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?