As a beekeeper it is your job to provide the best living conditions for your bees as possible. Part of that is to find the best location for your beehives. You can have all the right equipment for your apiary, but if it is not in the right location, your colony may not thrive. This article will talk about how to find the best location for beehives.
When choosing the best location for beehives there are several things to consider. Safety, accessibility, and environmental factors must be taken into account. If you have multiple beehives you need to also look at how far apart should beehives be placed.
Ideal Hive Location
An important part of beekeeping is finding an ideal location to place your hive. Apiary placement can make a difference in the beekeeper’s colony thriving or failing. The perfect location for an apiary will take the following into account: city ordinances, safety, accessibility, level ground, sun, shade, and water.
Honey bees, and the queen especially, need certain things in order to produce the most honey. By choosing the best spot for your apiary location, you are ensuring that the honey bees have the best chance at survival.
City Ordinances for Beekeeping
Before setting up your beehive, the first thing you should do is check your city ordinances. Each city has laws and regulations pertaining to beekeeping. These rules will determine how many hives you may own, as well as your hive location.
Most likely your city ordinances will detail how many feet away from public walkways your apiary must be. Some cities also require your beehive to be placed behind a fence.
The next thing to consider when choosing a location for a beehive is safety. You need to ensure that both your bees and other people are safe. As much as we love our bees, the fact is that they can, and will sting.
While most honey bee stings are not a problem, some people have allergies to bee stings, or are just afraid of bees. The best thing to do is to keep your beehive out of sight, in an area where people will not be walking through regularly.
Facing your hive entrance towards a tall barrier is ideal because it will encourage bees to fly upwards, and not towards people. Keeping your hive faced away from foot traffic and people also helps to prevent bees from thinking nearby people are threats to the hive.
Are there predators, such as bears and skunks in your area? If so, you may need to install strong fencing around your beehives. These animals may get into your hives in search of honey, so you need to keep your hives protected.
You must also make sure that you have easy access to your beehive. Beekeeping in a tight or cramped area is difficult, so having a spacious working area is important. Allow 2 – 3 feet of open space around each side of your hive for best accessibility.
It is important that you place your beehive on level ground. The reason for that is that bees build their comb perpendicular to the ground. A hive placed on unlevel ground will result in uneven comb, and less honey production.
Some bee feeders also require that the hive be level to be used. Also, when doing hive inspections and harvesting honey, it is just easier for the beekeeper to be working on level ground.
Sun and Shade
The best location for beehives is facing south or southeast. It is beneficial for the bees to be exposed to the early morning sun. It helps to warm up their bodies to prepare them to fly, and it gets the hive active earlier in the day. This gives them more time to forage.
You don’t want your hive in full sunlight, though. The hive will get too hot and the bees will spend too much energy regulating the temperature of the hive. Too much shade on the other hand results in a damp hive and listless colony.
Find a good combination of sun and shade, choose a spot that is dappled in sunlight. Near or under a tree would be an good area. That way the bees get both sun and shade.
Bees need an accessible source of water. You don’t want your bees traveling over to your neighbor’s pool for water, so it is best that you provide them with a water source. The best water source for bees will have gently sloping sides and stones or twigs for them to land on. Place the water within 50 feet of your hive so it’s easy for the bees to find.
Be sure that your hives are not in an area that receives direct wind. Too much wind makes temperature regulation in the hive difficult, and of course you don’t want to risk your hive being knocked over. A wind break, such as trees, a fence, or shrubbery can help so that your hives are not being hit by too much wind.
Bending over to check on your hives all the time can be hard on your back. To remedy this, use a hive stand or cinder blocks to elevate your beehive. Not only is an elevated beehive easier on your body, it also helps to keep ground moisture out of the hive.
How Far Apart Should Beehives be Placed?
If you have multiple beehives you may wonder, how far apart should beehives be placed? Technically, bee hives can be placed right up next to each other and be okay. However, with hives in such close proximity you do risk the chance of drifting.
Drifting is when bees enter a hive that is not their own. This can be caused by wind or lack of landmarks for the bees to use.
Bees use landmarks to navigate, so it can help if you paint your hives different colors to help the bees know which hive is theirs. You want to prevent drifting because if a bee enters the wrong hive the other bees may kill it.
You also don’t want your beehives so far apart that you need to walk a great distance to work on them. So, how far apart should beehives be placed?
As a general rule of thumb, it is recommended that beehives should be placed 2 feet apart. This distance should help bees navigate to their own hive, but not be so far apart that they are difficult to work on.
Can You Put a Beehive in the Woods?
The woods may seem like an ideal hive location. There are lots of plants and trees, and not much people to disturb them. But, should a beekeeper really build an apiary in the woods?
It is possible for a honey bee colony to live in the woods. However, the beekeeper must take certain things into account. First, they must look at how much sun the hives will be getting.
Sunlight is important to bee colonies, and sometimes woods are too heavily shaded. If there is a clearing in the woods with lots of sunlight, the hives should be fine.
Next, the beekeeper must think of local animals and pests that are present in the woods. Small hive beetles are often found in the woods, and if they get into your hives, it would be very difficult for your colonies to survive.
Animals that live in the woods, such as raccoons could also be a threat to your bees. Putting your hives on stands, or even fencing off the area can help with that.
In general, if you would like an apiary in the woods, and ideal location would be at the woodland’s edge. This area would receive ample sunlight and would be easy for the beekeeper to access for inspections.
Best Location for Beehives Infographic
Here’s a quick infographic that will help you remember how to find the best location for beehives. Feel free to share!
There are several factors that determine the best location for beehives. City ordinances, safety, accessibility, level ground, sun, water, and wind all play important roles in finding the best spot for your bee yard.
In addition, if you have more than one beehive you should place your hives 2 feet away from each other. Giving your bees the best conditions will ensure that the colony will thrive.
This post was published on August 10, 2019 and updated on March 22nd, 2022 .