A hive stand is a great addition to a hive to make it more accessible and easier to work with, but how high should a beehive be off the ground?
Industry experts suggest that a beehive should be at least six to 18-inches up and off the ground, ideally. This keeps the hive entry clear of growth, grass, and moisture- but it also makes it easier for the beekeeper tending the hives. At 18” high, the hives are easier to inspect, work with, and harvest from.
Want to learn more about using hive stands in your apiary? Keep reading to learn more!
When it comes to investing in beehive stands, it truly is a matter of personal preference. Some beekeepers prefer working with hives directly on the ground, while others may make their own makeshift stands from items lying near their aviary. So, should you use a hive stand? Look at what commercial apiaries do – they use stands, so there must be some advantages to this method.
The truth is, a hive stand does make a lot of sense for both recreational and commercial apiaries. Regardless of the season, the ground holds moisture which can deteriorate and damage your hive. It can also make for easy access to bugs and insects that want honey.
If you want to keep ants out of your honey, a stand makes sense. Many industry experts report that a good height to get a hive up and off the ground is six to ten inches. This does mean some backbreaking bending for beekeepers that regularly inspect, feed, or harvest hives- it is not a comfortable height for an average-sized adult.
Remember that frames filled with honey can be heavy; how comfortable will it be to lift them from this height? There is a wide population of beekeepers that report the actual ideal height for hives being 18” from the ground.
But what are – if any – benefits to placing a hive on a higher stand? Here is what you should know:
Keeping the hive up higher provides a few advantages for both bees and their keepers. First, it helps keep predators away and helps keep the bee from becoming prey.
A lot of different animals are going to be attracted to the hive for the sweet reward of honey- raising the hive can hinder some species.
Also, elevating the hive allows for better airflow and circulation, integral to a healthy hive. It also makes getting rid of runoff less of an issue.
As for the beekeeper, raising the hives to 18” makes it far more comfortable and ergonomically friendly to work on and in hives. Bending over hives can be hard on the back- raising the hives can make it far more comfortable and enjoyable, too.
Hive Stand Considerations
Keep your distinct climate, conditions, and colony in mind when considering the best hive stands for your apiary. You might use cinder blocks, wood pallets, or bricks to elevate hives- but make sure they are sturdy and stable. A tipped over hive is a true shame- and a big mess.
Another misnomer is that placing a hive up in the air is the same as a swarm trap– there are two distinct purposes at work here. Most commercial beekeepers place their hives up high, sometimes several feet up, but this is unrealistic for most home beekeeping enthusiasts.
Also, only you know the kinds of wildlife and predators that could hunt and forage your hives. Keep hive height in line with providing your bees protection from predators, whichever kind is prevalent in your area.
Also, remember the potential weight that honey frames, supers, and boxes can have when full. Stacking this amount of weight on makeshift hive stands could be a recipe for disaster. Opt for something sturdy, stable, and that will stand the test of time for seasons to come.
If your goal is merely to keep the hive from direct exposure to the ground, something as simple as 2’x 4’ boards will work just fine. They are flat, level, and able to accommodate the weight.
If you don’t mind kneeling to do all of your beekeeping tasks, this could be the most cost-effective solution found! Just watch for rodents that are attracted to the honey in the hive and that could come and cause real trouble for your bees.
It may solve the problem by reducing the entrance size of your hive- or using mesh wire to prevent access to rodents, mice, or other predators.
Skunks are a different subject and they can stand and climb when they want to. If skunks are common in your neighborhood, you may want to elevate the hive higher, to a max of 18” to prevent access. The taller you go, the more focused on stability you should be. Top hive entry is another way to curb pests and predators from disturbing the hive.
Leveling a Hive
Now that you have figured out how high you want your hive, take a little bit of care to see that it is level. This does not entail careful inspection and an actual leveling tool- just try to avoid putting hives at odd, awkward, or acute angles that can be problematic later on.
Choose a fairly level patch of dry ground for your hive. Some beekeepers slightly drop the front of their hive a minuscule, subtle, and very-slight amount to allow for water run-off, but this is only significant if you live in a region that gets a lot of rainfall and precipitation.
Keeping hives level makes it easier and more feasible to add boxes or supers as needed, plus it helps to prevent the hive from being at risk of tipping over. If you sell your honeycomb, keeping the hive pretty level creates a straighter comb later.
How high off the ground should a beehive be?
There are varying recommendations, but most agree that a hive should be at least six inches, but up to 18” up and off the ground. Most report that 10”-18” is the optimal height for beehives.
Do you need a hive stand for beekeeping?
A hive stand is not necessary, but it is helpful for keeping the hive off the ground. Positioning hives directly on the ground can subject them to moisture and vegetation, which presents problems and issues.
What is the best height to work on hives?
Most beekeepers report that 18” is the perfect height for working on beehives. It makes it easier to remove heavy, honey-laden frames from the boxes, too. Unless you are extremely tall, this is an ergonomic and comfortable height for working on and in hives.
A hive stand is a practical investment for any apiary, but why wait to buy one? Construct your own, keeping the ideal height in mind. Depending on your apiary and your own preferences, you may be able to raise hives using materials you already have to a height that is a lot easier and more comfortable to work with.