View Full Version : Honey Yield Figures

George Fergusson
02-18-2006, 01:21 PM
Does anyone have any honey yield per acre figures for different kinds of forage?

02-18-2006, 02:44 PM
How can any one have any thing remotely accurate considering all of the variables, both in colonies and weather and soil conditions and cettera? Why are you asking? R U thinking of planting a hay crop to "feed" your bees? I've heard, over the years, that if one is planning on planting clover or alfalfa for honey production, that one will get more for the hay then for the honey. Anyone disagree?

Michael Bush
02-18-2006, 02:46 PM
>I've heard, over the years, that if one is planning on planting clover or alfalfa for honey production, that one will get more for the hay then for the honey.

But if you time it right you can get both. smile.gif

George Fergusson
02-18-2006, 03:06 PM
>Why are you asking?

Why am I asking. Good question. For a variety of reasons I guess. Mostly just out of curiosity. I realize the possible variables are huge, I'm not looking for anything more than informed guestimates.

I too have heard it's not economically feasible to grow crops specifically for honey and as a matter of fact, a young fella I knew when he was still in diapers is now married and headed into farming. Wants to use horses, raise pigs, and grow organic grain. He stopped in today to talk about taking over our 15 acres of hayfield. For years a local farmer has been haying it in exchange for keeping it mowed, we also get all the mulch hay we want and manure, etc. We don't have haying equipment of our own and hiring it done so we can turn around and sell the hay is (was anyways) more trouble than it is worth. Old hayfields around here come pretty cheap. Anyways, we were talking about what he'd like to do and I got to wondering...

>But if you time it right you can get both.

Wouldn't that be sweet.

02-18-2006, 03:27 PM
Michael, what I understand is if you wait until the bees forage on the alfalfa, you loose the protein yield of the alfalfa hay. You may or may not get a crop of honey, but you won't get the highest potential of the hay crop. Clover, I don't know about. Except to say that cows that forage on clover help make more clover and so make more nectar avaiable for the bees. But as a hay crop, I don't know.

What about the articles in ABJ, about bee forage plants, honey producing plants? I don't read them. Do they mention what George is wondering about?

George Fergusson
02-18-2006, 04:05 PM
You hear all the time about such-and-such a plant being a "good honey plant", I'd have thought that some attempt would have been made over the years to try and quantify exactly what a good honey plant is.

We have a couple of Euonymus (Firebush) in our yard, they're large, one is 20' in diameter and 10' high, the other slightly smaller. The bees LOVE it, they're all over it from dawn to dark, good weather and bad, for as long as it's blooming. Every time I walk by it I think

. . o O (there's some pounds of honey in that bush)

Someone, sometime, someplace, must have made a stab at quantifying the amount of honey you can get off say an acre of clover, or borage or something...

02-18-2006, 04:23 PM
sqrcrk sezs:
I've heard, over the years, that if one is planning on planting clover or alfalfa for honey production, that one will get more for the hay then for the honey.

tecumseh adds his 2 cents:
well are you talking pounds or dollars would seems to me to be the first question. and of course the second economic variable woud be the price of both forage and honey.

in much of the us a distinction would be had as to whether the crop was irrigated or dry land.

and yes sqrcrk you assumption that a alfalfa crop starts to decline in quality (it is still increasing in quantity) prior to bloom means that in most of the us the forage is cut before the girls even get a taste.

i think jim fischer talked about irrigating some clover last year, so perhaps he might have a real figure.

George Fergusson
02-18-2006, 05:57 PM
>well are you talking pounds or dollars would seems to me to be the first question

Oh let's leave economics out of this. Pounds per acre will be fine smile.gif

>in much of the us a distinction would be had as to whether the crop was irrigated or dry land.

Out west I suppose yes. Here in the northeast there is very little irrigation going on, mostly on vegetables and never on fields of say, clover or alfalfa. It just ain't done.

>most of the us the forage is cut before the girls even get a taste.

Yep. A shame. Exceptin of course where they're growing it for seed. There's talk around here of growing sunflowers for feed and I assume that would want to go to seed. That might be fun.

02-19-2006, 04:50 AM
george ferguson adds:
here's talk around here of growing sunflowers for feed and I assume that would want to go to seed.

tecumseh sezs:
this is actually an excellent honey crop although it tends to crystalize at the first sign of a cold snap. being a hard stalk plant it is also depletes soil fertility.

02-19-2006, 05:56 AM
alfalfa is cut before the plant starts to bloom, you cant get several cuttings off one plant ..but once it is allowed to bloom the quality goes way down ... just a short note from a small rancher

George Fergusson
02-19-2006, 06:08 AM
>alfalfa is cut before the plant starts to bloom

I don't doubt that for a second, but around here it seems like most farmers can't seem to get things done when they should. They'll blame the weather, but I'm sure that's only part of it. Last summer I saw an alfalfa field in the next town over in full bloom and bees were lovin` it. It was a full 2 weeks before it got mowed down.

Our fields, which should yield the first cutting in early June haven't been cut till late August for the past 2 years and only yielded 1 cutting instead of 2. Also, the second growth white clover never materialized because it was too late.

There are a few farmers around here that do things right, but most of them work second jobs and just get spread too thin.

jim lyon
02-19-2006, 07:59 AM
Having raised both alfalfa and alfalfa honey for years in the Dakotas I can tell you that alfalfa takes a lot of heat to produce well. My suggestion is to cut the alfalfa that is growing well at about 10% bloom but with later cuttings that aren't particular growthy and appear ready to bloom early because of heat stress by all means let it bloom as the most innocent looking "short bloom" can produce a tremendous amount of nectar. That may not be the case in the northeast as alfalfa can be somewhat fickle. I have found alfalfa just 300 miles east in Minnesota and Iowa is not nearly as reliable a honey producer presumably because the wetter climate puts the energy of the plant into growth and not bloom.

02-19-2006, 12:47 PM
George, as you may well know, no one consistently gets things done when they should. Not even farmers. I've seen orchards being pruned during apple blossom time. Right when you'd think that they should be leaving those trees alone. So, maybe that is why your fields and the one down the road aren't harvested when they should, but when they can be harvested.

But, your original question had to do with yield per acre, right? Since you aren't trying, I assume, to live off of your hay crop, let it bloom baby, let it bloom. The hay will still be hay, just not as high a quality. Fourteen percent protien comes to mind. Any ideas sellis? Is that way off for alfalfa? What's the potential protien after bloom? Good quality alfalfa hay for race horses will bring $5.00/45lb bale. That's what I hear. I don't know if that is wholesale or retail.

Jim Williamson
02-19-2006, 12:54 PM
Last year, a fellow behind me planted about 60 acres of wheat and let's it fully mature. The bees seemed to like it somewhat, although there are plenty of other nectar sources in the area. My honey last year was the lightest I've ever extracted.

Has anyone heard of wheat as a honey crop?

[ February 19, 2006, 01:56 PM: Message edited by: justjim3 ]

02-19-2006, 01:07 PM
Honey Wheat Ale? Is that what you have?

justjim3, wheat don't produce no nectar.

jlyon, what sort of protien percentage do you expect from your alfalfa? If you let it bloom, how much protien do you loose? 2%? 4%?

Jim Williamson
02-19-2006, 01:16 PM
Thanks, Mark. That's what I thought and why I asked. Honey Wheat Ale ... that's a good one.

02-19-2006, 01:20 PM
Don't laugh, check out your local micro brewery. Mine produced a batch from 5 gallons of Squeak Creek Honey, last summer.

Then there's Dundee's Honey Brown Ale from one of the major brewerys.

02-19-2006, 05:52 PM
>>I saw an alfalfa field in the next town over in full bloom and bees were lovin` it.

Music to my ears smile.gif

I have been told around 400lbs/acre on a seed alfalfa crop. Weather permitting of course!!

Clover would be my field of choice for you George. Take the seed off to boot!!
This crop will produce more money off hoeny than the seed sells for smile.gif

George Fergusson
02-19-2006, 06:06 PM
>I have been told around 400lbs/acre on a seed alfalfa crop. Weather permitting of course!!

Well! 17 posts into the thread and we finally get a number!

Don't worry Ian, I won't hold you to it smile.gif Granted, there are a ton of variables. While waiting for something to turn up here, I've been pondering various experiments to figure out reasonable honey yields per acre and it's a challenge...

[ February 19, 2006, 07:07 PM: Message edited by: George Fergusson ]

02-19-2006, 06:36 PM
what is the pounds per acre comaparison for clover and buckwheat compared to that 400 lb /acre number?

02-19-2006, 06:40 PM

hold up on that 400 pounds per acre number, I think it is very questionable. That number is for pounds of seed per acre.

02-20-2006, 10:49 AM
Not by my math. I am not hesitant to tout that number. Of course it is so hard to measure that number because the bees collect nectar up to 2 miles without much effort. But you can figure it out roughly by observing the field in the area and seeing the honey that is comming in.
I have a bookelt on these numbers, I will try to find it and post the numbers they give.

On a 100 acre field, to produce 400 lbs of honey per acre ( seed alfalfa, and I forgot to mention it was pollinated by leafcutters ) will yeild 4000lbs of honey. 40 hives set on that stand through out flowering will give you more than 100 lbs of hoeny. Of course all depending on weather and diseases and bugs.
Clover will yeild more I believe, just by its mear nature to continiously flower for months on end. Alfalfa tends to slow down as it matures, weather permitting.

>>clover and buckwheat

Buckwheat use to be a good late flow in my area, but with the new self pollinating varieties, I actually think that they give off far less nectar than the old varieties. It is really hard for me to say, because we have just seen two real unusual years, I hope the nectar production was influenced by the weather these last two years. I usually get 15-20 barrels of BW honey in the fall, the last two years I have only gotten 3-5. Was it the newer demanded varieties? or was it the weather?
The Manitoba Buckwheat Growers are actually going to do some tests next year to find out if the new varieties are producing less nectar. Buckwheat growers have always appreciated honeybee operators in the area. Pollination sevices for 1 hive for every one to two acres have been shown to increase buckwheat yeilds up to 100-150%.

02-20-2006, 12:35 PM
[ February 28, 2006, 12:29 PM: Message edited by: sqkcrk ]

George Fergusson
02-20-2006, 01:17 PM
Keep it coming Ian. I'm most interested in what you're coming up with.

I for one have been reading in The Hive and the Honey Bee- there are a couple of chapters of interest, I'll post more later.

02-20-2006, 01:56 PM
while we're on the subject:

At what height do you cut the alfalfa?

I'm growing a 15 x 30 patch to see what happens with the bees, but would also like to get seed and some hay from it.

02-20-2006, 05:15 PM
Some of you may be interested in honey production in Saskatchewan Canada. These people have been keeping production records and comparing them with the provincial average.

jim lyon
02-20-2006, 06:11 PM
As for the protein levels I suppose in the 2 to 4 per cent range would be pretty close. I have heard 1/2 per cent a day kicked around and assuming it takes a week to go from 10% to full bloom that would be 3 1/2%. As far as nectar yield per acre a little math tells me that anything more than 10 lbs. per acre would be pretty good. As far as the heighth at cutting it all depends on the moisture situation; it may begin to bloom at 6" and then it might grow to over 2'. But we have found that the short bloom can yield extremely well so the point is to cut your high tonnage early hay and hope for a late summer short bloom and try to get the best of both worlds. Another thing that typically happens is that many hay farmers don't want to risk having their whole crop on the ground at the same time during rainy periods so they tend to cut fields in sections which extends the bloom period a bit and gives the bees a little more of a chance to work it.

02-20-2006, 11:44 PM
Planting for bee sounds great, but It seems quite risky. The bee range is about 8000 acres. I have a ~10 hives near some Purple Loosestrife in swampy areas, that must be close to a hundred acres. I average ~ 200lbs, a third being PL, other is assorted Basswood and other/Goldenrod, but every year it seems to vary. It seems like having multiple nectar sources is a benefit. The Locust are amazing some years and others a bust, same with other sources, last year was a dry summer and the nectar was poor in august/Sept but really good in spring.

02-21-2006, 10:20 PM
Sorry typo.

Like I said, weather depending,
This year I had an strong split yard of 30 or more right beside an alfalfa feild. It was cut later in the season, but those bees zipped a super in before the canola started blooming. Thats in a weeks time. Seed alfalfa flowers for at least 2 months, tapers off near the end. Watch out for that late aflalfa flow, it will blow you away!!
I am getting excited about my 100+ acre clover crop right next to my here. Going to lace it with hives!!

Mark, I will pull in 200lbs/hive some years. From Clover, canola, alfalfa, sunflowers, buckwheat, you name it. Thats my overall hive average yeild. Some hives will yeild 300+, some fail, so it all averages out.
This is the reason why those california pollinators bring there hives northernly.

George Fergusson
02-22-2006, 06:27 PM
Like I said, I've been reading in The Hive and the Honey Bee, chapter 10, "The production of nectar and pollen". Facinating. There's a lot of information, much study has been done on nectar production over the years, much of it apparently in Canada. Here's a table from page 419:

</font><blockquote>code:</font><hr /><pre style="font-size:x-small; font-family: monospace;">Some Estimated Nectar Sugar Yields
Common Country Estimated Yield
Name kg/ha2*
Phacelia Poland 183-1130
Lucern, Alfalfa United States 250**
Linden Poland 125
&quot; Europe 500
Sweet Clover Russia up to 400
Goldenrod Poland 56-294
Milkweed Poland 187-576
Blueweed Poland 182-429
Red Clover Alberta CA 880
Dandelion Alberta CA 5-72
* 1 kg/ha = 0.89 pounds/acre
** 1 crop in a 5 day period</pre>[/QUOTE]I left off 2 columns, the scientific species name and the reference to the researcher(s).

For reference, 1 hectare = 10,000 square meters = 2.47 acres +/- and 1 acre = 43,560 square feet or roughly a square 208' on a side.

For the Red Clover in Alberta Canada, 880 kg/ha = 880 * 0.89 = 783.2 pounds per acre. Woof!


[ February 22, 2006, 07:29 PM: Message edited by: George Fergusson ]

02-23-2006, 10:08 AM
Red clover is hard to get honey off of,

Sweet clover on the other hand smile.gif

George Fergusson
02-23-2006, 10:13 AM
&gt;Sweet clover on the other hand..

Aye. Seems to be the ticket, eh?

02-23-2006, 10:32 AM
Best tasting honey in my opinion!!

Interesting chart George. One thing I would like to point out is we are talking potential honey avaliable. With some crops, we need many factors to fall into place to recieve the full potential from a crop. Just like growing a crop or wheat, top end yeild is around 70 bushel an acre for hard red spring wheat. Best I have done is 65bu, and average 40bu. But the potential to make my fortune dangles infrount of me!!
It is what keeps me going in this business,...

George Fergusson
02-23-2006, 12:27 PM
&gt;One thing I would like to point out is we are talking potential honey avaliable.

Right. Anything can and probably will go wrong, but the potential is there. According to what I've been reading, the single biggest factors affecting nectar production are ground water and solar insolation, in that order. In other words, too dry is worse than too cloudy; wet and cloudy is better than dry and sunny. Wet and sunny is best smile.gif

I'll continue researching the subject of nectar production and honey yields while pondering the potential yield of 15 acres of well soaked white clover...

George Fergusson
02-23-2006, 03:46 PM
Here's a good link for nectar and pollen producing plants in Ohio. Ohio is "generic" enough that a lot of the plants listed grows in many other parts of the country to some extent. It provides some qualitative remarks about the plants, but nothing quantitative. Interesting nonetheless.


02-23-2006, 04:58 PM
My booklet ( that I cant seem to find) said that carraganna trees produce up to 200 lbs/acre. That reall suprised me. We have quit a few in and around all our yard sites, not acres, but hedge rows all the same. It is no wonder the hive really takes off during that flow.

Does it say anything about dandilions?

George Fergusson
02-23-2006, 05:31 PM
&gt;Does it say anything about dandilions?

They're pretty big, mostly because of the time of year they bloom (early) and the duration of the bloom. Dandelion is what gives bees here in Maine their kick start for the summer and it leads right into the main flow.

02-23-2006, 06:37 PM
I have read some pretty wild claims about the honey yield of anise hyssop (agastache foeniculum) aka "the wonder honey plant". Apparently (with the right conditions) it yields profusely and over a large part of the summer.

Such claims are a ton (yes -- 2000 pounds) of honey per acre.

Another is that a couple acres will provide sufficient forage for 100 hives.

I have no idea how true these claims are, or how hard it is to achieve "the right conditions".

[ February 23, 2006, 07:39 PM: Message edited by: GaSteve ]

Billy Y.
02-26-2006, 09:46 AM
I too have been looking at the anise hyssop. Read a lot about it in many older beekeeping books. Said to be the best honey producer of them all. Still trying to find out how well it might do here. From what I have read there is a market for the anise seeds. Can get up to three crops of seed per year if I recall. Seems that would equal three blooms? They press the seeds for anise oil - licorice (sp?) flavoring.

Anyone ever cultivated and harvested anise seed?

George Fergusson
02-26-2006, 10:13 AM
&gt;I too have been looking at the anise hyssop.

Yep. I found FEDCO located here in Maine sells anise hyssop seed and it's supposedly hardy to zone 4 so it should grow fine here in Maine. Dunno about KS, but I'd be surprised if you couldn't grow it there too.

It's a member of the mint family, and similar to Cat Mint, which I do have growing here and the bees LOVE it.

Michael Bush
02-26-2006, 11:28 AM
What does Anise Hyssop honey taste like? Anyone know? What happens if my horses eat it? Afraid I don't know much about it.

George Fergusson
02-26-2006, 01:08 PM
I dunno about the honey, but the tea made from the flowers is sweet and mildly licorice and mint flavored. The flowers themselves are edible. I doubt it would hurt horses. It's an old herbal remedy from way back. Here's a reasonably good Canadian link about it:


I'm definitely going to get some going this year.


04-19-2006, 07:17 PM
How much Anise Hyssop seed per acre?

04-19-2006, 07:38 PM
I grow it and the bees work it for a couple of months. Don't have enough to say how much honey it pulls we just keep it in the herb garden.

Might be a challenge to get 100 acres established.

Also, not all Anise Hyssop is created equal. Had some varieties they wouldn't work 2 out of 3 years, other varieties they work continuiously.

George Fergusson
04-19-2006, 07:41 PM
Geez Arky, I have no idea. I don't think people plant acres of it but I don't see why you couldn't. The seed isn't cheap. My wife just picked up a packet of it for me the other day for $2.85 and there's a small fraction of a tiny part of a 1/4 teaspoon full of seeds. Says it's "hardy to Zone 6, needs much in Zone 5" so I don't know if it's going to do too well over winter here (Zone 4a). We'll see. Also got some Valerian root which I know grows here well.


04-19-2006, 08:22 PM
lol, yeah ive looked at the prices and seed count, seems slightly cheaper than Gold :0)
I just cant find anywhere where it says how many seeds per square inch, feet, acre, so on, so forth. I cant imagine what it would be like to try and scatter seed that fine over a large area anyway.

George Fergusson
04-20-2006, 06:34 AM
I'll check my seed package for clues when I get home. I do recall it saying to thin seedlings to 6"-8" smile.gif

Bill Ruble
04-20-2006, 10:53 AM
I have 4 acres of pure alfalfa. This is my first year back in bees so I will keep a close watch on the field and will cut it after it blooms for a week or so.

I also have 2 acres of white and yellow sweet clover and about 1/2 acre of birdsfoot trefoil. I hope to get a good corp of honey but all my bees are packages this year and am not sure what I can expect the first year. There are litterly hundreds of wild plumb blooming right now and the dandilions are everywhere.

04-20-2006, 05:38 PM
MARK- can you send me some of that $5 bales of alfalfa. I just paid the gal $25.95 for two bales at the feed store today. I look for the blossoms--The spinners flock think they're sweet.

I plant an area larger than the fenced in pasture--that way some gets a chance to bloom. I maintain diverse fencerow plantings for the wildlife.....

04-21-2006, 09:43 PM
I have been looking into this yield per acre going to meetings and talking to old timers. Got quite a few answers. The bottom line from many was that it is hard to put a number on yield per acre, since you can't always be sure to get the nectar to be consistant. If you don't have the right soil chemistry or weather for foraging, rainfall etc.
you can't be sure. Many of the old timers were interested more getting good bees than the forage.
I know guys who have planted 20 acres of buckwheat and got nothing. If you have bees next to a 100 acre field that represents &lt;2% of the foraging area they will cover.

Alot of crops are worth more that the honey that they produce. One oldtimer I spoke with on a Lousiana trip said to know your area and go to different places at different times of the year.
Alot of guys pollenate Blueberries in Maine , and cranberries in Mass but in the fall they go to NY to they vast goldenrod fields.

The highest yielder after a lot of reading was the Acacia and Black Locust over 1000lb/acre. I don't believe this since I may get 1-3 boxes during the flow which is very often rained out.

George Fergusson
04-22-2006, 03:02 AM
&gt;you can't be sure

I guess that is the bottom line. So much depends on the weather and other circumstances over which we have no control.

From what I've heard, black locust around here is a 1 year in 7 scenario, basswood a 1 in 3 scenario. We dont' have a lot of black locust but we have some. When it blooms, whether the bees work it or not you know the main flow is starting.

For me the point is making fallow land productive, for some value of the term productive, and productive land yield a second crop. To me this means getting the milkweed and dog bane rolling in the home field, propagating honey suckle in the fence rows and around the edges of the fields, and getting the hay crop cut early enough so there's a sensible second crop of clover and vetch. The bees have to do the rest.

Other plantings of high-yield honey plants is worth while when viewed as an incremental improvement. Putting in 100 square feet of cat mint won't substantially increase your honey yeild, but it will make the bees happy when it's blooming and me happy when I see them working it smile.gif


04-22-2006, 07:32 AM
Alfalfa is cut according to the bloom, not the height. Most cut it, as noted above when about 10% is in bloom.

For haying, alfalfa is a mixed bag of delights.
For horses, a bale rich in alfalfa will cause bloat and can kill a horse on one feeding. It needs to be grown in a mixed crop of grasses and timothy. For cattle, it's a different matter. To further complicate the plan, if you mix timothy and alfalfa only in the field, the first crop is generally a great mix and safe for horses. The timothy does not come back up after the first cut and you get almost pure alfalfa and the risk. My daughter takes our second cut and keeps it out of reach of her horses and feeds them only one flake from a bale each in the evening.

So my plan this year is to take the first cut for here, then let the second cut mature and go thru full bloom for the girls. They should have a great July and start sqealing like little piggies by August.

04-22-2006, 07:35 PM
I love the idea of Alfalfa, especially if you can get 2 cuttings 1 for the bees and 1 for the bank account . Have heard that you have to spray for Aphids. I don't have horses and would probably just sell it wholesale to pros, who can mix it for animals.

Would any of you farmers out there know of a good cycle is cut for hay first or second?

04-22-2006, 07:37 PM
Thanks Brent

04-23-2006, 12:44 PM
I dont know if an acre and a half of turnips will make much of a difference in a honey yeild, but my bees are going crazy over the stuff :0)

Michael Bush
04-23-2006, 01:13 PM
They do love turnips.

04-24-2006, 04:45 PM
&gt;&gt;you can't always be sure to get the nectar to be consistant
&gt;&gt;The highest yielder after a lot of reading was the Acacia and Black Locust over 1000lb/acre. I don't believe this since I may get 1-3 boxes during the flow which is very often rained out.

You have to realize we are talking of the crop honey yield potential.

[ April 24, 2006, 06:47 PM: Message edited by: Ian ]