We have wanted bees for a while now and after taking an evening theory course with Meon Valley Bee Keepers (click here for their website) and then starting a practical course it was time. The big question though was where to put the hive?
Something that was appealing was the garage roof. We have a large double garage and it has a very gentle slope on it. The roof was strong enough and after discussing it with my father in-law (who kindly supplied my bees) we decided to go for it.
Bees seemingly enjoy being higher up (20ft is where they can be found building up their colonies in trees) and a big advantage is that they will fly off at the height they start at until they need to avoid an obstruction (fences, trees etc.) or come down to forage. So, it seemed a great spot and would have sun most of the day.
The big issue was that the only access at the time was via a step ladder. Not ideal in a bee suit while trying to carry a bee hive or tools etc. The first step was to get access to the roof and to make sure it was sturdy enough to carry hives up and down as required plus access for fellow bee keepers and the family. So, with permission from my wife Louise to build across the herb bed, the steps were constructed. First the platform to cross the path,
And then the steps themselves under construction,
And the finished steps. Have to thank my father Peter here, he helped put them together. Thanks dad!
The next stage was to build a safety barrier around the end of the roof. The children and others would be up there so I wanted to make sure there was at least a visual barrier to stop people stepping off the roof. I did not want to risk putting any holes into the roof so it would have to be free standing. I was also very tempted to add a fireman pole should a quick escape be required but that would have to wait.
The solution was to use some trellis. This would also give the bees a little protection from the wind and make the hives a little less obvious. Not an issue but they would really have stood out just sat on the roof without anything around them.
A delivery later and a few hours work resulted in a nice barrier to the front and side of the hives.
It all looked rather nice and you could barely see the bees coming and going from the front of the house.
However, disaster struck a week or two later. It was forecast to be very windy (40mph gusts) so I got organised and strapped down the hives to the stands and ensured there were a lot of weights on the L-shaped supporting brackets for the trellis. It was also attached to the house at one end. It all felt very sturdy.
Well half way through the day when the wind really picked up my wife and I heard a huge crash. My first thought was that the hives had toppled over. We rushed up the steps and what had happened was that the trellis had been pushed back by the wind, one panel coming loose (the crash) and then the whole connected wall of trellis had pushed up against the hive stands and pushed everything back around 6 feet.
The garage roof is quite smooth so even weighted down everything just slid. The trellis although full of holes was just catching too much wind.
It could have been a lot worse, the hives and bees were fine. We quickly dismantled the trellis barrier and a few days later after a rethink version 2 was being installed. I have to thank my dad again for his help!
The new version is much simpler with just horizontal bars made from 3″x”2 pressure treated timber. It provides less of a visual barrier but that is a minor compromise as most importantly it does not catch the wind.
It goes all the way around the edge so its much stronger and I have sand bags on order to both weigh it down and stop anything sliding. It should even be strong enough to stop someone falling onto it should that happen.
So I think I got away lucky but its amazing just how much windier it is only 2 metres up. The apiary is now easily accessible and feels safe to use. Yay!