If you are contemplating beekeeping as a hobby, one of the questions you may have is the time commitment required. Bees are not as high maintenance as some other livestock, but they require more work and time than you may expect. Beekeeping is not a set-and-forget operation till you harvest honey.
Beekeeping is not a time-intensive hobby, but it is a time-sensitive hobby with certain tasks that must be completed at certain times. A single hive will require an estimated 34 hours per year with an additional shared time of 10 hours. Adding a second hive does not double the time requirement.
Beekeeping is a flexible, scalable hobby you can tailor according to your available Time. Going too big too soon may result in demands on your Time that are too high. Follow our guidelines on how much time you need to commit to the hobby to see if beekeeping will fit into your lifestyle.
How Much Time Does Beekeeping Take?
Keeping bees is rewarding, exciting, and sometimes challenging, but it is a constant learning experience, which is part of why I like keeping bees.
It is important to know what you are getting yourself into from a time commitment perspective to understand if you can dedicate the Time to your bees to ensure they thrive.
We aim to give you the basics of what to expect as a beekeeper and how much time you need for this hobby. A good aspect of beekeeping is that it is scalable, allowing you to start small and grow your operation as your skills develop and time commitment allows.
Several factors will determine how much time you will need to take care of bees, and we will give some guidelines on how to minimize your time commitment and still take care of your bees.
Time Commitment For Starting Beekeeping
Beekeeping is a learning experience that never stops, but you must commit some time in the beginning to understanding bee colonies, their life cycle, needs, challenges, and the role of the beekeeper.
The initial learning curve is quite steep, and you will find that you can spend many hours reading and learning about these creatures and what it takes to look after them.
This learning process includes researching and procuring the gear you need to start your beekeeping hobby.
The following is a time estimate for these aspects of beekeeping.
- Enquire about the legalities of beekeeping in your area. 1-hour investigation. Some local municipalities have bylaws and restrictions regarding keeping bees. You must know your state’s regulations if your city has no beekeeping bylaws. You must be familiar with these regulations to avoid any legal problems.
- Learning the basics about bees. 4 hours of reading and research will give you a good foundational knowledge of the bee lifecycle, colony life, reproduction, and food requirements.
- Research beekeeping equipment. 4 hours of researching and procuring the gear you need is sufficient time to choose the hive type and order a hive, PPE equipment, smoker, and hive tools.
- Join a beekeeping association. Local beekeeping associations are a valuable font of local knowledge regarding nuances of beekeeping in your region.
This 9-hour time commitment is crucial before you jump into beekeeping and make some serious and potentially costly mistakes.
Even though this time commitment is for initial investigations and research, you can bank on a 10-hour annual commitment to study and continue your learning experience with bees. This is not a per-hive commitment since the information you learn will apply to all your hives and can be considered shared hours between all your hives.
Time Commitment For Bee Hive Inspections
Most hobbyist beekeepers will check their hives at least once a week to ensure everything is going according to plan in each hive.
Weaker swarms may require monitoring at least once a week, while stronger swarms can generally be left to get on with business, and you only need to check them once every 2 or 3 weeks.
On average, you can set aside 30 minutes per hive per week to inspect the hives externally and open the hive for closer inspection if the signs indicate the need to do so.
This equates to 26 hours per year per hive to monitor the condition of the colony. If there are problems, you will need to commit more time to rectify the issue, but we will cover this later.
One of the best ways to reduce this time commitment is to partner with a fellow beekeeper or involve another family member in your beekeeping hobby.
Even if they are not as committed as you, an extra pair of helping hands can reduce the Time taken to inspect each hive.
Time Commitment For Harvesting Honey
Harvesting is the reward you wait for as a beekeeper, but it requires some work on your part to extract the honey from the hive.
The extraction process for each hive includes the following processes and time commitment for each aspect.
- Harvest preparation. 1 hour per beehive. Preparing empty frames to replace the ones removed from the hive.
- Removing frames from beehives. 30 minutes per hive. This involves opening each hive, checking the frames for harvest readiness, removing those that are ready, and replacing them with empty frames.
- Extracting the honey. Removing the honey from the frames can take various forms, but you can estimate at least 1 hour per hive to extract honey from a 10-frame super.
This totals 2.5 hours to harvest honey from a single hive. Honey harvests are generally twice per year, which adds up to at least 5 hours per year per hive to harvest honey.
Time For Maintenance and Repairs
At some point, you will need to maintain your beehives, perform repairs, paint, replace old equipment, and perform general maintenance work.
The level with which you get into this aspect can become a hobby of its own. Many beekeepers eventually take up woodwork as a hobby to effect their own repairs on beehives and even build their own hives from scratch.
While you may not need to do much maintenance in your first year, you must factor this component into your hobby for subsequent years as your hives age.
Factor in at least 1-hour of maintenance per year for each hive. This is sufficient, as some hives may require more maintenance, but others will require less, making 1 hour an acceptable average.
Time For Problem Management On Beehives
As with any activity involving livestock, things don’t always go according to plan with beekeeping. You must take into account the need to control pests and diseases, treating for these problems, and feed your bees in winter.
Fortunately, most hive treatments are not extremely time-consuming, and some shared hours can be split over the number of hives you have in your operation.
Setting aside 2 hours per hive per year should more than cover the Time needed to problem solve most issues that will arise in your bee colonies. The results of your problem management can be checked as part of the normal hive inspection time allotment.
Annual Time Commitment For Beekeeping Summary
To summarize the annual commitment for beekeeping, we have tabulated the basic time requirements for a single hive.
|Time Commitment Keeping Bees As A Hobby
|Hours per hive per year
|Research and study
|10 hours (total, not per hive)
|Maintenance and repairs
|Total Annual Hours Per Hive
|34 hours per hive
|Total Shared Hours
|10 Shared Hours
The time commitment will vary for each beekeeper, but as a starting point, you can bank on at least this amount of Time to get started.
Adding a second beehive to your apiary will not necessarily double your time commitment since many of the tasks performed on a single hive will only require a small additional time commitment for a second hive.
Putting on your bee suit, lighting the smoker, and preparing tools for inspections are all shared hours that do not take extra Time for a second hive.
In my experience, you can add 50% of the Time for the first hive to each additional hive to estimate the Time needed for each extra hive.
This formula may help you to calculate how many hives you have the time to handle.
Time = Shared hours + hours per hive, + (50% of the single hive for each additional hive)
For a single hive, this would be as follows:
Total Time = 10 + 34 +(0)
Total Time: 44 hours per year.
To add a second hive, you can work the formula as follows:
Total Time = 10 + 34 + (17 X 1 additional hive)
Total Time For 2 Hives = 61 hours per year
For 3 hives, the formula would look as follows:
Total Time = 10 + 34 + (17 X 2 additional hives)
Total Time For 3 Hives = 78 hours per year
As you gain experience, you will become quicker at most of these operations, reducing the time needed per hive.
Partnering with another person can further reduce your time commitment and allow you to keep more bee hives.
Mechanizing your beekeeping can also reduce the time needed for certain tasks. Using a centrifugal frame spinner to harvest honey can significantly reduce the time required for this aspect of beekeeping.
Beekeeping is not a particularly time-consuming hobby, but you need to have the time commitment to be able to perform the required tasks at the right time. As an example, the bees can’t wait if winter is approaching, and you need to feed them to prepare the colony for this time of year.
The time commitment for beekeeping is not difficult, but it must be done according to the correct timetable if you want to succeed with your bees!
Writer’s personal experience