© 2017-2021, ZBees Apiary, Waynesville, NC.                                                                                                          Buzz the Apiary

Lifetime member of the North Carolina State Beekeepers Association

Buzz the Apiary

Apiary Populations

Estimating Bee Population and Value….

As a beekeeper, have you ever wondered how many honeybees might exist in the typical hive? I was curious about the number honeybees flying around my backyard and decided to conduct some studies to determine how many bees were in each hive. Of the course of three months, I developed a method to estimate the average bee count per hive. If you calculate the average number of cells in a typical deep-frame you find that there are approximately sixteen workers cells per side, in a one inch square cut (see image below).

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 $125 per package, the apiary has an estimated live value at approximately $4,250 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.


SPECIAL NOTE:

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.

RESEARCH 1 - Determine potential number of cells on a single 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 an even higher threshold of bees.

one square inch of honeycomb

Average number of cells per square inch of comb

16 cells per side.

Honeybee count fro one side of frame at morning. Evening count of worker bees on a single deep frame.

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

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

RESEARCH 2 - Determine potential number of honeybees on a single frame #19 at 1030 hours.

RESEARCH 2 - Determine potential number of honeybees on a single frame at 18:30 hours.

Honeybees combing