Bees evolved to live in trees not hives. A proper hive stand with a screened bottom board allows bees to be more hygienic …as in tree cavities. In addition, a hive stand should be functional and nice to look at. I felt that my hive deserved something better than a pair of cinder blocks.
The perfect hive stand should do the following:
- Provide sturdy support for a hive off of the moist ground. Recall that bees evolved to live in trees – not in the ground like yellow jackets. Being close to the ground results in cooler temperatures and higher humidity. Cooler temperatures mean the bees delay and shorten their foraging time. High humidity makes their job of evaporating water out of nectar to make honey that much harder. Yet the hive should not be so high that the beekeeper has to get on a ladder to reach the top supers. For a look at a hive stand that may be a wee bit tall, consider the bee hive at the White House. I think 18 inches is a fair compromise.
- Discourage animals, such as skunks or racoons, who might be attracted by the protein-rich bees. Bees defend their hive by attacking the soft underbelly of skunks and racoons. That belly is more exposed if the hive is on a stand.
- Enable screened bottom boards to do their job – drop mites, hive beetles, and other junk out of the hive where they are less likely to find their way back. If you have ground under the hive, you can douse it with beneficial nematodes which will interrupt the Small Hive’s Beetle’s life cycle.
- Discourage ants. If ants are a problem, put your hive on a stand and put each leg of the stand in a bowl of water.
- Keep your bees relaxed. Hives in Brazil are all Africanized Honey Bees and they are on separate stands because there is less vibration transmitted from one hive to the next hive when working a hive.
- Be easy and cheap to build and last a long time
- Look great
A lot of beekeepers successfully use cinder blocks and wooden pallets. I considered a stand without splayed legs but it looked potentially unstable to me.
In defense of the White House hive stand, it is high enough that small children are unlikely to be stung and larger children and adults should know better. Then again, a small child’s education can never begin too early. My Welsh Terrier, who resembles a small bear, has learned the hard way to keep his distance from hives.
I wanted the good looks and stability that comes with a splay leg. The legs are 2×4 pressure-treated boards canted at a 4 degree angle outward. Three lag bolts hold each leg to the apron. The apron consists of 4 pieces of 2×8 pine boards rabbit jointed, glued with a waterproof glue (Titebond III), and screwed. The apron is treated only in boiled linseed oil.
The ground under the hive stand is covered in pea gravel. On that I have sprinkled beneficial nematodes that eat hive beetle larvae but you could cover the area with plastic sheet to stop hive beetle larvae as well.
I have built three of these. Everything can be done on a band saw or with a hand saw. The only improvement I would make at this point is to make the apron press-treated wood as well since I have noticed carpenter bees tunneling homes on the bottom edge of the apron. Then again, they do a better job of pollinating my blueberry bushes than the honey bees do.
What do you think? Click here to go to the Hive Stand stub where you can post your comments.
Update April 27,2011
I’ve wanted to put my design into Google’s Sketchup program so others could have a both an interactive 3-dimensional representation and a perfect cutting pattern. Well Mike Miller has beat me to it with a very fine design for a 3-hive stand.
You can download his Sketchup file here. It is in a zipped file because WordPress wouldn’t take it otherwise. Sketchup is an amazing program that lets you design things in 3D – and it is free. The following is a drawing of the hive stand as rendered by Sketchup. Click on it for a larger image. Did I tell you that Sketchup is free?
The following are two photos that Mike sent along as well. Click on them for a larger view. If you have any questions for Mike Miller, address your email to m45537 -a-t- gmail.com. Thanks, Mike!
Update – May 24,2011
Inspired by Mike’s design, I did my own hive stand in Sketchup. The image is shown below and if you install Sketchup, you can import my design by clicking here to download the SKP file.
Update – June 22,2011
I got a very nice note from Andrew Little, a retired Englishman living in France, with a photograph of his hive stand…based on this design. Nice job Andrew!