Siting your apiary

Apiaries should be sited so that only the beekeeper ever gets stung!

By having high walls or hedges around an apiary, bees can be forced to fly well above close neighbours. If neighbours or pets do get stung, relations can be impaired and the risk of danger to life, although small, cannot be overlooked. Anaphylasis

Colonies can be kept almost anywhere in the British Isles, even in urban and suburban areas where honey yields can be surprisingly high. The number of colonies kept depends on available forage and limitations of the site.

If the beekeeper wishes to build up beyond the capacity of their home apiary, they will need to establish out-apiaries away from the home site. Bees do not require daily attention, so it’s feasible to keep them away from home but the colonies must be given attention when they need it so access to the out-apiary must be unhindered and accessible by road.

An apiary should meet the following requirements;

  • It should be sheltered, dry and sunny
  • Fresh water should be available from a source bees can safely drink. Bees drown easily when out of their depth. A shallow tray sprinkled with gravel is ideal but remember to keep it topped up (rain water is best) and place it some distance away from the hive.
  • ideally south facing; bees will immediately find the Sun to orientate before heading off in their chosen direction. If the hive faces south, their flight path will be more predictable.
  • away from frost pockets and damp areas
  • some areas cannot support large numbers of colonies throughout the season. If unsure, speak to another beekeeper
  • the flight path of bees must be considered so they don’t fly over neighbours’ gardens and washing lines – bees only poo outside the hive and they love a bit of target practice on the laundry! Make sure seating areas of your garden or footpaths are not directly south of the hive or you’ll be in their flight path!
  • Ideally, your hive should be screened by trees or fencing from human passers- by to keep both bees and passers-by happy! A head-height fence is ideal.
  • Ensure your hive is sited where wild or farm animals will not disturb it or the bees will not disturb them.
  • it’s a good idea to find out the map reference for your apiary and write it somewhere accessible, maybe on a hive stand. The What3words app is useful and is used by the emergency services. You may need to direct an ambulance one day.

Hive stands

Hives must not be set unprotected on the ground or damp will rot the floor and vegetation will quickly grow up and block the hive entrances.

Wooden stands are often used but they must be stoutly built as hives weigh 50 to 100 kg (100 to 200 lb) when full. Another good and simple solution is to set each one on a concrete slab.

Bees’ natural inclination is to choose a site high off the ground so lifting them up about a couple of feet is good for them and good for preventing ‘beekeepers back’ when you are working with your hives.

The ground in front of hives must be kept clear of vegetation. Cut or trim regularly but don’t use weed killer.

As the beekeeper will work the hive from behind, a space should be left behind the hives which gives the beekeeper convenient access. If the space there is level and wide enough to accommodate roofs and stacks of supers etc., lifted off during inspections, working the hives is much easier.

It is generally believed the hives work best if the entrances face south or south-east. However this is not a matter of prime importance.

These hives face East and do very well

Check that each stand you construct is
– solid and firm and not rocking;
– level from side to side;
– sloping slightly from back to front with the front lower than the back.

Time spent on these details before the bees are on your hands will save much labour and heartache later.

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