While my husband and I are still very much novice beekeepers (ahem, to date, we have only had our hives for three days), we hungrily read books and articles, scoured the web for beekeeping blogs, watched YouTube videos endlessly, and took a local Beekeeping 101 course. Eager to learn all we could before the arrival of our new neighbors, one of the biggest decisions we had to make was where to place the hives.
It turns out, this is a pretty big decision. Not only are there multiple factors that must be considered when choosing your location, but moving a honeybee hive is not an easy thing. In order to move a hive without causing the honeybees to suddenly “lose” their home on their internal GPS, a beehive must either be moved 1-foot every day until it is in the new desired location, or it must be moved over 1-mile away for a week, and then brought back. Even then, moving a hive is greatly advised against. So we knew that once chosen, our bees would not be going anywhere.
Are you considering adding honeybees to your homestead or backyard? There is an endless amount of beekeeping information and resources online, as well as in your local community. With honeybees being in an endangered-like state these days, we found that the beekeepers we interacted with were eager and willing to share their knowledge! Reach out to your local beekeeping clubs, or even check to see if your state’s environmental department has an entomologist on staff.
When considering where on your property to place your hives, our top 5 factors to consider are:
- Choosing a permanent spot – Like I listed before, moving a honeybee hive is no easy feat. Choose a locale that you will be comfortable devoting to your bees, and won’t have any foreseeable reason to move them from.
- Direction & Sun – Ideally, a beehive should be faced southeast, in a location where the hive will be exposed to the morning sun, but will be provided some shade during the heat of the afternoon. By facing the front of the hive towards the southeast, you are encouraging those first morning sun rays to warm the hive, the light comes in your entrance, and the bees get a nice early start to their busy day.
- Consider the “Landing Strip” – Also referred to as “the runway”, the few feet directly in front of your beehive are going to be a honeybee highway. Bees will be zipping in and out as they gather nectar and pollen, and return to store it in their honeycomb cells. You wouldn’t want someone standing in your way if you were constantly walking a certain path while working, right? Your honey bees feel the same way! It is in everyone’s best interest if you can ensure the front of the hive is away from areas where you will be walking by frequently, playing, or in anyway interrupting the flow of bee-traffic.
- Traffic & Yard Equipment – To continue from my above point on bee-traffic, human activity and traffic will affect the happiness of your bees; and unhappy, stressed-out bees are not going to be very friendly. When considering where to place your bee hives, it is also important to keep this spot away from areas where you are working frequently – even if you would not be in the direct way of the hive, as in number 3 above. One of our potential locations for a hive was in the front of our property. The spot is clear, visible and met the first three requirements. However, it is only a few yards at most from where we process our firewood, clean cars and equipment, and drive the tractors back and forth. This means frequent loud noise and vibrations from chainsaws, log splitters, power washers, tractors, trucks, leaf blowers and more! You wouldn’t want to work and sleep around that all day, right? Neither do your bees.
- Protection from Wind & Weather – The last factor, but by no means the least important, in choosing a location for your honeybee hives, is putting their hive in an area that will offer some form of protection from high winds, rain or snow storms. Our chosen location backs the hives up against a stonewall (although we left a little over 1′ of space behind them, so we can easily work in and around the hives as needed), providing them some coverage from the wind. Since the area just behind the stonewall is wooded, the overhanging tree branches will provide some, if only a little, protection from rain and snow.
After walking our property multiple times and staring out windows on rainy days, we finally narrowed our options down to a few locations, and from there, chose the spot at the top of our yard, behind our house, as the permanent location for our two hives. This spot satisfies all of the requirements above, and provides the added benefit of being highly visible from our back deck, and indoor living space. This may not be desirable for everyone, but we are very excited to not only be able to watch our bees’ activity, but to also know with a single glance if there are any major concerns (i.e. – predator activities, downed branches, etc.).
Once you have chosen your location, make sure that you are using a base or cinder blocks to keep your hive off the ground. This will help deter other insects from finding their way to the hive. You should level the base out as much as possible, to make sure your hive will be stable, and if you are going to be off on the front-to-back leveling, it is OK to have the hive be erring forward. You don’t want the hive to be tipped so far forward that it is going to fall over, but if it’s a hair off from perfectly level, it is better to have that be tipped forward, not back, this way when it rains, the water will not drain backwards and into the hive. Wet bees are not happy bees!
Choosing a location for your hives can be somewhat overwhelming, as there is so much to consider. Make sure that when you are ready to add honeybees to your property, that you allow plenty of time for planning and choosing your desired location. Your bees will thank you for it!