Learn beekeeping while you can:

how many beehives do you need to replace sugar WTSHTF?

By Stephanie Rinaldi and Allison Wickham

When you hear the buzzing of bees in springtime, or see a jar of honey on a shelf, do you think of a nice warm cup of tea, or do you think of TEOTWAWKI? If it’s not the second one, keep reading. 

There are so many things to think of when prepping, and we all know that the list of must-haves varies by geographic location. But along with ‘food, shelter, water,’ we might want to start thinking of beehives as a universal must. There are so many reasons to add them to your prepping mindset, but here are just a few:

  1. The bees themselves are superb pollinators. If you’re lucky enough to be growing your own food WTSHTF, you’re going to need them to increase your fruit and vegetable yield.
  2. Honey has a ton of uses, including wound care, cough suppressant, as a sugar/sweetener substitute, allergy relief, and in mead making.
  3. Beeswax has a number of uses as well, including candle making and waterproofing.

Bonus: Because of their versatility, honey and beeswax would both make excellent bartering items.

In this article we are specifically focusing on the sweetener aspect. Did you know the average American consumes 57 lbs of added sugar annually? This number is probably problematic, as health experts recommend no more than 20 Lbs a year for women and children and 30 Lbs for men. Still, important to realize WTSHTF that 100 Lbs of sugar you have stocked is not going to feed you and your family for long… you need a perennial source of sweetener to keep a little joy in life. Enter the honeybee. 

Honey can be used as a substitute for dry sugar in almost every application, and it only takes about half as much honey in recipes. Handy. 

So how many beehives do you need? Like many things in beekeeping – it depends. The average honey yield per hive varies by state based on climate. Example: beehives in Hawaii make honey all year, but beehives in Alaska only have a few months to work. Let’s say you have a family of four living in Colorado: two adults and two kids. You would need about 90 Lbs of dry sugar annually, or 45 Lbs of honey. The average honey yield per hive in Colorado is 41 Lbs. But that’s average, and like with other livestock, things go wrong. Better have a backup. JIC. Oh, and you might as well add a third so you have some in your cache and some to trade to the zombies. If you live in Hawaii, you could get by with fewer hives at 105 Lbs yield, or more in Maine at 30 Lbs.

We’ve included a table below of average pounds of honey per hive by state, remember your target should be at least 45 Lbs annually after your sugar runs out. If you think you’ll harvest honey forage honey from the wild, good luck. If you find a bee tree before the bears do, it’s typically almost impossible to get honey out of the tree without cutting it down, which ruins the perennial sweetener plan.

Beekeeping has been around for centuries, which means you don’t need any hightech equipment to do it. All you need–in addition to protective clothing–is a wooden box, some bees, and some frames (but even the frames are optional). Here’s a quick list of what you should do to get started:

  1. Get the equipment. 

Honeybees can be kept pretty much anywhere. There are beekeepers in cities, in rural areas, in northern latitudes and in southern. Do a bit of quick research into beekeeping in your area to find out what you need or set up a consultation appointment with Siller Pollinator Company to sort it out in a quick phone call. (Contact stephanie@sillerpollinatorcompany.com )

2. Learn the trade.

As with everything else we do to prepare for catastrophe, make sure to learn the trade now so you’ve got what you need when the time comes. A beginner beekeeping class is well worth the money, but you can also learn a lot through free videos and blogs online (beekeepers LOVE to talk about beekeeping). The most important thing to learn is how to perform a thorough hive inspection. When the time comes, your bees may be some of the last, so be sure you know how to keep them healthy. A great place to start learning beekeeping at a low cost is through NectarShare, a program much like an educational CSA for beehives, available nationwide. Nectarshare also comes with wildflower seeds appropriate for your zip code, which will help feed your bees in summer months. You’ll get once monthly educational reports to help you kick off your beekeeping education.

3. Seed prep.

Your bees will pollinate your survival garden, but you might not have enough for them to forage. Cheap cover crops are perfect for this; honeybees love buckwheat, clover, and alfalfa, which all grow relatively easily in poor conditions. The buckwheat could then be harvested and ground into flour for baking, and alfalfa is a great source of vitamin K. Even clover can be eaten as a source of protein and vitamins, though you may want to boil them first for better digestion.

There’s so much more to be said about beekeeping as a preparedness activity, and I’m a beekeeper so I could definitely say more, but hopefully the next time you hear those buzzing bees you’ll give some thought to their role in your prep plans. If you’re lucky enough to live in Virginia, take a beekeeping class with Siller Pollinator Company. If not, reach out to your state beekeeping association for help getting started now, while the infrastructure is there for you. 


  1. How Much Is Too Much? The Growing Concern Over Too Much Added Sugar In Our Diets. Sugar Science. University of California San Francisco. https://sugarscience.ucsf.edu/the-growing-concern-of-overconsumption.html#.Y81DD3bMJD_
  2. Honey. Annual Report. 2021. USDA NASS. ISSN: 1949-1492. https://downloads.usda.library.cornell.edu/usda-esmis/files/hd76s004z/7m01cp956/df65wc389/hony0322.pdf

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