How Many Beehives Do I Need?

Have you ever found yourself lost in the mesmerizing world of beekeeping, wondering if you could turn this delightful hobby into a full-time career? Is it feasible to make a living as a beekeeper, and if so, how many hives would you need to make it profitable?

The Department of Agriculture suggests that a beekeeping business needs between 350 and 400 hives to be commercially viable. However, it’s not just about honey production. A successful beekeeping enterprise requires a diversified approach and strong bee management techniques, which come with experience and proper scaling.

Transitioning to a full-time beekeeper is a journey that requires experience, financial investment, strategic planning, and effective bee management strategies. Let’s delve into the various factors to consider when contemplating a career in beekeeping.

How Much Space Does Beekeeping Require?

One of the first questions budding beekeepers often ask is about the space required for a beehive. The beauty of beekeeping is that bees can thrive in a variety of environments, from sprawling countrysides to compact urban backyards or even balconies.

You don’t need a vast countryside backyard to start beekeeping. A small yard with a few plants or flowers is perfectly adequate. Your bees will be able to find enough nectar and pollen in your local area.

When it comes to hive size, the standard dimensions are about 41cm by 48cm. While hives are relatively compact, it’s crucial to remember that bees need space to fly in and out. Therefore, the surrounding area around a hive should be at least 7 feet (213.36 cm). This will provide enough space for your bees to live and work without hindrance.

Before you start transforming your backyard into a buzzing bee paradise, there are several factors to consider. Here are some guidelines to help you make informed decisions:

Check Your Local Laws.

Before you dive into your new hobby, ensure you’re aware of the local zoning regulations regarding beekeeping in residential areas. Some cities require registration and permission, while others may prohibit beekeeping altogether.

Reach out to your local Beekeepers Association for guidance. They can provide valuable advice and help you navigate the path to becoming a successful beekeeper.

Know The Water Supply.

Like all living creatures, bees need a water supply. Bees are attracted to water with an earthy smell, so it’s essential to provide an adequate water source. If not, they’ll seek it elsewhere.

Creating a water station is as simple as filling a bucket or bowl with water and adding floating wine corks or wooden sticks to provide a safe landing spot for your bees. Simple yet effective!

Make Sure You Have A Fence.

A fence is a great way to redirect bees’ flight path above human height and protect your hive from wind. Ensure the hive entrance faces away from walkways.

A six-foot fence will encourage bees to alter their flight pattern, much to the relief of your neighbors!

The fence can be positioned just a few feet away from your hive!

Positioning Your Hives.

The proper setup of your apiary is crucial. Depending on your available space, you can accommodate multiple hives. However, if you’re a beginner, starting with two hives is advisable.

Having two hives allows you to compare their progress! As you hone your beekeeping skills, you can add more hives if space permits.

When positioning your beehives, ensure they are placed to provide afternoon shade. Also, it’s advisable to raise your hives off the ground using bricks or cement blocks. Ensure your hives are level. This not only makes your hives more accessible but also protects them from potential water damage.

How Many Beehives Do I Need?

When considering beekeeping as a full-time occupation, the question arises: how many beehives can one person manage successfully? The answer depends on whether your focus is honey production, bee raising, or other profitable methods.

While working a full-time job, one person can manage between 100 and 150 hives. As a full-time beekeeper, one person can handle between 500 and 800 bee colonies. However, during the honey harvesting season, additional seasonal workers would be needed.

If your focus is solely on honey production, managing a large number of hives can be challenging. Honey production is more labor-intensive and requires more expensive equipment and supplies as you scale up your apiary.

If your primary focus is on raising and selling bees, it’s easier to manage more beehives while still working a full-time job. Experienced beekeepers often successfully manage 100-150 bee colonies while maintaining a full-time job. However, remember that it takes time to gain experience, grow your apiary, and build a reliable market to sell your bees.

How Many Beehives Do I Actually Need?

To earn a substantial income as a beekeeper, you need a solid understanding of bees. Therefore, it’s essential to study and master the craft of beekeeping before deciding to rely on it for a full-time income.

While some sources suggest that 200 beehives can provide a full-time income, this isn’t always the case. Even with 200 to 300 hives, many beekeepers still need a secondary income source.

Income requirements or goals vary from person to person. Some may aim for an annual income of $40,000 from their beekeeping practice, while others may target $80,000 a year.

These income goals will dictate the number of beehives, workload, equipment, land, and bee management required. While honey production is the most obvious product, it’s advisable to diversify your income sources and grow your hive numbers gradually.

Realistically, if you diversify your beekeeping income, you could make a full-time living with between 500 and 1000 beehives. It’s challenging to make a stable income from honey alone, so diversification is key.

Maximizing Profits From Your Beehives

As mentioned earlier, there are several ways to profit from your beekeeping efforts beyond honey production. Diversifying your products can help you earn more from your beehives.

Selling bees, queen bees, and nucleus colonies is a popular and profitable method. All it requires is building a reliable market for your bees. It can be more profitable than honey production and requires less work!

Wondering what else you can profit from as a beekeeper? Here are some ideas:

  1. Beeswax- Collect and sell beeswax or use it to create and sell beauty products like soaps, candles, lip balms, hand creams, and more!
  2. Pollen And Propolis– Sell bee pollen and Propolis. These products can fetch a good price but be cautious due to local pesticide and herbicide usage.
  3. Apiary Maintenance– Offer your services to maintain other people’s beehives for a fee. Many people set up hives but lack the time or knowledge to manage them properly.

Some people are more than willing to pay an experienced beekeeper to care for their bees.

  • Beekeeping Education– As you gain experience, you can offer beekeeping classes and hands-on training.
  • Pollination Services– Offering pollination services can be very profitable. Many beekeepers focus solely on this service and make a steady income. However, it requires a large number of hives, beekeeping equipment, and experience.


Some beekeepers find success with just a few hives by understanding the retail market. They buy honey from local beekeepers and sell it directly to customers, making a profit.

Others focus on raising bees, selling them, and selling queen bees, queen bee cells, and nucleus colonies, finding success in these areas. Some experienced beekeepers maintain a few hives and sell beekeeping equipment and supplies, even offering hive placement services for a monthly fee.

Ultimately, the key to being a successful full-time beekeeper is to keep an open mind and diversify your approach.

Title: A Comprehensive Guide: How Many Beehives Do I Need?

The decision to venture into beekeeping, whether for pleasure or commercial purposes, is a commendable one. Bees are not only providers of honey but also play an integral role in pollination which aids food production globally. As a budding apiarist, one fundamental question needs to be addressed – how many beehives should I start with?

The number of beehives you require depends on several variables, such as your purpose for beekeeping, your locality, time availability and the amount of space in your possession. With this in mind, this guide aims to provide a comprehensive survey on deciding the optimal number of hives to start your beekeeping journey.

1. Purpose of Beekeeping:

If you intend to keep bees for personal needs, like home gardening or honey for domestic use, one to two hives would be ample. The honey produced by these hives would be more than enough for a typical household’s annual usage.

On the other hand, suppose you intend to transition to commercial scale beekeeping. In that case, the number of hives increases substantially. Commercial beekeepers typically manage several hundreds to thousands of hives. Still, as a newcomer in the field, it may be viable to start with a modest five to ten hives, gradually expanding as experience, resources, and market demand grows.

2. Location Specifics:

The locality and climatic conditions heavily influence the number of hives you can maintain. Bees require a suitable climate and a variety of flora for nectar and pollen, which makes certain areas more conducive for beekeeping than others.

The local legislation and regulations can also impact the number of hives permitted in a particular area. Therefore, it’s vital to check any law or local council by-laws that may restrict the number of hives you can keep.

3. Time Availability:

For hobbyist beekeepers, it is important to consider the amount of time you can devote to the activity. Maintaining beehives demands regular supervision, maintenance, and disease control, to ensure a productive and healthy colony. It’s worth noting that it’s better to properly care for a few hives than neglect many.

4. Available Space:

Beehives need sufficient space, not only to avoid overcrowding but also to minimize the chance of disease spread. Thus, land availability intricately affects the number of hives you can maintain. A general guideline is to keep ten feet between hives, although the feeder stations, flight paths, wind direction, and sunlight exposure also need to be considered.

With these factors in mind, you could make an initial estimate of the number of beehives you need. For novices in beekeeping, it is typically recommended to start with two to three hives. This provides advantages such as: a comparison between hives would help diagnose issues quicker, and sharing resources (like brood and honey) among hives could help manage challenging situations.

Beekeeping indeed can be an enriching and worthwhile experience, and determining the optimal number of hives is an essential first step. Whether you are a hobbyist or considering venturing into the commercial domain, cater your approach according to the outlined conditions – purpose, location, time, and space. Don’t rush. Progress slowly and remember that beekeeping requires time and patience to bear the sweet result of success.

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