Where should I place my hives?
When I decided to get bees I thought of all the possibilities of where I could place them. I am very fortunate, I have 32 acres to choose from and I have no neighbors within spitting distance. Not that I would spit at my neighbors.
Here’s is what the lay of the land looks like for me and a few of my thoughts:
My next step in the process was to research what bees prefer. Keeping in mind that beekeepers don’t always agree, but when it comes to location it is pretty anonymous on what bees like.
First thing to keep in mind is any ordinances that might place restrictions on you, for instance:
Second, where will you have the best access to your bees? Taking into account if it is easy to reach, distance wise, and if you have room to do inspections.
Third, is water. Your bees need access to water and preferably not to your neighbors swimming pool or their birdbath. Some neighbors will not be happy when this happens, but hopeful you have neighbors that will work with you and not just complain about it.
There is a commercial beekeeper that has around 30 hives about 1/2 a mile from me. They sit up on a hill looking over a large area with 3 ponds. My friend, who’s directly across the street from those hives, was having problems with the bees visiting his swimming pool, he would have hundreds of bees in his water a day. He politely spoke to the beekeeper and the beekeeper waved his magic wand and convinced the bees to go elsewhere. I’ve been think about how he might have done this, perhaps he placed some sweet sugar water close to the ponds and that trained them to go there for their water.
Here’s a picture of my hives and the stream they have access to. I liked this location for it is close to water, I have easy access to the hives and it’s in my orchard, but it is not good for my bees in the winter and I am in the process of moving these hives to a better location.
The forth consideration is the sun. Here is where beekeepers may disagree. Some think full sun is best, other partial shade. I think you need to decide based on your climate. If you live in the south where you get 100+ degrees F days for most of the summer, you might want your bees in partial sun. The hotter it is in the hive, the more time they will spend attempting to cool the hive down.
Here I show hives in 2 different locations, the left is in full sun, the second is tucked into my grove of evergreens and provides a little shade for them, but mostly for me. I use a full suit, since I’m slightly allergic to bee stings, and when I’m working in my full sun apiary I am way too hot. In my evergreen apiary I can just back up into the trees to get some shade.
Fifth, is the winter winds. The only protection my hives, in the left picture above, have is the plastic that I placed on the fence. The west winds shoot up the hill from the stream and strike my hives, all winter long. The north side has no protection. My hives on the right are protected from the north and west by the evergreen trees. Out of the 3 hives on the left, only 1 made it through winter last year. So far, all 7 hives on the right are alive.
Sixth, is traffic pattern. In which direction and at what altitude will your bees fly to forage for food? Bees have a tendency to fly straight out of the hive and across your open area. Is this where you, your children and neighbors “play”? Placing the opening of your hives toward a fence or hedge will cause the bees to fly up and above the fence/hedge, hopefully keeping them out of the direct path of people. Bee also don’t care for loud, vibrating machines, like lawn mowers, if you are mowing directly in front of your hives, you are likely to get stung.
Seventh, goes with number six, but is more difficult to predict, it has to do with bee spotting. Bee spotting is when bee poop falls on your car, house, etc and leaves a spot of poop. Worker bees (the female bees in the hive that do all the work), must go on cleansing flights, for they will not go to the bathroom inside the hive. The bees will leave the hive, follow a path and then come back into the hive. With a little warm water, and some soaking the spots will come right off.
If the hives are sick then the spotting will be even worse. Here’s bee spotting from a sick hive:
As long as you have a variety of flowers in your area throughout the season, your bees should have everything they need.
You can find a nice consolidated list of considerations here.
~ May all your wandering take you to many wonderful places.
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