Where to place your hive is one of the first things to consider when deciding to get bees. This has certainly crossed your mind a few times by now. You can get pretty creative if you are desperate to get bees, and some of you may find that you are not able to even have them because of certain restrictions. No, you can’t really have bees inside your house with the entrance facing the window. Maybe that is a little too creative… although… I suppose if it is an unused room and, oh never mind! Forget I even mentioned that. I’ve got some ideas for you at the end of this article if you are THAT desperate to have bees.
Things to Consider
Before We move onto WHERE to actually put your hive, let’s talk about IF you can have a hive. You need to consider the following:
- Will you or your neighbors DIE if stung by a bee?
- Does your city or HOA allow you to have bees on your property?
- Is there enough food in your vicinity for bees?
Let’s begin here with the most important stuff, safety of you and your neighbors. I know it seems silly, but before you even decide where to place your bees, make sure you and your neighbors are not deathly allergic to bee venom. I’ve met several beekeepers who found out they were allergic and had to get rid of their bees. You WILL get stung once in a while even with a suit on. Swelling up, even a LOT, is not a deadly allergy. Anaphylaxis is, and I had to stop keeping bees at one house because the neighbor’s little boy discovered that allergy in his swimming pool one summer. It’s kind of a challenge to bring up bees with neighbors because some will tell you they are allergic just to keep you from getting bees. You know your neighbors and know who to ask. Larger properties don’t really have issues with neighbors, but if you are in an urban or suburban setting, houses can be quite close. ALSO, If you are in Arizona, then you have to be extra diligent in your beekeeping inspections to keep your hives from becoming Africanized. That is when problems arise with aggressive bees.
City Ordinances and HOAs
The next step in finding out where you can place your hives is learning what your city ordinances are, and what the rules are for your HOA, if you have one. This can be really tough and takes some digging unless your bee club has done the work for you. (If you do find the rules on your own, please share that info with your club). The first thing to do is to do a search online for “your city name” ordinances and “your city name” zoning. Find out what your address zone is called and then when you look through the ordinances you can know if your zone applies. When in the ordinances, do a search for “bees” “apiary” “livestock” “apiculture” “beekeeping.” If you can’t find anything then call the city clerk. They probably have no idea about beekeeping, but they may be able offer some direction. I did some of that search for cities around Phoenix, so take a look at this post for that info HERE.
Food Sources for Your Bees
Before you go any further, look at your neighborhood as a whole. Are there food sources for bees? Most likely there are. Native plants and gardens can offer a lot to bees. It can be surprisingly deceptive, however, if you are in some areas of Arizona where you see flowers all the time. Unfortunately many of these abundant flowers are not food sources for bees. Plants like oleander, bougainvillea, and lantana are not liked by honeybees. Also, there may be an abundance of food at only one time of year, and then nothing the rest of the year. Take note of that. This is a great time to decide to plant things in your yard that help bees out with pollen and nectar. Get your neighbors in on that as well and you may find that sunflowers are starting to pop up everywhere. I love that!
If you are unsure of what is in the area, simply go to Google Earth and take a look around. You may find gardens you didn’t even know existed. You’ll also know where all the swimming pools are, which will be good to know.
Where to place your hive… FINALLY!
Yes, we are finally at the point where we can talk about WHERE to put your hive on your property.
This part is not so hard. One thing to keep in mind is that you want your bees out of the way of your daily activities so they can do their work in peace and quiet and so you can do yours without getting hit in the head with a bee everytime you walk by. I recommend facing the entrance to your hive away from where you will be approaching it and away from the center of your yard. Turning it toward a wall or tree is ideal. Don’t worry if it doesn’t face East, your bees will be up early enough. Once you have that settled, then Shade is the final ingredient for sweet success, at least in Arizona.
Summer shade is the number one necessity for successful beekeeping in Arizona. This is for two reasons:
1 –Your bees need to be able to keep their hive at a constant 95-98° F, and they will spend a lot of energy and water consumption in the summer just doing that. Hard work like this will wear out your bees and also use up precious food stores.
2 –YOU need to be comfortable wearing your bee suit in 110° F while spending 30 min – 1 hr inspecting your hive. Shade for you and your bees will help you even WANT to go out there every other week. Believe me, it is not easy to get the motivation to do that, but knowing you’ll at least have shade does actually make a difference.
My very favorite type of shade is a tree big enough to shade you AND your hive. Any kind of tree works, but I have to say that I really loved my fig tree. It was easily pruned, provided deep shade in the summer and allowed the sun to shine through in the winter when it lost its leaves.
If you aren’t able to have trees to shade your hives, you can use shade cloth. Placing your hives on the Eastern side of a large structure or hedge also helps keep the afternoon sun at bay. Just be aware that sometimes the eastern side of a block wall that is fully exposed to afternoon sun on the opposite side will hold heat all night long, making it impossible to cool down at night. This would not be an ideal situation. However, If the wall has shrubs or other shade on the western side, then it will work fine.
The one thing that you have to be aware of BEFORE placing your hive anywhere is that you can’t just pick it up and move it to another place if you decide you don’t like it there. Once you open up that hive and the bees orient themselves to that entrance then they will not be able to find their home even if it is moved just a few feet away. You will have to move the hive 1-2 feet a day or move it several miles away for a week or more to reorient them.
The same goes with a water source. Have that in place BEFORE You get your bees, especially if you have a pool or your neighbors have a pool. Bees will need water from day one and wherever that first location is found is where they will mark as their watering hole. Your water doesn’t have to be right next to your hive but it should definitely be between them and the nearest pool. A bird bath filled with rocks is great. You can use a hose with a small drip or hook up your irrigation emitter to it so that it fills up when you water your garden.
I hope these ideas help you as you walk around your property scouting out the best location for your hive.
If you live in an apartment or you are unable to have a hive on your property for any reason, you can very possibly keep bees in someone else’s backyard. There are plenty of people who would like to host a hive. You can make an arrangement with them so that you can do regular inspections and offer them a bit of the honey when it comes time to harvest. This is a win-win situation. Bee Creative and find a way to make your beekeeping dreams come true.