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How Long Does It Take Bees to Make a Hive & Honeycomb?

It can take a new colony of bees a full season to build their hive, while a strong and established colony can build a beehive in under a month, assuming nectar flow is strong.

Bees are very busy insects. They start building out their hive as soon as the first workers are ready to forage.

But the time it takes bees to finish building a beehive varies depending on the colony.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at how bees build their hive, how quickly they can achieve this feat, as well as what factors influence their building process.

How Quickly Can Bees Build a Hive?

A strong and established colony can build a new hive in as little as one month, sometimes even faster. For a new colony, this is a different story though. To make one hive, it may take them as long as an entire season.

This is due to the number of workers available to construct the hive, how many resources they’ve stored already, and other factors.

A less established colony, in particular, will likely spend most of their energy making sure that they have enough honey stored up to last throughout the coming winter.

As mentioned, there are several factors to take into account.

bees-on-golden-honeycomb

Local Climate

One of the important factors is the local climate. Unforgiving and harsher climates will reduce efficiency, as the bees will use energy on foraging.

The local climate also involves flowers and food availability. More flowers mean more nectar, which translates into elevated productivity levels.

One factor that has a significant effect on how quickly or slowly a beehive is built is the weather. 

For example, if it rains a lot, with strong winds, and colder temperatures, the bees won’t be able to forage much of the time.

bee on water

Size of Bee Box

The size of the box may play an essential role when it comes to construction speed. 

A bee box too big for the colony will only slow down the bees, as there won’t be enough workers to fill it out.

At the same time, the airflow will be increased, causing the beehive to easily fluctuate in temperature. Hence, the bees will have to spend more energy regulating the temperature.

A box too small for a big colony will cause problems in terms of overpopulation. 

This can trigger the bees to swarm, as they won’t fit in the box, causing the colony to reduce in size.

beekeeper working on beehive

Type of Frames

Depending on the type of frame and box, the bees may have to fill out additional space.

Some boxes contain 10 frames, meaning more honeycomb has to be made, compared to an 8 frame hive.

The thickness of the frames also varies. The width is usually 6-8mm, while the depth is 3-4mm. 

Three types of width are commonly used: 10mm, 8mm, and 6mm.

There are two main types of frames to be used in constructing a beehive, namely: 

  • Langstroth
  • Top-Bar Bee Hive

Both include different features that vary depending on the use and preference of the beekeeper.

Frame of honeycomb

Available Food

Honey bees are a species that thrive when food is abundant. When more nectar is present, the bees will work more, hence building their hive faster.

If there are not enough native flowers in the area, beekeepers can choose to set up a feeder to increase activity.

Sugar syrup is probably the most common type of beehive food. It consists of water and granulated sugar and can be used to substitute for nectar or honey by honey bees. 

This sugary solution provides a great source of carbohydrates that help bees grow and produce more bees.

Supplementary Feeding

Supplementary feeding is one of the most effective ways to build up a weak colony quickly. 

It is typically done in late winter or early spring but can also be used with established hives struggling to produce honey during the fall months.

In the long run, supplementary feeding will give your colony increased health and vigor.

Supplementary Feeding of bees

Weather

Weather can affect beehive construction in many different ways. Bees will not go out to forage if it is too cold, windy, rainy, or dry outside.

If they don’t forage, they won’t have the resources necessary to build their hive or honeycomb.

Wind

When it’s windy, bees may not fly out to forage.

Slight wind will even have a great effect on bees foraging levels, as this prevents them from quickly moving from flower to flower. [1]

Rain

When it’s rainy outside, bees have a hard time going out to forage. If there is even a little rain and the temperature isn’t warm enough, bees will stay in their hive.

Heavy rainfall has the same effect. [2]

Humidity

One study suggests that bees are more active after rainy days. This is because the humidity will be higher than usual.

Temperature

Bees will work when the temperature is above 57°C, as long as there’s no rain or other disturbances. In light rain, the temperatures have to reach 71°F before bees will venture out.

Strength of the Queen

The strength of the queen has a definite effect on the speed at which bees build their hive. A strong queen will reproduce more often, as well as stay healthy.

These two factors influence the overall health of the hive, as well as the productivity levels. [3]

queen bee among swarm

How Long Does It Take Bees to Make Honeycombs?

On average, it takes bees between 7 days to 2 months to make honeycombs, as well as fill them with honey. A very strong colony may achieve this in as little as 3 days.

Honeycomb is a structure made out of hexagonal cells, used to store both honey and eggs.

Bees build these combs with beeswax, a special substance produces by the wax glands. Bees will eat honey, whereafter their wax-producing glands transform the sugar into beeswax.

The beeswax is then extruded through small pores.

The time it takes to create these wax flakes, interlacing them, and building them to form larger structures varies depending on the colony.

Related: How do bees make beeswax?

bee workers on beehive

How Do Bees Make Honeycomb?

Honeycomb production is an advanced process. 

The bees start by creating two layers opposite each other at right angles, known as combs. 

The bottom layer is called the under-comb, and the top layer is called the over-comb.

The top cells of the under-comb become homes for bees, and the bottom cells become storage for honey. Then, they begin creating more combs until they fill up the entire hive.

How Long Does It Take Bees to Make Honey?

A new beehive will start to produce honey within 3-4 weeks. They will use this honey to feed, producing beeswax for their hive.

It’s not until about 4 months in when you’ll be able to harvest it though, as the bees desperately need it in the beginning. Realistically, you shouldn’t harvest honey until the second season of a new hive.

Bees are some of the most efficient workers, which is why they’re able to get production going so quickly. They’re only bested by humans.

Related: How long does it take bees to make honey?

apiary and worker bees

How Long Does It Take for Nectar to Turn Into Honey?

It only takes about a couple of minutes for bees to turn nectar into honey. The foraging honeybee will return with full nectar sacs, turning this over to an indoor bee. 

The indoor bees will then pass it on, mouth-to-mouth, to reduce the moisture level of the nectar. As it’s reduced from 70% to 20%, the nectar turns into honey and is stored in the honeycomb.

Honeybees produce an enzyme called invertase in their salivary glands. This enzyme changes the nectar’s chemical structure. This helps bees speed up the transformation of nectar to honey.

The enzymes will rapidly turn the sugar inside of nectar into glucose and fructose sugars.

Sometimes indoor bees will store the nectar in honeycomb cells, which will cause some evaporation before they start the mouth-to-mouth method.

Related: Is honey bee vomit?

bee workers working on beehive

Conclusion

It takes bees anywhere from one month to a full season to build their hive. A strong colony can build the hive in about a month, while a new colony takes at least 4 months to build the hive and honeycomb.

On average, bees use 7 days to 2 months to build and fill honeycombs. Very strong colonies have been observed to do this in 3 days though.

FAQs

How Quickly Do Bees Build a Hive?

The speed at which bees can build a hive depends on the strength of the colony. Strong colonies can do it in under a month, while new colonies can take up to a full season to finish the beehive.

How Do You Tell if a Bee Is Making a Nest?

It’s common for bees to fly around in gardens, but if you notice a large number of bees, the chance is, they’re making a nest nearby.

How Do You Get Bees to Start a Hive?

One of the simplest and most common ways to get bees to start a hive is by providing them with one. You can either split an existing hive, catch a swarm, or buy a bee package. Introduce them to a bee box, and let them fill it up.

How Many Bees Do You Need to Start a Hive?

You need one queen bee and 5-10,000 worker bees to create a sustainable hive. This will quickly expand to 50,000, or more.

Related: How many bees are in a hive?

About Teodoro Pittman

Teodoro is a nature and animal lover. He specifically focuses on insects, such as ants, bees, and the like. In his free time, he takes care of his own ant farm, where he analyzes their behavior. Teodoro has spent the last 7 years studying the intricate behavior of these small creatures.