How to – Choosing an apiary site

The thought of getting your first beehive is absolutely thrilling. By now you may have attended an introductory beekeeping course and are starting to piece all the information together. A basic course should cover this topic but let’s look at this in some detail.

It could easily be stated that your bees will work it out regardless of where you place them. They are after all very adaptable and capable at looking after themselves. But if you make a handful of simple adjustments you could end up with more benefits than you realise.

Here are some potential gains if you optimise your apiary:

  • Less energy spent on staying warm over winter and cool during summer

  • Less effort required to manage humidity

  • Shorter distances to food and water sources

  • Better work flow for the beekeeper

Add them all up and this could mean:

  • Healthier bees

  • Larger populations

  • Less disease

  • Fewer pests

  • Larger harvest

  • Less feeding

  • Easier for the beekeeper to manage their bees

So what should you do?

  • Face the hive entrance towards the early morning sun to get the girls up and foraging early.

  • Protect from hot afternoon sun to minimise the energy being spent on cooling the hive instead of foraging.

  • Place the hive entrance away from the prevailing cold winds. Create some shelter behind the hives to protect from this wind.

  • Be wary of bee flight paths and access paths to your apiary.

Some other considerations:

  • Bee hives next to each other and that face the same direction may result in bees drifting to the neighbouring hive which may promote the spread of disease.

  • Will it be a nuisance to your neighbours?

  • Will it be safe from vandals?

  • Easy access for you with your beekeeping equipment. You need to be able to move heavy honey supers safely.

  • Is there room for growth? Unless you lose interest in the first year or two it is almost certain that you’ll end up with more hives than you initially intended. Trust me on this one.

  • Replace grass under your hives with mulch or gravel. This will keep the temperature and humidity more reasonable on cold nights.

  • If it’s not my land, have I sought permission from the land owner?

  • Will my bees impact on other established apiaries in my area?

Hopefully this blog post gets you thinking. You may not have access to the perfect site but understanding the factors that influence the success of your bees allows you to optimise as best as you can.

Have you got some other considerations to optimise your apiary site for you and your bees?