The Lighter Side of Beekeeping: How Much Does an Empty Beehive Weigh?

The Lighter Side of Beekeeping: How Much Does an Empty Beehive Weigh

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When you are taking care of bees, it’s really important to weigh your hive as this is a good indicator of how healthy your colony is. What’s more, knowing the weight of the hive will tell you how much honey is stored once you account for the weight of the bees and the hive itself. But if you didn’t weigh the hive before you set it up, how do you know how much an empty beehive weighs?

The Langstroth hive is the most popular in North America and an empty hive typically weighs around 80 lbs, assuming that it has two deep boxes. On the other hand, a Langstroth hive with three medium boxes may weigh less at around 60 lbs.

But there are variations on this. For example, if you are using a horizontal Langstroth hive then this may be much heavier when empty. Each frame in one of these hives can weigh 7 lbs so assuming there are 20, this could mean the hive weighs 150 lbs in total. Once the hive is filled, it could get as heavy as 350 lbs.

Why Weighing Your Hive Is Important

If you’re going to be successful at beekeeping then you need to make sure your colony is healthy and well-maintained. However, opening the hive and interfering with the bees isn’t always the best way to do this, especially in colder weather. But weighing your hive means you can keep tabs on your bees in the least intrusive way possible.

If you open the hive then this naturally upsets the bees. The more you do it, the more stressed the bees will become. Imagine someone opening up your home on a daily basis and it’s not hard to see why they don’t like it. To avoid having to take out individual frames every day, weighing is a much better option for you as the keeper and for your bees.

Weighing the hive is a great way to get an idea of how much honey is inside. You can also use the weight to determine the number of bees in the colony. This is essential because you’ll need to know how much honey the colony has for winter. Since bees cannot fly or forage during the colder months, having a viable store of honey is vital. The longer and harsher the winter, the more honey your bees will need to survive.

When To Weigh Your Hive

This is why I like to make a point of weighing the hive during the fall to make sure I’ve got a good idea of how much honey is in there. If there isn’t enough to get them through the winter then I’ll know that I need to provide them with sugar syrup.

That said, fall isn’t the only time of the year that I’d encourage you to weigh your hive. When there’s a good honey flow, you might want to check the weight a few times a week just to keep an eye on what’s being produced. Another great time to weigh your hive is after the colony has swarmed as this will give you an indication of how many bees were lost.

If you consider that a pound of bees usually contains around 3000 individuals, you can work things out pretty easily.

What’s more, there’s something that always amazes me when it comes to bees and that’s that a single female worker might only produce around 1/12 of a tablespoon of honey throughout her entire life. Seeing how much honey my colony produces really gives me an insight into how hard it works and a greater respect for nature.

Weighing a brand-new hive provides a baseline weight before bees colonize it

Another good idea is to weigh your hive when it is brand new and empty. This will then help to give you a baseline figure before bees colonize the hive and begin producing honey.

How To Weigh Your Hive

It’s all well and good me telling you to weigh your hive and why this is so important. But the question still remains; how do you weigh a beehive? There are a couple of options that most hobbyists go for which I’ll discuss below. However, there are some more high-tech methods that are used commercially and for those that are more serious about beekeeping. For now, let’s keep it simple.

Tilting The Hive

Sometimes, a hive can weigh a few hundred pounds so lifting it can be incredibly difficult which is why tilting is one of the most commonly used methods. For apiarists that want to measure the amount of honey in the hive, tilting at one side can give you a good indication and saves a lot of time and effort.

To do this method, you’re going to need a heavy-duty bathroom scale; it’ll need to be a spring type. You’ll have to measure one side of the hive at a time by tilting it and placing the scale underneath. When you’re done, move on to the opposite side and add the two weights which will give you the total weight of the entire hive.

Some people prefer to use a luggage scale and tilt the hive from the top. The idea is the same in that you’ll weigh each side separately and then add the two amounts together to get the total. However, with this method, you need to make sure that all of the hive boxes are secure before lifting the structure.

It is important to remember that there may be some discrepancies where accuracy is concerned. But unless you’re running a business, these will be minor and won’t affect anything so it’s OK to go by this measurement.

Lifting The Hive

There may be times when you need to take a more accurate weight measurement and in this case, I would recommend lifting the hive. However, you have to actually be able to lift the whole hive in order to be able to do this. When considering this, I’d suggest thinking about how many boxes there are, the number of bees inside, the honey, the comb and anything else that might contribute to the weight.

At this point, if you are still confident that you’ll be able to lift the whole hive onto a bathroom scale then you can use this method. You must ensure that you have a strong strap to attach to the hive which you can then use to lift it onto your scale.

Of course, you could weigh each box individually which will be a lot easier than trying to lift the whole hive. However, it will be much more time-consuming and you have to consider that this will disturb the bees who won’t be very happy about this.

What Should My Hive Weigh?

So, you’ve weighed your hive and you know how heavy it is. What now? It really depends on when you’re taking the measurement. If it’s during a honey flow then you don’t need to do anything other than be aware of the progress your bees are making. If you want to monitor this then you’ll need to take another reading in a few days’ time.

But if you’ve taken the weight in the fall then you’re obviously keen to figure out how well the bees are going to do over winter so you may need to take further action.

A lot of what you do next depends on where you are located. If winter in your area gets very cold and lasts a long time then your colony is going to need a much more significant honey store, up to 80 or 90 lbs, in order to survive. However, if the winters where you are are pretty mild then your colony may only need 40 to 50 lbs of honey. That said, the more you can leave for them, the better.

So, this leads us to the question of how much your hive should weigh. That very much depends on the type of hive, how many bees are in there, and the comb. Generally speaking, this is what you should expect.

Shallow 10-frame super40 lbs
Medium SuperUp to 50 lbs
Deep superBetween 70 and 90 lbs
Deep hive with brood, honey and bees80 lbs

Compare Popular Bee Hives

Final Thoughts

Weighing your hive is an important part of caring for bees as it tells you how much honey your colony has produced as well as giving you a rough idea of the size of the colony. When the hive is empty, it’ll typically weigh around 80 lbs but this really depends on the type of hive and how it’s made up.