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Where to Keep Your Hives When Beekeeping

1 of 11 in Series: The Essentials of Setting Up a Backyard Beehive

You can keep honey bees just about anywhere: in the countryside, in the city, in a corner of the garden, by the back door, in a field, on the terrace, or even on an urban rooftop. You don’t need a great deal of space, nor do you need to have flowers on your property.

Bees will happily travel for miles to forage for what they need. These girls are amazingly adaptable, but you’ll get optimum results and a more rewarding honey harvest if you follow some fundamental guidelines.

Basically, you’re looking for easy access (so you can tend to your hives), good drainage (so the bees don’t get wet), a nearby water source for the bees, dappled sunlight, and minimal wind. Keep in mind that fulfilling all these criteria may not be possible. Do the best you can by

  • Facing your hive to the southeast. That way your bees get an early morning wake-up call and start foraging early.

  • Positioning your hive so that it is easily accessible come honey harvest time. You don’t want to be hauling hundreds of pounds of honey up a hill on a hot August day.

  • Providing a windbreak at the rear of the hive. You can plant trees or erect a fence made from posts and burlap, blocking harsh winter winds that can stress the colony (assuming you live in a climate with cold winters).

  • Putting the hive in dappled sunlight. Ideally, avoid full sun, because the warmth of the sun requires the colony to work hard to regulate the hive’s temperature in the summer. By contrast, you also want to avoid deep, dark shade, because it can make the hive damp and the colony listless.

  • Making sure the hive has good ventilation. Avoid placing it in a gully where the air is still and damp. Also, avoid putting it at the peak of a hill, should you live in a region where the bee will be subjected to winter’s fury.

  • Placing the hive absolutely level from side to side, and with the front of the hive just slightly lower than the rear (a difference of an inch or less is fine), so that any rainwater drains out of the hive (and not into it).

  • Locating your hive on firm, dry land. Don’t let it sink into the quagmire.

    Mulch around the hive prevents grass and weeds from blocking its entrances.

    The picture-perfect beeyard. Not always possible, but an admirable objective.
    The picture-perfect beeyard. Not always possible, but an admirable objective.

If you are moving bees to a new location that is a mile or two away, no problem. But if you are moving the hive to a location much less than this, you may lose all of your field bees because they will return to where the hive used to be. If you only need to move your hive a short distance (like across your yard), move the hive a little bit at a time (a few yards each day until you reach the desired destination).

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The Essentials of Setting Up a Backyard Beehive

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