How Much Time Beekeeping Takes: A Guide To Productivity

Bees operate on their own schedule. As a beekeeper, you must synchronize your time with theirs. How much time does beekeeping take?

David Horstmann

— 7 min read

Beekeeping is a fascinating and rewarding hobby. It has become increasingly popular in recent years. And let me tell you – the amount of time required for beekeeping varies greatly. It depends on several factors. How many hives do you have? Where are they located? What time of year is it? How much time beekeeping takes is influenced by numerous factors. In this article, I will try to give you an insight into how much time beekeeping takes me.

You reap what you sow

To begin with, the principle of beekeeping is like any other hobby. The level of commitment you dedicate directly correlates with the rewards you reap. The key lies in gaining experience. This you can only be achieve by spending time with your bee colonies.

By investing extra time in acquiring knowledge, you can enhance your expertise. Consequently, this will improve the overall well-being and lifespan of your hives. The more practical and theoretical understanding you acquire, the more efficient your work with the beehives will become. But basically, how much time beekeeping takes correlates directly to the number of hives you want to take care of.

I cannot stress how much you can benefit if you enroll in a beekeeping course early on. Beekeeping courses can be taken online, or you can take a beekeeping course close to where you live. This will give you a solid foundation to build on.

We all must start somewhere

Normally people start out with one or two hives. The instructor of my beekeeping course said we should start with two. One to work at and one to “kill” (experiment with). As a newbie you can expect to spend 30 minutes to an hour per colony. This is for a simple inspection where you only quickly observe your hives to form an understanding of their current condition. Preparation before and after the inspection might take another 30 minutes.

As you add more hives, the time commitment and the material needed will increase exponentially.

Different Beekeepers have different Schedules

Beekeepers can roughly be classified into three groups: hobbyists, sideliners, and commercial beekeepers. Each type of beekeeper requires a different amount of time commitment.

As a hobbyist beekeeper, I keep bees without the purpose of making a profit. I barely calculate any of my expenses and income. I just try to report a big fat ZERO to myself by the end of the season.

How much Time Beekeeping takes for Hobbyists

Typically, hobbyist beekeepers such as myself tend to maintain around 10 colonies. Currently, my dad and I jointly manage 6 hives. They are located at two separate spots. This arrangement appears to be ideal for us. You will need to discover your own preferred setup.

We don`t want to make any money from our efforts. If we can cover our seasonal expenses, we`re happy.

How much Time Beekeeping takes for Sideliners

Sideliners have more colonies than hobbyists, but still, keep bees as a sideline business. They dedicate a considerable amount of time to beekeeping. But it is not their main source of income.

How much Time does Beekeeping takes for Professionals

Finally, commercial beekeepers keep hundreds or thousands of colonies and make a living from selling honey, beeswax, and other bee-related products.

How much Time Beekeeping takes me personally

During the beekeeping season, I inspect my hives once a week to ensure the health of my colonies. I also monitor for pests and diseases and address them promptly if needed.

I`d say that overall, my dad and me take 30 minutes per colony per week for inspections. This is during the season from about February to end of October. That adds up to about 18 to 20 hours a season per colony.

This does not include tasks such as attending beekeeping meetings, helping other beekeepers, collecting bee swarms, harvesting honey, hauling materials around, working with leftover wax, cleaning equipment. I could add more. There´s A LOT of tasks to take care of when you are beekeeping.

Seasonal Time Commitment

During the spring and summer months, I will spend the most time on my hives. This is when the bees are most active and require more attention. I will need to check on your hives more frequently to ensure that they are healthy and producing honey. If I want to harvest honey, I also need to make sure that the hives don´t swarm on me.

How much time beekeeping takes me decreases in fall and winter. The bees are less active during this time. However, I will still need to make sure that my hives have enough food to last through the winter. There´s treatments against the nasty Varroa mites to be done, too.

The Tasks all Beekeepers must take Care of

Let me go a bit more in depth with the different task I take care of during the year. Again this is only for the work directly on the bee hives. Personally, I distinguish between weekly and seasonal tasks. This is only a very basic list. I will definitely forget some of the tasks. Feel free to come up with any input if you`re missing anything.

Weekly Tasks

Weekly tasks are important to ensure the health and productivity of my bees. These tasks include:

  • Inspecting the hive entrance for any signs of abnormal activity
  • Observing the behaviour of the bees to ensure they are healthy and active
  • Inspecting the hive for any damage or disease
  • Monitoring the food supply and adding more if necessary

Seasonal Tasks

Seasonal tasks are crucial for maintaining a healthy and productive hive. These tasks include:

Spring– Inspecting the hive for any damage or disease
– Checking if the colonies are starting off well into the season
– Checking for swarming behaviour
– Checking on the queen bees
– Removing empty honey frames  
Summer– Monitoring the honey production
– Adding supers if necessary
– Adding, removing, and replacing frames
– Checking for swarming behaviour
– Splitting hives if they become too overcrowded
– Inspecting the hive for pests and diseases
– Summer Varroa mite treatment
Fall– Harvesting honey (hopefully)
– Feeding and preparing the bees for winter
– Inspecting the hive for any damage or disease
Winter– Insulating the hive for warmth if necessary
– Providing supplemental feeding if necessary
– Monitoring the hive for any signs of distress, damage, or disease
– Winter Varroa mite treatment

As I said above, those are by far not all the tasks you will take care of during your beekeeping season.

Regular maintenance is also important. This includes:

  • Inspecting the hive frames for any signs of disease or damage
  • Maintaining and replacing equipment as needed

It requires a significant time commitment, especially during the peak seasons. You`ll need proper planning and management, especially with many hives.

Honey Production takes Time, too!

How much time beekeeping takes does not only depend on the work on your beehives. Harvesting precious honey can also be a significant time investment. It´s one of the most exciting parts of beekeeping. How cool is it when you can reap the harvest of months of work? It´s a very special moment for me every time when the honey starts flowing.

How much time does the Honey Harvest take?

Once the honey is ready for the honey harvest, it is important to remove the honeycombs from the hive carefully. The honeycombs are then extracted using a honey extractor, which spins the honey out of the comb.

The extracted honey is then strained to remove any impurities and bottled for consumption. For me personally, for six hives, I calculate 1-2 two days for the honey harvest. And I have only 6 hives. You do the math.

There you have it

In the end, all the time I invest is nothing compared to the amount of work that my bees put in. It typically takes around 4-6 months and tens of thousands of foraging flights for the bees to produce enough honey for harvesting. The time it takes for honey production can vary depending on factors such as the size of the hive, the type of bees, and the availability of nectar. In the end it is the bees that do all the heavy lifting, not me.

Beekeeping demands patience and commitment. It is not a hobby for restless souls. The bees operate on their own schedule. As a beekeeper, you must synchronize your time with theirs. Believe me, it´s worth it.