Introduction: Bee Hive in a Bucket

Picture of Bee Hive in a Bucket

Bees are having a tough time world-wide.  We need bees for our agriculture. 

This bee hive is not designed for harvesting honey.  This is just a home for bees.  Not only the bucket is habitable, but the hollow pipe that supports it in the air can also be colonized. 

In past years, bees have been getting scarcer around here.  I have had two volunteer bee colonies establish themselves along my ridge this year -- in inconvenient locations.   I hope they will find their way to this hive when the time comes for the volunteer hives to divide.  

This is just an experiment.  The hive was put up today near one of the volunteer hives, and has not yet been colonized. 

Step 1: Background

Picture of Background

Bees have colonized an overturned cut-off drum used to support a supply of rebar off the ground. 

Local friends said that just drilling a hole in a bucket and leaving it around would attract bees.  In designing this hive, I wanted the entrance high enough off the ground that toads would not be able to leap up and gobble bees at the entrance. 

I put the entrance hole in the pipe, a little below the bucket.  That way, the bucket protects the entrance from rain. 

Step 2: The PVC Pipe Center Post

Picture of The PVC Pipe Center Post

I plugged the bottom of the pipe with a jar lid that fit tightly inside the pipe.  If needed, you can heat the end of the pipe to soften it and stretch it over a slightly too-large jar lid.    (Sorry, no photo, and the pipe is now set in the ground.)   I don't expect much water to get inside, so an open bottom pipe is not needed for drainage.  I put the bottom plug in basically to keep ants from tunneling in and accessing the honey comb from below.  The small bee entry hole in the pipe is supposed to be easy to defend.   

In the upper part of the pipe, I cut holes.  One, which goes a little below the bucket is the bee entry hole.  The larger holes are for bees to access the bucket area from the inside of the pipe. 

Step 3: The Bucket Lid

Picture of The Bucket Lid

The bucket lid gets a hole cut in it that fits tightly over the central pipe. 

Step 4: Mounting the Bucket

Picture of Mounting the Bucket

The inverted bucket goes over the top of the pipe and snaps into the bucket lid. 

It is loose, resting on the top of the pipe, but It can't fall off.  When the bees colonize it, their wax will stick the bucket to the top of the pipe inside the bucket.  

Step 5: Plant the Pipe in the Ground

Picture of Plant the Pipe in the Ground

This is just like setting any fence post in the ground.  Just dig a hole, set the pipe, and fill the hole.  Tamp the dirt with a stick while you fill the hole. 

I dug the hole with a digging bar (chisel-like end) and a tuna can to remove the dirt.  The hole is as deep as my arm could reach. 

Step 6: A Possible Way to Control Air Vents in the Pipe

Picture of A Possible Way to Control Air Vents in the Pipe

A split section of PVC pipe is springy and will clip onto the pipe.  Sliding the section up and down can open or close holes in the pipe to help the bees with temperature control inside the pipe.

The large holes would be bee entrances at the top of the pole.  The small vent holes at the bottom would filter out predators, and hopefully wax moths that eat bee larvae.  

A bee keeper might have to poke around to clean out the holes if the bees plug them .

Step 7: The Human-Bee Interface

The general public doesn't seem to be very bee-friendly.  They don't like to have bee colonies around where they live.  In a city, that doesn't leave the bees much friendly territory. 

One way to possibly fit a few bees in would be to put them in bee poles and have the bee entrance high up.  Something like hollow telephone poles comes to mind.  That way people wouldn't be walking in front of the hive entrance, bothering the bees so much.  There would be less bee aggression. 

There are apparently laws for how bee hives can be constructed.  They need replaceable panels for inspection, among other things.  Of course, that also limits comb damage when honey is harvested, so it fits right in with commercial apiaries.  A hive inside a pole would probably not be legal in some places.  If that is a problem, perhaps the laws should change to allow this idea.

The idea here is to establish "wild" hives that nobody has to maintain.  What bee keeper would want to work 10 or 15 feet up in the air anyway?

Bee keepers on the ground might get seed colonies started in small sections of pipe.  The pipes could be transported vertically.  The bee keeper then could make one trip up the pole to set the seed colony, perhaps using a socket joint heat-formed into the bottom of the seed hive section.     That way, rain would not get inside the pipe. 

The pipe could have an outer insulation sleeve in cold climates. 

The "wild" colony would either survive on its own, or it wouldn't.  Good luck bees!

These pipe hives would not have removable comb panels, so vandals might might think twice about the effort involved in stealing honey from them.  Remember, we are trying to just help the bees here, not harvest their honey.  

If a hive dies, one can know it just from observing the entrance, and a bee keeper could do the required maintenance of dis-assembly and cleaning.

The poles could even be set in sockets in the ground to more easily remove the whole pipe for cleaning, if needed. 

The whole country should be peppered with wild colonies, perhaps inside PVC pipes.  The white color would help reflect light and keep the hive cooler, if heat is the main problem - like here in the tropics.  Also, by being white they would be highly visible.  People who are allergic to bees could more easily steer clear of the bees that way. 

Step 8: Some More Thoughts

If one ever did want to take the bucket off the top, a strong pull should tear any wax comb inside and allow it to slide off the top of the pipe for accessing the bucket and the pipe. 

I'm not planning to ever do this, if the colony stays healthy.  This is just to have more bees around to pollinate things I have planted.   Since the volunteer hives established themselves, there are a lot more bees around.  Maybe because of them, my fruit trees look like they are going to be more productive this year than they were last year. 

As a design variation, if it was only a bucket that got colonized, the bee hole could be covered and the hive-in-a-bucket could be easily transported to other locations needing bees. 

If the bucket gets too hot from the sun, I will put something over it to cover it and help provide shade. 


Turnpike7a (author)2010-11-09

any bees yet? interesting design...i'd love to put these up around all my honey suckle if they work

Thinkenstein (author)Turnpike7a2010-11-09

Nope. No bees yet. I think it would have to be seeded with a young colony to get it started.

dhopper122 (author)Thinkenstein2016-12-21

I know this has been many years ago and that you have moved on, but you needed to add and attractant to lure them in. I am getting into honey bees. I a setting up for doing what your concept was about: capturing swarms. The attractant you needed to add is lemon grass oil, plus a rub of bee's wax inside would help. The amount of oil to use is just a dab of a cotton ball here and there, never over doing it. The purpose of the oil is, it smells like a queen bee. And that one scent will pull them into your trap. I like the concept, as a person could set out several of these and give safe harbor to bees across the area they live in. Only one change I can think of is putting a couple of 1/4" around the top. This would allow for humidity to escape out of hive. In the winter, they stay in the hive until its warm enough for flowers to bloom. They do generate heat to survive the cold and their breathing generates some humidity. If humidity drips onto a bee in the winter, it will kill it (hypothermia). So, if there was a means for the humidity to escape, it would work for the bees.

Thinkenstein (author)dhopper1222016-12-21

I like your angle on this idea. I hope you get a chance to try it out sometime.

pokster (author)Thinkenstein2010-11-19

i've heard and read that using sugar or syrup can attract them and goad them into establishing a hive, dont use honey though there can be spores in honey that can transmit diseases, would the fact that hive is made of plastic be a factor?
Maybe if you use a wooden container, btw with a similar set up you can even get a wooden post with a few holes drilled into it, and bumble bees will set up shop there. Good luck!

bmaverick (author)2016-05-04

Knowing my luck, a wasp colony would take up residence in anything I would build like this. I do like the idea of a seed colony. That could be the only way to keep out the nasty wasps.

augenwink (author)2016-03-31

Thanks TS for keeping up with the comments even though you abandoned the project. And thank you for your BIG IDEA, which has nothing to do with the details of the build or whether it succeeded or flopped. And that welcome idea is DIY BEEHOSTING. You may have been the first, maybe the only person, to address the issue of beekeeping soley for the bees

Thinkenstein (author)augenwink2016-03-31

That is an interesting way to see it. Taking the profit motive out of our relationship with nature would undoubtedly be good for nature, if we could afford to do it. Even only doing it some of the time would be better than none of the time.

superforestnyc (author)2015-09-24

I think you were onto something and its a shame you got discouraged. My first thought about bees not moving into the bucket was that bees don't stick very well to the inside of buckets, a fact I make good use of when I use buckets to do bee removals. The smooth sides and bottom of a bucket make it easy to shake the bees out of one and into a hive.
So, why not simply texturize the bucket?
Line the inside with a layer of chicken wire, swirl a layer of plaster, cement, clay, or cob onto the wire, let it dry and bobs your uncle! :)
Ima give it a try.

stottsmonkey (author)2014-07-29

Ummmm...well, I think that "local friends" must not include beekeepers. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for experimentation but, when your dealing with living things, probably good to do a little research if you have an investment in succeeding. You know how birdhouses have to have a particular size hole, internal dimension, etc., to attract certain birds? Bees have particular requirements as well. For example, where is your vent hole on the top? Moisture is death to a hive. Promotes disease almost immediately. Sun goes down and that cools-instant moisture on the walls. Also, bees require a particular range of tempreture to live in. They thermo-regulate by clustering in tighter or more open balls and vibrating to generate heat to keep the colony warm, and actually leaving the hive when it gets too warm. Thats why beehives are constructed out of material with decent insulating qualities-like wood. The problem with your bucket is that thin plastic would change temp almost instantly, and the bees couldn't adjust the temp inside fast enough. Also, the home needs to be expandable because if they run out of room, they have to leave-that's what "swarming" is. Etc., etc.-more research, pal. Lot's of great info available, and check-bet there are local beekeeping clubs that you can check out for education. Good luck

stephenf (author)2014-07-28

I like this - helps my garden. Any updates on how it is working?

RE: Heat problems. Would reflective (shiny) paint help at all?

Thinkenstein (author)stephenf2014-07-28

Bees never voluntarily colonized it. The materials were used for other things.

Misac-kun (author)2014-03-17

Next thing to do is a Beehive in a nut shell :D

WillieNAz (author)2013-12-03

I saw the beehive in a jar idea and thought it'd be cool to marry your idea with theirs. Get a square pipe like a rain gutter.
Drill holes for the bees.
Set it in the ground.
Drill holes for jars on all 4 sides staggered all the way up.
Cap the top (possibly with another jar).
Screw jars in all the jar holes (wax a stripe inside the top of the jar).
Now you have a Jar Beehive Tree...

Thinkenstein (author)WillieNAz2013-12-04

A little hard for me to get the picture, but it sounds like a nice idea. I no longer keep bees.

redfoxtrystman (author)2013-08-02

I like it and I think I will try it. I I've in Oregon and even if it's illegal we need bees. So as long as some move in and if some one asks I'll say it's a spider house and the bees just moved it. Lol

Good luck. I like the idea but I never did get a volunteer colony to move in.

Thinkenstein (author)2012-05-03

It is interesting that in my early years here in the forest, I would hear many swarms of bees go by each year. In the past few years I may have possibly heard one. Whatever it is that we are doing with our established, legal behavior, it appears to need some tweaking.

I tried. It never got colonized. I pulled it up out of the ground.

Thanks for following up on the progress. You might try baiting it like this fellow did. If you do, please let us know how it works as I have at least 40 reclaimed PVC pipes suited just for this purpose.

As I said, I pulled it up out of the ground. My experiment is over, but if you want to carry on and get it working, go for it!

Spongebobcanada (author)2012-06-09


Those buckets also come in a half size to the ones you have.

Have you noticed that multiple buckets slid together create a openable stack with spaces?

Maybe drilling of small holes in the bottoms for transit and sides

Mod the bucket a knife some small tubes/pvc and some glue or caulking and you could make entrace ways

Just thinking.

sasham (author)2012-01-07

You should make a skep and hang it on a tree. It is easy and cheap as it gets. Bees will love it. Instructions here, its on Serbian Cyrillic but you can understand almost everything from the pictures only.

Bees like some kind of grases, so you can rub it into your beehive to lure them. Ask some local beekeeper which one are used in your area. Enjoy!

Thinkenstein (author)sasham2012-01-07

Hi Sasham,

I'm glad you liked the bee hive idea. It's a nice concept, but the bees are still ignoring it.

Thanks for the link. I never heard of that grass rubbing trick.

velacreations (author)2011-04-02

here's a similar design that allows you to take honey:

JustABeeK (author)2011-03-26

A few comments. First, I applaud your efforts, and I think it silly that people who know nothing about beekeeping are criticizing the design. This looks like a good experiment. As with most experiments, you try something and see if it works. Uninformed people saying "no, that won't work because of x, y, and z" is silly.

I'm a beekeeper, and while wood might be better, you've already found out that feral bees will inhabit most anything. A large open container with a small hole like that seems about right for bees.

As for the hive being colonized, spring time is perfect, as that is when swarms happen.

Thinkenstein (author)JustABeeK2011-03-26

Thanks. There is a feral colony in an old half-drum about 20 ft. from it. Maybe they will find the welcome mat on the bucket hive eventually.

mcaliber.50 (author)2010-12-17

could you put the bucket right side up, and put removable shelves in it? i saw this instructable, hoping that there would be a way to extract the honey

Thinkenstein (author)mcaliber.502010-12-19

My idea was to get bees started and leave them in peace, like a wild hive, not to steal their honey I see no way to do removable shelves. It's probably better to do a standard hive. Go for it! The main idea is to get more bees going. Cultivated hives are better than none at all.

urbanwoodswalker (author)2010-05-27

Wondering about the bright white plastic...has anyone ever seen a plastic bee hive in use before?  I have seen wood used.....don't know how bee friendly plastic is to them.  it would get hot, and plastics emit gasses...even if unnoticed by us. i would opt for chemical free wood instead.  why add more plastics to the How hard is it for the bees to climb up and also to store honey to feed young in such a slick surfaces container? 

Just wondering...

Borion2 (author)urbanwoodswalker2010-06-13

Today they are making hive body parts from polystyrene.

urbanwoodswalker (author)Borion22010-06-14

I have seen those textured plastic sheets inside the wooden hives at the nature center where i used to work. However the frame was always wood. The idea of bees living in plastic pipes and buckets bothers me. there are so many other frugal and Natural ways to entice them .

I think the "textured plastic sheets" may have been sheets of stamped beeswax that are sometimes attached to the wooden frames to give the bees a head start in the right direction. I am thinking that, in a vertical pipe hive, drilling holes in the pipe for pieces of rebar, or thinner rod material to go through would at least give a lot of horizontal supports for bees to begin hive building on. Probably, a method for hanging starter sheets of wax from those rods could be devised, also. To clean out a dead hive, for example, the rods could be pulled back out the holes and a cylindrical knife could be pushed through to cut the comb from the pipe, and perhaps remove it with the same cylindrical knife in the same process. If it didn't come out too damaged, it could be mined for honey, perhaps. Plastic is often longer-lasting than wood for hives here, where it rains a lot. One is not supposed to use treated lumber for the boxes. Plastics may out-gas, but I think the rate is slow enough that hive ventilation should keep the problem within healthy limits.

cre814me (author)Thinkenstein2010-08-06

Thinkenstein - I applaud your attempt, but would agree W8ZNX - go with a top bar hive. I will provide links and plans if you like. I have some KTBH's here in North Carolina. If you have the tools, and access to some old pallets, I am guessing less that $30. Also, to try to catch the swarm, here it is between April and Jun 30th, but mount the hive about 8 ft off the ground. I have never done it that way, but some people swear by it. Also, if you treat the wood, please treat it with a 20:1 mixture of Linseed Oil and melted Beeswax. It easy, and natural. Leaves a nice colored wood. I probably should do an 'ible on building one, but that would not be anytime soon. No need to build more right now. Good luck!

closetosky (author)cre814me2010-08-09

Hi, I am getting into honey bees and would love to get so plans on the hive with the old pallets. The company that I work for had thrown away all the wooden pallets until I found someone local that would pick them up weekly. Anyway I have plenty of pallets and time. I live in Knightdale N.C. and my email is Thanks

Nope they were a polystyrene. I know what beesway is. :-)

I know nothing about bee keeping, but google knows all and plastic bee keeping equipment does exist, and is sold online. The only issue I see with plastic is bees don't take to it as they do natural material. i saw a site saying keepers should spray the plastic down with sugar water to acclimate them to the plastic. I'm curious, have any bees moved in since you've posted this?

Thinkenstein (author)chello2k92010-08-08

Nope, no volunteers yet. -- The two volunteer hives that got started on the ridge this year have died out. One, in a half 55-gallon drum apparently got wiped out by hungry toads that just parked at the entrance and ate the bees as they came and went. -- The other one appears to have died out, too, for some other reason, because I gave it toad protection with a wire mesh fence around the entrance. Both had low entrances, so a high entrance appears to be favorable. -- I can note the relative absence of bees around my garden, and I don't like it. I may just go for a standard hive, although the honey doesn't interest me, and I don't really want to get into intervention bee keeping again.

Many years ago I kept bees.  I used wooden boxes and also plastic boxes.  The bees didn't seem to object to the plastic and the plastic boxes had better longevity than the wooden ones.  I live in a tropical climate with lots of humidity.  Maybe in a drier climate the wood boxes would be more attractive to me.   Anyway the plastic boxes seemed to work just fine. 

Good to know....I can understand that.

w8znx (author)2010-08-06

nice idea, love pickel bucket projects, but sry it will not work, as stated by others, not enought room for a strong hive that can store enought honey to winter over also a weak hive can be wiped out by a strong hive that steals all its honey no provision for ventilation bees need ventilation to control inside temp of the hive no way to inspect the brood which would make this style hive ilegal in some parts of the United States reason is not mites, but " Paenibacillus larvae larvae " better known as american foul brood AFB nasty stuff that kills a hive can spread to other hives most of all if strong hive steals honey from weak infected hive in the end causing more than one hive to fail for cheap/simple hive see " top bar hives " your truly

Thinkenstein (author)w8znx2010-08-06

Thanks for the thoughts. I pretty much go along with everything you say. I was hoping to install a wild hive that never needed attention. Maybe I'll just get a standard hive, but even so I really don't want to get back into opening hives again. I'm not interested in the honey.

A good name (author)2010-06-16

If you're interested in pollinators, rather than honey collection, try orchard mason bees. They reproduce anywhere with holes and mud (look em up and you'll see what I mean)

Thinkenstein (author)A good name2010-06-17

Thanks for the idea. It would be nice to play around with them, too.

gaiatechnician (author)2010-05-27

It is great that you are trying. If it works, great!
and if it doesn't,
well too bad, but we have not lost anything. 
I leave some of my sprouting broccoli to go to flower just for the bees and humming birds every year.
I would just like to remind people that there are lots of other types of bees and wasps too.  Many of them live in burrows in the ground or in holes in wood.  This year I have bumble bees that took over a wren box.   I think they had the runs because there was brown fluid dripping out but now it has stopped. 
  I also drill holes in wood for orchard mason bees and others.  6 inch deep holes or more and different sizes for different types of bees and wasps.  A new thing this year is holes in cob.  Cob is a mucky  mix of clay sand and straw that gets really hard when it dries out.  I made the holes with random pieces of round bar and old pieces of clothes hanger and old knitting needles.
Leave them stuck straight down in a piece of cob for a couple of days, twist them out and you have a bunch of holes in a cob B-block!   It might work, it might not.
But what have I lost if it doesn't?   Bees are getting scarcer and the more ideas to help them, the better.  You might not need cob, maybe ordinary soil will work.
Depends on your soil and your local bees.  Leaf cutter bees are amazing fliers!
They ride that curved up leaf through the air  like it is a surfboard!
And in my area, they need 10 to 12 mm holes in wood or in the ground.  ( Up to half inch)

This is great! Love the Cob idea~~~!

Borion2 (author)2010-06-13

Great idea!!! I am going to suggest and make some for my dad who is a beekeeper. Should be great for catching swarms from his hives.

paitch (author)2010-05-27

So, did the bees ever move into the bucket?

Thinkenstein (author)paitch2010-05-27

Not yet.  It hasn't been up long.  Fingers crossed. 

eyepodd (author)Thinkenstein2010-06-02

not sure if this would work but you could put a bee atractant inside to get the bees to go in there??, nice instructlble 5/5 i might start mine soon, as soon as i get a big bucket :)

fentanyl3 (author)2010-05-20

Hello, glad to see you are taking interest in keeping bee's, but I have something that may need to be pointed out. It is illegal in all states to intentionally keep bee's in a container that does not allow removable frames.  Any Top Bar Hive, or Langstroth Hive will suffice. A bucket does not,. any container that does not allow the colony to be inspected by being able to remove the comb without destroying it is illegal. The law can be bent though, for example, if bees decide to move into an old toolbox in your yard, and you do nothing with them, it is perfectly legal. If you took bees from one location and placed them in the box it is illegal. If you enticed them to swarm into the box using lures, it is illegal. In other words, if you entice bees into this container you are breaking the law, and possibly could get into a little trouble with your local bee inspector. If the bee's decide all by themselves to move into it, you are not required to do anything about it, and are not in violation.

Why? It's actually for protection of bees, and for other bees in the area. if a foul brood outbreak happens in your area, the inspector will need to inspect all colonies and destroy all those found to be Foul Brood positive. A contyainer that does not allow easy inspection could prolong an outbreak etc. If interested in keeping bees, but letting them be to their own devices, look at TBH (top bar hives) as they are simpler and cheaper to get started than a typical Langstroth setup.

About This Instructable




Bio: I'm a refugee from Los Angeles, living in backwoods Puerto Rico for about 35 years now and loving it. I built my own home ... More »
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