THE PROS AND CONS OF ROOFTOP HIVES

Posted March 2, 2017
by Hilary

THE PROS AND CONS OF ROOFTOP HIVES

When considering locations for new beehives, many people overlook their roof as a possibility. A habit that perfectly explains one of this locations best advantages: it is discreet. But what complications come with rooftop beekeeping and is this the right solution for you? Let’s explore the pros and cons of placing your beehives on the roof.

Pros

People are curiously oblivious to anything above our heads. So, when you place a beehive on top of a building it often goes unnoticed. This is an advantage in an urban or suburban setting because it reduces the chance that a neighbor will complain. Out of sight, out of mind!

Rooftop beehives will also have less of a presence in your own yard. The hive entrance is a busy place. During the day, a constant flurry of flying bees makes the area around a hive an undesirable location for anyone but the bees. When you place your beehives on a rooftop, this is no longer an issue. You don’t have to give over a corner of your property to flying bees. You also don’t have to worry about guard bees objecting to nearby weeding or rambunctious pets. The bees are literally out of your hair when they are placed on the roof.

Another advantage of rooftop hives is that they seem less plagued by ants and hive beetles. Both of these pests live in the soil so, it makes sense that you’d see less of them in a rooftop apiary.

PROS AND CONS OF ROOFTOP BEEKEEPING

Cons

Remember, if you put your bees on the roof, you will have to go on your roof, too. Regular inspections must be made. This usually means climbing a ladder and then marching around on the roof in your bee suit. The risk of falling off a ladder or roof is a real concern. Especially if your roof is slanted.

Beekeeping requires some heavy lifting that becomes even more challenging with height. With rooftop hives, you should expect to have to carry equipment up and down a ladder on a regular basis. Every time you put on or take off a super you will have to get it off your roof. Honey harvesting is especially challenging because of the weight involved. A super full of honey could easily weigh 80lbs. Even more tricky will be removing a hive of bees from your roof. If you ever need to get an established colony of bees off your roof, carrying them down a ladder isn’t even an option. They have to be lowered by rope.

PROS AND CONS OF ROOFTOP BEEKEEPING

In some areas, weather can also be an issue for rooftop hives. High winds might make foraging difficult for your bees or in extreme cases they could topple your hives. High heat may also be a problem for rooftop hives depending on the material your roof is made of and whether or not shade is available.

Another concern with rooftop hives is that you cannot observe your bees the way you could if they were at ground level. Observing the activity is not only fun, but it can be critical to managing your hives. If they are on the roof, you will have to make a conscious effort to visit them.

Solutions

You can mitigate some of the height risks and complications of heavy lifting by building a staircase to your roof. If this is a possibility, I highly recommend it. You may even want to make a deck with railings  to keep yourself from falling off the roof.

It is a good idea to secure rooftop hives with ratcheting straps. This will help to protect them in high winds. A deck with railings may also serve to shelter foraging bees from wind.

Despite all the drawbacks, rooftop hives have some big advantages for backyard beekeepers. Do you have rooftop hives or are you thinking of installing some? Leave a comment!

24 Comments

  1. v. Waryas

    A beekeeping friend’s day job is school maintenance for the City of Lynchburg Schools. He installed beehives on a flat roof outside of classroom windows. The children can watch to their hearts’ content and no parent need to obsess over children getting stung. Occasionally he visits the hives and sparks lots of discussion from kids. I love it.
    We often forget how much children learn just from observation

    Reply
    • Hilary

      Super cool!

      Reply
  2. FishermanAllen Sentance

    Thank you for the information, I am lucky enough to have plenty of ground level space & we get some very intense heat here & feel hives on a metal roof would cook. Quite regularly our temperatures are above 100 degrees F for 8 months of the year.

    Reply
    • Eve

      My husband built a large shed kind of like a barn with a slightly slanted roof. It’s in the back of our property and gets some shade from the trees. It’s above our very large vegetable and extensive herb garden and several young fruit trees and berry shrubs nearby as well. It’s probably about 15 feet above the ground. Around the shed or a bunch of trees and it’s about 50 yards away from the nearest house. We do have a birdbath and a water fountain relatively near. would that be a good spot? My husband is good with winches if we need to take it down and we’re both agile. Just not sure if I should put it somewhere else on the property. This seems to me the most respectful spot for our neighbors as well all of them are nice. Their homes are not particularly close to ours but they can walk right over onto the property. Then again if we put it on the shed roof, it can be seen from the road. We are right at the end of a cul-de-sac and driving down our road, you see directly into the large barn shed. Wondering if perhaps I should just stick it on the side of the house by the blueberry bushes. Wherever it goes it’s going to have an electric fence around it! This is rural woodlands of PA – black bear country!

      Reply
      • Hilary

        It’s hard to say based on your description. I once had mine on a shed roof and it was fun to have them up there, but it did make it more visible to the neighbors and there were some raised eyebrows. Maybe you could try putting the empty hive up there. Suit up and pretend you are inspecting a hive and see what it’s like. If it’s a small shed, I would be worried about falling off. You do not have good visibility in a bee suit.

        Reply
  3. mona

    A couple of years back, my 2 hives were destroyed by a bear. Now my husband has placed a shipping container on our property an has given me permission for 2 hives to go up on top. I am happy-happy-happy again!

    Reply
  4. Terry Grant

    We are also looking to place a beehive at our school and were concerned about students with allergies, but never thought to put it on the roof! We have beautiful floor to ceiling windows on our third floor that will offer plenty of observation of the hive. We also have built in ladders already outside for access.

    Although I’m not too excited about going on the third floor myself, with some railings installed I don’t think that would be too big of an issue. Thanks for the great ideas!

    Reply
  5. JoAnn

    Did you set the hives up as empty boxes and add a nuc or did you somehow get a full hive up there

    Reply
    • Hilary

      I carried them up as a full colony. Single box.

      Reply
  6. Rania Janbayn

    I live in Plano Texas. A few days ago my husband noticed that we have a beehive big enough to be noticed from the backyard. I was so so excited about having the beehive but my husband is worried that the roof might be damaged and he even wants them removed as soon as possible. Do you think we’re going to have honey sometime soon or the heat in Texas would ruin the beehive and therefore we should remove them since we’re not going to benefit from them? And also would they contribute to any damage to the roof? Thank you

    Reply
    • Hilary

      It sounds like you are saying bees moved inside the roof of your house. If that is the case… They won’t damage the roof, but to get them out alive you usually have to cut into the roof and then repair it. I would deal with it ASAP. The longer you wait the bigger they get and the more costly and difficult it will be to remove them. If you want to get honey and keep bees, you should get a manageable bee hive box and put bees in that. 🙂

      Reply
  7. Scott Holifield

    I have bees on my ‘rooftop’ and it’s working great! Less hive beetles than the other local beekeepers. I have a covered porch and on top of this is a great deck. There is a spiral staircase from the outside and a door from a guest bedroom leads out to this deck. I am able to go out every morning and watch them fly and check on them. Works great for me and keeps my dogs away from the hives!

    Reply
    • Peter Davis

      Want to place hive above 2nd floor roof near 3rd floor (attic) bifold doors. Are we likely to have issues with bees in attic bedroom thru gaps between bifold doors?

      Reply
      • Hilary

        I would have to see it to know, but it sounds like a possibility.

        Reply
  8. Rick Chance

    I just got my first two hives (nucs) and installed them three weeks ago on a low and also low-slopping roof with easy access. It’s great because I have a great view of them from a screen enclosure right below so I can watch them everyday.
    Yesterday the front of one hive got a large beard of bees on it that stayed until after dark. A friend said that it might be because of heat which has been a concern of mine but our temps haven’t been high yet (maybe mid 70’s yesterday). The roof is light gray asphalt shingles so I don’t know if it reflects too much.

    At his recommendation, I added a shallow super to give them more room (it’s a very well populated colony) and ventilation.
    Any other suggestions?

    Reply
    • Hilary

      They probably just needed more room.

      Reply
  9. Melissa L Gunion

    I have been wanting to start a few bee hives.
    I wanted to place my hives on top of the roof
    of the Motel. Its a flat roof and would be easy
    to check on daily. I was wondering about winter
    and also the wind because we get a lot of wind.
    Is this a good idea?

    Reply
    • Hilary

      You never know unless you try, but setting up a wind barrier if possible is a good idea.

      Reply
  10. Skip Del Vaglio, Master Beekeeper

    We are installing 2 hives on a rooftop in the Cultural District of Great Barrington, MA. Your suggestions are right on the mark. Thanks.

    Reply
  11. FloweringTree

    Would you expect a single storey roof (i.e. about 7 feet up) to be enough for the advantage of not having a garden full of worried bees, or do they need to go higher?

    Reply
    • Hilary

      It won’t have as many benefits as a taller roof, but it still helps. I had a hive at that height on a garden shed for awhile, but eventually I got too many hives and decided to just dedicate a space to them on the ground.

      Reply
  12. Debora Curtis

    My thought is that if a hive is on a roof, it’s easier for the neighbors to see and could get very hot in summer, so I thought it would be nice to build a decorative white louvered box (bellfrey)around it (similar to what you see on top of old tropical plantations) it would have a solid roof over it for sun& rain protection and the 3 walls and door would be wooden frames with big wooden louvers like decorative window shades. It would look nice on the roof, hide the hive, protect against weather and still allow the bees to fly through.
    Any reason this idea wouldn’t work? I’ve thought about doing this to my ugly rooftop air conditioner also.

    Reply
    • Hilary

      As long as the bees can get in and out and you are able to do inspections I don’t see why not.

      Reply

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My name is Hilary Kearney. I’m the author of the book, “Queenspotting” and founder of the urban beekeeping business Girl Next Door Honey in San Diego, California. I’m an artist turned beekeeper on a mission to help new beekeepers succeed and educate the public about the magic of bees!

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