The following is a transcript of Honey Bee Man Episode 3 – Where to Place a Hive and Beekeeping in the City, there’s a widget here to the right with the original audio version if you’d like to listen along. MarkZ:
How to Pick a Site for Your Beehive
The site should be chosen carefully. You should plan this long before your bees arrive in the mail. Once your hive is established, moving it can be much more difficult. Beekeepers in the pollination business regularly transport their colonies, but they have all of the proper equipment to do this easily. It’s not so easy when you have one or two hives in your backyard.
Considering the location of a hobby hive or two you must be aware of climate conditions such as wind, shade, and the time the sun hits the hive each morning. Additionally, the location of the hive must take into account people, pests, and pets.
As far as wind, shade, and sun, you want to make sure the bees have sunlight in the morning and shade in the hot afternoon. They need to be out of the wind so that they’re not getting cold winter winds blowing inside the hive.
Before you put a hive in your backyard you need to make sure that you don’t have any restrictive covenants which may prohibit you from keeping bees. Many neighborhoods have restrictions which do not allow things such as farm animals, they also prevent from parking boats and campers in your driveway. You just need to make sure that it’s okay to actually have the bees in your yard so you don’t have problem right from the start.
You also need to check with your neighbors or educate your neighbors to make sure they understand what is going on in your backyard. We’ll talk more about that in a second. The situation with backyard beehives is unique. Even when you comply with all of the necessary rules and regulations you may still encounter resistance from your neighbors. Each individual must decide if neighbors need to be specifically informed about your bees.
Sometimes when you talk to neighbors they’re paranoid about honeybees. They think they’re these vicious bees that are going to sting you when you walk outside your door. As we all know, that’s not how honeybees work. They pretty much will ignore people, for the most part, as long as you don’t have them in a place where you’re setting yourself up for a problem to begin with. As long as you have your hive placed where the bees flight path are not interfering with people’s path, you should be in good shape.
To educate your neighbors about bees, sometimes the best way to do that is with a golden jar of honey left on their doorstep or given to them. This educates them about the bees and kind of makes it okay that the bees are where they are.
You also have to think about the bees’ flight path. You want to make sure it doesn’t cross sidewalks or paths where people walk. You can use hedges or fences to force the bees to fly upwards or to block them from areas where people frequent. Some beekeepers even put beehives on top of garage roofs and up on top of other things so that they don’t fly into small areas.
For neighborhoods where swimming pools are common, bees must be given sources of water so that they don’t drink from the chlorinated pools. If water is not readily available, bees will drown by the hundreds in swimming pools – and likely annoy the pool owner because these bees are going to be in his filter every morning.
For drinking water you can use a galvanized pan filled with cobblestones placed at the edge of your garden. The stones prevent the bees from falling in and the bees can drink at their leisure from this closely located water. The only thing that you have to do is make sure the water stays filled up and make sure the water stays fresh so that you don’t have a stagnant pool sitting there. You want to fill it up every day or two just to make sure it stays fresh.
Be Mindful of Animals in the Area, Pets and Pests
Pets around the beehives are often not compatible. If you have dogs, they’re going to learn to stay away from the bees. It only takes four or five stings and they will stay away from the bees. As a general rule, you should keep dogs away from the bees. Cats generally show no interest in beehives. Backyard chickens pretty much know better than to eat a bee that’s on a flower.
You should probably keep your beehives away from cattle, horses, and other large animals. I don’t think they would necessarily bother them, but the curiosity may get them a little too close and you just don’t want to have a bad situation there. The large animals could also knock your hives, which could cause a different kind of big problem.
Hives have other pests that you have to worry about as well, including raccoons, possums, skunks, and if you live in a place where you have bears you’ve got your own set of problems. For the most part, keeping your hives away from raccoons, possums, skunks, these animals will seek out your hive because they know that’s a source of food.
Raccoons and skunks actually like to eat the bees themselves as they come out of the hive and this can be a problem. You can tell if your hives are having this problem if you find scratch marks on the front of your hive. If you have this problem, there are a few things that you can do about it.
One thing is you can try to fence in your hives or you can put some carpet tack strips along the front of your hives so that when the raccoon or skunk puts their paws up on the front of the hive their paws will get scratched and they’ll realize that’s not a good place to be putting their paws and that will tend to stop them.
The other thing you can do is to raise your hives off the ground a little bit, maybe a foot off the ground, so that the skunks and raccoons have to raise themselves up to get up there. When they’re stretched out this gives the bees a chance to sting them under their arms when they raise their paws up in the air. It makes their belly accessible so that the bees can get some good stings in on their belly.
This will slow things down a little bit, too, because the bees will tend to protect their hive. A healthy strong colony can often protect itself from plundering, but weak colonies may not have the numbers to ward off attackers. That’s a good reason to keep your hives in good shape, keep an eye on them, and make sure they have everything they need to be healthy and strong.
Fire ants and termites are another thing you may have to worry about. Termites, if you keep your hives in good condition and keep a good paint job on them, you shouldn’t have to worry much about termites. You need to keep your hives up off the ground so that you don’t have termites trying to get into the wood.
You can stop fire ants by putting the hive stands in cans filled with cooking oil, this will trap the ants attempting to crawl up into the hives. The other thing is to keep the weeds and brush vines cut from around the hive so that you don’t have other ways for ants to climb into the hive.
These tips should help in placing your hives where they won’t be a problem for people and will be in a nice location.
You may want to talk with a local beekeeper and hopefully they can help you select a location that works the best for you. They will know if your backyard works or if it doesn’t, based on their experience. That’s always a good thing to do, to have a mentor beekeeper that is local that can help you out with issues or when you run into problems. They can likely help you to avoid problems just based on their experience. I would highly recommend to get with an experienced beekeeper so that when you have questions you can ask them rather than learning the hard way.