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  1. #1
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    Question How many hives is too many hives?

    I have seen some videos and pictures of HUGE bee yards... several HUNDREDS of hives. I'm not understanding how it is possible. How many hives/colonies can an area support. If most honeybees will fly approximately 2 miles to gather resources, there is only so much nectar/pollen available in that space (about 8,000 acres?). There comes a point when a niche is filled and competition for limited resources (nectar and pollen) takes over. In nature, there is balance that occures naturally through starvation. So, how many hives can be in any given beeyard? Please don't comment that bees can fly over two miles to get resources, you'd be missing the point of this question entirely.

    I know there are factors such as monocultured fields of potential nectar/pollen sources, but seriously... do we have any idea as to how many natural bee colonies will live in a given amount of space?

    Are all of these large beeyards being kept alive by sugar water? Is the honey produced also mostly from sugar water? I haven't been into beekeeping long enough to know much about commercial operations.

    I have one hive (that I know of) that is within 1/2 a mile of my hives. I'm not concerned about this. But I personally think it is better to have 2 strong hives instead of 4 weak, competing hives. I'd also like to have an idea of how many hives I could have.

    I appreciate all of the comments that are of value.
    "Life will find a way - it always finds a way." -Jurassic Park (MOVIE/BOOK)
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  2. #2
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    Default Re: How many hives is too many hives?

    They might be holding yards that are used to assemble the hives for loading onto large trucks and trailers.
    Ernie
    My websitehttp://bees4u.com/

  3. #3
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    Default Re: How many hives is too many hives?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kirk Osborne View Post
    If most honeybees will fly approximately 2 miles to gather resources, there is only so much nectar/pollen available in that space (about 8,000 acres?).
    Answer:First bees will fly a lot farther than 2 miles we have done some tests and have found that they will go 6 or 7 miles with out any problems.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kirk Osborne View Post
    I know there are factors such as monocultured fields of potential nectar/pollen sources, but seriously... do we have any idea as to how many natural bee colonies will live in a given amount of space?
    Answer: Now that one I don't know the answer to but would guess 1 or 2 per acre with no feeding or anything?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kirk Osborne View Post
    Are all of these large beeyards being kept alive by sugar water?
    Answer: Yes and no If there is not flow and they are lite you would have to feed or they rob but in a flow you would be amazed by how much nectar can come into a yard.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kirk Osborne View Post
    Is the honey produced also mostly from sugar water?
    Answer: No but you have a few out there after more profit and will feed at the wrong times and get some feed in the honey but for the most part bees will stop feeding on syrup and go to flowers when the flow starts. They know that the real thing is better for them than what we give them.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kirk Osborne View Post
    I have one hive (that I know of) that is within 1/2 a mile of my hives. I'm not concerned about this. But I personally think it is better to have 2 strong hives instead of 4 weak, competing hives. I'd also like to have an idea of how many hives I could have.
    Answer: I like to keep 40 to 50 hives per yard about a days work for one man. There is no need to worry about what hives are around unless you are open feeding or you are trying to mate queens with certain drones. And yes I would agree with your statement that 2 strong are better than 4 weak.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: How many hives is too many hives?

    Interesting question. I have wondered the same thing. There is no agricultural activities for many miles from my location. Mostly forests with sourwood, poplar and holly. Blackberries are pentiful in the summer. I am very interested in how well my new hives will do here. There are some I know of within several miles but small yards.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: How many hives is too many hives?

    Quote Originally Posted by Beetrucker74 View Post
    Answer:First bees will fly a lot farther than 2 miles we have done some tests and have found that they will go 6 or 7 miles with out any problems.
    I agree that bees probably fly a lot further than the canned answer of 2 miles. Mind sharing what test you conducted to come up with the 6-7 mile theory?

  6. #6
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    Default Re: How many hives is too many hives?

    It really is hard to give even an approximate answer to that question because every area of forage 2-3 miles in diameter (with your hives being at the center of it) can be very different in terms of the quantity and type of blooms available. For example, if you are surrounded by 2-3 miles of corn in every direction, your hives probably won't produce very well, yes, bees can fly over 2-3 miles to get to some clover fields beyond the corn, but the extra time and wear and tear it takes for the bees to go that far will give you a lower yield per colony than if the clover fields were only a mile away from the hives. I know it seems that this was an overly simplistic example, but there are areas in farm country which are very similar to this.

    I have yards located out in the country where within 2-3 miles of my bees there is a good amount of farming of corn and soybeans with a small amount of alfalfa. But along the roadways and in unfarmed fields there is lots of clovers, thistles, goldenrod, asters and other wildflowers. There are also small orchards, and other trees such as maples, black locust, basswood, and others that give nectar and pollen. My hives in those areas do extremely well, 125-200 lbs. per colony in the better years. In those yards I currently only have about a dozen hives, but I am quite sure I could add another 20 or so hives and not lose that much in production. I'm going to do just that, so I'll have to keep you posted. John

  7. #7
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    Default Re: How many hives is too many hives?

    In regards to efficiency of honey production the physiological limits of bees gives bee hives their own law of diminishing returns. I have never heard any reliable reports of much honey production when a floral source is over about 3 miles sure they are capable of flying further but dont expect them to fill up any boxes. Your really good honey production requires that bees be within about a mile and a half, preferably less than a mile.
    "People will generally accept facts as truth only if the facts agree with what they already believe."- Andy Rooney

  8. #8
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    Default Re: How many hives is too many hives?

    Quote Originally Posted by jim lyon View Post
    ... good honey production requires that bees be within about a mile and a half, preferably less than a mile.
    I second you on that Jim. When I make splits and leave them in the same yard, there is a noticeable decrease as many fly back home. I made splits moving them about 1 3/4 miles (as the bee flies) to my home yard and there was no noticeable decline.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: How many hives is too many hives?

    Not trying to say they would make anything extra if they go that far for forage but they will go that far. But as to how I know they will fly that far. I have yards that are that far apart as the bee flies and if we open feed Syrup with lemongrass in one you can go to the other yard the next day and find it there in the comb.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: How many hives is too many hives?

    Quote Originally Posted by Beetrucker74 View Post
    Not trying to say they would make anything extra if they go that far for forage but they will go that far. But as to how I know they will fly that far. I have yards that are that far apart as the bee flies and if we open feed Syrup with lemongrass in one you can go to the other yard the next day and find it there in the comb.
    I don't doubt your numbers at all. Bees can show up in the darnedest places when necessity requires it.
    My evidence of actual honey production examples where I could confirm a unique honey from a specific source has been with Sunflower and Purple Loosestrife. Each a unique easily identified honey produced in specific areas where we would have a number of locations within easily measurable distances. The differences in production will be pretty dramatic when comparing under a mile on up to about 3 miles which I consider the outside range at which a hive can really store much if any surplus. Actually I find that a bit surprising when you consider that the actual flight time for a bee to go 3 miles Is probably less than 15 minutes. That leads me to conclude that the limiting factor relates more to the physical capacity of a bee than to the "commute" time.
    "People will generally accept facts as truth only if the facts agree with what they already believe."- Andy Rooney

  11. #11
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    Default Re: How many hives is too many hives?

    @Jim I totally agree with you about how far they go on a productive flow and the limiting factor of capacity that can be carried and energy consumed gathering it.

  12. #12
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    Default Re: How many hives is too many hives?

    Jim, You have added production to the issue. The OP was more about survival than production. Bees can afford to fly a lot further in order to survive even though hit means lower to no production.

    You point has brought a question to my mind. Part of this I have heard from other threads. Bees will tend to prefer certain sources over others. Including traveling further passing up other sources in favor of others. You set a limit of a mile and a half for bees to be able to produce excess honey. Other are indicating that bees will travel as much as 6 to 7 miles. All together I wonder how often bees will forage a source that falls outside that productive limit?
    Stand for what you believe, even if you stand alone.

  13. #13
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    Default Re: How many hives is too many hives?

    Maybe I need to clarify my position a bit. I consider honey production as a sliding scale with 3 miles as the outer limit of viable surplus production and the mile and a half number just being a midpoint. My answer when asked the question of "how far bees will go to forage" is quite simply no farther than they have to. Yes, in extreme cases they might show up 4 or more miles away but not if they are flying over any good forage to get there.
    As an interesting side note, I sat in on a talk by Jerry Bromenshenk this past week where he talked about a new tool that has been developed that actually can track bee flights. It is related to the work done on using bees to "smell" out explosive devices. He hinted that there are some really interesting dynamics that they have observed showing that bees will actually case out the perimeter of a certain forage area and perhaps start at a back corner first and then work back towards the hive. I dont know that it has any real relevance to the topic at hand but it does point out that there is still much we dont fully understand about bee foraging behavior.
    "People will generally accept facts as truth only if the facts agree with what they already believe."- Andy Rooney

  14. #14
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    Default Re: How many hives is too many hives?

    Jim, just to add to what you speculated on flight time to go a certain distance, I did a test once with a tray of sugar syrup and by painting spots of different colored paint on bees as they came to the tray and went back to the hive. I timed them and found it took almost exactly 5 minutes for a round trip, the hive was about 1 1/2 miles away, I was amazed at how each trip for the same painted bee took about 5 minutes, plus or minus 10 seconds. John

  15. #15
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    Default Re: How many hives is too many hives?

    John: If you are saying they can fly 3 miles in 5 minutes then that equates to 36 mph without factoring in the time it takes for them to fill themselves at the tray. If one takes only a minute to do that (which sounds really fast) then that would increase their speed to 45 mph. I have heard bee flight speeds are in the range of from the mid teens to the mid 20's......am I missing something here?
    "People will generally accept facts as truth only if the facts agree with what they already believe."- Andy Rooney

  16. #16
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    Default Re: How many hives is too many hives?

    I don't think anyone can say for sure how many hives you can put in one place, you just have to experiment as climate, forage etc. all have an effect. The number has dwindled, in my experience, over the years. The old beekeeping books often show hundreds of hives in one location, but that was back in the days of fields of white and yellow clover. As clover fell in favor as a forage and hay crop and as 24D and other herbicides came into use the number dropped. As round-up ready crops came along, it fell more. In the last decade I've seen a ot of the hedge rows dug out and planted, and it dropped more. My typical place with good forage is limited to about 28 hives. My less promising places are at about 14. But I'm in the middle of corn, soybeans and alfalfa, and it's all roundup ready now and they cut the alfafa as soon as it blooms.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  17. #17
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    Default Re: How many hives is too many hives?

    Jim, you're right something seems messed up, but I don't know what it is yet, I know for absolute fact that the time of 5 minutes is correct. I know it was the same bee because I only used one color on each bee. So possibly the distance is off a bit, but I really don't think by much, I will have to go check it again. The time for the bee to fill up on the syrup was about a minute I think, but that wasn't figured into the time at all, I just timed the round trip itself. Stay tuned. John

  18. #18
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    Default Re: How many hives is too many hives?

    In the literature I've seen, it equates 1 acre of bloom is needed by a hive per day. Of course this really means nothing as it's all dependent on nectar/pollen availability in the end.

  19. #19
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    Default Re: How many hives is too many hives?

    I did my own feeding station last fall trying to bee line. I marked one yellow bee and one jet black one so i could tell them apart. I started time when they took off from the feeder and left it going til they returned (landed). A round trip averaged about 13-15 minutes. I assumed a few minutes of flying and no one seems to account for unloading time. Unloading off to a nurse bee probably takes a minute or two if not more. I'm not exactly sure how far the hives were or anything but i did time averages of about 5 or so trips. I assume the hives were between 1-2 miles away.

  20. #20
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    Default Re: How many hives is too many hives?

    In a good year when there is a good nectar flow 200 would be nice.
    In a bad year when there is a poor flow 2 hives might seem like enought.

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