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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    94 Discussions


    8 years ago on Step 8

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

    4 replies

    Reply 8 years ago on Step 8

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


    Reply 2 years ago

    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.


    Reply 2 years ago

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


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    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!


    3 years ago

    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.


    3 years ago

    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

    1 reply

    Reply 3 years ago

    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.


    3 years ago

    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.


    4 years ago on Introduction

    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


    4 years ago on Introduction

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

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

    1 reply

    5 years ago on Step 8

    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...

    1 reply

    Reply 5 years ago on Step 8

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


    5 years ago

    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

    4 replies

    Reply 5 years ago

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


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    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!