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Is a shack a suitable place for a pair of bee hives?

Hi Everyone,

I’m completely new to beekeeping(been taking the online course at thebeekeeper.org and watching various youtube videos) and am wondering where it is best to place my hives.
You see I live in Ottawa, Canada and in the winter here it gets pretty chilly, sometimes down to around -35C.
For this reason I’ve been looking for ways to protect the bees in winter. We have a small shack on our property that previously housed chickens and I’m wondering if I could situate the hives there.

I’ve attached a picture of the shack as well as the small side-window i’ll be opening so the bees can get inside and out. Please let me know what you think.

If it’s not suitable then what kind of protection do you think i should give the bees so they are alright in winter?

This sounds like the perfect question for @Doug1 :wink:

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You don’t missa thing Dawn_SD…actually it would be interesting what you would have suggested!

May I say that your photo of the old chicken coop just gets me excited looking at all the possibilites re: beekeeping…and with all that sun-bleached siding and all those knot holes, I’m surprised that it’s not full of feral bees already! Your bees would definitely want that place as “Home Sweet Home”…and not just for the winter.

So I’ve posted many videos and photos over several years that may or may not give you inspiration…here is an example but if you click on my Doug1 icon, you will see posts I’ve been contributing to of what is possible with the “beehouse” concept.

Here’s a sample of housing beehives inside…you can start simply with one or two hives and then slowly build your numbers as you gain experience if you wish.

And you can sleep easy at night…your bees are secure.


The flight entrance goes through an insulated wall…you can see two entrances just to the right of the bear…and the entrance furthest to the right has evidence of the bears trying to get at the hive inside.

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Great!, other than bears any other predators i need to worry about? I’m wondering just how open to leave the side entrance for the bees.

I’m not familiar with the wildlife in your area so can’t say for sure…perhaps skunks…wasps in the fall.

If you look at the bottom right entrance, you see a stack of 2X4 entrance blocks…if you look closely you can see a 1" round hole bored through the block. First thing in the spring, I insert the 2X4 entrance block into the flight tunnel with the 1" round hole as the only option for the bees to go through…then as the bees get more populous and the honey flow is on, I completely remove the block as shown in the photo. For your first year, you could likely rely on just the 1" hole…a lot of bees can fit through a 1" hole…surprising.

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Photo of inside the beehouse when packages are just shook in…each hive is butted up against the wall and the hives sit on a standard hive bottom. The regular landing platform of the bottom board goes against the wall where the flight tunnel is.

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Aww shucks, thank you @Doug1! :blush:

I have never done this kind of thing, and I like to speak from experience if at all possible. It looks like a brilliant idea on the part of @Phoenix17. I would insulate inside the shack, as your photos show you have done. That would both help overwinter, and also help stop the bees from baking on a hot day in summer. The photo shows a pretty dark exterior to the shack, so I would worry about heat inside if there was no insulation.

I wouldn’t use the window for bee access. I would cut out small entrances through the wall as @Doug1 has done. That way you can work inside the shed without bees all around, and there is less risk of them building a free-standing hive inside the shack.

Just a few thoughts from somebody who has never done it! :wink:

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Love it.
The question I raise would be if you are prone to snow would not the hives be better on stands(could be a long bench for multi hives) so that the bee entrances would have less chance of being blocked by snow.
I know they don’t fly much in really cold places but have seen them flying out of snow covered hives when the sun shines.
Living in a beautiful climate where Winters are cool and summers warm, I am only going on second hand, off the internet, information.
The bee house I built has open front with 2 hives sitting there.

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Blockage of entrance by snow is not an issue in terms of flight. It blocks hive ventilation. Often completely.

Where I come from beehouses like Doug’s are used in “softer climate” areas. More often they are partially dug into the ground or completely underground structures. When they are being build an idea of possible flight is not even considered. Only proper ventilation and stable temperature. Here are some pictures:

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Wow. Thanks for the pics. Makes me feel lucky that I don’t have extremes of climate.

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As you have done, you take an idea and adapt it to your situation…good on you busso!

Would get cold penetration from below…“cold feet”…but in the photo, these hives are in comfort. The hive produces enough heat to melt snow away from the entrance so they get some ventilation…and perhaps a bit of moisture…all happening under this dome of mega insulation called snow. Also, recent research indicates that CO2 plays an important role in the winter cluster going dormant…dormant clusters of honeybees have been recorded to have levels of up to 60,000 PPM CO2…whereas normal atmospheric CO2 is 400 PPM.

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ABB Thanks for posting those photos and this was a method used with some success in my area many years ago.

I’ve heard of historical humorous accounts of neighborhood women getting very aggravated the day that the beekeeper brought his hives outside for their first cleansing flight. Story has it that if the beekeeper wanted to avoid a severe tongue-lashing, he told those women not to do the wash or hang the white sheets on the clothesline on that day. :smile:

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Debates on how useful those storages are as old as the method itself I think. But I believe a lot depends on local weather end experience. Some people debate that they are good where temperature swings wildly through the zero. Snow, then rain and then serious frost. Everyone agrees that bees use less honey through the winter. In Siberia they argue that storages are helpful in spring to keep temperature low long enough to prevent bees going out of dormancy to early because few spring “false starts” are usual in the area.
Your photo shows beautiful snow. Under such cover I am sure bees will be alright. But it also reminded me my trip to Northern Kazakhstan in the winter. Place is flat as a frying pan. No trees, hardly a bush around. -36C and it blows. Blows almost constantly and occasionally hard enough that local news reported then a bus overturned by wind in town. Snow depth hardly to the ankle. All taken by the wind to unknown destinations. Nothing survives in the open in such conditions.

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Our place is also very flat and there is a severe windchill and snow storms batter the place during winter. My primary concerns are the windchill and the possibility of freezing rain.

Anyone here know what happens to bee hives if they are exposed to freezing rain?

Something like Slovenian beehive is another idea.

Great video HappyHibee…love to see that innovative spirit and like that you are comparing the two types of hives…refreshing! Reminds me of farmer who asked me to check out a swarm that had set up shop in a granary…went out to see it and was impressed that the granary was located in the middle of huge fields…not a tree around. The bees had set up shop a few years previous and survived two of our winters…quite a feat.

I love the diversity of the different methods beekeepers use around the world.

Love your posts and pictures. Your climate Doug must be testing. I’m originally from Scotland and my family both in the UK and Poland keep or kept bees and winters were rough but yours is another level.

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Regarding that swarm living in the granary on the forlorn, cold prairie, the farmer told me that the first two years the bees lived there, the granary was full to the brim with grain and the grain was shipped out in the spring when the fields dried up. The third year he had moved the grain out in the fall and the granary was empty all wintered…and the bees perished. Found that an interesting piece of information.

So what do your bees forage on in that desolate area?

Interesting, Yes I was thinking of doing something similar. I’m wondering if they need sunlight to help keep the parasites out in the summer.

Not my video Doug mate I watch videos on YouTube and saw this a whole ago. It was the style of beekeeping that fascinated me.

Wild Scottish Heather is abundant back home but not for a flow hive as its too viscous.

In Poland my uncle has all sorts of crops and not the monoculture we now have in the UK so his honey harvests are strong.

Where I now stay in England weather is mild but last winter one of my two colonies died so your bunkering style beekeeping fascinates me.

The old guard beekeepers in the UK aren’t very open to change having a flow hive was seen as a negative until they saw me harvesting and a few club members now have Flows which was welcomed and I don’t get the hugging and puffing as much now when I bring up my flow hive at meetings. :+1:

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