A person managing a number of bee hives often finds the total number of hives holding live bees varies throughout the year. Typically, beekeepers combine colonies into fewer hives in the fall in preparation for winter. Then, in the spring, they make colony divisions from strong surviving colonies to occupy a greater number of hives. Throughout the year, hive numbers may increase or decrease as the beekeeper purchases colonies, captures swarms, or colonies die. There are occasions during the year when it is very useful for the beekeeper to record the number of active hives in the various bee yards. Counting the number of hives in the fall that are prepared for winter and later, in the spring, counting the number of hives surviving the winter gives the beekeeper a measure of over-winter losses. An important measure of honey yield involves counting the number of full-size hives in place during the major nectar flows. To calculate the honey yield per hive, the beekeeper simply divides the number of pounds of harvested honey by the number of full-size hives at nectar-flow time. In the Arkansas Delta, Independence Day, July 4, is a good time to count hives, as this date falls within a major nectar flow of the region’s two major nectar sources, soybeans and cotton.
By measuring the honey yield per hive of different bee yards, the beekeeper can determine which areas are the better producing ones. Yields will often vary widely from year to year as crop plantings are rotated. Bee yards in proximity to soybeans and cotton may produce an abundance of honey in one year; however, if the near-by fields are planted the next year with corn, wheat, rice, or sorghum—crops that produce no nectar—honey yields may be greatly reduced. Bee yards with a history of poor honey production may need to be abandoned for more productive sites. In today’s photo, Arkansas Delta farmers prepare a grain combine equipped with a Honey Bee model header.