How Much per Pound?

A few miscellaneous thoughts. 

I have wondered often how to place a value on a one pound jar of honey. Consider the following.

Worker bees are foragers for the last two weeks of their lives, and let’s presume that half of that is collecting nectar, the other half pollen.  So working 8 hours a day for 7 days is a 56 hour week.

If we had to pay each bee minimum wage, a week’s work would cost $7.25 x 56  = $392.00

We know it takes 12 bees to collect sufficient nectar to make one teaspoon of honey.  So  $392 x 12 means that, using minimum wage as a measure, a teaspoon of honey costs $4704.

It takes 50 teaspoons to fill a one pound jar (yes, I counted) so the cost of a jar of honey is $235 200 ... and that is for the nectar collection only. 

I have no idea how to calculate the amount of time spent on reducing the moisture content of the stored nectar, nor for producing the wax and capping each cell.  Yet it is safe to say that, at these rates, we would be paying the bees in excess of $500 000 for each one pound jar of honey.

$10.00 a pound is a bargain!

A different calculation.  If a worker bee spends two weeks as a forager and averages 30 flights a day averaging one mile from the hive, the total distance she will fly is  840 miles, which is a little further than the distance from  Pittsburgh to Wichita, KS,  or from Philadelphia to Tallahassee, FL.  And the and result of all that flying,  besides the pollination that she does, is enough nectar to make one twelfth of a teaspoon of honey. 

So IF one honey bee could collect enough nectar to make the teaspoon of honey that I put in my tea every morning, she would have to fly 5040 miles, which if she went east would take her to Madrid, Spain, and if she went west, almost to Hawaii. 

On a different note two inexplicable things happened to me on  September 30th.    Two weeks earlier myself and a nu-bee had gone through a hive that had been established in May with a marked queen of local, survivor origin and who we had often seen in the intervening four months. On that day, September 16, the hive seemed weak and dwindling and confined to two medium boxes.  We could not find the marked queen but we did find a newly mated, active queen, there were no signs of any recently occupied queen cells and no drones.   The advice was to feed heavily, keep fingers crossed and check again in two weeks. 

Fast forward to the morning of September 30, the hive is vibrant, active and growing fast ... and there was our marked queen!  No sign this time of the new and mated queen.  What happened?  We can only assume that we missed the marked queen first time round, that she had dealt with the new queen and that this had somehow spurred her to rapidly increase her egg laying.  

But where had that second queen come from in the first place?  The absence of queen cells suggests she did not come from this particular hive.

On that same afternoon I received a call from a lady who said, with some distress, that there was a swarm of bees on her clothes line.  Yes, she assured me, they are honey bees, they had been there for at least 24 hours and the swarm was bigger than her fist.   Because she was close by and because I wanted to be a knight in shining armor, I rode my white steed to her property.  

There was the smallest swarm I have every seen - literally it would have fit within an egg cup.  I counted the number of bees - 52.  And with the swarm was an unmated, immature queen.  

Clearly the bees had no chances of surviving and the lady asked me to at least remove  them, which I did using a cupped hand.  

My question is why, on the last day of September, did such a small number of bees cluster on a clothes line, out in the open, with an immature queen?  We talk of primary and secondary swarms but this must have been some kind of ‘sextenary’ (is there such a word?) swarm. 

The trouble is that nu-bees or damsels in distress want short, clear explanations, and I had none to give.  I still don’t.  Hopefully someone can pull me aside at our annual conference next week and explain what I am missing.




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Latest comments

27.11 | 16:01

Moustache, wax? Of course. Now if all of the drones had mustaches ...

27.11 | 12:43

One of our club members says he got into beekeeping in order to make his own mustache wax. There's the explanation for the bearded/mustached ABF attendees!

13.08 | 05:43

Good morning Mr. Barnes, I'm so pleased to see the best of history teachers is still going strong! Looking at your website brings back some great memories

21.05 | 07:18

Its pleasure to read about Boy Scout here. He plays vital role to serve humanity. I will share after my