So you’ve decided to venture into the luxurious, rich, and rewarding world of beekeeping. You’ve got your gear, you have a love of tiny winged things, now you need to build them a home. The question arises, “Where do I put the hive?”
Time to break out that old real estate chestnut, location location location. Figuring out the best beehive placement requires a look at your available space and a general understanding of what bees need.
Taking a look at natural hive construction and placement provides clues but isn’t the final word. Particularly for those doing some urban beekeeping, nature’s choices don’t always translate. Backyard beehive placement provides more room and more challenges.
Read on to gain the underlying needs of a hive and empower yourself to make informed decisions.
Beehive Placement Priorities
Setting up a thriving hive isn’t just about access to resources. Bees are living things, like you avoiding environmental damage, staying away from predators, and having some quiet are all priorities requiring consideration.
On your end, the placement of beehives needs to facilitate access to a hive for working with the structures, collecting honey, checking progress, and so on. Working in restricted spaces is frustrating and it’s easy to forget how cumbersome equipment can be.
The size of your chosen hive also comes into play but as they are expandable, easier to adjust as you gain a footing.
Even before you consider access to resources, the top priority is a stable area for the hive to reside. This means level ground out of the way of known major issues.
In a flood plain, this means some elevation to avoid some water. It’s also ideal to spread out the weight along the ground to avoid sinkholes or erosion.
In windy areas, you need anchors or baffles to keep the hive down and the wind off the bees. Hedges, fences, and windbreaks all help in temperature control and flight energy.
Building a foundation for a hive is no different than building one for any other structure. Remember that the weight of a hive changes throughout a year especially in peak season. An empty hive may seem stable enough but as weight increases, lopsided placement starts to lean.
Next, you want to consider the health of the bees and their access to food and water. Bees like to forage and will travel some distance to get what they need. However, they do better when the commute is shorter and the resources more plentiful.
By and large, bee colonies grow to a size that accommodates the food supply. You don’t need a field of clover to raise bees but you also can’t expect a thriving hive if you live in a concrete block with no foliage for miles.
Water access is more crucial. The best place for beehives is within 100 feet maximum of water. Bees don’t prioritize water sources, so the closest source becomes THE source.
Water is needed for consumption, mating, and temperature control. Water quality generally only matters if the water is contaminated with pesticides.
If you build a reservoir or create puddles, know that adding fragrances such as tea or aromatic oils helps bees locate the source.
Now you want to consider reducing risks to the hive from environmental conditions. Bees are resourceful and have ways of dealing with their own protection but that comes at a cost.
Safe bees thrive while anxious bees run the risk of absconding.
Bees need to warm up and get moving. Eastern and southern exposures help to warm up a hive early in the day.
Bees use water to cool hives. The more time they spend cooling, the less they spend working on other tasks. Shade is important but you want shade that activates at the hotter times of the day. Deciduous trees make excellent shade as they provide more in the summer and less in the winter.
Constructing screens that can be retracted at night and erected in the afternoon allows more beehive location and placement options. Screens are costly and labor-intensive. Natural shade sources or existing shade sources are usually preferable.
As much as bees need water, they don’t need an excess of water. Hives need to be kept dry. Entrances should be tapered to allow access from below, not above. Slanted roofs, trees, or other barriers keep water from seeping into a hive where it can spawn molds.
Raising the hive off the ground and away from direct vertical contact helps them avoid predators. Predatory insects such as ants and small mammals like mice have a much harder time getting into elevated hives.
The biggest threat to bees is other people in your local community. Privacy fences of 8-10 feet keep bees from seeing pedestrians and going defensive. Keep entrances pointed away from walkways and sides streets so the bees spend less time heading towards people and more time heading towards pollen and water.
Persistent loud noise creates a problem. Try to place hives away from frequent areas of known noise. This includes away from a street or on the opposite side of the yard from the household.
Three to five feet between each hive and any object around a hive makes it easier to work with. This also helps prevent climbing mammals from leaping to the hive.
Working space needs to fit you and whatever equipment you use with a good turning radius. Nobody wants to knock into a hive when turning and lifting supers and frames.
Few people have the opportunity to shape the environment for perfect beehive placement. Working within the restrictions you have is yet one more rewarding challenge of beekeeping.
Priorities resources without painting yourself into a corner. For more information about urban and backyard beehive placement, colony health, and more, contact us. With locations spread around the States, we have experience with a variety of climates and regional issues.
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