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How do you know when you have more hives in one bee yard than the area can support? In other words, what indicators should I look for that say " this is too many"?

I'm in SC. thanks
 

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Smokey that's really an open ended question. In my apiaries my yards generally consist of 15-18 hives at each location. This is not just because of the available nectar source for gathering a surplus. Because I work my yards alone I don't like to spend too much time at one yard doing manipulations at certain times of the year. Early spring and fall bees tend to rob a lot so I like to get in and out asap. My main honey flow comes at the beginning of May. My best producing yards have 20-25 hives each but during that 2-3 week intense flow I could place 100 colonies at those locations and it wouldn't matter because the available nectar could easily support that many at that time. You need to determine if your yard locations can support 8-10 hives or possibly more. Experienced beekeepers know the best locations to secure a surplus, however like in many ventures its different every year.
 

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As others have said, there are a lot of variables about how long the main flow is, if there are sources available through the summer seasons, types of forage, flowering trees, and so on. However, Kim Flottum says in his book Better Beekeeping that a general and rough rule is 1.25 acres available per hive for the entire season. The land doesn't need to be contiguous and it doesn't need to be one kind of forage. But it also seems that this number can be exceeded with efficiency and good care.
 

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And remember that conditions change considerably over time. Not just the amount of rain or flowers, but here it could be cold weather and other factors. We live near a piece of land that for years had been untouched. The landowner finally leased it out and it's used for hay and cows so the plants on that property slightly alter what the bees have available. Same for the wetlands in the other direction. The invasive Purple Loosestrife which bees love was addressed and now acres of potential honey are diminished in production. A few years ago an early frost wiped out the peach blossoms and we're a short distance from an orchard. That had an effect as well. Of course it goes the other way around too. Near the peach orchard the landowner planted 12 acres of new apple trees for what will soon become a PYO place. Habitat, weather, competition from other bees...they all create a variable condition and it's not the same every year.
 

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However, Kim Flottum says in his book Better Beekeeping that a general and rough rule is 1.25 acres available per hive for the entire season.
Don't know how one would measure this. I've had some apiaries since the 70s. The variability in production is notable. Sometimes get discouraged with some apiaries with low production for a few years. Sometimes consider moving to new locations. Then, wham! A bunch of good years in a row. So there's no judging by some formula, etc. Stock an apiary, maintain it over a number of years. Then you'll know.
 

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>When you add more hives and the total honey collected from the yard stays the same.

If you let your apiary grow naturally as hives get strong you can observe this, though, as Michael Palmer says things vary from year to year.
 

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When there are too many colonies in a location, the number of weak colonies that die over winter increases.

I can economically run about 8 colonies per location here in northwest Alabama. If I get above 16, honey production decreases since I have to leave more on each colony for winter. My point is that there is a difference between how many colonies a location can support and how many colonies it can support "economically".

Commercial beekeepers have to work with a different perspective for an economic location. They need as many colonies as possible in a single location while still producing an economic surplus. One of the best old time operations was Powers Apiaries. They had a rule of thumb that each location had to support 40 colonies while producing an economic surplus. They moved the bees if the location did not measure up.
 

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Fusion - I concur. With us, 50 colonies in each yard was the norm in the 50's and 60's. Now the number floats with conditions, and varies from the low twenties to high 30's.

Crazy Roland
 

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The law of diminishing returns applies here. 40 has always been a pretty good average number for us. Commercial beekeeping has changed a lot in just the past decade. It used to be that a location had to have a history of being economically viable for honey production in a given year but with so many bees raised primarily for pollination the game has changed. Now many beekeepers are just looking for a place to park for the summer where they can, at the very least, not have to feed them with any surplus being a bonus. I've seen whole semi loads of bees dropped for the summer where it seemed the prospects were better than wherever they originated.
 

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The law of diminishing returns applies here. 40 has always been a pretty good average number for us. Commercial beekeeping has changed a lot in just the past decade. It used to be that a location had to have a history of being economically viable for honey production in a given year but with so many bees raised primarily for pollination the game has changed. Now many beekeepers are just looking for a place to park for the summer where they can, at the very least, not have to feed them with any surplus being a bonus. I've seen whole semi loads of bees dropped for the summer where it seemed the prospects were better than wherever they originated.
That seems to be the nature of the beast here also. 30-40+ years ago 20-30 colony yards common. now 75-100 is pretty typical. folks seem to say once they push upto 100 that most spots can't handle it and crop suffers but this state has pretty much just run out of room so they gotta park some place after almonds and blueberries
 

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How do you know when you have more hives in one bee yard than the area can support? In other words, what indicators should I look for that say " this is too many"?

I'm in SC. thanks
You never specified - ....and what is the distance between the locations?
My own closest locations are 0.5 mile apart and, essentially, compete for the same pastures.
Are these considered one location or two locations?
:)
 

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You never specified - ....and what is the distance between the locations?
My own closest locations are 0.5 mile apart and, essentially, compete for the same pastures.
Are these considered one location or two locations?
:)
So the real questions are:
What is bee hive density (hives per square mile) can your location support?
How many hives are present (not just yours) in you area at any given time?

This quickly becomes less simple and less controllable.
 

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I like to have 40 in a location and we "like" to have them around 6-7 miles apart but sometimes they are closer as we need beeyards with easy access. Trial and error. In about 20 years I might have it all figured out (if the foraging is still the same)
 

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In my area of Alberta commercial keepers seem pretty consistent with 40 hives per yard. 10 pallets of 4 hives. I'm not a commercial keeper so I cant speak to the reasoning behind it, but driving around in the country almost every yard is set up this way.
 
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