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How Many Bees Are in a Beehive?

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Bees are social insects, living in colonies with hundreds, or even thousands, of individuals.

Bees also have different roles in their colony, the most important one being the queen. Queens are responsible for laying eggs, and some species can even lay more than 3,000 eggs per day.

But how many bees are there exactly in a beehive? And how big can the colony get?

These are some of the questions we’ll cover in this article.

There will typically be between 20,000 and 80,000 honeybees in a single beehive, all living together in a colony. There’s a single queen, hundreds of drones, and thousands of workers.

Bees in an Apiary

As far as apiaries go, a typical beehive box will contain up to 60,000 or 80,000 bees, depending on the size of the box.

Apiaries are artificial beehives that house numerous hives together in a concentrated space. Apiaries can be found all over the world, often housing mainly honeybees.

Since an apiary is a man-made beehive, it’s possible to limit, or control, the bee population somewhat – though if you give bees space for 60,000 individuals in the hive, they’ll quickly fill out this space.

beekeeper working on beehive

How Many Bees Can Live In a Hive?

A typical hive can have 20,000 to 60,000 bees, while bigger hives will house 80,000 individuals.

The number changes depending on how many times new hives are being made. The queen makes a new hive every spring if she has male eggs fertilized, or in late summer if she has unfertilized eggs that mean males.

These virgin queens will leave the hive with a large number of worker bees to start a new colony.

The worker bees live only six weeks and cannot lay eggs, so they spend their time collecting nectar from flowers for food for the whole colony.

It is hard for them to find food when winter comes because the flowers have stopped blooming, and there is little nectar available. During this time, the bees cluster together in a ball and vibrate their wing muscles to keep themselves warm.

The worker bees that leave at daybreak and return before dark have the most challenging job of finding food.

They do not give up though because they know how important it is for them to collect food so everyone can survive through the winter.

Because of how hard the worker bees try to find food, sometimes more than half of them will die before winter is over.

There can be as many as 50,000 bees living in a hive by the end of summer and more than 80,000 or 90,000 bees during the late spring when reproduction is at its peak.

Bees flying around beehive

All over the world, bees are vital to our ecology. One out of every three bites of food that we eat comes from a pollinated plant by a bee. 

Bees are also needed for many other plants to grow, creating an even more significant dependency on this tiny insect for all kinds of things.

How Many Bees in a Frame?

A frame can hold 3000-3500 bees on either side, totaling between 6000-7000 bees. Bees weigh about 0,1 grams, meaning, one full frame of bees will weigh about 600-700 grams or 1.3-1.5 pounds.

This is a standard frame – it’s possible to get larger or smaller frames, depending on the need.

Beekeeper working collect honey.

How Many Bees Live In a 10 Frame Hive Box?

There can be around 60.000 bees inside a ten-frame hive box (6,000 bees per frame), mostly consisting of worker bees, with a single queen bee responsible for reproducing.

Now, hive boxes differ very much in size, so it’s very possible to get a larger or smaller box if you’re not looking to create a colony of 60,000 bees.

How Many Bees Live In a Hive on Average?

In an average beehive, you’ll find between 30,000-50,000 bees, while some hives are smaller, and some are larger. 

Bees in a Natural Hive

On average, there are about 40,000-50,000 bees per square meter in a natural hive. Bees in a natural beehive live within the confines of the hive, with each bee responsible for a separate task. [1] 

The nectar and pollen from flowers are collected by worker bees and brought back to the hive to store within hexagon cells of the honeycomb.

The cells are layered with honey, allowing for the perfect food source during the colder winter months. When the bees have finished storing and secreting nectar and pollen, they cap off each cell with wax to protect it.

Natural hives are much different from apiaries. Wild bees build their nests, instead of living in a box. They rely on their survival skills instead of a beekeeper.

An interesting difference between natural hives and apiaries is the way they’re built. Where natural hives start at the top and expand downwards, apiaries start at the bottom and expand upwards.

honeybees beehive on a tree

Natural beehives can grow incredibly large. Some beehives have been recorded containing more than 250,000 members, while the largest reached above 1 million bees.

How Many Bees Live in a Natural Beehive?

There are on average about 50,000 bees in a natural beehive, but this number fluctuates a lot depending on the species and individual nest.

Beehives also contain more bees during the active seasons (April to September), where more flowers are blooming, and more nectar is available.

Bees slow down during the winter months, not hibernating, but also not operating as fast as in the summer months.

Types of bees

How Many Honeybees Live in a Hive?

A honeybee hive typically contains between 20,000 to 80,000 bees. As stated, there’s only one queen, a few hundred drones, while female workers make up the rest of the hive.

How Many Bumblebees Live in a Hive?

Bumblebee hives will typically contain between 50-500 bees. Bumblebees live very different lives compared to honeybees. They live shorter lives, and they’re only around during the summer months. 

During the winter, the queen bumblebees will hibernate. They’ll be waiting for spring to come around where they’ll be able to establish new colonies.

worker bumblebees

Different Roles in a Beehive

The Queen Bee

The queen bee, the only fully developed female in a hive, is responsible for producing fertilized eggs that will grow into bees. The queen bee is created by receiving special treatment and food during its development.

Queen bees are, contrary to what many people believe, not born special. They’re raised to be queens, not born for the job.

The queen bee can live up to 5 years and can lay up to 3,000 eggs per day. She spends her life laying eggs and giving off pheromones, a chemical that helps regulate the hive.

queen bee among swarm

The Worker Bees

Worker bees are all female but are not able to reproduce. They are the smallest of the three kinds of honeybees, with short-pointed abdomens and stubby legs. 

Worker bees have two sets of wings, which they use for flying; both sets are smaller than those found on drones or queens.

Worker bees spend their time collecting nectar and pollen for the colony, grooming the hive and the queen, as well as caring for the brood.

An interesting fact about worker bees is that they’re in charge – not the queen. Bees make decisions collectively and can overthrow the queen if they’re not satisfied with her reproduction abilities.

bumblee bee workers

The Drones

Drones are male bees, whose only job is to mate with virgin queens. They die after mating, which is why their life span is very short.

Around late springtime or early summertime, when it’s time for nuptial flight, the drones will fly off to mate with virgin queens, who’re looking to either establish their own nest or take over the reproduction from an old queen.

Once the mating season is complete, drones will die.

drone bumblebee

How Many Queens Live In a Single Hive?

Typically, a single hive holds only a single queen. However, a colony can have multiple queens at once. This happens if the old queen is to be replaced, if multiple queens aren’t fit to fight each other, or if a beekeeper artificially injects multiple queens.

When old queens are losing their reproductive abilities, new queens can take over. Until the new queen is fully integrated, the old queen can stay around.

At some point, the old queen will have to leave though. Or be killed.

If there are multiple queens, they will fight to the death, until a winner has been crowned. There is an exception, which is when two (or more) queens are too injured to fight. The fighting will then be postponed.

Related: How many queens live in a hive?

How Many Bees Are There in a Hive in the Winter?

There are about 40,000 bees in an average hive during winter. Bees are less active in the winter, due to less food available as well as colder temperatures. This can lead to a decline in bees in the hive.

During the winter, workers can also group around the queen to keep her warm, if temperatures are dropping too low.

swarm of bees on apiary

Conclusion

To summarize, a typical apiary can contain between 20,000 to 80,000 bees, while natural beehives can contain many more, sometimes more than 250,000 members.

The amount of bees in a hive depends on the amount of food available, what type of bee species it is, as well as other factors.

Bumblebee hives will only contain about 50-500 members, which is much lower than honeybee hives.

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.

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