Choosing the best beehive placement in your backyard can be quite a daunting task. Yet, it is one of the most important things a new beekeeper needs to decide. And, it is best to decide where to put your hives at a time when you are still learning. The best hive location will be suitable for the bees and the beekeeper.
Importance of Good Beehive Location
Full of new beekeeper enthusiasm, you have decided it is time to fulfill your desire to have a hive of bees. Perhaps you want to produce honey or you just may want your own bees for pollination or plain enjoyment.
Sometimes new beekeepers set up their hive only to realize its in bad location. Either bad for the colonies for some reason or inconvenient for the beekeeper. Colonies can be moved or course but it is much better to avoid this extra task.
As you begin your research, you will realize there is a lot to learn about honey bee management. But, not everyone gives beehive placement the thought that it deserves.
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You are designing your apiary. Apiary is the term used to describe a location with hives of honey bees. Yes, whether you have 2 hives or 200 – you have an apiary.
So, how do you decide on the best spot to set up your hive? You want a location that is safe and meets the needs of the colony. One where your bees can be healthy and productive. And, while bees can live in almost any location, they shouldn’t have to do so.
But keep in mind that even with the best planning, you may have to relocate a hive someday. That’s okay. But, we strive to avoid moving hives because it is a lot of work and can be disruptive to the colony.
Tips for Choosing Your Best Beehive Placement
Herein are some of the issues that you should consider as you evaluate where to set up your bee yard. Few people have a perfect location for bees. Try to meet as many requirements as you can in the space you have available.
- Check Local Beekeeping Regulations
- Safety Issues for Keeping Bees
- Don’t Overstock Your Beeyard
- Easy Access to Manage Your Beehives
- Protected from Predators
- Choose Hive Locations Safe from Theft
- Avoid low-lying Damp Areas for Beehives
- Raise Hives Up Off the Ground
- Position Hives Facing East if Possible
- Hives Should be Protected from High Winds
Local Beekeeping Regulations
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.
However – in some areas, there are legal limits to have many hives you can have on a small lot. Research local laws and regulations before investing in bees. Don’t invest hundreds of dollars in the hobby only to find out that you can not have bees in your property.
Beekeeping Safety Considerations
No matter how much we appreciate our bees, not every spot is suitable for a box filled with stinging insects. Your hives should be located in 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. Do you have a section of the yard that is not used very often?
Cities, suburbs and rural landscapes can provide good placement for beehives. Of course, the larger area you have the easier this task will be.
Think beyond just enough space to set up the hive boxes. The honey bee colony will feel a need to defend their home.
Do you have a small yard? Having a hive may still be possible. But having 10-20 hives in a small back yard, is never a good idea.
How Many Beehives In My Backyard?
The number of colonies you can have in one spot involves factors other than just the safety of yourself or your neighbors. Any area with managed hives increases the likely hood that your neighbors may come into contact with a swarm. Especially if you can not properly manage the hives.
Foraging conditions vary greatly depending on the climate in your region and available plants. Check with local beekeepers in your area and have realistic goals. Overstocking can be an issue- even for hobbyists.
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.
Easy Access is Important
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. There are some bee tasks to complete even in Winter.
If you need to feed your honey bees, a couple of gallons of sugar water can be carried to the hives. If you have many hives, 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.
Protection from Predators
Do you have natural predators in your area? If you live in a region with a population of bears, you must have an electric fence.
If keeping beehives in a pasture with livestock such as goats or cows, a small fence around the hives is not a bad idea. Cows often turn hives over trying to scratch on them.
What about human predators? Honey bee colonies are worth a bit of money and many are stolen each year.
Are your Hives Protected from Theft?
You do want to choose a location that is reasonably 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. To combat theft you have a few options. Try to camouflage the location so well that no one knows where your bee yard is located.
Or, locate hives within site of neighbors who will help you watch them. Game cameras or electric fences and gates are used by some beekeepers.
Avoid Areas with Excess Moisture
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 river or pond.
Still, quick access to water 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. They may fall over!
If your region tends to be humid overall, proper hive ventilation is your best friend. Ensure plenty of ventilation for the hive. Use screened bottom boards and extra ventilation holes in the bee boxes if needed.
Raise Hives Off the Ground
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 commercial hive stands that are designed to hold the heavy weight of a production hive. 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.
FAQs About Hive Placement
Most beekeeping books will tell you to place your beehive so that the entrance of the hive 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.
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.
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. In some cold regions, beekeepers stack bales of straw near the hives.
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.
Hives placed 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.
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 install hive beetle traps before beetles become a problem.
You do not have to put your beehive near a field of wildflowers. Though your bees would love it and I am a big supporter of planting for bees.
New beekeepers feel concerned about living in an area with few blooms. What will the honey bees eat? Your bees can easily fly up to a mile ( and more) to forage for water, pollen or nectar.
Unless you have a large number of hives, you should not have to worry much about having flowers close by.
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.
Beehives in a Small Backyard
If you are a beekeeper with a small backyard, there are some special challenges to overcome. You may still be about to enjoy your bees, but you have a responsibility to the public.
Even gentle easy to manage honey bees can become testy and defensive at times. A beehive with 60,000 bees (that can sting) is not a good item to have sitting right outside your back door.
Honey bee colony temperament changes over the season. Being bother by pest or predators, experiencing a lack of nectar, or queen problems-all can turn your sweet easy going bees into a defensive nightmare.
Hobby beekeepers often fail to understand how drastic this behavior can be until it happens. Of course, the bad temper doesn’t last forever.
By fixing the issues that are upsetting the bees, your hive will eventually return to it’s former attitude. However, until that happens – the hives should not be too close to any human dwelling or pathway.
Your neighbors and family members may not experience the “bee euphoria” that is enveloping you. It is much better to have your hives a bit farther away from the house, rather than closer.
Beekeeping in the City/Urban Beehive Placements
Some urban beekeepers have hives on the rooftops of buildings. Of course, this will need approval of the building representatives and possibly the city. But there are other options too.
Hives can be located inside walled gardens. This helps separate the colony flight path from a human walking path. The space in front of a hive is most important to the bees.
Having a 6 foot wall a few feet in front of the hive entrance helps direct bee flight upward. Often, city dwellers are unaware that a functioning beehive is located in their neighborhood.
And, 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!
If you live in a close community, consider developing a privacy screen for your busy bees. Plant a line of evergreen shrubs on 3 sides of the bee yard.
Or, install outdoor privacy screens which require less maintenance than a living shrub. Artificial shrubs are also an option for year round cover. And, a shrub is more likely to catch a bee swarm if one leaves your hive. That’s great because it will be easy to catch !
Do you or your neighbors have a swimming pool? Honey bees tend to love swimming pool water but this doesn’t mean you can’t have a hive. In addition to providing another water source for them, there are some – tips you can use to keep bees out of the swimming pool.
What are pesticide spraying by cities and local governments? If this is common in your area, consider how you will protect your beehives from mosquito spraying.
When choosing the best place to put your hive, don’t panic if you can not meet all of the criteria. You don’t need a perfect hive location.
Take all the guidelines into consideration and choose the best spot that you have! Bees thrive in many settings. As long as you take the needs of the bees into consideration, as well as, human safety – you should be able to find a great place to put your beehive.