If you are primarily a gardener who keeps some bees….

If you are primarily a gardener who keeps some bees, could I ask you opinion?

From a gardener’s perspective, does present-day beekeeping equipment meet your needs?  Is it the right size, the right color, they right style?  Can too many bees be too much of a good thing?  I’ve spoken to many gardening groups and have been told that the common beehive is not always well-suited for the garden environment.  If you agree, what changes do you suggest?

6 thoughts on “If you are primarily a gardener who keeps some bees….

  1. When I started beekeeping this spring, I considered putting a hive in my vegetable garden. Now toward the end of the first season, I am glad I didn’t. I do most of my gardening after work. This is the same time of day my hives seem to graduate bees to foraging duty and they take their orientation flights. When this is going on, there are bees flying wildly in a 5 to 10 foot radius around my hive. This, I think, would prevent me from comfortably working in the garden.

    Another challenge with a Langstroth hive for my garden would be work space. My garden is all raised beds and things are packed in there pretty tightly. I noticed that when I inspect my hives, I take off the top cover, put it on the ground, then put the inner cover on that, etc. In my garden, I would be tripping over equipment during inspections. I am thinking about building a top bar hive to put in there and face it out. Since I could do a hinged cover for it, I wouldn’t be putting as much stuff on the ground; it would pretty much just take up the space it occupies.

    1. Every situation is different. I hope you can find a solution to being both a gardener and a beekeeper and have each endeavor support the other. Thanks for writing.

  2. We’ve moved to a 1/2 acre lot and have enough room in the backyard for both raised beds and bees. We’ve located the bees about 10 yards away from the raised beds, under an old oak tree in the fenced in corner of the yard. Low (3 foot high) metal fence, but it was necessary since the cocker spaniel would park herself in front of the hive and eat bees as they came out. She has since moved on to June bugs.

    It is interesting, but very little that flowers in our yard (from mint to hibiscus to clover) seems to attract our bees. Most of the time, they zoom over the wooden fence behind the hive and head out. I guess they need to get over the oak to get oriented. The only close-by attractant is the purple sage, which appears to be a favorite.

    As for gear, one almost needs a spacesuit in this part of Texas in the summer. It is hard to gear up when it is almost 90 degrees outside (in the shade, in the morning). I can work around the hive with a T-shirt and shorts, but need a full suit to open it up. We’ll look at starting a new hive next year, but the drought has really reduced any honey production. Bees in the backyard have been nice – so far, they are good girls and mind their own business, as long as we mind ours.

  3. We put our single hive in our urban back yard. The hive is in the far back left corner, about 25′ or less from our patio table, and 5′ from the nearest path and garden bed. The bees were absolutely not a problem. They did not fly into the house although we had lots of hornets and houseflies enter the house. Even when I pulled the hive apart for a complete inspection, getting the bees quite upset, we had no trouble. I did try to do my inspections when neighbours were not around. The hive always settled down very quickly after an inspection…10 minutes tops. When the bees were very active and flying in numbers on sunny days, they would fly up to about 15′ and then out. It was not hard to keep out of their way.

    Our biggest problem was that because the hive was visible to neighbours, they became hyper-aware of bees and flying insects. One insisted they were getting into his house and he was killing them. Turned out to be hornets and houseflies. Most folks do not differentiate between hornets and bees…they just refer to all flying, stinging insects as “bees”. If you are setting up a hive, try to ensure the neighbours cannot see it. Out of sight, out of mind.

  4. I’m more experienced at gardening than I am beekeeping. My husband is the beekeeper. We can have between 10 to 30 hives on our property at one time. One perspective is they are just boxes, that need to be maintained to look nice. You can disguise them, or arrange your garden around them. I help out in the apiary as well, I have found the equipment, bulky, heavy, difficult to move.

    One thought I have had is to use all mediums, instead of 2 deeps and then adding mediums. Also moving to 8 frame boxes instead of 10 frames. However, this doesn’t really address the appearance (it’s a box), or the ability to move and manage. It’s too cold in the winter for top bar hives, and they aren’t anymore visually appealing.

    Since we have a few bees to play with, I have been thinking about taking a hive and fitting boxes to go vertical, instead of laying horizontally. Also, making the bee entrance at the top, instead of the bottom. This will cause the bee’s to fly up and over, and makes it easier to work in the garden.

    When I work in the garden by the bees, if they are in a “testy” mood, or if they think you are invading their space, they start bumping you. If you don’t move, then they start buzzing the face and hair, and you know the rest of the story….

    Although garden tops are pretty, they really don’t help with the weight or manageability of the boxes.

    Another thought I had is a “totem” pole. Making sections, like a Langstrogth, except it would be round. You could make it wide enough for 4 or 5 frames, and the interior curves would create the “bee space”. Again create entrance that is overhead, so flight pattern is up, just as if the bee’s were in a tree. The problem is height, and access for inspection, maintenance and harvesting.

    Teresa, The Beekeeper’s Wife

    1. Though an error on my part, I missed your message of several months ago. I apologize for that and have made changes that I hope will not all this oversight to happen again. (Unfortunately,you were not the only one.)

      Bees are adaptable in their search for a proper nest cavity. Though the current hive design is widely accepted, it is also widely known that the design is not perfect for neither bees nor beekeepers. In your comment, “Since we have a few bees to play with, I have been thinking about taking a hive and fitting boxes to go vertical, instead of laying horizontally. Also, making the bee entrance at the top, instead of the bottom. This will cause the bee’s to fly up and over, and makes it easier to work in the garden.” I must admit that I am not sure to what you are referring. But all your other observations (flying high, testy, copper tops, etc) are correct. Many years ago, I attempted to develop a type of garden hive that was more garden-agreeable. In general, I could not control swarming in small hives. While I have not given up, I am on break from the project. I hope you keep experimenting.

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