The first time you need to mow around your beehives can be nerve-wracking. It is easy to imagine that your bees will be disturbed by the noise, smell, and vibrations of the mower. At the same time, leaving a wide berth of uncut grass around your hives is not an aesthetically pleasing option for most people.
Luckily, you can mow around beehives. Most bees will show minimal reaction as long as you are careful about when and how you mow near the hive.
We will review some considerations for mowing around beehives below, but keep in mind that each colony has its own characteristics and reactions. You probably already know how docile or aggressive yours are, so alter the following suggestions accordingly.
Do You Need to Mow Around Beehives?
There are a couple of reasons people might want to mow around their beehives:
- The first reason people mow around their beehives is aesthetic: if the hives are in a visible location, it can soon begin to look messy and overgrown if you don’t mow regularly. Family members may be less supportive of your hobby if it’s an eyesore in the yard.
- Second, it can be more challenging to access the hives and collect honey if the grass is too tall. Since many people harvest in the mornings, the grass is likely to be covered in dew, which can make the job messier than it needs to be. Most beekeepers like to keep this process as uncluttered as possible, so keeping the area free of grass and weeds will help with that.
The bees won’t be bothered no matter how high the grass gets around their hive, so the benefit in trimming the grass is only for the humans involved.
How Close to a Beehive Can You Mow?
In most cases, you can mow right up to the edge of a beehive, as long as you don’t bump it with the mower. This is definitely a time to read your bees’ behavior, though; if they start taking an interest in you when you are 15 or 20 feet away, it would be wiser to back off.
On the other hand, if they’re going about their business without seeming to notice your activity, you should be fine to move gradually closer.
When is the Best Time to Mow Near a Beehive?
There are a couple of schools of thought on what time of day works best:
- Some people recommend mowing around your beehive either in the early morning or the evening, when the bees are going to be least active.
- Others find it more helpful to wait until midday when the highest number of bees are likely to be out foraging, which means there are not as many around to defend the hive.
Be aware of the season in late summer/early autumn, when bees become more aggressive anyway. Try to minimize or altogether avoid mowing at this time, as the bees experience a decline in available pollen and begin to defend the hive more fervently.
What Weather is Best for Mowing Near a Beehive?
You may have already noticed that your bees act differently depending on the weather. Hives will be most calm on mild, sunny days. On the other hand, hot weather, rainy or cloudy days, and high wind all seem to make many bees cranky. Luckily, mild sunny days are also the most pleasant for doing yard work.
Tips for Mowing Around a Beehive
First and very importantly, make sure you do not bump the hive with the lawnmower, and be sure that you direct the clippings so they won’t be accidentally thrown into the hive. Also, do not allow exhaust fumes to blow into the hive.
If you have a walk-behind mower, you can push it in front of the beehive while you stand off to the side. That way, if your bees start to get aggressive toward the source of the vibrations, you will not be directly in their flight path. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to distance yourself from the mower this way if you only have a riding lawnmower.
Another option would be to wait until your bees have gone to bed in the evening, and then cover all the entrances so they cannot get out in the morning. You can do your mowing and other yard work early the next day, and then let them out when you are done.
For many people, though, the easiest solution is to mow while wearing a bee suit, or just a veil to protect the face and head. This could be considered an overly cautious approach, but it is better than getting stung by your angry bees. Once you have observed how they react to the sound and vibration of your lawnmower a few times, you should have more confidence in what will work in the future.
Anecdotally, we don’t recommend using string trimmers around your beehive, as many beekeepers have reported their bees reacted negatively. Potentially the higher-pitched sound of the small motor is more irritating to them than a lawnmower. Also, it is virtually impossible to control where the cut grass is thrown, meaning you have a higher chance of some accidentally getting into the hive entrance.
Alternatives to Mowing Around a Beehive
If you want to minimize the chances that you will aggravate your bees when mowing, you could update your landscaping to eliminate the grass near them. If you replace grass with paving stones, flower beds, or gravel, then you will not need to bring noisy machinery so close to your bees.
For a simpler option, use this weed barrier landscape cloth. (Amazon) It’s easy to install around the hive and will keep grass and weeds from growing. You could even use cardboard, stones, scrap wood, or anything else you have on hand for the same purpose.
If the grassy area around your hives is not too big, pulling the grass by hand is also an option. A manual push mower (also called a reel mower) is also a good choice since it has no motor and does not generate vibrations or fumes.
Some people prefer to use herbicides on the vegetation around their beehives, but be sure that you choose one that is safe for bees if you go this route.
Finally, you could install a flyover barrier to reduce the chances of getting stung when you are doing yard work. Flyover barriers are typically six feet high and are placed near the hive exit. Their purpose is to direct the bees upward, so their flight path will be high enough that they’re unlikely to encounter and sting a person.
The flyover barrier can be any type of wall, fence, or vegetation, provided that bees cannot fly through it. A flyover barrier can also be used in conjunction with any of the methods above since it can help prevent animals or people being stung anytime they are in the area.
It’s possible to mow and do other yard work around beehives, as long as you do it safely and smartly. You can minimize your risk of being stung by choosing the correct time and day to mow, and by observing your bees’ behavior closely.
However, since there are a lot of eco- and bee-friendly, low-cost alternatives to having grass around the base of your hives, we highly recommend reviewing those options. Without grass around your hives, you can reduce the amount of maintenance needed in the area, and also the chance that you will disturb your bees with the noise and fumes of machines.
Regardless of which option you choose, it is a good idea to be cautious and respectful whenever you’re introducing a disruption to the environment around your beehive.