In the next couple of weeks, Dad will be moving his bees to the farm. Yay!! I have so missed the bees. Stacy and I had a bee hive several years ago in our urban backyard in Georgia and I just LOVED them. I find them to be the most amazing little creatures. At this moment Dad has 10 hives to relocate, most of which could easily be split if we weren’t about to move them to a different state right before winter… but no need to stress them out any more than we already are!! In preparation for this, we are in the process of deciding where exactly on the farm to put them. While I have a little experience working the bees, this will be my first experience ever relocating them.
As we began, I was thinking- oh hive location is no big deal because if later on we don’t like their location, we can just move them… um… yes.. but it isn’t that easy. You see a honey bee has an amazing ability to navigate it’s surroundings. They have top notch GPS in their little brains. BUT… when it come time to return to thier hive, they only know how to get back to their exact location. If you move their hive over a few inches, they are fine. If you move them a mile or more where their environment is completely new, they are fine. If you move it 100 feet across the yard, they are so completely lost that they will die trying to find their hive.
Now there are ways to move a hive, but it is no easy task. Some people have successfully moved their hives to a new yard location by moving the hive a few inches or a foot every week until they get to the desired location. This might be a solution for the common backyard beekeeper with only a few hives… but when talking about 50-100 hives (that we have planned for the future) and 100 acres of land, this would obviously not be an option for us. Another way is to wait for the weather forecast to predict bad weather for several days, plug up the hive at night (when they are not flying), move the hive to the new location, and then keep them plugged up for several days before releasing them. While this works, you can see that it is highly weather dependent (I would never do this in the heat of summer) and a bit risky. To be honest, I would much rather get this right the first time than deal with it again.
So how do you choose a perfect hive location? Here are some things to keep in mind as you pick out a perfect (and hopefully permanent) location for your honey bee hives:
- Sunlight: Hives should be in full sun and face South or East. Heat from the sun will keep them warm in the winter and protect their entrance from harsh winter wind, snow, and rain. This is particularly true for bottom bar hives.
- Hives should sit on a raised stand on a flat well-drained area. If you have a bottom bar bee hive (the entrance is at the bottom of the hive), you also need to think about tall grass or snow blocking the entrance. You may want to lay rocks or gravel in front of the hive to ensure it doesn’t get blocked.
- Water Source: a nearby water source is vital for the bees to survive. You need to take into consideration where they will get this water both for their survival and to ensure they don’t choose your neighbors pool as their water source and become a nuisance! If you are not located next to a pond or lake, you can easily make a watering system for them to use. Some people simply fill a 5 gallon bucket with water and float a sponge in it for the bees to land on and drink! So while there is a simple solution to getting them water, this must be at least thought out and considered when choosing their location.
- Wind Break- Placing them in front of a wind break will protect your hives from the harsh North and West winds. A wind break could be anything from a tree line to a building or structure.
- Low traffic area- bees need space to enter and exit the hive. As the worker bees come in and out of the hive, they will follow a set path. This path will vary depending on their surroundings. In a wide open field, the bees flight path will be about 30 feet. In a back yard location, plan on about 8-10 feet. You will want to make sure that you leave this space uninterrupted by human traffic both for the safety of the bees and people. For example, make sure that it does not coincide with a walkway, play area, porch, or other high traffic area. Otherwise you will have people batting away bees and you can only imagine how that will end.
- Critter Control- the type of critters you need to prepare for greatly depends on where you are setting up your hive (back yard, farm, field). In a more rural location, bears could be a real threat to your hive. In a neighborhood location, mice or even neighborhood kids could be a threat. This might help you decide if your hives should be fenced, left in the open, closer to your house (to keep an eye on them), or tucked farther away from human traffic.
As for us, we have finally found that perfect spot right inside our fenced in garden overlooking a pond. While there have been no reports of trouble with bears where we live, with the amount of forest around us they could most definitely be out there. So as an extra precaution, we are surrounding them with electric wire also. I can’t wait for them to get here!!Are you a beekeeper? Do you have any other tips for choosing a location? We would love to hear from you in the comments below!