It’s pretty amazing how bees can survive just about anywhere. They thrive in open fields with full sun. They thrive in backyards of subdivision homes. They thrive on top of huge industrial roofs like the ones we manage at Boise State University on top of the SUB. They even thrive on the roofs of skyscrapers in New York City! With all of this in mind, there are still techniques and general guidelines (remember, there are no rules in beekeeping) when choosing the ideal place to set up your new beehive. Keeping the following concepts listed below in mind will allow you give your bees the resources they need while also making your job as the beekeeper easier.
- Face the opening of the hive to the east or southeast – Bees love sunlight, and orienting their opening in this direction allows them to get sunlight first thing in the morning, which can get them buzzing and foraging earlier.
- Sunny! Avoid too much shade – Place your hive in a space that receives full or almost full sunlight. Too much shade can result in a cold damp hive, especially in the spring time.
- Set the hive on a hard surface, off of the ground – Use a stump, cinder blocks, 2×4’s, an old stand, nearly anything to get your hive off the ground. This helps to keep critters out of the hive, prevents the bottom from getting soggy and wet by sitting in the mud, and also saves your back by not having to bend over as far!
- Water source nearby, about 15 feet away – Bees, like any living creature, need water! Having a source nearby is important, but bizarrely, the bees tend to not access it if it’s located directly near the hive. Ensuring a water source is around 15 feet from the hive is ideal. If you have a pond or other consistent source, great! If not, make one. A pot holder with water poured over rocks works great. Just keep in mind that the bees will use your neighbors pool or hot tub for a water source if you don’t provide one.
- Accessible! – It’s crucial for you as the beekeeper to easily access your hive. You want to be able to carry heavy frames of honey to a place for extraction without climbing up a huge hill, for example. It’s great if your hive is close to your home. If not, ensure a vehicle or wheelbarrow can help you access it.
These five tips can be very helpful when setting up a beehive, but sometimes you have to improvise. Your backyard may face westward, and that’s ok. Sometimes you have to work with what you’ve got! Just ensure you give your bees the best environment you can, and I think you’ll find that they will be happy, buzzin’, little bugs.
Keep your bees buzzin’ y’all!