One of the most common questions beginner beekeepers have when starting out usually concerns beehive placement. The answer to this question comes down to a number of variables. Things like the climate zone, possible regulations, amount of space available and even the type of neighbors you have all come into play.
Since beekeeping can take place in fields, backyards, community gardens, cities, and even rooftops, beehive placement strategies are vast. To put you on the right track, here are six general considerations that all beekeepers should keep in mind.
You don’t want your bees spending their precious energy regulating hive temperature when they could be making honey. Hives do well in a spot with dappled sunlight and good ventilation. Avoid too much shade, as that can also lead to irregular temperatures and moisture. Not too cold in the winter. Cold is tough on a colony, so making sure they have a good windbreak can help your bees avoid stress. Trees or a fence at the back of the hive can help block any prevailing winds and provide a bit of protection during storms.
Photo Credit: A good mix of sun and shade will make it easier for your bees to regulate their temperature.
Bees need to warm up in order to fly. They can either beat their wings or wait for the sun. Most beekeepers feel that facing the front of your bee hive to the southeast will provide your bees with more early morning sun and get foraging activities going much sooner.
Having access to your beehive is an important element in keeping your bees healthy. Working space around your hive is important, about 3 feet (1 meter) should give you enough room to move around the hive as needed. Not only do you want to be able to check on your bees at various times throughout the season, you’ll also need to consider what they produce. A shallow 8 frame super full of honey could weigh up to 35 pounds (16 kilograms). How, where and how far you want to carry that much weight is something you’ll want to keep in mind.
Bees will spend most of their days searching for pollen and nectar. They also need a source of water. Trees, flowers, weeds and vegetables all make good sources of honeybee food, so be aware of what is available in your area. Generally speaking, bees will have about a 2 mile (3 km) flight range from the hive. Bees will go farther for a good forage source, but foraging beyond 4 miles (6.5 km) will put strain on the colony. Also consider the off-season, low food sources and low honey flow will require you to feed your bees for winter survival.
A level hive with a hive stand placed on solid dry ground is best. Bees build their comb vertically from the ground up. A sloped hive can lead to sloped comb, which can be difficult to work with. Hive stands come in a variety of sizes. Pick one that will keep your bees off the ground, less accessible to predators in your area, and out of the muck and mud during rainy periods. Stability also is important for the hive and the beekeeper. You want solid footing when working with your bees. And you don’t want your hive tipping over or the wind kicking off your cover. Put a weight on your lid and keep your workspace clear of obstacles. Taking some mindful precautions when you place your hive can help you avoid a hassle when the weather is unfriendly.
Neighbors & Regulations
Many towns and cities have ordinances. If you live near other people, you have to accept that not everyone loves bees as much as you do. Before you decide to have a beehive on your property, check the laws in your area. If you have neighbors close by, you might also want to have a relatively high fence to help direct your bees’ flight patterns upward and hopefully over your neighbor’s property. Either way, we suggest letting them know about your planned hive. Who knows, they might even decide to start one themselves!
Keeping bees can be beneficial in a variety of ways. They are pollinators, honey suppliers, and incredible engineers. They are also fun to watch as they go about their daily routines. With a little foresight and well-placed hives, you can create a happy, healthy colony to help pollinate your bit of the world.