If you’ve ever been house hunting, you know how difficult it is to narrow down on just one house that has everything you need.
Hardwood floors, open kitchen plans with an island and granite countertops, great backyard with room for slides and swings, close to a great school with just enough privacy but not too isolated so help is never too far away.
Several of these factors just don’t occur simultaneously and so you usually have your minimum requirement which comes down to security and a solid roof. Everything else is a compromise. This same idea holds true with beehive placement too.
Beekeeping is where nature and convenience meet. So in order for you to identify what beehive location would suit your bees the best, we first have to go back to nature.
In the wild, bees settle down and build their homes in hollowed trees or caves. What do these two places have in common?
They are both cool and remain dry, often with only one point of entry. They are above the ground minimizing the risk of a predator reaching and destroying the hive.
This already gives us a few factors to consider when (and where) we should be setting up the location of our hives.
Here are 10 additional factors to consider when setting up the placement for a beehive.
Keep Your Hive Cool
Many people who have thousands of hives will put them out in the open field because that’s what works for them.
It’s pretty difficult to put up a shed to house 10,000 hives while ensuring that they have enough space between them.
Although these colonies survive, even thrive, that set up location may not be ideal depending on where you are located.
Having a tree nearby that provides shade, especially from the afternoon sun is a great idea. During the summer, the bees need some help keeping the hive’s interior cool.
When the temperatures rise, the bees deposit water in the hive and evaporate the water by fanning it with their wings.
The evaporation process absorbs heat from the hive and acts as an air conditioning system. The hotter it is, the more the bees have to fan, and in some cases, you’ll find the bees forming a ‘beard’ outside the hive.
In extreme cases, the bees could abscond the hive altogether, especially if they are a new colony without brood. So, shade is definitely important.
I think a natural shade from a tree is ideal because the area under the tree can be cool, not cold, unlike a shed or other man-made structures that can be cold even when the temperature outside is warm.
Some level of sunlight is good for the hive. The heat from the sun’s rays warms the hive and allows the bees to get off ‘blanket’ duty and begin a new day of foraging.
The bees remain in a cluster as long as the temperature in the hive is low. If your beehive placement can enjoy some morning light and then be shielded from the afternoon sun, the hive’s temperature will be easier to regulate, particularly during the hot months.
Keep Your Hive Dry
Bees like to keep a clean house, and that includes cleaning up spills along the isles. Excessive moisture in a dark warm box, which is what a hive is can lead to the growth of mold, and that’s no good for your bees.
When you position your hive, ensure that no water can make its way in through an opening.
You could slant the hive slightly, with the entrance of the hive facing downward to ensure that any rain that lands on the hive roll off and away from the entrance.
If possible, you could get slanted hive covers like these that resemble the roof of a house. They are aesthetically pleasing and serve to direct rain away from the entrance.
Make sure that the area around your hive drains well. If your hive is at the bottom of a hill, then you’ll need a hive stand that’s a foot or two above the ground.
Still, on the subject of moisture, wintertime can cause an increase in moisture leading to mold growing on the inner surface of the hive.
Fortunately, there’s a solution for this too. Good ventilation as well as adding some wood shavings to the inner top cover helps to keep the heat in while absorbing the moisture.
Keep Your Hive Off the Ground
There are a lot of insects and mammals that would love to get into the hive, including ants and mice.
Getting a hive stand helps to make it a little tougher for these uninvited guests to gain entry to the castle of honey.
A hive stand need not be expensive. A cinder block will do. If you’re handy with a saw and drill, you could make it yourself.
You need to ensure that the stand is stable, especially if you live in a windy area. You may need to purchase tie-downs to strap down your hive and keep it stable when the wind speeds pick up.
Consider the Hives Proximity to Water
If your neighbor has a pool and no love for bees, you may find yourself on the receiving end of some angry visits and threatening messages from the neighborhood association.
Bees need water and will take it wherever they can find it. The level of chlorine does not deter them from visiting the pool.
To minimize the chances of human bee conflict, particularly during the hot summer months, make sure the location you place your beehive is able to provide a source of water for your bees.
It doesn’t have to be clean and fresh every day. They don’t mind stagnant murky water. What’s important is that it is safe for consumption.
Keep Your Hive in a Quiet Location
If bees wanted noise, they’d make it themselves. It’s advisable to keep the location of your hive away from areas that bustle with human activity.
Even in urban areas, bees are kept on rooftops for a reason. There isn’t too much going on up there so the bees can enjoy some level of peace.
Constant noise can cause aggravation and, in some unfortunate cases, the bees can get irritated. Another possibility is that they will leave the hive and never come back. This is known as absconding.
Unfortunately, you can’t choose your neighbors and you can’t monitor their every move.
So, if you live near a grade school, a construction site, or a very annoying teenager who is determined to jam themselves deaf to the latest hits, you may need to relocate your hive.
Keep the Boundaries
Bees don’t like feeling exposed. So what do you do if you live next to a path or a sidewalk? Put up a fence. This protects both your bees and the people passing by.
By forcing the bees to fly upward, you reduce the possibility of attacks. The bees, who unable to see the passersby, do not perceive any danger and don’t get territorial by stinging potential ‘threats’ known as innocent pedestrians.
This also acts to protect your hives from people who are afraid of the idea of bees. I say ‘idea’ because most of these people know very little about bees and probably can’t tell the difference between a yellow jacket and a honey bee.
People, with little knowledge, are capable of vandalizing your hives because they are ‘dangerous’. As long as keeping bees is not illegal in your area, the best way to deal with these types is to locate and keep the hives away from their line of sight. A hedge or a fence like this one here would work perfectly.
Let Your Beehive Placement Be Accessible
When your colonies become productive, you will need to harvest honey. Honey is a very heavy commodity.
When you’re adding empty supers to your hives, it’s pretty easy to do because the wood and frames are pretty light. However, doing the same at the peak of the harvest season won’t be so easy.
It would be a great benefit to you if you could back up your truck to within a few feet of the hives to make your work easier. It’s unlikely that the area will be well-paved so a trolley will be difficult to use on the rough terrain.
Then again, your accessibility isn’t always the priority. When setting up a bait hive to attract swarms, the recommended height of the hive from the ground is about five meters. That’s 16 ft in the air. This is according to Thomas Seeley’s ‘Honeybee Democracy‘. A bait hive is just an ordinary brood box that beekeepers setup that helps them to lures swarms.
Accessibility isn’t a primary factor here because this setting is temporary. Once the swarm has found its way into the bait hive and begins constructing the comb, the beekeeper will move the colony to a more accessible location.
Keep Your Hive Placement Away From Direct Winds
This is the second advantage to having your hive behind a fence or a hedge. The last thing you want is a strong wind toppling your hives over.
If not that, then you don’t want an icy winter wind going right through the entrance of the hive and chilling all the residence. For this reason, avoid having your entrance facing north.
Even when the temperatures improve, remember that a bee is a pretty small insect. Although they are quite resourceful, the wind is not an easy mistress to conquer.
When wild colonies set up their hives in trees, they already have natural windbreakers. So, when you’re considering a venue for your beehives, wind protection is very important.
Does the Perfect Hive Location Exist?
Many new beekeepers want to know where the best location to put a beehive is. Here’s what I always tell them when they ask…
Does the perfect location exist? Well, it probably does, but bees are quite adaptable so who’s to say where that is.
If left to their own devices, bees will decide to take up residence in the ceiling of your house.
Does that mean you should set up a hive up there? I would think not.
In reality, most of the time, where you position your hives is guided by the options available.
Some backyard beekeepers will put a hive inside the loft of a barn. Others will be fortunate to have a bubbling brook that borders their property and place the hive somewhere nearby.
Imagine if you had a lovely meadow at your disposal. Some ways off the tree line that marks the boundaries, there are a couple of oaks that have been there for decades.
They provide protection from the hot summer sun but ideal for catching the first light. All you can hear for miles around is the music of the birds and the mating call of insects.
Yes, you can sigh at this meadow of perfection. Unfortunately, most of us don’t have that.
Bees thrive in differing conditions and locations. What is paramount is the safety of the bees and those living in close proximity to them.
2 Additional Considerations for Ideal Beehive Placement
I don’t mean to further complicate things, but you must be aware of two other important factors when you’re deciding where to place your beehive: Pets and Spacing.
Let’s take a closer look at each and see how they impact beehive placement.
Animals, by nature, are curious creatures and if you have a dog or cat, they may follow you out to the hives every once in a while.
It would be best if your energetic dog couldn’t reach the hive, but if he does, well, the bees will be sure to teach him what a grave mistake that was.
There are scary stories of animals being stung to death, but most of those have been linked to killer bees as they migrate across the country.
Although your bees will sting your pets if they get too familiar, they probably won’t cause any fatalities.
Your dog simply won’t stick around long enough to allow that to happen. You’ll find that they are unlikely to repeat the same mistake twice anyway.
If you can keep them away, then do it, but they are unlikely to venture around there in your absence so there’s no cause for alarm.
If you have horses nearby, you may need to put in extra effort to keep them as far from the hives as possible. Once a horse gets startled, it could easily cause injury to someone, particularly if the person is being ferried on horseback at the time.
First of all, keep in mind that whatever space you have between hives is already contrary to nature.
I say this so that you don’t spend too much time getting the measurements down to the last inch. A space of two to five feet between hives should work well.
This is mainly for your convenience. Just make sure the entrances to the hives aren’t facing each other.
Beehive placement isn’t an exact science. As long as you’ve taken into consideration the safety of both the bees and your neighbors, the bees will be pretty happy will flourish. Just give them a place that they feel safe.`