A mason jar beehive is specifically for small backyards and other cramped spaces. As long as you have a shady spot, you can set up a mason jar beehive, and even watch the bees working on making your jars of honey. These delightful additions to any apiarist's arsenal provide a learning opportunity for kids who want to know how bees make honey in the first place.

Do you have an interest in beekeeping but you don’t have a lot of space? Itching to try something new with a hive you already have? Want to show your kids how bees make honey? A mason jar beehive is compact enough to work in a small space, if need be, with the mason jars acting much like windows into the honey making hive. What exactly is a mason jar beehive though?

What Is a Mason Jar Beehive?

A mason jar beehive is a much more compact beehive. Built with mason jars on top, its design can house a beehive in a smaller space, such as a suburban backyard. They're smaller than most beehives and you can see the bees going to work to make the honey. This is quite interesting to see if you have any interest in bees at all.

With bees becoming more and more scarce, the more hives, the better. The mason jar beehive allows those who live in the suburbs to lend a hand toward conservation while ensuring their flowers or gardens are well pollinated. Unfortunately, this compact beehive idea leaves a lot of people unsure about how its supposed to work, or if it even works at all.

Does this really work?

The short answer is yes. You're not building an entire beehive in a mason jar, the jars are specifically and solely for the bees to make honey in, not to build an entire colony in. That would be impossible to do considering the space bees need for their queen, their drones, their honey, and to rest at night. Some beekeepers have commented saying they have had problems getting their bees into the jars. Overall, a little waiting and some wax or starter strips encourage the bees up into the jars. It's also important to note that any mason jar beehive (or hive with them) should be kept out of the sun completely. If they're not, the jars will warm up, and honey will become more liquidy and the bees will be discouraged.

Building the Beehive

To start building your beehive, you're going to need some equipment and supplies. These supplies will make building this beehive less stressful, and incredibly easy. This is just one potential way to make this beehive. There are other ways but this is the most popular and most effective thus far. You should take into account your space before you start building this hive. It is made for a smaller area, but that area should be about the size of a suburban backyard. Do not use this hive in an enclosed area, or in a very small personal garden. If you have space and are ready, you'll need:

Supplies

  • 4 pieces of wood for the top of the frame at 1 inch in height
  • 1 piece of thick plywood
  • 1 brood box
  • 4 wood panels for the sides of your hive,
  • 1 beehive bottom board
  • 1 queen excluder
  • wood screws
  • bees, including a queen bee
  • 12 wide mouth mason jars

When it comes to the size of the box, all the panels should be the same, but the sizing depends on how big you want your hive to be. Cut the panels and boards at a size you want. First, you have to measure out and cut your plywood, but make sure this plywood is thick. You don't want your mason jars to collapse down into the hive. Then you'll cut the pieces of wood that will go along the side of your frame. They should come up around the top just a little bit, but also should cover the edges of your plywood. The idea here is to build this like a lid so that it can sit on top of the beehive.

The next step for your mason jar beehive is to trace the outlines of the jar lids in the pattern you'd like to place them in. From there you'll cut the holes out with a hole saw. Make sure you cut out the holes a little smaller than the circle you traced of the lid. After you cut the first hole, test a lid in the hole to be sure that it fits nicely. Create the 12 holes throughout the lid, but don't let them be too close. Otherwise, the wood between the holes won't support the full jars.

swarm of bees on a beehive

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Putting it together

Once your holes are cut and you're sure the jars fit well, it's time to assemble the mason jar beehive. Set the bottom board down first, then place the brood box on top of that and the queen excluder on top of that. You don't necessarily need a queen excluder, but if you don't have one, you run the risk of the queen laying larvae in the jars instead of the workers making honey in them. Attach your wood panels and the frame around the already built hive and screw the panel's together. If you want to stain the pieces, you'll need to do that before you put everything together.

Afterward, you can add the mason jars to the top. From here you'll introduce your bees if you're not already using a pre-established hive. Some people have insisted they have not had much luck unless they put in starter strips or wax into the jars. However, both steps are easy enough to include. But once the jars are full how do you harvest the honey?

honey on jars

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Harvesting the honey

This is a relatively simple process when you're working with a mason jar hive. Of course, you have the inner frames that you can harvest honey from, but when you're harvesting the jars, you just pick the jars up and turn them right-side up. The honey stays right in the jar because it's a jar pointing down toward the hive. The bees naturally build, so the honey, which is already thick, isn't easily drawn by gravity into the hive. This lets you pluck the jar up, replace it with a new one, and put the lid onto the jar.

Do note that if you want to sell your honey, you will need to label it. You legally must label any honey you want to sell, but you need to check your local regulations to assure that you are in compliance with all local and federal rules and laws to do so. Usually, labels include the farm name, or yours, as well as the volume of honey and other information.

You should also have a good understanding of traditional harvesting, just in case you want to add frames to your box. Note that you will have to leave some honey in the hives from mid-fall throughout winter no matter what kind of hive you have. The bees live off of this honey, and they require it to survive.

Traditional harvesting

For any traditional frames, you'll remove them only after 90 percent of the frame is capped off. This means you have maximum amounts of honey. From there you'll need to remove the bees, usually by smoking them and then gently brushing them away with a bee brush. You'll place each frame in an empty box placed well away from the bees. You'll need to cover the entrances so they can't get into the box.

Then you'll need to bring the frames into a bee-free area. Some people use the kitchen, others a garage. It's wise to avoid working outside or in a place where bees may be able to detect the harvest of their honey. There are a few different methods to extract honey. Many beekeepers use an extractor, which they favor for the neatness, though it can be expensive if you don't have a beekeeping club with one to loan out.

bee sipping honey

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Is This the Best Beehive for You?

The mason jar beehive is perfect for smaller spaces but is great for larger spaces as well. But is this beehive for you? You’ll need to build it from scratch to accommodate your hive, at your own size. You’ll also need to encourage the bees to go into the jars with either wax or plastic starter strips. Building and maintaining this beehive can be incredibly difficult, but in the end, it can also be incredibly rewarding.

If you’re willing to put in the work and you have a little bit of land, and if you’re itching to see bees in action, this beehive might work for you. Please note that it does work best on a pre-established hive. Though, if you tried, you could likely establish a hive in this beehive. Have you built a mason jar beehive before? Tell us how it went in the comments.

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