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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
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    Jackson, MO
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    Default Carrying Capicity of the Land, How Many Hives?

    I live in a rural area, upland on a ridge. Within a 5 mile radius, I have some row crop soybeans and corn, an azaela farm, a winery, local gardens, and misc pasture and forest. How many hives do you think this type of area will support and still produce a honey surplus?

    When I split off some successful hives and grow, I will move some out to our main farm. It is mainly pasture land and forest, no row crops or other nectar sources. What will that area support?

    I have noticed some of the apiaries in the area with 20 or more hives, but really don't know how well they produce. I don't really notice many supers. I have not been able to catch any of them and see how well the honey production is in those apiaries.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
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    Jackson, MO
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    1,858

    Default Re: Carrying Capicity of the Land, How Many Hives?

    Not sure if such a number can be determined. Each year will vary due to rainfall and temps...and your management. A year ago we had two month of solid rain and flooding during the normal nectar flow. When it finally quit raining, it quit and didn't rain for three months. When the rain quit, everything swarmed. What a mess. If swarming and mite control are not managed, then it really doesn't matter how many or how few hives.

    But back to your original question, any given area will likely support the number of hives you want to put on it, which is likely the number of hives you can afford to equip, within reason. Most of my ideal yards have a diversity of floral sources over the course of a long season. Ideally, my best yards have some swamp, some woods, some open weedy pastures and ditch weeds, some cultivated ground, etc. I shoot for 12 to 20 hives per outyard, but it also depends on my landlord's comfort level and their neighbors.

    I think any amount you set on your location will not outstrip the resources. I would render the opinion that your question isn't relevant to what you want to do. All the best,

    Grant
    Jackson, MO https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/beekeeper731
    Beekeeping With Twenty-five Hives: https://www.createspace.com/4152725

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Rockford, MI
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    2,671

    Default Re: Carrying Capicity of the Land, How Many Hives?

    I am also of the opinion that you can't have too many hives in any given area. Bees fly up to a three mile radius to forage. Flowers and such are producing pollen and nectar daily.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
    Location
    Winhall, VT
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    1,066

    Default Re: Carrying Capicity of the Land, How Many Hives?

    About 20 hives for a two mile radius is a good starting point IMHO.
    Raising Vermont Bees one mistake at a time.
    USDA Zone 5A

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2003
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    Manitoba Canada
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    6,243

    Default Re: Carrying Capicity of the Land, How Many Hives?

    you need flowers to produce honey, if you dont see flowers, your honey flow will be minimal
    Ian Steppler >> Canadian Beekeeper's Blog
    www.stepplerfarms.com

  6. #6
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    Jul 2012
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    Jackson, MO
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    591

    Default Re: Carrying Capicity of the Land, How Many Hives?

    In a drought year like this one was, one hive was struggling to find any flowering plants during the month of August. No pollen was coming in and everything around was dry and brown.

    Between feral bees and other keepers, there has to be a productive limit to the space I have to keep hives. The farm has over 300 acres, surrounded by unpopulated forests, creeks, and pastureland. Forage for the bees will bee mostly wildflower, clover, and trees. I was trying to figure out if 100 hives in that area would be feasible.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Location
    Palermo, Maine, USA
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    731

    Default Re: Carrying Capicity of the Land, How Many Hives?

    Quote Originally Posted by jdmidwest View Post
    I was trying to figure out if 100 hives in that area would be feasible.

    You may want to try increasing your hives each year until you reach what seems to be the saturation point.
    Like us on facebook This is the place to bee!
    Ralph

  8. #8
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    Jan 2003
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    Manitoba Canada
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    6,243

    Default Re: Carrying Capicity of the Land, How Many Hives?

    key word, clover!
    Ian Steppler >> Canadian Beekeeper's Blog
    www.stepplerfarms.com

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
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    Jackson, MO
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    Default Re: Carrying Capicity of the Land, How Many Hives?

    Does anyone know of any research on the topic? Surely there have been some agricultural studies somewhere regarding the forage capacity of the land types. I tried google but did not come up with any.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Location
    Herrick, SD USA
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    4,457

    Default Re: Carrying Capicity of the Land, How Many Hives?

    A simple question with a complex answer to be sure. There is nothing predictable about honey production even in the same location from one year to the next. So many variables: amount of bloom, rainfall, and temperatures in addition to he number of hives in the area. Certainly the law of diminishing returns comes into play at some point but it is impossible to calculate. A number of hives in the area might just as easily be an indicator of good potential than an indication of over population.
    "People will generally accept facts as truth only if the facts agree with what they already believe."- Andy Rooney

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
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    Fair Grove,MO,USA
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    1,665

    Default Re: Carrying Capicity of the Land, How Many Hives?

    I agree with Grant, the weather is the main factor.I have 7 outyards and i think 20 hives is a good round number of hives per yard. One thing i look for is, if your having a good honey flow year, and one of your bee yards starts having a robbing problem? you may have to many hives in that yard?

  12. #12
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Sacramento, CA, USA
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    2,930

    Default Re: Carrying Capicity of the Land, How Many Hives?

    Typical advise is a hive needs 1 acre of bloom per day to sustain itself. I don't know where they came up with the calculation but that's what I remember. You must keep in mind you need to roughly know the quality and quantity of forage available throughout the year to know how many hives you can sustain.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Erin, NY /Florence SC
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    3,361

    Default Re: Carrying Capicity of the Land, How Many Hives?

    I think it was a Powers study that showed beeyards of not less than 40 hives in a commercial operation for honey production would be the goal. I assume that would be different for an operation set up on commercial plantings of say sunflower or other High yield crop. In our area of the Fingerlakes we run 25-30 to a yard mostly as 2 queen units which gives us that " 40 hive"range with avg. annual yield of around 150 lbs. per hive with our best year, 1996, seeing a 200 lb. avg. Keep in mind these numbers are from hives brought north the 1st week of May and a 1st. harvest date of around June 30. . Depending on the season we usually have 100 or more in a yard in SC and still often see a yield avg. of 30lb/hive and in good years a packed brood nest with a spring flow between the end of March and the last week of May. It certainly would seem there is not an average number and everything is dependant on region, flora, and weather.

    (Wrtitten on the road to SC with a trailer load of bees chasing us down I-95)
    Last edited by Joel; 11-22-2012 at 03:24 PM. Reason: My son is driving!

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
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    Worcester County, Massachusetts
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    Default Re: Carrying Capicity of the Land, How Many Hives?

    It really depends on what you are trying to do. If the goal is to capture a peak harvest and feed (or move) in a dearth, the answer is very different than if you are wanting to have hives that can sustain themselves year round in a stationary situation.

    In the former, the limit is based on the peak production period...in the latter, the number of hives is determined by what can be sustained during a dearth in the area.

    deknow

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
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    Grosse Ile, Michigan, USA
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    Default Re: Carrying Capicity of the Land, How Many Hives?

    There's way more forage for bees in a given area than what you see driving around. I would start with around 15-20 hives and go from there, when a honeyflow kicks in and all the hives are filling supers fast then you probably can add more hives, say 10 more at a time and see how that goes, of course your total number of hives may have a limit based on not wanting to cause an issue with neighbors if they are nearby, if you are in the middle of farmland or real rural areas the limit may be much higher. What you want to shoot for as an ideal location is one where you can keep up to 40 hives and still get at least 150 lb. per hive in 4 out of 5 years, I wish I could find a place like that near me, they do exist though, I know of beekeepers who do that well. John

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Location
    Jackson, MO
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    591

    Default Re: Carrying Capicity of the Land, How Many Hives?

    With the modern aerials provided by Bing Maps and Google Earth, you can look down from above and see the land and what it is being used for much better than just driving around. Looking at our farm, all there is around is pasture, timber, and a few houses. There won't be any crops. I do have a neighbor that raises alfalfa hay within a mile as the crow flies. But the rest of the pasture is mainly fescue mixed with some white and red clover. From the looks of it, I really don't think the area will produce much.

  17. #17

    Default Re: Carrying Capicity of the Land, How Many Hives?

    I shoot for a maximum of 20 hives per yard, however most of my yards have around 10. But I know a lot of people around my area and am able to spread them out a few miles, so I do. This year I had 15 production colonies and 65 5 frame mating nucs in one yard. This yard is surrounded by outyards to flood the area with drones and they produced honey just as well as the out yards.

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Location
    Montgomery County, NY
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    1,872

    Default Re: Carrying Capicity of the Land, How Many Hives?

    Quote Originally Posted by jdmidwest View Post
    Does anyone know of any research on the topic? Surely there have been some agricultural studies somewhere regarding the forage capacity of the land types. I tried google but did not come up with any.
    Grant has already told you the answer. That is first hand experience talking about how many bees to keep in your area. Which he is in your area. It was however the same when I lived on the other side of the state. I would not put anymore than 24 per yard and that depended upon how much was available for them in the area. You should give Bob Harrison a call. I know he has sought after similar answers you look for and he spent some time in a small airplane to help him determine saturation point and location of yards.

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