Bees management

The pile box hive was designed to maximize time and effort with minimal management.

Japanese bees are native bees to Japan. They are resistant to infectious diseases and mites.

They can defend themselves against the Japanese hornet, and they can live in cold climates.

Little management is required other than adding boxes as the colony grows.

Adding boxes as the colony grow

Additional boxes need to be added as the colony expands.

This must be done before the comb reaches the bottom of the hive.

Additional boxes need to be added to the bottom because Japanese honey bees build their comb from the top down.

The next video explains how to add a box.

I was a little bit late. The comb had reached the bottom. I should have done this a few weeks earlier. Fortunately, this did not cause any problems in this case.


A pile box hive does not have frames, so inspections are limited.

It is almost the same as a log hive or skep hive. There are two ways of inspecting.

Firstly, you can look inside from the bottom. Secondly, you can observe the bees at the entrance of the hive.

First Inspection: Looking inside from the bottom

You can take a look inside the hive from the bottom. This is two weeks old colony of Japanese honeybees.

Mainly, I check the following things.

  • Colony size
  • Determining if the number of bees is sufficient

The next video shows an inspection of a healthy colony. There are many bees, and the combs are covered by bees.

On the other hand, the colony in the next video has fewer bees. It does not have a queen bee, so this colony is dying. It is not common to combine a queenless colony with another colony.

Second Inspection: Observing the entrance

I check for the following things:

  • Whether bees bring pollen
  • The number of bees coming and going
  • The number of drones

How often should I inspect my bees?

Once a month is sufficient. It is not easy to identify problems in the early stages.

For example, I cannot check if eggs have been laid in the combs in order to know if the queen is healthy.

I can determine that the hive is queenless after the number of bees decreases and many drones appear, but sometimes at this point, it is too late to remedy the problem.

In addition to this, it is difficult to combine colonies. Sometimes you cannot save colonies despite all your effort, even if you inspect your bees often.

Swarm management

It is easy to split colonies kept in a Langstroth hive to increase the number of colonies.

However, it is impossible to do this with a pile box hive, so beekeepers focus on capturing swarms.

It is common to allow bees to swarm as they want, because it is difficult to kill new queens when they are larvae.

Beekeepers set bait hives within 300 meters from a hive that is swarming. They also collect swarms when they find them clustered on a tree or elsewhere.

Swarms tend to cluster within 10 meters from the first hive. Many beekeepers attach a board to a tree in order to attract swarms.

I let some swarms go, but it is ok

Most swarms can be captured or enter bait hives on their own if there are many bait hives and you are keeping an eye on your bees.

It is impossible to capture all swarms, and some leave and nest in the wild.

Its descendants may come back to your bait hive in the future.

There is a limited number of colonies in one area due to the quantity of nectar and pollen sources.

Beekeepers have to be mindful of nectar sources and the number of colonies they are keeping.

Many experienced beekeepers can determine whether or not they have sufficient nectar sources.

If they feel that there are insufficient nectar sources for the number of colonies they capture, they will sometimes give friends some swarms.

30% of loss is acceptable

It seems that only 25% of colonies can survive for over a year in the wild.

This is due to:

  • A colony swarms a few times or more in the spring
  • The number of colonies temporarily increases up to 4 times
  • However, it does not actually increase. It is constant in the long term.

On the other side, roughly 70 % of my colonies (kept in a pile box hive) survive over one year with minimal care.

The reasons that the survival rate is much higher are due to:

  • Hive durability
  • Hive design prevents giant hornet from invading
  • An electric fence is used to prevent bears from destroying the hive
  • Number of hives are placed taking into consideration nectar sources
  • When needed, sugar water is fed to weak colonies

30% of colonies are lost, but this is considered an acceptable number. I can increase the number of colonies by capturing swarms every spring.

I may save 10 to 20% of colonies if I inspect and manage the bees more. However, it takes a lot of additional time and effort.

Observation hive

I have some observation hive because it is hard to inspect the pile box hive.

I have transferred a colony in a pile box hive to the ceiling of a shed.

For more detail, please open the following link.

Observation beehive

This hive is made for observation. It is hard to inspect pile box hive.

Observation beehive