Monday, February 21, 2011

Planning the Bee Yard

Beekeepers have been generous in passing along the craft of handling honey bees. A new beekeeper who attended our local beekeepers association’s introductory short course came by Peace Bee Farm to get some ideas for establishing his bee yard. I explained that the first consideration is always public safety. Bee hives should be placed so that the bees’ flight path avoids areas frequented by people. If bee hives are placed in residential areas, the bees can be directed to fly above people’s heads by placing a fence or hedge in front of the hive. While many bee hives are maintained in backyards and even on building rooftops without problems, the number of hives placed on small residential lots should be limited.

After safety considerations, the next important issue for beekeepers is access to the bee hives. Beekeeping equipment is heavy, and it is best to place hives where the beekeeper can drive close to the bee yard any time of the year. Many beekeepers like to face the hives toward the east or south, so that the sun warms the hive entrance early in day. This causes the foragers to fly earlier, and thus gather more nectar. Many beekeepers like to arrange the bee hives for afternoon shade to help the bees cool the hives in the summer. Others prefer to place the hives in the full sun to lessen small hive beetle reproductive success. Bees kept in wooded areas are often more defensive than bees kept in open spaces. Honey Bees also need a source of water. Without a convenient water supply, foragers may visit swimming pools or other outdoor water sources. Wind screens of evergreen foliage planted to the north and west of the bee yard help block cold winter winds. A few snow geese passed overhead today, many have started their migration to their breeding grounds in the arctic. It’s still winter, but birds are migrating; bees are flying on warm days; and brood production has started.

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