As part of a beekeeping business, you can be fortunate enough to meet many great people who can be hosts for your beehives.
Without these awesome hive hosts, beekeeping businesses would not be able to grow our business nor would we have been able to harvest some of the amazing and varied honey that we’ve pulled in the past!
The purpose of this post is to help inform other beekeepers and potential hive hosts of some of our experiences with hive hosting.
We hope that through passing on some information about how we’ve done this in the past, we can help educate and guide other people through the process.
What is hive hosting?
Hive hosting is when a property owner (or authorised resident) allows a beekeeper to place beehives on their property.
This arrangement can be done in several forms, from simply a single hive in a suburban backyard, up to several hundred hives being placed on a rural property.
Usually, a hive hosting arrangement involves the beekeeper offering the hive hosts an exchange of honey as a form of payment for renting the space for the hive.
That said, there are a number of additional benefits for the hive hosts such as free pollination of vegetables and fruit crops, as well as the education about bees and simply the enjoyment of watching a beehive in their own yard.
Not everyone is able to or willing to commit to the requirements of owning and caring for a beehive. Therefore hive hosting is a great opportunity for them to get to experience the joys of beekeeping, just without having to buy all the equipment or to spend the time and effort tending to the bees.
Similarly, not all beekeepers have access to their own property that is capable of having beehives. By seeking a hive host with a more suitable property than their own, this allows more beekeepers access to the hobby and ensures that their hives are placed in more desirable locations.
Establishing a hive host relationship
The hive hosting relationship can be established in a number of different ways.
While beekeepers are often eager to find homes for their bees, these days we find that there are many people who, while they have an interest in bees and the space for a hive or two, would prefer someone else to manage beehives for them.
So yes, much in the same way the dating world works, there are almost always beekeepers awaiting hive hosts, and hive hosts awaiting beekeepers.
How can beekeepers find a host for their hives?
There are a number of ways that beekeepers can find hive hosts. The most common ways are:
- Through mutual friends/family – Ask around among your friend groups and family. This is often the best and most reliable way of finding a mutually beneficial hive hosting arrangement due to having a common connection. In much the same way as your Aunty set you up with that blind date for your High School Ball, reach out and see who else she knows!
- Other beekeepers – Ask other beekeepers in your area if they have any hive hosts with available places. While hive sites are like gold to most beekeepers and are held-close, someone may be willing to lend you a site or put you in touch with a hive host.
- Social media – Find a local community page in your area and post up there asking if anyone would like to host some of your hives.
- Door knocking – Old fashioned and scary, (but it does work). While most of us will gladly use the internet to find a stranger’s spare room to sleep in, the idea of knocking on someone’s door and asking for hive placement may be a little bit daunting. If you want to do this, just be polite and upfront being prepared with answers to basic questions about how you’ll manage the hive and what kind of arrangement you’d be prepared to come to.
How can a hive host find a beekeeper for hive hosting?
- The internet – Yep, you’re here now, soaking up all our wonderful info, so open another browser tab and have a search for “hive hosting in my area” and see what comes up. Some beekeepers will advertise hive hosting on their website, so hit them up and let them know some details about your property.
- Social media – There are lots of social media groups that beekeepers share information on that may be of use for someone looking to connect with a beekeeper. Simply find a beekeeping group that covers your area and post up a request asking if anyone is looking for hive hosts.
- Contact a local beekeeper directly – As required by law in most areas, the beekeeper you buy your honey from will have their contact details on the honey container. If neither of the above options has worked out for you, you could always just email or call your local beekeeper and ask them for assistance with finding a beekeeper who may be interested.
Tips for beekeepers looking to host hives
- Be considerate of the hive hosts property – If you break something, tell them. Leave gates as you find them. Don’t kick their dog. Just all the basic courtesies that you’d afford a good friend when visiting them.
- Get insurance – Make sure you are covered for any damage you may cause.
- Check local council guidelines – If you’re going to be breaking rules, at least know the ones that you’re breaking…
- Be upfront with the payment/honey arrangement – Don’t skimp out on what you’ve offered. You don’t have to be a charity, but do be generous with your offering. A hive host who is well compensated for their troubles is much more likely to be a cooperative long term host.
- Respect the host’s privacy – Unless the host has told you personally that they don’t mind, don’t be just waltzing in whenever you please. Give them a reasonable amount of time to prepare for your visit. They may have to move vehicles, tie up their dogs, put their wig on or who knows what else before you’re able to enter the property. Just keep this in mind and try to forecast your visits in advance.
Tips for hive hosts accomodating beekeepers
- Check with neighbours and see if they are okay with the hives – It is unfair for everyone if the beekeeper places their hives down only to have to come back and move them prematurely due to an upset neighbour.
- Keep water sources topped up for the bees – Discuss with your beekeeper a plan to keep the bees water source topped and serviceable for them. By giving the bees a reliable source of water you can help prevent them from ending up in your neighbour’s pool!
- Keep the hive area accessible – Beekeeping is much easier for beekeepers if they can easily access their hives. Some of the equipment used is quite heavy (upwards of 30kg for a full box) so it is important that walkways to and from the hives are kept clear, as well as an area of about a metre or so around the hive. Discuss this with the beekeeper and just ensure that on inspection days that you do your best to clear a path for them. There’s nothing more annoying than tripping on a dog toy while carrying a heavy box of honey!
- Be upfront with what you want as payment/rent for the hive hosting – If you are happy with just the occasional jar of honey then say so and just ask for some honey when you need some. If you’d prefer to have some kind of agreement to receive a percentage of the harvest, let the beekeeper know prior to them placing hives there. It is much less awkward for everyone if all parties know what they are signing up for.
How much should beehive hosts charge?
This will depend on the colour of the hives and which direction they are facing… No, but seriously this can be entirely up to what you decide upon.
As a guide, in the past we have had hive hosts who didn’t even want honey, they were just happy with the bit of extra pollination and the joy of having a hive to watch.
With other hosts, we’ve just dropped a kilogram or two off each time we’ve done an inspection.
We are yet to come across a ‘greedy’ host yet that has been demanding of us for honey or cash. While there probably are some out there like this, most are quite reasonable and are more interested in the bees than they in getting ‘their share’ of the honey.
How often should a beekeeper be checking their hive that we’ve hosted?
This will be dependent on the season and a number of environmental factors.
Over the winter months, a beekeeper may not need to physically check on their hives at all for up to 3 months or so due to the bees essentially bunkering down for the colder weather.
Conversely, in Spring a beekeeper may need to check on their hives every two to three weeks so that they can ensure the hive has enough space to accommodate all the honey coming in and to prevent swarming.
It is important that the beekeeper is able to attend as regularly as they need, as this ensures the hive remains healthy, productive and doesn’t cause any unnecessary disturbance to neighbours or the community.
While we don’t recommend hive hosts inspect the beehives themselves, hive hosts can actually be very handy for the beekeeper. By keeping an eye on bee traffic in and out of the hive and a general description of what is going on around the hive, the hosts can help the beekeeper out immensely.
Over time even the most newby of new hive hosts will eventually learn to pick up on signs of change for the hive and can pass this info on to the beekeeper. This tends to form a major part of the enjoyment of hosting a hive and picking up the changes in bee behaviour and what plants are flowering in the area can be useful to the beekeeper in timing their trips to inspect the hive.
What plants do I need to host a beehive?
While having an abundance of plants on the host’s property can help the bees, it is important to keep in mind the foraging range of bees.
Bees will travel several kilometres to collect nectar and pollen, so no matter how lush or bare your yard is, the bees will be collecting most of their resources elsewhere.
By all means, plant as many bee-friendly plants as you’d like, this will help the bees, but at the end of the day, it is not critical.
The beekeeper will be able to ascertain if they feel your general area is suitably resourced for bees to forage in.
Hive Hosting Summary
Hive hosting can be a very rewarding experience for both beekeepers and hive hosts alike.
By following some of the guidelines we’ve laid out above, you should now have a fairly good understanding of what is required for a mutually beneficial hive hosting arrangement.
If you have any further questions about hive hosting, then feel free to ask us.
Finally, if this article has helped you, we encourage you to go ahead and share it!