You’ve set up your beehive and your bees are thriving. However, the grass around the hive is growing taller. You’d like to mow around it, but you are unsure how the bees will react. Will the noise startle them? Will the vibration send them swarming from the hive? Can you mow around beehives?
It’s easy to imagine disastrous consequences when you think about mowing around your hive. However, it’s actually safe to do, as long as you follow a few basic considerations.
Why Mow Around the Hive?
Let’s start by acknowledging that bees do not care how tall the grass is. They will not mind if the hive is hidden in very tall grass, or exposed in a freshly mowed lawn. However, humans tend to enjoy a manicured lawn.
The first reason to mow around the hive is aesthetic. Let’s face it, when the rest of your yard is mowed, one patch of high grass is an eyesore. Even if you don’t mind it, your family members or neighbors probably won’t appreciate it.
Convenience and Access
The second reason is convenience. Most beekeepers prefer to harvest in the morning. The dew on tall grass can make the process a bit more difficult and messy than it would be otherwise.
Tall grass also makes the hive more difficult to access. It’s certainly possible to reach your hive in tall grass, but it’s easier if you have a clear well mowed path.
So, there are a few good reasons to mow around your beehive, but how do you do so safely?
Follow the Bees Cues
This is rule #1 of mowing around a beehive, as well as many other aspects of beekeeping. Watch your bees when you are mowing near the hive. If they begin to seem agitated or take an interest in you while you are mowing, keep your distance. You can try to mow closer to the hive another time.
However, if your bees are going about their day with no agitation or interest in you, feel free to mow right up to the hive. Just be sure you don’t bump the hive with the mower. It’s best to work closer to the hive gradually. Mow an area, and then move a little closer. Moving towards them in increments gives them time to adjust.
It also gives them time to warn you if they are becoming agitated before you are too close for comfort.
When it comes to timing, there are a few ideas on which time is best. One theory is that it’s best to mow either early in the morning or in the evening. This is the time that the bees are least active. The bees will be less likely to be disturbed during this time because they are naturally in a more relaxed state.
The other method is to mow in the middle of the day. The majority of bees will be out foraging during this time, which leaves far fewer bees to worry about.
You can try both methods, or choose the one that best fits your schedule.
There is an important note on seasonal timing, however. At the end of summer or beginning of autumn. The bees experience a decline in pollen during this time, which causes them to be more aggressive than normal.
They will be more likely to defend their hive at this time, due to pollen scarcity. You’ll want to limit or even avoid mowing around your hive at this time.
Again, follow your bee’s cues. Even if you’ve been mowing right up to the hive all season long, things can change during this time of year.
Another factor in timing is the weather. Bees are the most relaxed on calm sunny days. These are also great days for doing yard work. They get agitated in weather that is very hot, windy, rainy, or cloudy.
Essentially, the same weather that can sour your mood can also affect your bees. If you need to mow in these conditions, exercise a little extra caution. In most cases, it’s better to simply wait for better weather.
Other Factors That Can Lead to Bee Aggression
In addition to timing, there are a few things that can affect your bees’ mood.
Bees take their cues from the queen. An aggressive queen will lead to an aggressive hive, and a calm queen will lead to a calm hive. A queenless hive is leaderless, and also prone to aggression.
The Food Factor
Food is another factor. Just like humans, bees become cranky if they don’t have enough food. Be aware of droughts and nectar dearths.
Predators or Disturbed Hive
Predators can also keep your bees on edge, making them more likely to be aggressive. Ensure that your bees are as safe as possible from potential predators. If they sense predators, they will be on high alert.
Disturbing the hive can also cause the bees to become angry. If you visit the hive too often, the bees can take offense to this. You don’t want someone knocking on your door or coming inside your home every day, and neither do your bees.
Work with your bees when necessary, but be sure to give them their space as well.
Staying Safe When Mowing
There are a few tips that can help you stay safe while mowing. Keep in mind bees are typically gentle creatures. However, certain situations can cause them to be aggressive. Be sure you take note of any changes in your bees’ temperaments.
It’s also important to note the difference between aggressiveness and defensiveness. Aggressiveness is essentially attacking or threatening when the bees are not under threat.
Defensiveness, on the other hand, means they will defend their hive from danger. This danger may be real or simply perceived. If it’s real to the bees, they are entitled to defend themselves.
Dont’ Rock the Hive
Do not hit the hive with the mower. This can understandably lead to bee aggression. After all, if a truck ran into your house, you would be aggressive as well! If their hive is physically disturbed, the bees may react with an aggressive defense.
Watch Where You Blow
In addition to being sure not to bump the hive, be sure you aren’t blowing things at the hive. Be sure the mower exhaust isn’t blowing towards or into the hive. You’ll also need to monitor the grass clippings. If they are blown into the hive, your bees will be understandably angry.
Consider a Bee Suit
Some beekeepers wear a bee suit when mowing, while others feel that there’s little need for the precaution. It comes down to your personal preference, and how well you know your bees.
If you know how your bees react to mowing, you may want to forgo the bee suit. However, if you aren’t sure how they will react, or your bees are bad-tempered at the time, a bee suit can be a good idea.
You can also wear a veil. This protects your most sensitive areas, your face and head. It’s much more comfortable and easy to put on than a full bee suit, so it’s a smart idea regardless of how calm your hive is.
Shut the Door
Another option is to block the entrances after your bees have settled in for the night. Simply cover the entrances before you go to bed. In the morning, you can do your yard work, without worrying about the bees exiting the hive. This prevents them from attacking in case they become agitated by mowing.
Most beekeepers advise against using weed trimmers near your beehive. You may assume that the smaller motor of the weed trimmer would make it a better option. However, it’s thought that the higher vibration of the smaller motor is more likely to bother the bees.
Just like humans, bees seem to be affected differently by different types of sounds and vibrations.
The other issue is that a weed trimmer offers little to no control of where the trimmings go. They can easily fly into the hive.
Riding Mower vs. Walk Behind
Is it better to use a riding or walk-behind mower when mowing around a beehive? A walk behind mower offers a few slight advantages.
The first is that you can walk to the side of the walk-behind mower. If the bees attack, hopefully, you will not be the target. Instead, they should focus on the mower itself. Distancing yourself slightly from the mower itself moves you out of the danger zone, at least in theory.
The second benefit of using a walk-behind mower is that it’s easier to move away from the mower if things go wrong. The moments it takes to climb off a riding mower and get your feet can be quite painful if you are being stung.
A walk behind mower keeps you on your feet, ready to flee the angry swarm if needed. It’s much better to avoid provoking the bees in the first place. However, it never hurts to be prepared.
Summing it Up
If you’ve wondered if you can mow around beehives the answer is yes, you can mow around your bees. Remember to watch your bees, and back off if you notice signs of aggression. Avoid mowing at times when they are more likely to be aggressive.
Avoid using a weed trimmer near your hive, and don’t disturb them more than necessary. Follow these simple rules, and you can safely mow around your hive.