Woodhaven Place

Your Neighborhood Farm

Category: Beehives

Is It Really Necessary to Fence Your Apiary?


When beginning beekeepers run through the list of necessary equipment, their thoughts naturally turn to bee boxes, smokers, and protective clothing. That’s why it may come as a quite a surprise to find that proper fencing is just as important as all the other tools and trappings. Fencing serves two distinct purposes in beekeeping — and your particular situation may call for a specific type of fencing.

Good Fences Make Good Neighbors

Bees tend to travel in a straight path to their hive — anything that gets in their way is a potential target for a collision or stinging. The easiest thing a beekeeper can do to avoid this issue is to locate their bees away from heavily trafficked areas and surround the beehives with solid fencing. A fence lessens the chance that a bee will accidentally crash into someone walking nearby by redirecting their flight path upwards and above the heads of most humans.

It’s important to build the fence before bringing in your bees. If you do so after they’ve settled, you’ll have to wait a few days before you’ll see higher flight paths.

A solid fence can also give your neighbors peace of mind. Large accumulations of stinging insects have the understandable effect of making people nervous. Those who aren’t keen on the idea of you keeping bees can be a nuisance, so building a fence that conceals your hives can be helpful in creating an “out of sight, out of mind” situation.

To Keep Out Predators

Bees have many predators, but luckily, most can be stopped by adding various protective features to your bee boxes. However, there are two predators in particular that have to be stopped before they ever make it to the boxes.

Raccoons are clever little creatures, and if they set their mind to getting into something, they are often successful. Expert climbers and proficient at opening latches, raccoons are completely undeterred by standard fencing. To keep these adorable troublemakers from destroying your combs, you’ll need to add electric wires to your existing fence. Starting six inches from the ground and about eight inches away from your solid fence, install two or three wires at an interval of four to six inches.

For beekeepers in forest environments, bears will be your number one enemy. Like raccoons, anything short of an electric fence won’t keep them out. It’s a good idea to install your electric fence early in the season, as it’s much easier to keep bears away from hives before they’ve had a taste of what’s inside.

To keep bears out, you’ll need a seven wire, 54″ high fence. You’ll need to give the local bear population a quick tutorial of the fence by baiting it with peanut butter, bacon, or fish. This will prompt them to touch the wire with their nose or tongue, and get a shock. Bears are incredibly intelligent, and have a long memory, so a psychological barrier will easily keep them from decimating your hives.

Fencing your apiary isn’t so much an option as it is a necessity. From redirecting your bees’ flight path to preventing bears from munching on your brood nests, a fence can be one of your greatest assets.

Liz Greene is a dog loving, beard envying, pop culture geek from the beautiful city of trees, Boise, Idaho. You can catch up with her latest misadventures on Instant Lo or follow her on Twitter @LizVGreene.

The Woodhaven Place Honey Bee Saga

I have always found honey bees interesting, and about four years ago I built our first hive.  Little did I know what I was getting myself into with bee keeping.

Have you ever wondered why it is called bee keeping and not bee farming?  I finally have the answer.  If you keep bees you are always trying to keep them happy, keep them fed, keep them alive, and keep them from leaving.  Unlike having farm animals like chickens, cattle, or goats, controlling bees is nearly impossible.  If a bee colony wants to swarm, chances are it is going to swarm.  I have learned bee keeping the
hard way over the past four years and I finally feel like I know what I am doing.


First things first, you need to know some bee keeping terms to keep from being confused.  A ‘bee hive’ is the place bees live.  A ‘bee colony’ is a group of bees that live together with a queen and drones/workers.  A ‘swarm’ is what happens when the entire group of bees decides to leave the hive.

When I first started out, I decided that we should keep bees in the most bee friendly way possible.  Through much research, I determined that using a Top Bar Hive (TBH) was the easiest to build and most natural way to keep bees.  Most people 20130514_161740think of a tall stack of white boxes when they think of bee keeping.  That type of hive is the traditional langstroth hive.  In a langstroth hive, bees live on man made frames, normally with a wax foundation embossed with a honeycomb pattern.  This is not really the best environment for bees because bees grow to fill the cell they pupate in.  If bees make their own comb the colony decides what size bees they need.  Smaller cells create smaller bees, and larger cells create larger bees.  By forcing bees to use the pre-pressed foundation, the size they become is being limited.  Small bees are not always in the best interest of the colony.

With a TBH, the bees do all the work.  The Bee Removal 3hive consists of a manger looking box
with bars that rest along the top edges.  The bees naturally build comb-down from the bars and through this process create their own comb.  In my opinion, bees know what they need to survive.  As long as they have what they need, they will act accordingly.

After my many learning experiences and some failures, we have successfully11667404_1101785143169011_8353323096017631652_n
managed a TBH for two full seasons.  This is something not many bee keepers in our area of Ohio can say.  During 2015, our one surviving TBH has produced four splits and we removed a hive of bees from a local barn.  We are going into winter with six beehives, three in standard langstroth hives and three in top bar hives.  I am excited to have a side by side comparison of these two different types of hives for next spring.  At this point the TBH colonies all look much better than their langstroth counterparts.

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