How Many Bee Hives Is Too Many?

This 1925 film of the Bijenmarkt (Bee Market) Veenendaal, Holland reminded me of a question I often hear: "How many bee hives should I have?". If we take a bee centred view I have various answers:  

  • 1 to 3 hives per 1 km2 - This is a natural distribution, and one that reduces the incidence of disease transfer between hives
  • Less than 10 - As an end of term project, an engineering professor asked his students to make 10 copies of their last project. The students quickly learned that a simple 15 minute processes for a one-off widget soon became impractical for their short assignment. At 10, their widgets turned from crafted items into manufacturing problems.
  • No more than you can individually care for - Some people have really big hearts and love and care for each of their hives, and some should not look after any hives. Keep only the number of hives you can truly care for on an individual basis. Each hive and beekeeper is unique.
Roughness and disregard for bees often comes from honey-money beekeepers.  The ultimate rough handling symbol is the fork lift truck used in migration beekeeping.

While I find the Bijenmarkt film fascinating, it also reminds me how easily we see without seeing.


Greer Watson said...


My neighbor has at least 3 very large hives in a small domestic house block.
Initially I loved having the extra bees around, especially with the bumper fruit and vegie crops we were getting. However i have noticed that as he adds more hives (and doesn't manage them spectacularly well i.e we have had several swarms) the number of bees is actually getting out of control.

My dogs can't drink from their water bowl without there being several bees there all the time. And currently my Jackaranda is flowering as such i have 100's and 100's of bee everywhere. The issue is they are literally everywhere, in every room of my house and i can not walk barefoot anywhere without the risk of standing on them.

My question: Can you have too many bees in a small space? Are there any issues with having too many bees per km? (other the infection risk as you mentioned)

Jonathan said...

Just reading the problems you are facing then I would say you have too many bees located near you. Does he know the problems he is causing? You sound like you would accept a reasonable amount of bees.

Note, that just one hive given the right conditions and race can swarm multiple times (I had one that did 5 swarms), but there are things he can do to help:

1. Set up bait boxes to attract his swarms away from you.
2. Create watering holes for his bees in his yard... they may not reset however, because once they find a source they stick to it and you may need to cover your source for at least 5 days to help them reset.
3. Crawling bees never sounds good ... perhaps they have deformed wing virus, or maybe they have just died in your house, not being able to get out.
4. Give the bees plenty of empty hive space to reduce the chance of swarming. Unfortunately modern beekeeping practices can induce swarming if they are not properly managed (restricted brood space, too much interference, small hives).
6. He could create a swarm post in his yard with queen pheromone on it to keep swarms in his yard.

I would ask your neighbour if he can do anything and maybe he does not know the problem he is causing ? Perhaps he is also feeling he has too many and needs someone to take some hives? In a good year things can get out of hand.

I could think of ways to make your pond less attractive to bees, but it sounds like the problem is too many bees.

If all the hives are strong, lack of forage does not sound like a problem. I hope he gives you some honey.

Greer Watson said...

Thanks Jonathan. Yes he does give us some honey (and its delicious). I am completely fine with some bees, i know how important they are to the ecosystem. Thank you for confirming my suspicion that there may be too many bees/hives in one spot. I will have a chat with him

add to any