Introduction: Bee Hive in a Bucket

About: 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 from discarded nylon fishnet and cement.

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

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

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

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

Step 4: 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

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

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. 

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