Buzz the Apiary

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

Lifetime member of the North Carolina State Beekeepers Association

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 Bee Count…

If you have ever wondered how many honeybees are 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.

Naturally, these average cell counts do not account for any bees in the honey supers or foragers 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.

“He who expects to conduct bee keeping on a safe and profitable system, must learn that on this, as on all other subjects, ‘knowledge is power.’” (Langstroth, Rev. L. L., Langstroth on the Hive and the Honey-Bee: A Bee Keeper’s Manual, 43)

Another frame of new comb on a black plastic foundation insert.

Consider the photo to the right with an average of 80% capped brood on both sides and about 20% pollen or honey cells.

Use the number of honeybees you see on the front side (about 700 active bees) as a fair estimate of workers on a single side of the frame.

When “honey supers” are added the bee count may or may not increase, due to the reality that some of the workers will be working honey and others caring for the brood.

Worker bees on brood frame.

A Recap of the Math for a Healthy Deep 10-Frame Box of Brood

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

Thus, apiaries exponentially grow and fluctuate based on various factors like: old age, bees who get lost in flight, bees eaten by birds, or bees killed by the beekeeper.

Another thought- the average 3-lb package of honeybees is about 11,000 bees. So, 386,000 / 11,000 = 35 packages of bees.

At an average cost of $120 per package, you now have an apiary valued at approximately $4,200 and this does not include anything but honeybees. Add in the cost of equipment, tools, gear, and supplies and the beekeeper begins to correlate the “true value of the apiary.”  This factor alone should entice every beekeeper to closely monitor their apiary and document apiary data for continued success in the future.