You might think of beekeeping as an outdoor-only hobby, but did you know that indoor beehives exist?
There are many different ways you can keep honey bees indoors, and for some beekeepers, it makes a lot of sense.
This doesn’t mean having bees inside your home! Keep reading to learn about indoor beehives and how to safely keep honey bees indoors.
Is it Possible to Keep Bees Inside?
Yes! Indoor beekeeping comes in many forms and will require a lot of special considerations.
It’s not for everyone, and there are a lot of factors to think about before you decide to keep bees inside.
Reasons for Indoor Beehives
There are several different reasons why a beekeeper might try to keep bees inside rather than outside.
This can be for educational purposes, offering the ability to observe the inside of the hive and how it functions through a window that comes into a building.
Some farmers will keep large greenhouses with honey bees so that they can grow year-round in colder areas and still benefit from pollination and honey production.
Keeping a hive inside a structure of some kind can help protect it from severe winter weather and predators.
Commercial beekeepers are testing out new technology all the time to help maximize their operations, and some of this technology involves grouping several colonies together and enclosed.
Types of Indoor Beehives
Since there are several reasons to attempt indoor beekeeping, there are also several different kinds of indoor beehives to fit each purpose.
Because indoor beekeeping is much less common, you may have to get creative and DIY some of your equipment to make it work properly.
Each of these hives will require a lot of planning and realistic expectations. Regular beekeeping is complicated enough, and this is even more true for indoor bees.
Observation hives are commonly seen at nature centers and museums, but you can also make and keep them at home.
The purpose of this type of hive is that it allows you to safely see into the inside of the colony without intruding.
These hives feature a clear glass portion, often on the inside of a building, either as a window or a large box, with most of the hive outside the building.
You can watch the bees at work and learn about how they behave.
Observation hives can take a few different forms but usually have the frames or comb indoors. An opening or tunnel leads to the outside so the bees can get air and come and go for foraging and cleansing flights.
This is also something to consider for people who live in urban areas and don’t have the outdoor space for traditional hives.
These hives have to be very carefully constructed to avoid a house full of bees. They will still require the same management as any other hive to remain healthy, but it is much more difficult than a regular outdoor hive. As a result, this is not the hive to choose if you want to harvest honey.
If you’re interested in just watching the honey bees and prefer to be hands-off, an observation hive might be right for you.
Bees are important for pollinating, and that includes farms that grow crops that need to be pollinated.
Greenhouses allow farmers to expand their growing season with an enclosed area that stays warm with sunlight. Bees will also enjoy the higher temperatures and humidity and continue to fly in colder months.
As they collect nectar and pollen, they’re also pollinating all the plants. This allows farmers to continue pollinating their crops and also harvest honey.
Bees visit thousands of flowers when they forage, so this requires a very large greenhouse with a lot of crops constantly rotating through their flowering stages. This is not likely a good option for hobbyists because of the scale.
Beekeepers who experience harsh winters may decide to help their hives get through the winter by putting them inside.
This shouldn’t be done unless the temperatures drop very low. If they feel warm enough in the hive, they might think the weather is warm enough to fly, which will impact the colony.
Keeping hives inside is not to keep them warm. It’s just to provide enough protection to let them keep themselves warm and out of extreme elements, like high winds or heavy rain.
These indoor hives must include a way for the bees to exit the structure on days that are warm enough. Keeping an indoor hive should only be done in a dedicated structure such as a shed.
Similar to overwintering indoors is a shed hive. The main difference is that the hive entrances open directly to the outside, with the hive positioned up against the wall.
The main function of this kind of indoor hive is protection from predators. Bears are a huge threat to apiaries, so a sturdy shed can help deter them from knocking hives over.
It also keeps hives more secure from other motivated wildlife like skunks or foxes.
Shed hives may be useful for beekeepers in windy areas, which can also cause hives to topple.
New Hive Management Technology
As more and more people become interested in beekeeping, there will continue to be new technology coming out that includes indoor beehives.
Some systems can keep several hives in a single unit to manage them with less intervention from the beekeeper.
This is generally a commercial option only since they are expensive and made for large operations.
Bring Your Honey Bees Inside
It’s a big decision to make, but it might be worth considering indoor beehives if you’re a beekeeper dealing with certain conditions.
Make sure you take your time to plan it out carefully to give you a better chance at success. You don’t want to miss anything!
While you’re on the subject, read up on everything you need to know on our Honey Bee Page.
- About the Author
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Hope Schwartz-Leeper is an avid reader, writer, and lover of all things nature with degrees in English and Philosophy.
Born and raised in the Northeast, Hope has always had an affinity for spending time outside. Growing up and attending college in New York, then living on Cape Cod and finally settling in Rhode Island has given her plenty of experience with the climate and environment of these areas.
She loves growing her own food and plants and is always trying to grow something new. She’s hoping her apple trees will one day bear fruit, but for now she’s excited about anything that comes from the garden.