic reactions or even anaphylaxis in some individuals, which can be life-threatening. It is important to wear protective clothing and follow best practices when handling bees to minimize the risk of stings.
  2. Diseases and pests: Bees can be vulnerable to various diseases and pests, including mites, viruses, and bacterial infections. These can have significant impacts on bee colonies, leading to reduced honey production or even colony collapse. It is important to monitor hives regularly and take appropriate measures to prevent and treat diseases and pests.
  3. Weather conditions: Extreme weather conditions, such as drought or cold temperatures, can affect the health and productivity of bee colonies. It is important to ensure that hives are appropriately sheltered and provided with adequate food and water.
  4. Environmental hazards: Bees can be affected by environmental hazards such as pesticide exposure, pollution, and habitat loss. It is important to be aware of these hazards and take appropriate measures to protect bee colonies and promote healthy environments for bees.
  5. Legal requirements: Beekeeping may be subject to local, state, or national regulations, such as registration or inspection requirements. It is important to be aware of these requirements and comply with them.

While beekeeping can be a rewarding and enjoyable activity, it is important to be aware of the potential risks and take appropriate measures to mitigate them. By following best practices and staying informed about the latest developments in beekeeping, beekeepers can help ensure the health and productivity of their hives and contribute to the well-being of bee populations worldwide.

Last update on 2024-06-13 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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