• Post Reply
  • Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic

Why do we raise our hives 3 feet off the ground in Permaculture

 
Alex Ojeda
gardener
Posts: 318
33
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I know that in permaculture, we raise the bee hives 3 feet off the ground in some cases. Why is this? Doesn't this make it hard to work with the boxes?
 
R Scott
Posts: 3305
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
32
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
It beats having to mow around them.
 
tel jetson
steward
Posts: 3356
Location: woodland, washington
75
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
three feet is nice, but not necessary. I generally recommend at least 18", which gets the hive entrance up out of ground level moisture and most splashing. sort of like a stem wall gets wood-framed walls away from moisture. that helps the hive last a lot longer and makes it easier for the bees to maintain the humidity they like and evaporate excess moisture. higher than 18" can be a little bit better, but that first 18" is where the big improvement is. most of my hives are 24" up, and the platform for my bee shed is 30" up.

raising the hive also makes keeping the entrance clear of brush a lot easier and less disruptive and prevents snow from piling up and blocking the entrance in the winter. mice have a little bit harder time getting in and causing problems. skunks or other mammals that might want to eat bees have to stand up to reach the hive, which exposes their bellies to stinging.

does it make handling boxes difficult? if it were a vertical hive on a three-foot stand, yeah, that could make things a bit more difficult. but most hive manipulations are unnecessary and even counterproductive, so getting in there a lot isn't a good idea anyway. having the hive up higher actually makes peeking into a box to check if it's ready to harvest a lot easier. it potentially makes removing boxes easier, as well. lifting the stack up to add new boxes underneath is also a little bit easier if the hive is raised up a bit.

if it's a horizontal hive, there aren't any boxes to handle anyhow, so that's not an issue. raising a horizontal hive up means less crouching to handle top bars, which is nice.

if it's a Langstroth or other frame hive and weekly inspections are part of the program, well... maybe stick with the 18" and things shouldn't be too uncomfortable.
 
Alex Ojeda
gardener
Posts: 318
33
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thanks for that explanation. Sounds like you've done some bees! We don't have snow here in Florida (at least snow that gets higher than 1"), but the moisture thing is a definite must! We get a lot of rain.
 
tel jetson
steward
Posts: 3356
Location: woodland, washington
75
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Alex Ojeda wrote:We don't have snow here in Florida (at least snow that gets higher than 1"), but the moisture thing is a definite must! We get a lot of rain.


you'll probably hear beeks say, "all beekeeping is local," at some point. it's true. having never kept bees further than 20 miles from where I sit typing this, I can't speak to your climate from experience. I would guess that the humidity is pretty high, though. where I'm at, I like to provide some sort of windbreak for hives. I would guess that some breeze would be beneficial in Florida, though, to help carry some of the moisture from drying nectar away and increase the efficiency of the bees' evaporative cooling.

I'm sure we could think up some contraptions to passively increase airflow through a bee shelter, but that might be taking things a bit far.
 
Alex Ojeda
gardener
Posts: 318
33
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
We definitely have some serious breezes. As a matter of fact, were heading into hurricane season! I'm going to build a bee hut and plan to put some kind of high speed wind buffer in. Berms sound good. Maybe perennial plantings along with it.
 
tel jetson
steward
Posts: 3356
Location: woodland, washington
75
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Alex Ojeda wrote:We definitely have some serious breezes.


I didn't even think of hurricanes. some protection is definitely in order. that should probably inform the style of hive you choose, too. if you go with a potentially tall hive, be sure to take precautions to keep it from being blown over. never happened to me, but friends nearby have learned the hard way.
 
Alex Ojeda
gardener
Posts: 318
33
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I'm thinking tie down straps in the bee hut. I love these bees. If wind blew them down that would e close to devastating. I'll get that squared away ASAP.
 
tel jetson
steward
Posts: 3356
Location: woodland, washington
75
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
what sort of hive? if it's vertical, stapling boxes to each other can prevent them from blowing apart if things get real violent. ratchet straps are also effective.
 
Alex Ojeda
gardener
Posts: 318
33
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Ratchet straps are tied down straps. That sounds like sound logic.

I think that staples might be in order too. Thanks for that info. I'll look into it.

Then there's wind blowing water up into the hive. Maybe I'll make the bee hut fully enclosable with just a small hole for them to get out once the winds stop. I'm not sure if that will work, but you gotta try!
 
Creighton Samuiels
Posts: 174
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
In my own area, it's a good idea to raise any hive somewhat, just to keep the rodents out of the hive. If they can get in, some mouse or something will make a corner of the hive a deep winter hideaway; because the bee ball can't really move to engage the invader under 50 degrees F., because they can't fly and will go into a coma of sorts if they're body temp drops below about 40 degrees, which can happen if they attempt to leave the bee ball and crawl over to the invaders. They will also steal honeycomb, if there is any far enough away from the bee ball that the rodent is willing to risk it. Generally, a nail across the main entrence will prevent adult mice from getting inside anyway, but that won't prevent a baby mouse from getting in; but he's screwed once he's too big to get out, because he's dead the first warm day comes by. He's a pincusion the first time that the temp inside the hive hits 55 degrees. We generally only find out about the invader in the spring, by finding the corpse.
 
David Williams
Posts: 133
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I live in Australia , we have many commercial bee producers , the vertical box hives are stacked on wooden pallets , they have a tie-down strap on each that holds them to the pallet , with 4 hives on each pallet, the pallet height is about 6 inches before the bottom of the bee box , on all site , good bee keepers have a berm around the perimeter that allows strong winds to whip over the top of the boxes without disturbing the bees and is placed on a crushed gravel bed , we use diatomatious earth (DE) in cut up for sale signs "twin wall" and blocked with fat... the floor of all hives have a slope that makes all dead insects and water run out or easy for bees to clean, in winter the hive size is reduced so the bee ball is large and fills the bottom box , we don't get too many hive insects using this method , hive beetle is kept down due to the gravel and DE , hive grubs (moth) and mice or spiders are maintained by the bee ball , even in winter (max -7 deg C), we don't get snow here , just the odd heavy frost... after checking maybe 3-5000 hives over several years i have only seen one mouse , a few beetles , and a handful of moths (usually in vacant boxes)... for every bee we have lost to natural predication or displacement , we have lost many thousands to chemical sprays something height wont change ... Australia being so arid , we try and keep the bees roughly 100m from a stock water area ,and under tree shade this helps stabilize humidity , and allows for close access to water .... our hives can be 4 boxes tall , so we have those closest to the middle of the area , shorter ones to the outside near the berms , this makes for a good contour for wind to follow and stops any one surface talking all the wind force ...

This system works here , not saying in all locations , but preparation of the site before installing the bees is where you'll get your biggest wins..... GL
In spring we do a lot of hive manipulation just out of winter, the height of this means the 4th box is chest height and the lowest box is a comfortable kneeling height.... large scale bee keeping is hard heavy and hot work ... but one of the most rewarding i have ever done
 
tel jetson
steward
Posts: 3356
Location: woodland, washington
75
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
David Williams wrote:
This system works here , not saying in all locations , but preparation of the site before installing the bees is where you'll get your biggest wins..... GL


this is a good point. around here, we try to avoid excess moisture in the hives, so raising them up substantially makes sense. in an arid climate, doing anything that would reduce moisture probably isn't such a hot idea.

all beekeeping is local.
 
Nicholas Mason
Posts: 91
Location: Colton Or
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
On my langstroth hives I use a top entrance. This seems to do a pretty good job, and the hives themselves are only a cinder block width about the ground. I actually have not heard of raising a bee hive three feet about the ground. Seems like it would be hard to get into and harvest and such.
 
tel jetson
steward
Posts: 3356
Location: woodland, washington
75
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Nicholas Mason wrote:Seems like it would be hard to get into


some folks might consider that a positive feature.
 
Nicholas Mason
Posts: 91
Location: Colton Or
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
True some might. But I believe there is a happy medium in between those that are in their hive every day, and those that are never in their hive. I also like to harvest honey sometimes.
 
Ernie Schmidt
Posts: 81
Location: Olympia, Washington
6
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
honey bees are not ground dwellers by nature. Usually hollow tree cavities and many times very, very high off the ground, has been their choice of habitat for millions of years. Keeping bees at ground level is a man-made adaptation applied to the bees for mankind’s convenience and safety. See this link for tribesmen that risk death to harvest wild bee honey. Not for us who are scared of heights.
http://dsc.discovery.com/tv-shows/human-planet/videos/deleted-scenes.htm
Given the choice, bees will choose cavities well off the ground. Bees naturally want to live off the ground. Swarm traps placed 9 to 15 feet off the ground will be chosen overwhelmingly compared to the exact same swarm trap placed on or near the ground. But height and safety is a balancing act. Many aspects of beekeeping is a delicate dance between the keeper and the bees. Emile Warre was one who understood the bee/beekeeper balance when developing his hive and method. I think an important aspect of permaculture or biodynamic methods, also, is to understand and provide a balance for what the bees need and want, and what is safe and convenient for the beekeeper. Within reason of course, falling from heights and hurting one's self while checking a hive will take the fun out of bee keeping real quick. As we can see from these posts, some level height off the ground helps keep pests and moisture out of the hives. Even in arid areas of the world there are pests such as the hive beetle that invade the hives after pupating in the soil around the hives so height doesn’t hurt there either. The bottom line I guess is to keep the hive as high off the ground as comfortable for the keeper, understanding that height is healthy for the bees.
 
Jean-Jacques Maury
Posts: 18
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
3 ft off the ground; I don't know how people come up with such ideas? Might as well put them on your roof...Seriously, do you have a good chiropractor?
 
patrick canidae
Posts: 74
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Ernie Schmidt wrote:Honey bees are not ground dwellers by nature. Usually hollow tree cavities and many times very, very high off the ground, has been their choice of habitat for millions of years. Keeping bees at ground level is a man-made adaptation applied to the bees for mankind’s convenience and safety.


Bees do what bees do.

I have a wild hive that is at least 8 years old and throws swarms every year that I have been aware of it that is in the bottom of a black walnut. The entry is through a disconnected root/base of trunk where lightning exited after a strike and blew it out. Hole is less than an inch. Bees often land on the ground or grass and then make their entrance.

I have another hive in a piece of dead farm equipment. The entry is through a piece of 2" box tube that goes into a long horizontal cavity that is well shaded by sheet metal. The tube opening is about 8" off the ground. The weed eater and I were equally surprised during our very brief attempt at vegetation reduction.
 
jacob wustner
Posts: 64
Location: Western Montana
13
bee chicken fish goat hugelkultur hunting
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
The beekeeper I learned from who keeps bees in Missoula, MT, winters all of his hives on the ground. The only thing between the hive bottom board (langstroth hives) and the ground was a "pack board" which all of the wintering hives set on, side by side, for winter. They were just long 1x4s that were old and rotting. He made sure that all of the bottom cleats of the hives sat on the wood boards and not directly on the earth. I was thinking about raising my hives off of the ground more, but then another local beekeeper told me that the beekeeper in his area who wintered his hives on the ground, his hives had better survival rates than those who had their hives raised up off the ground. So I started thinking there might be something to it.

We have a very dry climate, even in winter. And if it does snow, the snow sits on top of a tar paper and straw cap that covers the entire "pack" of colonies in the yard. Mice are not really a problem if you upkeep good equipment with small entrances that they cant crawl through. They may chew their way in, but what are you gunna do about a mouse chewing their way into your hive! I guess raise it up off of the ground, they might not get in. But that is only if you use steel posts or something similar that they cant crawl up. And when the snow does get deep, remember mice can get on top of it. We don't have hive beetles, so that isn't a worry. So maybe in certain places with hot dry summers and cold bitter winters, the ground may be the way to go. I'm not sure about this though. Does anyone else have stories about hives doing better on the ground than up in the air a bit? I am curious to know.
  • Post Reply
  • Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic