Educational Guide

Apiary Location

Both beginners and established beekeepers should select each apiary site carefully. Throughout the foraging season, nectar and pollen sources must be within a short distance (roughly 1 mile) of the hives. Pollen is essential for brood rearing, and nectar (honey) is the bees’ basic source of energy. While bees can be kept virtually anywhere, large concentrations of floral sources (and populous colonies) are needed to produce large honey crops.

Bees also need a source of fresh water so they can dilute honey, regulate hive temperature, liquefy crystallized honey, and raise brood. If a water supply is not available within 1⁄4 mile of the hives, you can provide a tank or pan of water with a floating board or crushed rock for the bees to land on. The water source does not need to be “pure.”

Bees are less irritable and easier to handle when located in the open where they can get plenty of sunshine. Shade from trees retards the flight of workers and hinders finding the queen and seeing eggs within the cells. A southern or easterly exposure gives colonies maximum sunshine throughout the day. The apiary is best situated near natural wind protection such as hills, buildings, or evergreens. Other requirements are dry ground and good air drainage. Avoid windy, exposed hilltops or sites near the bank of a river that might potentially flood. You should also avoid apiary locations in heavily shaded woods or in a damp bottom land since excess moisture and less sunshine retard the flight of the bees and encourage development of such bee diseases as nosema and EFB.

Your accessibility to the apiary is important—perhaps the most important factor in apiary location because you must visit it throughout the year in all kinds of weather. Avoid locations where carrying equipment and heavy supers of honey any distance will be necessary. Hives should be secluded from traffic, constant noise, and disturbance from animals and children. To discourage vandalism, placing colonies near a dwelling or area frequently visited yet screened from view if possible (a vegetative corral) is advisable. Safety from pesticide applications that can affect colonies directly or the bees’ forage is also important. Acquaint yourself with the pesticides commonly used in the area, and place colonies away from fields or other areas that are routinely treated with pesticides.

When selecting sites for outyards (apiary sites away from your residence), make inquiries to determine how many other beekeepers are operating in the area. A location can easily become overstocked with bees, which results in a poor honey crop for everyone. Beekeepers tend to neglect out-apiaries that are located too far from home. Increasing energy costs and efficient use of time should be included in each apiary site decision. Many farmers do not object to beekeepers locating outyards on some unused piece of farmland, but obviously you should obtain permission before considering any site owned by someone else. Outyards are usually “rented” with payment of harvested honey.