Maybe you’ve heard people talk about siting your yard for bees. If you’ve looked into beekeeping online for any amount of time, there’s a good chance you’ve come across this topic. Let’s cut to the chase – siting your yard means picking where you’re going to set up your hive. It’s an important first step on your path toward becoming a beekeeper. Since you’re reading this, that probably means you have some questions about siting your yard. For the rest of this post, I’m going to breakdown some of the most common questions people have about siting for bees, go over answers, and sketch out the next steps. Ready? Let’s take a look.
What is siting?
We went over this already briefly, but let’s dig into the process a little more deeply. To start, it’s called siting because you’re finding the place, or site, that you’re going to use.You can site pretty much anywhere; there are beekeepers in cities, towns, suburbs, and rural areas. When you site, you’re going to check out how much sunlight there is, what the temperature is like, how level the ground is, what the nearby environment is like, and more. Finding your site is the first part. The second part is getting it set up properly, but we’ll go more into detail on that later. For now, let’s keep on theme.
What makes a good site?
This is a big one. There are a bunch of factors to take into account when you’re siting for bees. Let’s start with the sun. Like most creatures, bees rely on the sun, but too much can start to be a problem. The sun helps the hive regulate its temperature. A hive in the shade will get too cold, in direct sunlight it will get too hot. Either way, your bees are going to spend more time getting the hive to the temperature they need than making honey. You want dappled sunlight. In gardening terms, dappled sunlight means light that’s filtering through leaves and other foliage. When your hive is in this kind of indirect sunlight it’s much easier on the bees to maintain a comfortable temperature.
Speaking off the sun, when you do place your hive, it’s a good idea to face it southeast. That way the bees will wake up nice and early and have the whole day ahead of them to do their bee business. An active hive is a healthy hive, so make sure your bees are getting the most out of everyday. During the day, they are going to do what bees do, which means foraging. A good site will be close to a water source and enough flowers for your bees to scoop pollen from.
Something else to consider is the ground quality. Stable, firm ground is the best for beekeeping. This one’s pretty intuitive: uneven ground means the hive will tilt, boggy or moist land might make it sink, etc. Along with ground quality is elevation. You don’t want to put your hive either too high or too low. At low elevation, especially near hills, moisture can be a real problem. Too high, and the hive is more vulnerable to wind and weather phenomena. Flat, firm ground is your best bet, but elevation isn’t the only thing you have to consider when you’re dealing with wind. Which leads us to our next question…
What materials do I need for siting?
This is where the second part of siting comes in. Finding the right spot is a good start, but then you have to set it up. The first thing you need is the hive. There are plenty of different kinds of hives (Beepods sells an excellent vented top-bar hive), and what’s important is that you get the right hive for your needs. The issue with the wind we talked about earlier comes into play once the hive is set up. Cold winds can stress out your bees and, if they’re strong enough, knock the hive over. We don’t want any of that, so our next step is setting up a windbreak.
You can make a windbreak out of basically anything. You can put up a fence and wrap it in canvas, plant some trees – the exact makeup of the windbreak is up to you, but what’s important is that you set it up behind the hive to keep the winds off it.
Depending on your unique situation, you may need more materials as well.
What should I look out for/avoid when I’m siting?
Breaking the law, for one thing! Make sure you look up your local beekeeping laws. City ordinances, homeowners’ association bylaws, and a whole lot more can have a thing or two to say about where you can keep your bees. Beepods has a good article on how to check if beekeeping is allowed in your area. Like everything else with beekeeping, it’s important to do your research.
Speaking of doing research, make sure to check out if there are any local predators that might like to snack on your bees. Bears are the obvious perpetrators, but raccoons and even the infamous skunk can harass and damage hives as well. It’s pretty hard to keep a bear from getting where it wants to go, and the latter critters are crafty devils, but experienced beekeepers have devised methods for dealing with honey-hungry marauders. Check out this article on Mother Earth News about dealing with bee predators and honey thieves for more information.
Avoiding too much moisture in your hive is important. If you want your hive raised off the ground you can use anything from 2x4s to pallets to cinder blocks. Depending on your bottom board you may need to tilt the hive a little forward to keep rain and condensation from dripping into your hive. This is important if you have a solid bottom board, not so much if your board is screened. This is all getting a little nuts and bolts, so let’s step back and look at the bigger picture.
Once you’ve done your research, scouted for a locale, and set up your hive, start beekeeping! If you’re reading this and looking for a place to start, check out “The Bee Yard Setup and Siting Blueprint” from Beepods. It’s a great resource for people just getting ready to jump on the beekeeping train. The Blueprint goes into much more detail about the finer points of siting your yard for bees, after all, Beepods is all about beekeeping for the bees! For more beekeeping information and equipment, Beepods also offers a Beekeeping Complete System that includes a 1-year membership to the Beepods member program and 1-year subscription to on-call support.
Siting for your bees is an important step. Doing it right will save you a lot of headaches and hassle down the road. A good siting and set-up will put you on the path to healthy, sustainable beekeeping, and isn’t that what we’re all going for?