Many new beekeepers are uncertain of the best beehive stand height. Do you wonder if you should put your beehives on a hive stand or whether they can simply be placed on the ground? In most cases, a beehive should be on a stand, so the next question is how high your beehive should be above the ground.
Most beekeepers agree the common standard height that a beehive should be above the ground is 18-inches. This height is good for the beekeeper to work on the hives and the protection of the hive. There are local conditions that allow for a lower height or require increased hive height.
There are many reasons a beehive should be on a stand: some reasons are beneficial to the beekeeper, and some benefit the bees. The common consensus is not always the best option regarding how high the beehive should be above the ground.
What Is The Right Beehive Stand Height?
The majority of beekeepers will place their beehives on a stand. When a beekeeper does not use a beehive stand is generally the exception rather than the rule.
The reason to use a hive stand is twofold:
- to protect the bees
- and to make working on the hive easier for the beekeeper
The generally accepted standard for a good height for the beehive to be above the ground is 18-inches. This height value is a combination of a height that is good for protecting the bees, the hive, and the beekeeper’s convenience while working on the hive.
We will take a look at each of these factors that affect hive height, and we will also cover circumstances where the 18-inch standard may not be enough, and you may consider increasing the height for your hives.
5 Reasons To Raise Your Beehives Above Ground
1. Convenience for the beekeeper
As the hive expands and the bees produce honey, the beekeeper must add honey supers to the hive to cater to this increased production. The bees need more space to store the honey during strong nectar flows.
With each layer that the beekeeper adds to the hive, it increases the height of the hive. The extra layers can quickly get to the shoulder height of the average beekeeper. This height makes it difficult to do inspections on the hive and when harvesting honey.
When a honey super is full of honey and comb, it can weigh between 30 to 40-pounds each. Lifting heavy weights like this at almost head height can be difficult and can lead to injury.
2. The height provides safety for the bees
Another aspect regarding the height of the hive above the ground relates to safety for the bees. There are many pests and predators that can invade the hive or kill the bees if the hive is situated too close to the ground.
A hive on the ground is more susceptible to invasion by other insects such as ants, beetles, and other troublesome insects. If these insect invaders become overwhelming, the bees will abandon the hive and find a new home.
Predators like skunks will hang around in front of a beehive to catch bees as they exit or return to the hive. They then rub the bees on the ground to kill them and then feast on your bees. The best way to combat these little predators is to elevate the hive off the ground.
Rats and mice will also raid the hive in search of a quick meal and even nest in the hive, which could cause your bees to leave. If the hive is elevated, the rodents feel exposed climbing up to the hive, discouraging them from entering the hive.
Bears can be another predator problem, but hive height will not be a deterrent for these beasts! The only way to protect against bears raiding your beehives is to surround your apiary site with an electrified fence to deter the bears from entering the site.
3. A hive stand gives a clear flight path for the bees
Placing the bees above ground level gives the bees a clear flight path to and from the beehive entrance.
With the elevated position, weeds and grass will not obstruct the hive entrance and limit the ease with which the bees can go about their business when heading out or returning from foraging.
This gives the bees an unobstructed flight path to and from the hive, which increases their efficiency and productivity. It also helps prevent other insects from climbing grass and weeds to access the hive and become a pest to the bees.
4. Height helps with humidity management in the hive
Bees like a warm, dry environment in the hive and work hard to maintain the internal environmental conditions to raise their young.
If the hive is too close to the ground, the moisture content inside the hive can increase, affecting the internal environment of the hive. The wood of the hive will absorb moisture at ground level, and the moisture will transfer through the wood fibers into the hive, affecting the humidity.
This can lead to mold development inside the hive and make the internal environment untenable for the bees.
Periodic flooding from rainwater can also be a potential problem for the hive. Heavy rainstorms can result in the temporary surface flow of water several inches deep. If the hive is too close to the ground, water can flood the hive, causing problems for the bees and the hive’s structure.
Related: How to waterproof a beehive?
5. Elevation protects the wood hive
Beekeeping equipment is expensive, including the beehives themselves. To make your beekeeping venture cost-effective, you need to take steps to ensure your equipment lasts as long as possible.
Most beehives are made from wood, which makes the hives susceptible to deterioration when exposed to elements that can cause damage to the wood.
Hives too close to the ground can become wet from dew, absorb humidity from the ground, or even become soaked from groundwater during rainstorms.
The wood will start to rot if it cannot dry out because it is constantly exposed to a damp environment. This will affect the longevity of the hive and result in the hive falling apart prematurely.
The elevation of the hives also prevents the hives from being eaten by termites, which can destroy a hive baseboard in a few short weeks, causing the collapse of the hive.
Why Is 18-Inches the Recommended Beehive Height?
The commonly accepted ideal height for a beehive is 18-inches off the ground. After years of experimentation, this height is the best compromise between safety for the bees, the equipment, and convenience for the beekeeper working on the hive.
The standard of 18-inches above the ground is not a rule cast in stone but merely a convention that beekeepers found to work in most circumstances. The key phrase here is “most circumstances.”
The 18-inch height is ideal in the US because it discourages the skunks and other rodents from raiding the hive. In other locations, such as Africa, the problems are different, requiring different heights for the beehives.
Africa has to contend with the highly intelligent and resourceful Honey Badger! This creature looks like a skunk, only much larger and with large claws. These creatures can demolish an apiary site, destroying the hives by clawing them open to get at the honey and bee larvae. As a result, the recommended hive height is about 3-feet in areas where the honey badger is found.
This height makes it harder for the beekeeper to work on the hive, but the alternative is to have your hives destroyed by marauding Honey Badgers!
This example serves to indicate that the hive height may need to be adjusted according to your local conditions and local threats to the wellbeing of your beehives.
Dangers of a beehive being too high off the ground
There are limitations for a beehive being too low, but there are implications if a hive is elevated too high off the ground.
As we have mentioned, beehives become very heavy when they are loaded with supers full of honey. This makes the beehives top-heavy, increasing the risk of the hive toppling over if it is elevated too much.
A hive that is too high off the ground can be exposed to too much wind, affecting the hive’s internal environment and increasing the risk of the hive being blown over by strong winds.
A hive that is too high off the ground becomes difficult for a beekeeper to perform maintenance on the hives and harvest the honey. Wrestling a honey-filled super from an elevated position is not an easy task, especially if you have 10, 20, or more hives to attend to.
Can your beehive be less than 18-inches off the ground?
As we have discussed previously, 18-inches is a recommendation and not a rule. Many beekeepers who reside in areas with very few dangers from wildlife or pests do not stick to the 18-inch recommendation.
If the location of your apiary is in an area that is not prone to flooding in rainstorms and does not have long grass or weeds, and the ground is not very moist, you can keep your beehives lower to the ground.
Some beekeepers have their hives elevated to between 6 and 10-inches above the ground. If your local conditions are conducive to a lower height and make it easier for you as the beekeeper, there is nothing wrong with opting for a lower height for your beehives.
What Should Your BeeHive Stand Be Made From?
Many different objects can be used as hive stands or make your own stands from various materials. The type of material used for the stand will be determined by the height that you need for your beehive.
There are some practical aspects you should bear in mind when selecting a hive stand for your bees.
- Stability – The stand must be stable, with no likelihood of the stand tipping over.
- Able to support heavy weights – Beehives become very heavy. The material and structure of the stand must be strong enough to support at least 200-pounds, particularly if more than one hive will be on the stand.
- Weather-resistant – Stands should either be treated for the outdoor environment or made from a material that can withstand remaining outdoors year-round.
Here are some suggestions for beehive stands that you can consider.
- Bricks stacked two high on each corner of the hive do a good job of elevating the hive a small distance from the ground. Do not use loose bricks for higher stands, as they become unstable when stacked higher.
- Wood pallets make good beehive stands in the 6 to 10-inch high range. They are flat, stable and you can normally fit more than one beehive on a pallet.
- Cinder blocks make for a stable platform if you want to raise your hive higher than a few bricks.
- Old car tires in a single layer or stacked on top of one another also make for a good beehive stand.
These are ready-made items that you can repurpose to use as beehive stands, but with a little ingenuity, you can make some beehive stands as DIY projects for particular needs.
- Steel stands – If you have a welding machine, it is quite easy to manufacture some hive stands to the exact height that you need.
- PVC piping hive stands – In areas where moisture or groundwater is a problem, you can build hive stands from PVC piping and appropriate corner pieces to build a water and weather-proof stand. Painting the stand will help to protect the stand from sun damage. A minimum pipe diameter of 2-inches would be necessary to be strong enough.
- Wood stands – Stands made of gum poles or old fence posts work well as weather-proof timber hive stands. You may have to sink the vertical posts into the ground for added stability for this type of hive stand.
If DIY projects are not a prospect that fills you with enthusiasm, you can purchase commercially made hive stands for your bees. These stands are usually made from steel and follow the general standard of 18-ich high stands.
Commercial stands can be expensive and do not offer the flexibility to make the hive stand exactly the height you need for your apiary site. Most beekeepers who have been keeping bees for a long time don’t bother with commercial stands but repurpose items and stands or make their own.
While there are no set restrictions for the height of a beehive stand, as a new beekeeper, you should stick with the 18-inch height until you have established a preference of your own.
Once you have been a beekeeper for a while, you will learn to evaluate a site to determine the best hive height for that area. Older beekeepers generally have hives at different heights on different apiary sites, depending on the local requirements.
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