Buzz the Apiary

© 2017-19, ZBees Apiary, Waynesville, NC.                                                                                                          Buzz the Apiary

Lifetime member of the North Carolina State Beekeepers Association

A Recap of the Math for Estimating a Healthy Deep 10-Frame Double Box Hive

  • 4,624 peak cells/frame x 80% frame coverage = 3,700 capped honeybees per brood frame,
  • Figure 3,700 future” bees/frame x 6 brood frames per box = 22,200future” bees,
  • Figure 1,500  “active” bees/frame (5 cups) at 10 frames  = 15,000 “active” bees (foragers not considered),
  • 22,200 “future” bees + 15,000 “active” bees = 37,200 potential bees for a “healthy” single brood box is possible.

  • When considering a two 10-frame brood box the hive can equal a potential population of 74,400,
  • 74,400 times 5-hives indicates that a small backyard apiary could potentially contain upwards of 372,000 honeybees during peak times,

  • When honey-supers are present- figure about 900 (3 cups) honeybees per frame. A 10-frame super may contain an additional 9,000 “active” workers processing or capping honey.
  • Thus, the 372,000 peak population + 9,000 honey-super equals a potential Apiary population of 381,000 for this example.

Remember, every 21 days the hive grows with new bees and approximately every 63 days old bees die off.

Apiary populations fluctuate based on various factors like: old age, bees who get lost in flight, bees eaten by birds, bees killed by the beekeeper, or queen laying during cycles.

Another thought- the average 3-lb package of honeybees is approximately 11,000 bees.

Hence, 372,000 / 11,000 = 34 packages of bees.

At an average cost of $120 per package, the apiary has an estimated live value at approximately $4,080 during “peak times,” and this only includes the honeybees. Consider the cost of equipment, tools, gear, plus supplies and the beekeeper begins to correlate the “true value of the apiary.”  This factor alone should entice beekeepers to closely monitor their apiary and document apiary data for continued success in the future.


After months of research this data has been reviewed and included in the HiveSmartHQ beekeeping app which is distributed through Appi Bee Services, Ltd. A new Population Estimator is included to help beekeepers get a better estimation of hive populations during their inspections.

Every apiary must be inspected at some scheduled time and how often that occurs is determined by the type of inspection the beekeeper is going to perform. Before any inspection is conducted the beekeeper must ensure that the proper tools, equipment, and supplies are available for the inspection. I can attest from experience that is quite interruptive and stressful to the bees to have to leave the hive and gather more tools.  Experience has shown me that the longer the hive stays open the longer it seems to take certain colonies to recover and get back to business. This disorientation or interruption of their daily routine can have a detrimental effect on their activities.

There are various ways for the beekeeper to track hive inspections; by ledger or note book, spreadsheets, vocal recordings, or application software. Granted, many beekeepers do not keep a written record of their inspections and thus, whenever an issue arises which needs an analysis then, it becomes quite difficult to remember factors such as: the affected hive, which frame presented problems, the date, time, weather, or an array of other things which the beekeepers may need to make a true analysis of any root problems which need immediate attention.

Apiary Inspections

Foragers trying to enter the hive during a Spring “oxalic acid” treatment.

Choose a Method of Recording Hive Inspections

Personally, I have tried several versions of “beekeeping” software or applications on the Internet and I prefer to use an application called HiveSmartHQ by Appi Bee Services, Ltd, out of New Zealand.

Why do I like this application software?

First, the “app” is client-based and not server-based, meaning I do not need to continually log-in to a Internet connection to use the software server. Second, the application is available for either the iOS® or Android® format and it operates locally on your phone or tablet device. Third, the application allows the user to back-up their data “for free” to the company’s server. Finally, the software developers are down to earth beekeepers who actually listen to their users and they will consider implementing a valid “user” suggestion into future builds or releases.

In all fairness, no company designs and builds software for a completely free cost. However, I have searched the Internet and found that Appi Bee Services, Ltd has the lowest cost of any software I have tried. When I finally set up an account with the company I received a hundred “free-credits,” which equates to 100 service inspections or several years of normal hive inspections. Since I do a lot of research on my colonies, I purchased an additional 100-credits for about $7.00 US- very reasonably priced when you consider many beekeeping application companies want you to pay a monthly subscription fee. For more information, view their FAQ’s at “Can I really start using HiveSmartHQ for free?” Beekeepers who prefer to keep their data on paper can do so because HiveSmartHQ also provides inspection sheets to record all sorts of hive data. See the following link to download and print the PDF forms, Section 2 Forms, at

Estimating Your Apiary Bee Count…

If you have ever wondered how many honeybees might exist in the typical hive, then here is a basic method I use to estimate the average bee count per hive. Let us begin by calculating the average number of cells in a typical deep-frame.

These “average cell counts” do not account for frames in the honey supers and as such it is quite possible for a colony to reach a higher threshold.

Average number of cells per square inch of comb

16 cells per side.

FRAME 19- Actual number of workers working a brood frame during the Mid-morning- 766 +/- 3% on one side only.

FRAME 23- Actual number of workers working a brood frame during the late evening- 903+/- 3%, on one side only.

Review the two images from hive H8S below to see a difference in the number of worker bees on two deep (full) frames at two different times of the day. A hand-count reveals the average number of worker bees on each frame and this information provides estimated hive populations during peak and dearth times. Frame 19 has a count of 766 workers (one side) and frame 23 has 933 workers (one side). This reflects an increase of 137 bees per side or 274 workers total over a four-hour timeframe. This represents 766/903 = 0.84 or a 16% increase. Thus, on the low side 1,532 workers (766 x 2) exist per deep brood frame and on the high side 1,806 workers (903 x 2) are hard at work. Multiply the average low count of 1,500 workers times seven average brood frames and the estimated count is 10,500 workers plus in a healthy brood box. On the high side the count averages 1,800 workers times seven brood frames equals 12, 600 workers.

Counting Hive Populations