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Height of hive entrance to reduce insect pests and parasites in the hive

    My wife and I were enjoying the historic town of Monticello, Florida at this years Florida State Beekeepers Association meeting. As I was sharing my family’s Florida heritage, I described how homes were built 4 to 6 feet above ground since window screen was not available. I compared the early settlers homes to the Seminoles Chickees with floors up to 1 to 2 meters above the ground. On the drive home I reflected on the articles and photos of Eric Tourneret.

    Wikipedia says natural bee hives have entrances from 1 meter (3.3 ft) to 5 meters (16 ft) above the ground. Bait hives are placed 10 to 20 ft above ground. The earliest honey gatherers collected hive products from caves, high in the trees, and other natural locations above the reach of natural predators and pests.. In numerous countries today managed hives are raised or suspended above the height of threats. All these examples have something in common – we have taken something from its natural state and location to ground level where we and the pests and predators can access it easier.

    As a Boy Scout and a United States Marine, I know chemical, biological, nuclear and radiological threats are greatest near the surface. I know from desert and jungle survival that insects, reptiles and mammals are most abundant near the surface. Training and experience from all these activities indicates that the benefit of even a small increase in height generates substantial rewards.

    I started beekeeping at 11 years old. I put all my hives ten inches off the ground – a concrete block and 2x4s front and rear. Since Varroa mites, tracheal mites and small hive beetles joined Florida bees, I have been keeping hives on 18 to 24 inches stands without chemicals. There are certainly more losses to diseases and pests today, but what lives here now has always been on this planet, so what has changed?

    I do not know the flight efficacy of Small Hive Beetles, but I suggest that the detection of the attractants might be dispersed enough to provide the hive a better chance of survival at a greater height. How far can the Small Hive Beetle drop in the larval stage without being consumed by something else, or damaged by impact or weakened in descent?

    Varroa do not seem affected by height of hive. Are the viruses associated with tracheal mites as prolific at greater heights? Since Varroa and bees have existed together in nature somewhere for centuries, why were natural hives in trees and caves not seriously affected?  

    I do not have a large apiary or set of apiaries as I did years ago. I would like beekeepers help in collecting data to determine a cost-benefit height of hive entrance especially for commercial beekeepers. Hobby and small-scale beekeepers can place hives on trailers, stands and rooftops. For commercial operations would placing hive pallets on top of one or two pallets provide economic incentive? I seek the help of all beekeepers from Florida, the United States, the Americas and around the world. Allow me to collect and analyze our collective experiences and suggest a natural solution to the insect borne pests of honey bees. Thank you

 

Please send your hive experiences to beekeeper@americasbeekeeper.org

Include as much of the following as possible and any comment you feel appropriate

Height of hive at landing board

The following by height of hive entrance for multiple heights

Number of healthy hives

Number of hives lost to or heavily infested by each cause

Mite counts

Small Hive Beetle estimates/counts

Tracheal mite infestation estimate

Measures used to control above threats