Can You Keep Honey Bees in a Greenhouse?

Bees are natural pollinators, so most greenhouse owners want to introduce them into their buildings to improve yields. But will it work? 

Can you keep honey bees in a greenhouse? Yes, you can keep honey bees in a greenhouse, especially since they are great pollinators. However, your greenhouse has to provide the right conditions and allow the bees to come and go as they please. You can also consider bumblebees as a more low-maintenance solution. 

If you want to know more about bees, how to make them comfortable in your greenhouse, and how to get the most benefits from them, read on. 

Pros and Cons of Having Honey Bees in Your Greenhouse

As a greenhouse owner, you probably want to produce great fruit and vegetables of good quality and in profitable quantities. However, this is not always easy in a greenhouse. One of the biggest problems with growing plants in a greenhouse is pollination. 

Most plants need some help, and one of the answers is having beehives in a greenhouse. This is because they are natural pollinators for most plants. 

Here are some pros of having honey bees in your greenhouse: 

  • Better fruit. There’s research that confirms that plants pollinated by bees often have more vitamins and healthy nutrients than those that weren’t pollinated by bees. This can also boost the number of your products and help you have a better yield. 
  • Less work. Pollination in greenhouses often relies on people working there to do the job. However, with bees, you can comfortably relax and let them do the work. Less labor means spending less money on workers. Bees are also faster and more efficient. 
  • Eco-friendly. Bee pollination is more eco-friendly than most methods. For example, you can’t use pesticides because they can kill the bees, so your produce will be better and healthier. 

Here are some cons of having honey bees in your greenhouse: 

  • Honey bees are often not the best solution. Both honey bees and bumblebees can be pollinators, but bumblebees are better for most greenhouses. More on the benefits of bumblebees over honey bees later. 
  • Honey bees are aggressive. They are collecting nectar for their honey, so they will get aggressive with human workers. They are not good colleagues, so you might want to consider that issue before integrating them into your greenhouse. 
  • Honey bees may not make sense for your crops. While honey bees make excellent pollinators for some plants, some will need a different pollination method. For example, those crops that need vibration to move pollen from male to female parts of a plant won’t benefit from honey bees at all. 

Why Bumblebees May Be a Better Choice Than Honey Bees?

As mentioned, both honey bees and bumblebees can pollinate, but bumblebees tend to be a better choice. Here’s why you might want to consider bees for your greenhouse: 

  • Bumblebees have better sight. Light in greenhouses can be confusing for honeybees, but bumblebees have better sight and orientation, so they will find your plants with more ease. 
  • Bumblebees can survive in worse conditions. Honey bees are extremely sensitive to temperatures and other conditions, so your greenhouse may not be for them. Bumblebees, on the other hand, are able to fly and live in colder spaces, wore conditions, and so on. This is especially important during winter. 
  • Bumblebees want pollen. While honey bees are focused on the nectar, bumblebees want the pollen, and they will get closer to it, making it more likely that your plant will be pollinated. 
  • Bumblebees are less aggressive. As mentioned, honey bees are aggressive, but bumblebees can work alongside humans and not cause any harm to them. Stings are rarely reported, and they will leave people alone most of the time. But, it’s important that you don’t attack them first. 
  • Bumblebees make more sense for some plants. Some plants benefit more from bumble bees than honey bees — tomatoes, berries, peppers, carrots, cucumbers, cabbage, eggplant, and more. 

The only negative side to getting bumblebees over honey bees is that bumblebees live far less than honey bees. For example, a bumblebee hive will live for four to eight weeks, and you will need to replace those bees with new ones every few weeks, depending on your production. 

At the same time, the queen honey bee can live for two years and constantly make new bees, making it a more sustainable solution. 

How Does This Process Work? 

A bumblebee hive lives for four to twelve weeks, and after that, the bees in the hive will die. So, you would get a number of hives that work for you and add more to it every two weeks. This will enable constant pollination instead of having breaks. 

The number of hives you will get depends on the crops that you have and the size of your greenhouse. Naturally, a smaller greenhouse will need fewer hives than a bigger one. The more flowers you have, the more bees you will need. 

The process of establishing pollination is quite simple. All you have to do is buy the bees. The bees need some time to adapt to the environment, so just leave them in the box for a while. After some time passes, you can open the box and leave the bees to do their job.

The bees will soon start to fly around and pollinate the plants. The process is similar to honey bees, too; only you won’t have to add new hives as often. 

Honey Bees and Greenhouses

Honey bees are a good pollination solution. However, they need good conditions and maintenance in order to do their job. 

One thing that you could do — instead of keeping bees in a greenhouse — is to open the doors or windows and locate the bees near the greenhouse. This works well during the summer. Make sure that the greenhouse is accessible from early morning until sundown so that the bees have enough time to do their job and leave too. 

Having bees in a greenhouse can be difficult, especially in the summer, because they can have many bees, and this requires space. Otherwise, you won’t be able to enter your greenhouse because of the sheer number of bees in there. 

Bees shouldn’t be completely trapped inside either way, especially so if you have only one type of plant. They need all sorts of pollen from different plants to live properly and thrive. So, your greenhouse needs to enable them to come and go as they need.

The hive should be on the sunniest side of the greenhouse so that the sun reaches them in the early morning. Then the bees will start working early and be the most efficient. You can also remove one panel and then put the hive in the opening, while still sealing to prevent weather conditions from affecting your produce. 

Another good solution is to have a PVC pipe connecting the hive with the rest of the world outside of the greenhouse, so they can leave and come back with ease. They will also need ventilation to survive, and so will your plants. Put the bees somewhere where there’s a lot of air circulation, but make sure that they can’t get harmed by your form of ventilation. 

Final Thoughts

While bees can live within your greenhouse, you have to provide proper conditions for them to work. Make sure that they have access to the outside world and that they are safe. You can also consider bumblebees, depending on your preferences and conditions. 

Either way, you have to maintain your hives, give them plenty of warmth and light, as well as fresh air. Consider all of the factors present in your greenhouse and use them when making decisions. Remember that your bees will need different types of food, even when the flowers outside are not blooming. 

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