Placing a Beehive in Your Backyard?
One of the first tasks in beekeeping for beginners is choosing a hive location. Deciding where to put your hive requires some thought. How can you find the best beehive location?
Well, before the bees arrive, you have some important decisions. Where will your new bee home sit?
The location you choose for your hives is called an apiary. Yes, whether you have 2 hives or 200 – you have an apiary.
Beehive placement plays a large role in beekeeping success. Having your colony in a bad location can affect the health of the bees.
So, let’s think about where to put your beehive and how to find the best spot for our bees..
Getting Equipment Ready to Place
Before you set up the hive, you need to have everything ready. Preparing your beehive equipment in advance is an important part of beekeeper preparation.
Having everything ready in advance, helps avoid last minute snap decisions. It is best to put your bees where your plan to leave them.
Bee colonies can be moved if absolutely necessary. But, we strive to avoid moving hives because it is a bit disruptive to the colony.
Have everything you think you need ready well in advance. Don’t wait until the last few days.
There are many ways to purchase beekeeping equipment. For many beekeepers, ordering online is the fastest and easiest way.
You can order a painted ready to go hive (see on Amazon) if you don’t have time to prepare one.
It is easy to become overwhelmed by the large number of hive styles to choose from. Take it easy, get the basics for now. You can buy more fun gadgets later on.
No matter the types of hive used, a bee colony has similar needs. While bees can live in almost any location, you have the choice of finding the best spot for your bees.
Increase your bees chances of living a healthy life by taking the time to consider your property.
Your location may not be the perfect beehive oasis but some areas will be better than others.
Let’s discuss what you should look for and look out for when choosing a great spot for your hives.
Best Location for Beehives
The best location for a beehive is the one that you have. That may sound confusing but it’s my way of saying that bees can be kept in many locations.
Of course, not every beehive location is equally desirable. You just need to find the best location for your bees within your situation.
Do you have a small yard? Having a hive may still be possible. But you probably shouldn’t have 20 hives in a small back yard.
In some areas, there are legal limits to have many hives you can have on a small lot.
Do some research and make sure you are not breaking any local laws or regulations.
Do you have a section of the yard that is not used very often? A good hive location is choosing a spot away from everyday human activity.
Bees need space beyond the physical requirements of the box. Your honey bees need a clear flight path so they can come and go without hindrance from humans.
Cities, suburbs and rural landscapes can provide good placement for beehives. Of course, the larger area you have the easier this task will be.
The hive itself does not require much space but the bees inside will feel a need to defend their home. The more hives you own, the more difficult this becomes.
Backyard Beehive Placement
When deciding where to put your hive, choose a placement that will not interfere with everyday life. This is very important for those of you with a smaller space for hives.
Even gentle easy to manage honey bees can become testy and defensive at times.
A beehive with 60,000 bees is not a good item to have sitting right outside your back door.
Can You Move a Hive to Another Location?
Sure, but beehives are heavy. You can move hives but it is much better if you don’t have to.
Your neighbors and family members may not experience the “bee euphoria” that is enveloping you.
When choosing a beehive location, plan to leave the hive in place for at least a season. It is much better to have your hives a bit farther away from the house, rather than closer.
Best Practices for Beehive Location
As I mentioned before, honey bees are very adaptable and can live almost anywhere. You may find a perfect hive location even if you live in a big city. Yes, even in the city!
City/Urban Beehive Placements
Some urban beekeepers have hives on the rooftops of buildings. But there are other options too. Our challenge is finding a place where the bee colony will prosper in peace.
Hives can be located inside walled gardens. This helps separate the colony flight path from a human walking path.
Often, city dwellers are unaware that a functioning beehive is located in their neighborhood.
Again, another option for city dwellers is to find a local beekeeping association.
Some beekeeping associations develop community bee yards for their members to have a couple of colonies! How cool is that!
Consider developing a privacy screen for your busy bees. Plant a line of ever green shrubs on 3 sides of the bee yard.
Or, install outdoor privacy screens which require less maintenance than a living shrub.
But then, a shrub is more likely to catch a bee swarm if one leaves your hive ! Artificial shrubs are also an option for year round cover.
Hive Placement in the Country
Those of us who live in rural settings have a few more options for beehive location. Deciding where a hive can go is not as difficult with a lot of open space.
No idea where to start? Do some research – find out what other beekeepers do in your region.
Climate plays a role in all aspects of beekeeping and hive placement is an important one.
Talk to local beekeepers (or beekeeping organizations). What to other beekeepers have to cope with?
Does the area have high winds, heavy snows, flooding rains or frequent hurricanes?
Be Mindful of Local Bee Regulations
Believe it or not, honey bees are not welcome in all areas. This is true within cities or even inside city limits of many small towns.
Before spending hundreds of dollars on equipment, find out if beehives in backyards are allowed in your area.
If beehives are not allowed in your neighborhood, perhaps you can place your hives on someone else’s property.
Sharing a plot with another beekeeper, “borrowing” a section of a family member’s property or renting a space for a nominal yearly fee are all possibilities.
Bee Yard Safety
You do want to choose a location that is reasonable safe from theft. Yes, believe it or not – some beekeepers are thieves.
Many beehives are stolen each year. This results in thousands of dollars of lost inventory for honest beekeepers. Take measures to reduce that chances of loss by theft.
Try to locate hives within site of neighbors who will help you watch them. Game cameras or electric fences and gates are used by some beekeepers.
Do I Need a Beehive Location with Flowers?
No. Where you put your beehives does not have to be near a field of wildflowers. Though your bees would love it to be.
New beekeepers feel concerned about living in the city or a heavily wooded area with few blooms. What will the bees eat?
While some areas are able to support more beehives than others, most locations will support a few hives.
Your bees can easily fly up to a mile to forage for water, pollen or nectar. They are capable of going even farther.
It is not necessary to have a lot of flowers in your yard. But you may want to give strong consideration to planting some.
The closer the food resources are to the hive, the more productive your colony can be. And, your bees will find food from any sources available.
I love to plant flowers that honey bees like , to help them and other pollinators. Extra blooms are always a good thing and provides food diversity.
An important part of beekeeping is connecting with nature and understanding the balance.
I can plant flowers that bloom when native nectar sources are not available. This increases the amount and diversity of bee food.
Place Your Beehives on a Stand
Be sure to put your beehives on some type of stand. It does not have to be fancy. Stacked cement blocks, sturdy stands built of wood or other materials will work.
You can also purchase commercially prepared stands (see on Amazon) that are designed to hold the heavy weight of a production hive.
Having your beehive on a stand is beneficial for several reasons. Hive stand keep the wooden parts of the hive off the ground and prolongs use.
The entrance of the colony is better protected from predators such as skunks.
And, your back will thank you for the relief of not having to bend down so far during hive inspections.
Early on, my beehives were located on top of cement blocks. The total distance from the ground to the entrance was about 18-19 inches.
Now, a couple of colonies are sitting on sturdy wooden stands. Any method will work but be sure your stand is capable of holding several hundred pounds.
A hive stand that tips over is not a fun experience. If your hive stand has legs, you could add some type of barrier to help with ants if that is a problem.
Having hives raised off the ground also helps deter problems with skunks, raccoons and opossums. These animals have to reach up and expose their tender under belly to stinging!
How Many Bee Colonies – In My Backyard?
How Many Beehives Can You Place in 1 Location?
The number of colonies you can have in one spot depends on your climate and foraging conditions. Check with local beekeepers in your area and have realistic goals.
In my area, in April when everything is blooming, my site could feed 50 hives. But during July, when it is hot and dry that is not the case.
In a bad nectar year, the same location may have 20 colonies starving without intervention. This is another local aspect of honey bee management.
Management Considerations for Beehive Location
Beehives can be kept almost anywhere – but should they? It’s all about: location, location, location.
When considering where to put your hive, consider the hive management tasks that you will have to perform.
These colony management tasks can make the difference between a healthy hive or a dead one.
Safety for the bees, beekeepers and other people must be considered – this is true even within your own backyard. You do not want to be inspecting an angry bee colony if the neighbor is having a kids party next door.
Colonies Must Be Accessible Year-Round
Place your colonies in a location that is easy to get to in all seasons. As you perform maintenance or checks throughout the year, will there be mud, snow etc. Going to the bee yard is necessary even in Winter.
If you need to feed your honey bees, a couple of gallons of sugar water can be carried to the hives.
More hives will require more feed. You will need to drive a vehicle or use a cart to move food and equipment.
What if you need to move a colony? If you have to move a bee colony weighing several hundred pounds you need to be able to get there – even in muddy or snowy weather.
Beehive Placement and Predators
Do you have natural predators in your area? We have black bears and I have an electric fence. Will you need to protect your bees by building a fence.
It’s not just the animal predators that are a concern. What about human predators?
Every year I hear of beekeepers who have had beehives stolen. Try to find a close location that you can watch.
If your bee yard is located out of sight, it might be a good idea to not tell everyone where your beehives are placed.
Which Direction Should My Beehive Face?
Most beekeeping books will tell you to place your beehive so that the entrance is facing East or Southeast.
Having the early morning sun shine on the front of the hive, warms the bees earlier in the day. This encourages the bees to begin their day with enthusiasm and start to work.
Beekeepers like to see their bees out working early on those first few warm Spring days.
In fact, I recommend facing colonies towards the morning sun in my Online Beekeeping Class. Don’t get too hung up on this suggestion if it doesn’t fit your location.
Yet, don’t face the entrance in the direction of cold winter winds either.
Honey Bee Hives Need Good Ventilation
Ventilation is an important consideration often overlooked. If your bees, live in a moist low lying area, too much humidity can cause an increase in disease.
There is also a danger of flooding if located too close to a water source. Please remember, bees can fly– they don’t have to be right next to the creek.
Quick access to water for bees is a good thing but place hives in a location with good air flow and out of the flood plain. Try to avoid placing hives on boggy damp ground.
Does Your Hive Need A Windbreak?
Live in a region with high winds? Choose a beehive location that offers some protection.
Even worse will be cold winter winds whose drafts will steal heat from the colony.
As I was deciding where to put my beehives this was one issue that was not a problem.
Here in the foothills of the South Carolina Mountains, I don’t need a windbreak. I have very little flat land.
However, those of you who live in windy cold climates might consider providing some protection for your colonies. .
A windbreak can be a structure such as a wall or a living wall of greenery.
Place Your Beehive in Sun or Shade?
Is the best location for a beehive in the full sun or shade? If you don’t live in an area with Small Hive Beetles, dappled sunlight is the best location for your beehive.
Placing beehives in hot sun makes the bees work harder to cool it during Summer days.
But if you live in a region with Small Hive Beetles, placing your beehive in full sun is a better option.
Hive Beetles seem to prefer hives that are in the shade. Moist soft soil and damp ground cover aids in hive beetle reproduction.
Placing your colony in the sunniest location possible may help with beetle control. If shade is all you have, beekeepers with beetle activity will need to be more proactive.
Keep the area underneath the hive stand clean and dry and install hive beetle traps before beetles become a problem.
Important Beehive Placement Ideas
- Be Conscious of Local Regulations
- Raise Hives Up Off the Ground
- Match the Number of Colonies to Available Space
- Hives Should Be Accessible Year-Round
- Safe Location from Predators – Animal and Human
- Position Hives Facing East if Possible
- Avoid low-lying Damp Areas for Beehives
These are my very best thoughts on where to put your beehive ? You don’t need a perfect location.
Take all the guidelines into consideration and choose the best spot that you have ! Use all the sources of information about hive placement to find the best location for your hive.