A rooftop home for our honey bees

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(This is the 2nd in a series of posts about Bringing honey bees to Lewisham House.)

We’ve wanted a bee hive for some time now, but the challenge has been to find a home for it.

The nuns next door weren’t too keen on hosting a hive, even though there’s a monastic tradition going back a thousand years. But understandably they were a bit worried about visiting kids (etc) getting stung. Fair enough!

There isn’t really space in our backyard native garden for bees, particularly as P is not keen on flying insects of any type.

So having seen a River Cottage episode that featured bee hives on the roof of a London terrace house, my mental cogs started turning.

After the renovation of our house, we ended up with 99m2 of ‘flat’ roof (9 x 11m). By flat, we mean 5° slope, which is comfortable and safe to walk on.

The bee hives still needed a completely flat home, and a way of anchoring them down so they didn’t blow over in strong gusts.

So with a side of the roof partially shaded by trees, we set about creating a ‘sled’ for hives to sit on:

The 'sled' in place on the roof, providing a solid (and flat) base for the hives.
The ‘sled’ in place on the roof, providing a solid (and flat) base for the hives.

The two rails of the ‘sled’ are made of hardwood, treated with linseed oil for extra durability. A block of wood raises up the lower end of the sled to get the rails horizontal.

The sled is anchored to a metal rail, screwed into the roof.
The sled is anchored to a metal rail, screwed into the roof.

The wooden rails are anchored into a galvanised rail (a piece of ‘angle’ in building jargon) that is fixed into the roof. Note the nylon spacer between the metal rail and the corrugated roof. Extra-long roofing screws go through this, ensuring that the metal is held off the roof, and there’s nowhere for water or leaves to build up.

Detail of the top end of the sled, showing the wood, metal rail and nylon spacer.
Detail of the top end of the sled, showing the wood, metal rail and nylon spacer.

The whole arrangement was easy to build, and was all done in less than a few hours (including stuffing around time).

The sled is light but very solid. A few cross-bars were added after the photos above, for the hive to be strapped down to. (More on this later.)

There’s a good metre between the sled and any roof edge, making it a safe working area. The sled is extra-long to allow space to put boxes when the hive is opened, as well as giving future expansion space 🙂

The next post will give details on the Warré hive itself.

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