There are a number of things that make an ideal place to keep bees. An absence of one or two is not a deal-breaker, but optimizing the bee yard location will increase the likelihood of successful beekeeping, bee health and honey production. Here are a few things to know before placing your bees.
- Having easy, year round access to your bees is important. Certain times of the year require more visits to the colonies than others, so don't make the location of your hives a hurdle to getting work done. If bad weather can make your path impassible, this could be a problem as you progress through the season. Don't put the hives at the bottom of a hill that you can't drive near. A medium honey super full of honey weighs around 50 pounds, and a deep is closer to 90 pounds. Having to carry these up a hill will make you question your hobby.
- Ensure that you have a water source nearby. Although they'll travel miles to forage, having a creek, stream, pond or bird bath less than 1/4 mile is great. Ideally, the water source would be natural and not something you have to keep in your mental checklist to refill routinely. Also, bees love saltwater. If your neighbors have a saltwater pool, you'll owe them all your honey to keep your relationship amiable.
- A windbreak, especially to north winds, is great. In the absence of a natural windbreak, bales of hay can be used to break the wind in the winter.
- Access to first light in the morning helps warm the hive and allows the bees to work earlier than they would if they are shaded and cold.
- Pick a site that is near a dependable nectar and pollen crop. Monoculture sites allow the beekeeper to make a varietal honey, but having floral sources that bloom successively gives the bees diverse nutrition.
- A site that has good water drainage is important. Near a floodplain or marshy grounds is a risk.
- A spot that gets 4 - 6 hours of sun, but catches shade in the afternoon will help reduce pests, but also keep the hive cooler in the summer. Since bees have to devote resources, like bees, to fan the hive and keep it cool, a shady location will allow more bees to work on gathering nectar and making honey.