beekeeping equipment

A very simple rain shelter

I like to shelter my hives from the rain. A sheltered hive gives the bees a dry place to land and keeps rainwater from seeping in around the entrance. It also keeps snow and hail from blocking the entrance. It’s probably not very important in most places, but here where it rains for about nine months straight, it is a nice add-on.

I have permanent rain shelters for most of the hives, but for the few that are standing out in the elements, I use a simple shelter made from a rectangular piece of 3/8-inch plywood and a ratcheting tie-down.

I simply cut the plywood bigger than the hive so it overhangs four or five inches on each side, then I paint it. I place the plywood on top of the hive and tighten the tie-down around the the whole thing. At first the board is flat and looks kind of awkward. But each time I tighten the tie-down, the roof bends a little more. After a month or so it looks like the top of a Quonset hut.

Of course, this type of roof offers little protection from blowing rain or snow. But better than 90 percent of the time it keeps the entrance dry. I often see the bees walking around out there, sipping a beer and remarking on the weather.

If the boards are painted they last a long time. The ones I have are about five years old and are still as good as new.


A simple rain shelter


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  • I have to learn how to use one of those ratchet things.

    So I can make one of these for my house.

    I like these better than telescoping covers. It looks cheaper too.

  • You crack me up. Thanks for the the laugh that came with this great tip. Rain shelters are next on my to-do list.

    • Sorry, Jason, I was just giving you a hard time.

      First off, the paint matches my house trim and my lawn furniture, so I happened to have it on hand.

      Secondly, we live next to a state forest. Trails run by, not too far away, with hikers, mountain bikers, and equestrians. I didn’t want my hives to be clearly visible through the woods and attract a lot of attention. So far, this has worked well. Heck, I can barely see them from a distance and I know where they are. My bees don’t seem to care.

      For more on hive colors see:

  • Don’t be sorry for giving me a hard time. You answered the questions correctly and I do the same thing to other people. Like when people say “I’m going to run to the store,” I say take your car it’s quicker. So you just gave me a dose of my own medicine….very funny though.

  • I have huge honey bee hive on eave of house. Rain comes down in torrents . . . directly onto hive. I want to find a way to shelter them. I have an un-used dog house, with heavy pvc roof, detachable. Do you think I could make that work if I creep up on roof…cover hive…and yes, it is heavy . . . but I can lift it ok. Just thinking . . . want to weight it down so wind never moves it against bees or hive. Any ideas? Thanks. (MadMaven)

    • Terri,

      Sheltering the colony from rain would be a good thing. I just don’t know if I can picture your idea of putting a dog house over a colony that is hanging from the eaves. It sounds kind of unstable to me.

  • Sorry for typos . . . using cell to post . . . hard to see. Not interested in taking their honey. I just want them happy and comfortable. Thx

  • I just want to say a huge thank you for all of your posts. I live up in Bellingham and this is my first year with bees. I love it! But it is a constant state of learning (and for me, worrying). Every time I get online with a question your site comes up and I find answers to my questions and more! I built a mountain rim feeder, a quilt box, and this is going to be next experiment. Trying to keep these gals dry and happy (and fed) through the winter.

    • Anna,

      Your comment reminded me about the rain shelters, and I went out the barn and dragged them into the bee yard. Thanks for the reminder!

  • You should buy them a tv so they can watch football while they lounge on the front porch and drink beer.

  • Rusty, I was considering making a shelter for my two hives (a Warre and a Langstroth) but after reading this article I thought how much easier it would be to rely on the Warre’s gabled roof and put a piece of plywood over the Langstroth. So, I did that. However, I am still worried about the hives being out in the Portland, OR, rain all winter.

    Just 15′ from my hives is a carport with a bit of room for the hives. If I moved them there for the winter they would be out of the rain entirely and mostly protected from wind. A good idea? Then move back in Feb/Mar?

    On a related note, I’d love to see a follow-on blog post to your spring 2011 article about over-wintering 10/10. How did you do in years 2012-17? Lessons learned? Thank you!

    • Kevin,

      Sure, you can move them to the carport if you want, but it’s a lot of work and you have to go through the re-orientation thing twice. I just looked up your average annual rainfall and it is 44 inches. Mine here is 50 inches, so I’m sure the plywood rain covers would work for you.

      But it’s not so much about the bees, it’s more what makes you comfortable. Your bees will be fine with no rain cover at all.

      As for a follow up, since then (winter of 2010/2011) I’ve had two more 100% years, two at 90%, one at 80%, and one at 50% (not in that order).