Honeyflow.com | FAQ's | Community |

What's the smallest number of bees you can start a colony from?


I’ve been vaguely wondering about this.

Would it be possible to start a micro colony with say just 12 worker bees and a queen? On a tiny piece of comb in a tiny box? Could those few workers produce sufficient royal jelly to power a queen I wonder? Is there a known minimum (@Michael_Bush :wink: )

I saw these the other day- they seem relatively small compared to a nuc or a package:

They say you need two frames minimum- but those frames are teeny weensy.

I’m not actually thinking about trying to start micro colonies I am just curious.


Hi Jack, I have found that you can start a hive with just one deep lang frame with brood, bees & a queen. I don’t know how you’d go with 12 workers & a queen. That will be something for you to experiment with:)

PS. In that video, “City of Bees”, they claim that a bee could live for 12 months in ideal conditions, however they burn themselves out in a few weeks. With that in mind, you could have something where the bees didn’t have to forage for food or cool or heat the hive. In other words, a controlled environment with as much food as they need on hand, I can see how a colony could build from 12 workers & a queen.


I would like to try it someday Jeff- seems a fun experiment.

As to bee lifespan- with my requeened hive I can say now for sure that many of the bees are at least 6 weeks old already. The majority of bees foraging are still the dark ones and there was no capped brood on 7th may meaning every dark bee was born sometime before that. I expect the dark ones to start disappearing dramatically over the next weeks but it’ll be interesting to see how long some of them live…


The minimum that I’ve had decent luck with is a medium frame of brood and a medium frame of honey and all the adhering bees. That is probably two or three cupfuls of bees. Some of the mini mating nucs people start with a cupful of bees. That’s probably between 100 and 200 bees in a VERY small space. They never really get going though they just get a queen mated. 12 workers and a queen will never get going.