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Locating hive in garage/shed

I am new to beekeeping and doing some learning, reading, research while considering which hive I should get. I have read some about bee shacks and indoor hives which lead me to wonder whether a flow hive could be located against the inside wall of my garage, with an extender/modified entrance to the outside. I’m in Columbus, Ohio, USA, USDA Zone 6a.

The garage is unheated, but walls insulated. There are two small windows that do not open (but could be blocked) and a standard 16ft wide overhead garage door.
The temperature inside ranges from a low of 30ºF (-1.1ºC, when the outside low temperature was -18ºF, -27.8ºC) to a high of 85ºF (29.4ºC). The Day/Night temperature variation is significantly reduced.

My concerns:

  1. When the hive is opened for inspection and maintenance, obviously there will be bees inside the garage - my understanding is that they should fly toward the light and will find their way back to the entrance once out. Is that correct?
  2. There will be no direct light on the hive. Does this result in any issues with hive temperature regulation or pests (SHB)?
  3. There is no wind/breeze. The garage door is open for only a few minutes a day during the week, a little more on the weekend. Will ventilation/condensation/mold be an issue?
  4. In the late fall, winter, and early spring when there is little to no nectar available will there be issues with dormancy, brooding, consumption of stores, etc. because the hive temperature will be quite a bit warmer than outside? Will the bees try to forage because they think it is warm or will they hunker down because they can sense the outside temperature via the entrance?

I am sure that I don’t even have the slightest idea of other important considerations, so I would love to hear the opinions/experiences of the more experienced keepers in the group…

Thank you.

Hi Alok, welcome to the group. I’m north of you in the Windsor Ontario area (by Detroit). I would not recommend putting your hives in a building for our climate. The hives do better with the full sun on them all day long as that solves the pest problem (other than Verroa Destructor which is a problem regardless of temperature). I don’t know why you would want them in a building, but in our shared climate the winter cold cycle vs the food supply is an important balance. If you keep them indoors I think you will have a lot more trouble than you are expecting. I’m aware that there are places in Europe that use beekeeping sheds extensively but I don’t know of anyone in our climate that does. There is a commercial operator that does it in Calgary Alberta but he has been keeping bees for decades and he attends to managing thousands of hives as a full time job so I think he has the facilities to temperature control them that likely you would not have available.

As a side note, I have original flow hives and flow hive 2s and they are both great; I prefer the original size more than the smaller flow hive two. I have all my hives outside on stands. All is well.



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Thank you for you reply, Tim!

The primary motivator is really about keeping the hive away from my kids and pets and the neighbors children, for the benefit of the bees and the mammals.

The climate inside the garage does follow the outside (as the space is not conditioned), just not to the extremes because of the insulation and because of the thermal mass of the concrete floor - the temperature is moderated both seasonally and diurnally. I guess that is to say that the temperature in the garage will usually be about what the average weekly temperature had been. The potential locations outside on our small lot are very close to neighbors, walkways, doors, and play areas, and likely with limited space around the hive to do inspections, maintenance, and harvesting and just plain observation. (My dream would to build out a portion of my roof into a green space and put the hive up there out of harms way! :money_mouth_face:)

I need to understand the pathogens/pests and the bee physiology when it comes to the seasons better…

How do the bees “decide” that it is time to decrease/stop brood and stop foraging? Internal hive temperature or outside temperature? Daylight? Food availability? (All of the above?) How much does the hive internal temperature normally change as the seasons progress? Do they feed more or less in the winter relative to when nectar is flowing? (I would guess more because they have to stay warm but less because they aren’t foraging?) How much of the nectar that they gather do they consume directly vs. turn it into honey and eat the honey later?

How are the various diseases caused or aggravated or alleviated by hive exposure to temperature and sunlight? If I understand, Verroa decreases in the winter because of limited or no brood? What about American and European Foulbrood, SHB, LHB, Tracheal and tracheal Mites, Lice, Wax Moths, chalk and sac brood, nosema, (others??)?

How do keepers with permanent indoor (heated and air conditioned space) observation hives manage these issues?

I certainly appreciate everyones opinions and advice! So much to learn… Was just reading some posts from @Doug1 - any wisdom to share?

I’m a bit worried by your answer. Keeping bees away from family and neighbors I understand, but if you are limited on space and are contemplating this is the best option I would encourage you to find a different location to place them on another property— perhaps a friends house or a local farmer, or someone/a business that would let you use their roof. Others may chime in and offer you support about using your garage but I really think that is not going to work out for your bees or the way you hope it to. But that’s just my 2 cents!

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Welcome to the forum chau06 and your curiosity is admireable…I think you have the right midset to become a beekeeper. There are so many ways one can keep/manage bees and you have to start somewhere. To address all the questions you’ve posted so far would take several posts but I’ll address an important issue in this first reply.

Is your location for a hive appropriate?

By this I mean, are you inconveniencing neighbors/pets/family? The flight path of working bees has to be away from walking areas etc…and during hot weather their water source can’t be the neighbors’ swimming pool…bees are attracted to the smell of bleach/chlorine. Honeybees in a colder climate take a cleansing flight in spring and defecate within 100 yds of the hive covering vehicles and house siding. These deposits are almost impossible to remove if the sun bakes them for a few days. Even for an experienced beekeeper, urban beekeeping has it’s challenges…hives have to be located strategically. Your love of beekeeping will soon be tempered by complaining neighbors and visits from bylaw enforcement officers. In my city bee hives are allowed only if you have taken a course and recieved certification…for good reason.

So this is the first approach that needs to be considered and I’m not familiar at all of the layout of where you live so it’s difficult to make recommendations.

Having said that, I’ve seen an observation hive in a local school biology lab that had an outside entrance through the wall. There were never any issues of school children being harassed on the school grounds. And I would run a hive in my own yard in the city but would manage it so that it never became stronger than 2 boxes of bees…mimimize inspections to prevent increasing natural defensive bee behavior…and winter the hive in a different location where cleansing flights didn’t become a problem for nearby residents.

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I am in the process of talking to my neighbors to make sure they are supportive, that’s certainly a pre-requisite. The suggestion for a winter location move is due to cleansing flights or because of climate?

There aren’t many cars parked outside of garages within 100 yards, especially in the winter.

There are no nearby swimming pools, closest is over a mile away. There are various birdbaths, flower pots, gardens, storm drains, gutters, etc. That I think will provide adequate water access.

There is already a fly-over barrier (hedges) that I hope will prevent low entrance and exit flying. I don’t have any plans for more than 2 boxes. (Although, I gather from many of the members that this was their plan too…)

I would certainly keep inspections to the minimum necessary to ensure the health of the hive. Do you think that having observation windows (that would normally be covered) on the brood box would be worthwhile to reduce the need for inspections?

I look forward to you other responses!

It is good to think it all through as much as possible in advance because once you install the bees its a lot more effort to relocate them (they are heavy!). You are right about the contagious desire to grow your apiary-- I started with 1, and 3 years later I have 9.

While our friend in Calgary talked about moving in the winter I think the suggestion was more about the poop during spring flights after a long period of being in the hives all winter without relief. Just to make sure it doesn’t land in places you aren’t expecting.

For inspections…you should be planning on full inspections every 2 to 3 weeks during the beekeeping season to look for pests, diseases, swarm cells, etc etc. I have observation windows that are more for fun viewing than inspecting. You can’t inspect from a window, you have to lift every frame out to see what is going on. It isn’t as bad as it may seem, but if you don’t inspect on that type of cycle you are risking a lot of your investment and the health of the colony. I’m sure you’ve heard that bees survive in nature without inspection, but you are putting the bees in an unnatural environment in a box and with less insulate walls than they would home themselves in nature so I would say that this is animal husbandry responsibility. If you are a lover of nature, then don’t put them in a hive and just go explore the great outdoors to see bees. :slight_smile:

Mt thoughts on observation windows is that they are great as a novelty for children to see bees working in a hive without the risk of a sting. As a tool to assess the hive they are useless as you only see a part of the outside of one frame that normally would only have honey stores on it. You will never see brood on the outside of an outer frame of a brood box.
I like the advice @Tim_Purdie has given, well thought out and explained.

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OK…on to the next step.

When housing hives inside a building, my best honey production comes from hives with through-the-wall entrances located on the south side of the beehouse…east and west sides will do in a pinch but I do not recommend a northside entrance.

Design the entrance through the wall so that it is adjustable…from a small 1" diameter orifice for when your colony is small (one box of bees) to a 3" orifice (or equivalent) for when the honeyflow is on…it doesn’t need to be round…square is fine and easier adapted for bee traffic and ventilation.

With regards to hive inspection time and bees getting into the garage…the bees will fly out the garage door and orient back to their usual flight tunnel…windows may complicate this process as the bees will initially fly to the brightest light source. I would be inclined to temporarily frame in an isolating section of the garage to provide a working barrier…and to retain some of the valueable heat produced by the hive. Remember that my beehouses are specifically designed with a certain number of hives to provide a certain amount of heat/ventilation…and they control the internal temperature/ventilation themselves for part of the year (late spring, summer, and early fall). One box of bees produces about 10-15 watts of heat energy.

When I initially recieved my Flowhive equipment, I placed those frames in modified Langstroth boxes (Flowhive has generously produced a video to show you how modifications are done)…so I left one whole side open for external inspection. This was handy in telling me how the population was growing and how much honey was coming in…so in other words, when to add more room or remove honey.

FH full to the nuts

In our shorter season, brood inspections are completed every 2-3 weeks…more to make sure the broodnest is not being restricted… than for disease presence. Photo was taken 2 days ago…dandelions not in bloom yet but willows yielding ample pollen and nectar.

If you’ve followed some of my posts, I am big fan of package bees on waxed plastic foundation as a starting base for a new beekeeper. This bias has come from buying out other beekeepers and inheriting disease issues latent in their equipment that could only be addressed by prophylactic use of antibiotics.

If I was in your position…and having a choice between running bees in my garage or no bees at all, I would make it work somehow…I just like bees so much. But only if I could manage the impact to neighbors and family comfortably.

Thank you for your reply - yes, I was considering that windows would be for novelty, for my kids. I don’t expect to avoid any inspections by having them.

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Wow! Thanks for taking the time to post.

The south side of the garage is the shadiest, it gets no direct light. The east side has a busy walkway. So I was thinking west… unless you’re recommending south for another reason?

I was pondering an exit slit through the wall that could be reduced while the colony is developing and in the winter.

Your decision…see how it turns out.

A few other comments:

Those brood inspections every 2 to 3 weeks are just done in the spring buildup period…with Flowhive, the honey supers become a more permanent fixture versus traditional honey supers that are removed down to the queen excluder several times per season.

With regard to honeybee disease/pest issues…since I started our beehouse concept method of beekeeping…six seasons ago, I have yet to see any evidence of American Foulbrood, European Foulbrood, sacbrood or chalkbrood…and no antibiotics have been administered during that time. There is a National Honeybee Diagnostics Laboratory only 20 minutes away from me and our bees have been checked in the fall for nosema and the varroa mite.

There are varroa mites in our hives and they are controlled by Oxalic Acid and Apistan strips…hopefully I can ease out the use of Apistan over time…I’m working on it. From my commercial beekeeping background, 25% of my commercial hives would breakdown by fall with American Foulbrood if antibiotics were not administered.

I attribute the lack of disease in my beehouse hives to three things…a) the use of package bees on foundation from initial start up… b) the recent development of queens genetically selected for hygenic behavior…c) the 24/7 warm conditions provided by the internal climate in the beehouses.

If you use a screened bottom board and place your hive on a piece of white linoleum flooring material, all sorts of goodies drop down from the brood nest for your perusal.

This debris is valueable…very valueable…and saves brood inspections later in the season. Chalkbrood mummies, American Foulbrood scale, and dead varroa mites will potentially show up there conveniently for your analysis. If you look closely at the photo, the little round reddish objects are dead varroa mites.

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Is that in order of importance/significance?

I have heard conflicting information about the internal temperature of the hive (and cluster) during the winter vs the summer. My understanding as it is right now is that the bees don’t really go into hibernation or dormancy but they huddle together to keep the queen close to the same temperature as during the rest of the year. So, let me ask it a different way, does keeping them warmer in the winter do anything (other than reduce their stress)?

The Flow Hive 2 has a screened bottom and a tray, right?

I have talked to the rest of the ‘important’ neighbors and they are all very supportive of the hive, so since I now know they are so supportive, it increases the area that I have to place the hive and the proximity I can place the hive to their property line - if I can put it facing south (with a fly over barrier to the east and west that are pretty close, and to the south about 8 feet away) is that better than keeping it in the garage?

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Equally important in my experience.

The temperature inside the beehouse in the late spring, summer, and early fall is regulated by the bees 24/7… and interestingly they prefer to hold it at 27C (80.6 F) day and night. The temperature inside the beehouse during winter is regulated by automation at 4C to 8C (38F to 46F) to induce a dormant state.

I just use Flowframes in modified 10 frame Langstroth hives…on a standard bottom board which I have modified to include a screen.

Difficult to say because I can’t see your and your neighbors" yard etc. layout.

I’ve always considered hive/apiary placement being inconspicuous a plus.…there is a small percentage of the population who have phobias towards insects…or a medical condition like asthma or allergies. Also I don’t know how many times I’ve been contacted by people who claim to have a honeybee swarm in their yard and they would like me to remove it…only to find out that it was a wasp/hornet nest. Sometimes they are complaining that someone in the family got stung by one of those supposed honeybees of mine when in fact it was a wasp sting. It would be interesting for you to start a new post exploring these urban beekeeping nuances…stories could be interesting.

From a plain beekeeping perspective…and my experience has made me biased…beehive aggression is greatly subdued when bees are kept inside a beehouse. The 5" to 8" tunnel through the wall I suspect is the reason behind this…guard bees are sitting on that traditional landing board but the landing board is inside the wall of the beehouse …I’ve never seen guard bees located around the external flight entrances. And the bees over time drop their guard because of no external threats…that doesn’t mean if one gets in your hair because you are standing in their flight path it’s not going to sting you. Here’s a video that shows their docility. At the time we were experimenting running the hives without lids…these were powerful colonies and you could literally stick your nose right in there:

Photo of the docility phenomenon inside beehouse circa 1970…neighboring beekeeper. Child walking around the inside of a beehouse…there is no fighting/robbing between hives even though the bee workforce co-mingles.