Beekeeping Beginner: How Many Hives To Start With?

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Beekeeping is becoming increasingly popular every year! Maybe it’s the draw of home-grown honey or the idea of making money on the side! So, with that in mind, if you know how great beekeeping can be, you might want to start your life as a beekeeping beginner as soon as you can. But how many hives should you start with if you are still a beginner in the field of beekeeping?

It is recommended that you start with two beehives when you are a beginner. That way, you won’t have a hard time taking care of only two beehives while also gaining enough experience to gradually increase the number of your hives later on when you already have the means to do so. An overwhelmed beekeeper is not good for the bees!

As a beginner, it might be tempting for you to only start with one beehive. While that won’t hurt, it also won’t make you grow as a beekeeper. Meanwhile, having more than 2 beehives may be feasible for a beginner, but it might not be the best for anyone who doesn’t have enough experience yet. That’s why the magic number for most people should be 2 beehives.

How many hives can one person manage?

When it comes to starting out as a beekeeper, you have to take into account what you need to start out in your new endeavor. Of course, one of the things you need to make sure of is that you study and learn more about beekeeping. However, the most important components of beekeeping are actually the bees themselves, or else you won’t even have anything to take care of as a beekeeper.

So, when you are only starting out in your new endeavor as a beginner beekeeper, you might be wondering how many beehives one person can really take care of. After all, you are only starting out as a small-scale beekeeper and you are more than likely doing it all on your own without the help of other people. In that regard, how many hives can one person actually manage?

The truth is that one person can maintain about a hundred beehives even if he or she is only a beekeeper on the side and is still maintaining a full time 9 to 5 job. Meanwhile, for those who are working as beekeepers as a full-time profession, it is possible for them to be able to manage at least 500 beehives.

However, what you need to consider here is that it is only realistically possible for one single beekeeper to maintain 100 beehives if they already have enough experience to do so. In that regard, you are not talking about someone who is still merely starting out as a beginner but, instead, we are talking about someone who already has the experience and the know-how to be able to properly take care of dozens of beehives.

Meanwhile, even though 100 is feasibly possible for one person to do if they are maintaining a full-time job, there are some who may not be able to do that for various reasons. There are even some who struggle to take care of only about 25 or so beehives.

There are also plenty of different factors you need to take into consideration here, such as how tough your regular 9 to 5 job is and how long you need to travel to and from work. Of course, physical capabilities play a role here because beekeeping can be quite tough on your body when you have to do all of the heavy lifting.

That said, there are some people who may be able to take care of 100 or more beehives while maintaining a full-time job, but there are those who may only be able to take care of about 2 dozen beehives. Regardless, it is clear that one person can realistically manage plenty of beehives, no matter how difficult doing so may be.

How many hives should you start with?

Even though there are some people who can actually take care of 100 beehives or, at the very least, 25 or more beehives while maintaining their regular full-time jobs, you have to understand that we are talking about beekeepers who are already experienced enough in the field. We are not talking about beginner beekeepers.

So, considering that you are still a beginner beekeeper, is it wise for you to start out with 25 or more beehives just like the experienced beekeepers? Not on your nelly 🙂 And you shouldn’t even start out with half that number if you are still a beginner in this endeavor.

What you need to know is that, as a beginner beekeeper, your goal is not to rush things by taking care of a ton of beehives at the start so that you can make a lot of money out of the honey and the bee products you can harvest. Instead, your goal is to take things steady so that you can learn and earn enough experience as a beekeeper during your first year.

That said, we recommend that you start out with 2 beehives. Realistically, a beginner may be able to start out with 3 or 4 beehives, but that isn’t something we would recommend because of how beekeeping can be quite difficult for beginners to the point that even 3 or 4 can be quite challenging for them.

So, if it can be difficult for a beginner beekeeper to take care of 3 or 4 hives in the first year, why do we recommend 2 beehives instead of just one? After all, one beehive can make things easier for a beekeeper who is just starting out because, simply put, this single colony won’t demand a lot in terms of time and money.

The reason why we wouldn’t recommend that you start out with one beehive is that there have been a lot of people who ended up quitting as beekeepers when their one single colony ended up dying. A beehive dying out on you can be very common, especially when you are right at the start of your beekeeping journey. And for those who started out with one beehive, they saw how difficult it was to learn the ropes as a beginner and ended up quitting when their one and only colony couldn’t survive.

In that case, it would be better for you to start out with 2 beehives instead, just in case the other colony ends up dying. That way, you would have one more resource to work with in case one of the beehives is struggling (hopefully the other will be thriving). This will ensure that you won’t end up getting discouraged when one of the colonies dies out, as you still have one more colony to work with. And, in case you didn’t know, beehives also tend to share resources with one another, and this is something that will increase the chances of your colonies surviving.

Of course, another reason why 2 beehives is a good number for a beginner beekeeper such as yourself is that it will allow you to gain experience gradually and steadily through your first year as a beekeeper. A beginner beekeeper’s first year tends to be the most important because that is where they begin to garner experience while also learning a lot of different things along the way. So, if you are a beginner beekeeper, you are not only supposed to be learning by taking care of your bees. It is equally as important for you to learn by actually reading books, attending different beekeeping seminars and talks, and taking cues from an experienced mentor in the field as well.

As such, by maintaining only 2 beehives during your first year as a beekeeper, you will have enough time to learn more about beekeeping so that you will be able to increase that number by the time you are ready to do so during your second year as a beekeeper.

Still, if you do insist on starting out with only one hive because of time and financial constraints, you can do so. However, make sure that you know what you are doing so that your one single colony won’t end up biting the dust during your first year as a beginner beekeeper.

But, then again, having multiple beehives will also allow you to compare how well the beehives are doing so that you, as a beginner, can learn more about the bees while you are still in your first year. You can compare the production and the health of the bees in one hive compared to the other. That’s why it would still be better for you to have more than one beehive as a beginner, as this will allow you to learn more by observing.

Of course, you can also start out with 3 or 4 beehives but, again, make sure that you know how to manage your time and resources well enough to keep all of those colonies healthy and thriving throughout your first year.

How many beehives to make a living?

Of course, you are not starting out as a beekeeper for no reason at all. One of the reasons why you may be thinking of becoming a beekeeper is to make money out of it. That means that, in the long run, and if you want to make a living out of your beehives, two beehives won’t be enough. So, how many beehives should you have to actually make a living?

If you are looking to actually make a full-time living out of being a beekeeper, you would have to quit your day job and then devote yourself to taking care of your beehives on a daily basis. So, if you were to do that, you would need more than a hundred beehives to make a living. In most cases, even a hundred won’t be entirely enough for you and your family. That’s why full-time beekeepers usually try to go for 500 beehives at the minimum if they want to make a living out of beekeeping.

However, for those who are only beekeepers on the side because they still maintain their full-time 9 to 5 jobs, they can make good money from 25 to 100 beehives. Any number between 25 and 100 should be good enough for an experienced beekeeper on the side, since the honey and the bee products sold from those hives would be good enough to augment a full-time salary. But if we were to talk about someone who is trying to make a full-time living out of 25 to 100 beehives, that usually wouldn’t be enough.

So, since you are merely a beginner right now, try working your way up from 2 beehives to about 25 or more so that you can earn more money from this side endeavor. However, if you are financially capable of sustaining hundreds of bee colonies later on after you have gained enough experience in the field of beekeeping, you may be able to take a leap of faith and quit your full-time job to become a full-time beekeeper aiming to reach more than 300 or even 500 hives.

How many hives per apiary?

As a beginner beekeeper, your target is to learn more about beekeeping until you are capable of sustaining a larger apiary, which is the official name for a bee yard or the place or location where you keep your beehives. So, you have to start from a couple of beehives in your first year until you are ready to take on a larger number in terms of your financial capabilities and your experience. It’s going to be a gradual process where you steadily increase the number of your hives.

From there, a lot of different beekeepers start by keeping their beehives in their backyard until they are ready to go for a larger property where they can keep their beehives. This is when the simple endeavor now becomes a true apiary. But how many hives should you be keeping in a single apiary?

Before that, we should talk more about how big an apiary should be. When we are taking into consideration the size of an apiary, we are not only talking about the spatial size of the location but also the number of colonies you have and how heavy the colonies are. That’s because there should be a limit to how many beehives should be in a single area, as there is only a limited number of resources in a 3-mile foraging radius.

Meanwhile, you also have to know that there is a good chance for your beehives to produce more honey when you increase the number of colonies you have in a single apiary. Again, this is because of what we call resource sharing, which is basically your bee colonies sharing resources with one another. In that regard, you have to balance the number of your bee colonies in terms of the available resources in the area and in terms of resource sharing.

That said, it is recommended, regardless of how big the location of your apiary may be, that you should be keeping 25 to 35 beehives in that area. The size of the apiary becomes immaterial here because you should be more concerned about the availability of nearby foraging areas and resources instead of the actual size of the location where your apiary is.

However, it isn’t uncommon for beekeepers to temporarily keep a hundred beehives in a single apiary. This usually happens when the beekeeper had just migrated to that area and is still looking for other spots where they can establish their other apiaries.

As such, the golden number should be somewhere between 25 to 35 beehives per apiary. So, if you have a hundred beehives, try to find 3 to 4 places to keep your beehives. Make sure that your apiaries are at least 3 miles apart from one another because most honey bees maintain a 3-mile foraging radius.

How many bees in a hive?

When you are talking about the actual size of a hive, it really depends as there is no certainty as to how many bees are in a single colony. A single colony can contain somewhere between 10,000 to 60,000 bees serving only one queen.

If the colony realizes that the beehive has become too small for the colony or if the colony itself becomes too populated, what happens is that the bees will actually swarm out of the beehive while leaving behind about a third of the original population. The swarm will try to look for a new hive. Meanwhile, the leftover bees will choose a new queen.

So, if you are an aspiring beekeeper, it would be nearly impossible for you to count how many bees you have in your hive. That’s why beekeepers usually base the size of their beehives on their weight instead of actually trying to find a way to count the number of bees a colony has. From there, they will try to estimate how many bees are in that colony based on the weight of the entire hive and on the estimated weight of a single bee.

How many gallons of honey per hive?

Now, for the million-dollar question, because this is what can make or break your apiary in terms of its overall profits, how many gallons of honey can one single hive produce? To make this simple, let us base it on an annual basis.

So, annually, a single beehive’s honey production actually varies depending on a lot of different circumstances and factors. These factors can include the population of the beehive, the availability of resources for the bees to use for honey production, and the climate conditions of your location.

In that regard, a single honey bee colony may be able to produce 10 to 200 pounds of honey a year. That means that, in gallons, that is about 1.20 to 24 in a single year. So, as you can see, the range is unusually large because of all the different factors that can affect how many gallons of honey a single colony can produce. Beekeeping is a complex business 🙂

As such, this is where knowledge and experience comes into play as a beekeeper because you have to know how to take into account the different variables that can make or break your apiary’s honey production. You should know how to take advantage of the variables so that you would be able to maximize the profits you can reap from your apiary.

This is where your first year as a beginner beekeeper comes into play because that is where you will learn the ins and outs of beekeeping such as learning the different variables that can ultimately affect honey production. As such, it is important for you to never rush things and to start out small so that you will be able to focus more on learning and gaining experience as a beekeeper during your first year.


About Grampa Beekeeper

Having spent a lifetime tending to bees, I now want to pass my knowledge onto the next generation of beekeepers. Beekeeping may not be fashionable, but it is my life long passion! From entrance excluders to packaged bee handling, I've got you covered! I'm not the best at writing, though, so bear with me!!