How Far from Your House for a Hive?

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When deciding how far from the house should beehives be placed, you need to consider bee life rules. Being allowed to share the world of the honey bee is a great gift. But, the bees may not be desiring to have quite as close a relationship as you wish. You need to balance your desire to be immersed in the honey bee experience with human safety.

Beehives in small apiary a safe distance from house.

Being lucky to keep my hives in a rural area, I realize that not everyone has a lot of wide open spaces. But, we all strive to choose the best location for our beehives.

Safe Distance from House for a Beehive

But, there are some things we must keep in mind. Bees are not domesticated pets. Having a hive in the yard is very different than a dog kennel or even a chicken coop!

Honey bees are insects – wild creatures with their own ideas for how life should be. It is amazing to me that we can manage bees and get them to help us in so many ways.

But, we are most successful when working with the natural tendencies of the bees. Understanding that “bees will be bees”, the beekeeper can then reap the benefits of having their own hives.

A group of hives (or apiary) should always be a safe distance from your home. It is to the advantage of both the bee colony and the beekeeper to choose a great location for your bee yard at the start.

Yes, you certainly can move a beehive later – but it is a rather involved process and beehives are heavy.

Two beehives placed in field a far distance from a house image.

Keeping a Beehive in Your Backyard

Is it safe to have a beehive in your backyard – a small one? Yes, it can be. Many beekeepers successfully keep a couple of hives in a backyard area. 

The main considerations are the size of your backyard and how much of the area is in use by humans. Play areas and high foot traffic areas are not the best locations for a beehive. 

Undisturbed Areas

Whether or not your backyard is suitable for bees is more about the kind of space you have available than its size. 

Do you have an area where the hive will be undisturbed? Honey bees will sting and defend their colony-if they perceive a threat.

Busy walkways or children’s play areas should not be to close to the hives. This is especially true for the front of the hive.

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The flight path of the bees will be very busy during the warm season. And, they are more protective of the side with the entrance.

Backyard fire pit with beehive safe distance away.

How Far Away from a Beehive Should You Stay?

What is a safe distance from a beehive (for you)? This is a common question in matters regarding safe hive placement. The answer again is that old standby in beekeeping – it depends.

Most colonies are not threatened when you stand quietly behind a hive. Even viewing from the sides is acceptable in most situations as long as you are still. 

This is in reference to a beekeeper who is standing quietly and watching – not kids or pets (moving, talking etc.)

However, being in front of the hive and standing in the flight path of foraging worker bees coming and going is asking for trouble.

Older guard bees at the hive entrance may consider you the equivalent of a big bear. If so, they release alarm signals – bee pheromones to call for reinforcements and decide to send you on your way.

Measuring Hive Distance

It is truly hard to put an exact measurement on safe distances considering beehives. Each situation is different and each colony is different. What is happening in the environment and the genetics of different races or types of honey bees all come into play.

But, we can use some general estimates of a safe distance to be from the hive. For a colony with a calm temperature, give yourself at least 4 feet of clearance behind the hive and on each side if possible. 

At the hive entrance, an area of 25 feet is the best minimum. If you choose to keep a race of bee with a sassy temperament – I would go for 100 feet on all sides.

If you live in a region with bears, some type of fence is usually required. When building a bear fence or other safety barrier, it is not necessary to reserve so much room for hives. 

As long as you have ample room to work your colonies and move around them, you will be fine. But, you don’t want to bend over with a heavy honey super box in your hands and back into the fence!

In the interest of human safety – walkways, play areas etc – the more space between the hive entrance and humans..the better.

Colony Temperament Changes

A situation that happens all too often is the beekeeper who places a hive right near the back door.  This is done to enable the beekeeper to enjoy seeing the bees. No harm in that.

However, bee colony temperament changes through the season. And, some colonies are more defensive than others on a daily basis.

But, even the calmest bees can become aggressive under certain conditions. Colonies with large populations tend to be more defensive and require more space. 

Hot weather or a nectar dearth can result in testy hives. And of course, if the colony is sick or suffering from pest infestations that can give them a surly attitude as well.

Infographic of house and beehive in back yard safety zone.

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Keeping Bees in Residential Areas

Being a beginning beekeeper in a residential area can be a bit challenging. Your first step is to check with local ordinances to make sure it is legal for you to have bees. 

Even in locations where beekeeping is allowed, there may be a restriction on the number of hives you can have. Perhaps based on the amount of land you have, or there may just be a maximum number ( 2) allowed.

This is not necessarily a bad thing – how many hives can a beekeeper manage well at one time anyway. Again, the flyway or flight path at the hive entrance is often the biggest obstacle.

This problem can be solved in many cases by constructing a flight barrier within a few feet of the front of the hive. 

A tall wall (6’) of either wood or thick vegetation is a great aid for beekeepers with limited space. You can even buy artificial hedges if you have the need.  

Foraging bees will leave the hive and fly up and over the wall. This encourages the flight path to be above the height of most humans.

Beehive in neighborhood with solid privacy fence in place image.

Bees and Your Neighbors

In areas where backyard beehives are allowed, the best approach is usually honesty. Let your closest neighbors know what you are doing. Perhaps you can get them involved in helping bees.

Assure them that you are learning how to properly manage your beehives and that they probably won’t even know they are there. 

It is very important for beekeepers in a neighborhood to provide a water source for their bees.  This water source should be in place before your colonies arrive. It should be large enough to last several days without refilling. Never let it run dry. 

Swimming pools can be a challenge-though many beekeepers have bees and pools.  Make sure your bee water source is between the hives and the pool. 

When all else fails, share some tips for keeping bees out of swimming pools with your neighbor. Who knows, that may even be willing to share a little pool space with the bees using a critter saver.

Not everyone will feel positive about your beekeeping endeavor. But, if you manage the bees in a responsible manner, hopefully everyone can share the neighborhood in relative peace. As a last ditch effort, a free jar of honey can go a long way as well.

FAQs

What is a safe distance from a beehive?

A general rule is to stay 30 feet from a beehive on all sides to avoid conflict. However, temperament of the hive, weather and other factors make an exact rule difficult.

How close can a beehive bee to your house?

Try to avoid putting a beehive directly against your house. It is best to give at least 20 feet of space for the bees on all side – more at the entrance.

How close to a fence can you put a beehive?

You can put a hive as close to a fence as you wish. Giving the bees a foot or so of room to land in front is best – and remember, the beekeeper may need access to several sides of the hive.

Final Thoughts

Choosing a safe distance from your house for your backyard hive is very important. It will make your beekeeping experience much more enjoyable. And, some good planning in advance may prevent you from having problems farther down the road.