How Much Honey Per Hive?
Ask the Expert!
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John L Sam writes: I live in Maryland where there are many flowering plants and fruit trees. What honey yield can I expect per hive per season?
Josh writes: I imagine the bee season in Maryland is somewhat similar to what I experience in Colorado. With that in mind, I’ll share what my honey harvests are like and how it compares to some others.
First and foremost, my goal as a beekeeper is to keep my bees alive. Second to that is to be sustainable — that is, to replace any losses in my apiary with my own bees via splits/nucs and/or sell excess nucs from overwintered colonies to local beekeepers. Last on my list is honey. With that in mind, I leave “extra” honey for my bees to get them through the winter and minimize supplemental feeding.
With four total colonies, it’s a small enough harvest in total I can keep some for myself, give some away as gifts to friends and family, and sell the rest privately at a rate of about $10/pound.
I have a friend (who has been keeping bees for 40 years) who is very focused on honey production. She builds massive colonies that maximize how much honey they collect and has been known to get upwards of 200 pounds of honey from a single hive per year. However, while I often have zero winter losses, she sometimes loses as much as 15-20% of her colonies every year.
Now, keep in mind, the capital investment at startup and throughout the year: equipment, supplies, buying bees to seed 25 hives, disease treatments throughout the year, replacing equipment/lost bees, time, etc. Honey can be sold at a premium, but it can be very difficult to actually make a profit on honey harvests alone. That’s why many of the bigger commercial beekeepers provide pollination services — in fact, some commercial beekeepers don’t even sell their own honey! They extract it and sell it in bulk to honey distributors who repackage it and sell it at a premium.
A friend of mine and experienced beekeeper saw an opportunity in honey and actually started her own honey distribution service. She keeps between 50-100 hives of her own, but the bulk of her honey comes from local, vetted commercial beekeepers who sell her their honey at bulk prices. Her name is Beth Conrey, and her company is Bee Squared Apiaries. Here’s a link to a talk she does on “There’s Plenty of Money in Honey” you may find interesting: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m0uI1PjPoA8
I hope this helps! All the best,