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Putting the Hive Back to Mother Natures Height

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 fall to the ground to pupate 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?