How Much Honey Do Bees Need To Survive Winter? How Much Do They Eat?


Red-Beehive-Winter

Beekeeping is a never-ending learning experience and learning how to properly prepare your bees for the winter is no different. There are several different aspects of winterizing your bees but ensuring they have enough honey is one of the most important.

To survive the winter a standard 10 frame brood box of bees will need 80-90 lbs of honey in Northern climates, 60-80 lbs of honey in Central climates, and 40-60 lbs of honey in Southern climates. The bees will need this deep box of honey placed on top of the lower brood box to survive winter.

Its your role as a beekeeper to assist your bees in preparing the colony for winter. I’ll explain in more detail the balancing act of harvesting honey while still leaving enough for your bees to survive the winter.

How Much Honey Do Bees Need For The Winter Months

beekeeper-wearing-hatandveil

Like everything in beekeeping, the amount of honey your bees will need for the winter will depend on your local climate and weather conditions. Because of this its hard to give the exact amount of honey required but here are some general guidelines.

Most beekeepers will provide a full box of honey to be placed on top of the main colony’s brood box. So, if you have a standard 10 frame deep brood box it’s advised to place a full 10 frame deep box of honey on top. This is the most common method for wintering your bee colony by having one box for food stores on top and the bottom box for brood.

The amount of honey that bees require is solely dependant on how much energy they will expel to keep that colony, brood and queen warm. The more energy required to maintain that colonies temperature the more honey is required. This is the reason bees require less honey the further south you go due to the temperature being warmer.

For your more northern climates the bees will need around 80-90lbs of honey, which is the approximate weight of a full 10 frame deep honey super. For more central climates the bees will need approximately 60-80lbs and in your more southern climates the bees will need around 40-60 lbs of honey.

This is no hard and fast rule and is going to depend on how you manage your bees in the winter, the size and type of woodenware you use, and colony strength. If your using 8 frame medium’s or shallow’s then your bees will require less honey.

But the overall concept is the same whether you used 10 frame deeps, or 8 frame medium woodenware. If you have an 8-frame medium box for brood, you place a 8 frame medium box of honey on top for the bees. Or if it’s a 10-frame shallow box of brood, then place a 10-frame shallow box of honey on top, well you get the idea.

Now using double bee boxes to manage your bees over the winter is one of the more common bee management methods. But some commercial beekeepers prefer to reduce their bees down to one box for the winter which is called single hive management.

This is used quite often in northern regions such as Manitoba, Canada and there are several key benefits of this bee management system. Here is a good video explaining single hive management and the reasoning behind it.

How Much Does A Frame Of Honey Weigh

Uncapping-Honey-Comb

A common question among new and experienced beekeepers is how much honey they can expect to harvest from a fully capped box of honey. The amount of honey per frame will depend on the type and size of your woodenware such as: 10 frames vs 8 frames, and deeps vs mediums or shallows.

I have included a chart below breaking down how much honey to expect per box and per frame of honey. As always these are general guidelines and your experience may vary.

10 Frame Deep Box
Gross WeightHoney WeightPer FrameTotal Extracted
90 lbs60 lbs6 lbs5 Gallons
10 Frame Medium
Gross WeightHoney WeightPer FrameTotal Extracted
65 lbs40 lbs4 lbs3 1/2 Gallons
10 Frame Shallow Box
Gross WeightHoney WeightPer FrameTotal Extracted
40 lbs25 lbs2 1/2 lbs2 to 2 1/2 Gallons

Here’s a great video demonstrating the weight of a 9-frame deep box filled with fully capped honey.

How Much Honey Does A Hive Produce

bucket-of-honey

A well-established colony on a strong honey flow can fill multiple boxes with fully capped honey very quickly. Like I stated above though, its difficult to estimate how much honey a hive will produce because there are so many different factors that influence honey production.

Some commercial operations with have their honeybees fill 2-4 honey supers and sometimes up to 6 honey supers per colony! Now this tends be very experienced commercial beekeepers with well established colonies and on a very strong honey flow. But it’s not that uncommon.

That’s a lot of honey! If they’re harvesting an average of 60 lbs of honey per box and they harvest between 2-4 boxes on a strong honey flow, that’s between 120 lbs to 240 lbs of extracted honey per colony.

But as a hobbyist or new beekeeper your unlikely to be harvesting that much honey during a nectar flow. But I state this to illustrate the wide range of potential honey production per colony. It could only be 10 lbs of honey all the way up to 240 lbs of honey from a single colony.

Of course, the amount of honey harvested again depends on the type and size of woodenware used, strength of bee colony, strength of nectar flow, weather conditions, beehive robbing and temperature. It’s always best to speak with local beekeepers and/or association to get a realistic idea of local honey production.

Check out this video below from The Canadian Beekeeper blog. It illustrates just how many honey boxes can be required during a strong nectar flow.

Related Questions

How long can you keep capped honey before extraction? You should only keep capped honey away from the hive for no more than 2 days. I recommend leaving your supers until you’re ready to harvest. By pulling frames to early, you increase the likelihood of getting bugs in your honey.

If you have no choice, a good option is to simply put your frames in a deep freeze. Once your ready to extract the honey, simply let them thaw for 2 days (sealed – keep bugs out) then extract your honey. This is a more common practice with hobbyists.

How Long Does It Take For A New Beehive To Produce Honey? It will take a new beehive a minimum of 4 months to produce honey. A new colony may be producing an excess of honey within 4 months, but not necessarily enough for you to harvest. Practically speaking, your unlikely to harvest any honey from a new colony until its second season.

Can You Keep Bees Without Harvesting Honey? You can keep honeybees without harvesting honey but its not recommended due to several negative consequences. Your bees won’t have enough room to store excess honey, will become overpopulated, and then swarm. Swarming of unmaintained colonies increases the spread of disease and pests to other healthy colonies.

Matthew Barr

My goal is to show that anyone can take up beekeeping and it can be a very rewarding hobby. I strive to share my experiences and answer any questions you may have.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recent Posts