So you have decided to start your own Bee Hive and are looking into buying a “bee starter kit”, but how many bees will this package provide you? This article will answer exactly that, and provide you with an in-depth understanding of what you should expect from each pound that you purchase.
There are approximately 3500 bees in a pound, so you should expect around 10,000 – 10,500 bees for a 3 pound package and 17,000 – 17,500 per 5 pound package. Whatever the size you choose, these kits will come with a mated Queen Bee in order to start your new nucleus, sugar resin to sustain the bees during transport, as well as Drone and Worker Bees.
This is the simple and approximate number of bees per pound, but to break it down let’s look at the following:
– The weight of a Queen Bee.
– The weight of a Drone Bee.
– The weight of a Worker Bee.
Not only does the individual weight of each bee make a difference to the total number of bees in a package, but whether the Worker Bees are “loaded” or not.
How Much Does A Queen Bee Weigh?
According to a study published in the Journal of The Kansas Entomological Society, Queen Bees are categorized into Heavy, Medium, and light groups. These groups are determined by their weight at the queen’s emergence.
A heavy queen at maturity weighed in at 200mg or above, a medium size queen 185mg and 199mg, and a small queen weigh bellow 185mg.
To abbreviate, a Queen Honey Bee weighs between 178 – 230mg (0.006 – 0.008 oz) .
It should be noted that there is a direct relation between the size of the Queen Bee and her acceptance into the hive and her production of eggs.
If your bee package distributor knows this information it will be to your advantage to take note of it.
How Much Does A Drone Bee Weigh?
Coming in as a close second to the queen, Drone Bees weigh almost the same but have a few distinct differences. A drone does not have a stinger like the queen or workers and can be easily distinguished by its short fat abdomen and large eyes.
In a study published on NCBI Drone Bees were found to weigh between 218mg and 231mg with an average of 206mg (0.007 oz).
As Drone Bees are the key to reproducing with the queen, the study points out that their reproductive levels decrease as they move towards 30 days of age. When purchasing your bee kit this information may be difficult to obtain.
This however is no a concern as the queen in your bee package should have already been mated. Queens once mated are set for life and ready to lay within a few days of mating. We have an article “How do bees reproduce?” that unpacks this fascinating process in more detail.
How Much Does A Worker Bee Weigh?
Coming in as the smallest and lightest bee of the hive, Worker bees are about half the size of a Drone Bee and weigh only 80 – 170mg ( 0.002 – 0.005 oz). The average weight of a Worker Bee is about 100mg or 0.003 oz. This average is the adults emerging weight.
A very important thing to be aware of when purchasing a Bee Package is that the Worker Bees will usually be “loaded”. This is to say that they will have a full or partially full stomach of protein. These loaded bees are sometimes known as “Fat Bees” and are essential to keeping the hive alive as the new nucleus is becoming established.
Typically Bee Packages are usually full of Fat Bees, you should expect slightly fewer bees per pound.
Another point to take note of is if the bees are loaded they can carry almost their body weight in pollen and nectar. A Worker Bee can carry up to 35% of its body weight in pollen in its pollen baskets and on the hairs of its body.
Bees can carry almost the entire body weight in nectar stored in their honey stomachs. So if you purchase a Package filled with loaded bees, you could be looking at close to a 50% population reduction in bees.
This is not a bad thing as mentioned early these bees will need all resources they have on board in the first few days of establishing the new hive.
So now that you know how much each bee weighs, how many bees should you find in a healthy hive?
How Many Bees In A Hive?
A single Bee Hive can consist of between 10 thousand to 80 thousand plus bees, although the number of bees found in a hive will vary depending on the time of the year, the health of the hive, and how old the hive is.
The hive will consist of mainly the female Worker Bees, a single queen, and a few hundred male drones.
How Do Seasons Affect The Beehive Population?
Seasons and outside temperatures are a large factor in the hive population. During summer and spring months when the weather is warm and nectar is abundant the hive will be at its fullest.
During colder months the queen will stop laying eggs and Worker Bees will push out the drones and not allow them to re-enter the hive. This reduction in the population allows the hive to preserve its food resources and aid the younger bees in survival until the next season.
How Can You Tell The Health Of A Beehive?
There are many things that can go wrong when tending to a hive, but there are a few key points you can look out for to tell if your hive is healthy.
There is a Queen: All healthy hives should have a healthy active queen. It is sometimes difficult to spot her, but if you do this is a great bonus to your hive inspection.
You can see the Brood: Look for small larvae or capped over cells. This is an indication that the queen is actively laying new health eggs.
Look for honey: The bees will store their honey in the upper chamber of the hive. If you can see a good stock of honey you know the bees are well fed and most likely healthy.
Pollen in the hive: If you notice Worker Bees within the hive having pollen attached to them it is a good indicator that they are hard at work and doing their jobs.
There is a lot of traffic around the hive entrance: This is the simplest way of noticing hive health. If there is a lot of movement in and around the entrance of the hive. You should see field bees coming out and returning with pollen sacks full. This will of course be limited in winter months.
How Does The Age Of A Hive Affect Its Population?
Finally, a Bee Hives population is dependent on the age of the hive. As can be expected, an older more established hive will support a larger population. When you introduce your Bee Package to your Bee Box the queen will only be able to lay eggs as fast as the Worker Bees can construct the cells and supply the pollen and nectar stores to support the brood nest.
With in the first 6 weeks, you should be seeing around double the population. As long as there is enough space, warm temperature, and a good source of nectar, your hive will keep growing.
A Quick Summary Of What You Have Learned.
There are approximately 3500 bees in a pound. So when buying a 3 pound Bee Package you can expect about 10,500 bees and 17,500 bees in a 5 pound package. The number of bees in each package will vary according to the individual size of each bee, the number of Drone Bees in comparison to Worker Bees, and how “loaded” the Worker Bees are.
Each package should contain mainly Worker Bees, a Queen Bee, a few hundred Drone Bees, and sugar water for food.
Now that you know what to expect from your Bee Package, all you have left to ask is – 3 pounds or 5?