It is important to consider the location of your new beehive prior to installing your bees. You can’t move a beehive around your paddock, yard or rooftop easily. Bees have highly developed navigational skills. If the hive is moved they become confused and will return to the original site. For advice on moving a bee hive once the bees are housed consult a beekeeping book, the user forum on honeyflow.com or your local beekeepers’ association.
There are three important things to consider when selecting a site for your new hive – your bees, your neighbours and yourself.
The location of your beehive will affect the overall strength of your colony. Choose a sheltered position. In cool climates look for a dry sunny position, in hot climates the hive will benefit from some shade, particularly in summer. Face the hive entrance away from the prevailing winds. Ideally, face the entrance in a southerly direction if you’re in the northern hemisphere and northerly direction for the southern hemisphere.
Consider the flight path of bees exiting the hive. Avoid footpaths and areas with high activity. You can use screening, shade-cloth, fences or dense shrubs to force the bees to fly upwards. Ensure that bees fly up higher than 2m (7ft) before entering an area frequented by people, or when crossing a property boundary.
Sometimes bees will be attracted to lights at night. Do not direct the hive entrance towards doorways or bright lights as this will increase the number of bees leaving the hive to investigate. You will need to screen the hive from the light, or screen the doors and windows from the bees.
Provide a source of clean water. In hot weather a bee colony can use up to 4 litres (about a gallon) of water a day. Avoid complaints from neighbours with pools by providing a water source. Bees tend to prefer water sources at least 6m (20ft) away from their hive.
Restrict access to the hive. It is best if access to the hive is restricted by fencing it off or siting the hive out of reach of children, pets etc. This is particularly important when opening the hive or otherwise agitating the bees. Signage may help to warn adults of a beehive, but kids and pets are still at risk.
Consider other animals. Livestock may bump the hive or use it as a scratching post. Poultry and pets can be stung by bees attracted to their watering source.
Bees don’t like mowers or brush cutters. Noise, vibrations, smell and flying debris near their hive upsets them and they may sting the operator. Wear a veil or beekeeper suit when working near the hive or, ideally, situate the hive away from areas that need mowing.
Consider your neighbours too. Chat to them about keeping bees, and let them know when you plan to open the hive or disturb the colony.
Bees excrete waste to a distance of about 15 metres from the hive. This appears as little yellow/orange dots that can stain washing and soil light coloured cars. Situate your hive to avoid this. It’s a good idea to place your hive so that the flight path is over a little used area of your yard or roof anyway.
The hive should sit firmly, without any wobble on a stable base with clear access for when you are working with the colony. Placing the hive on a stand prevents rotting of base timbers and improves accessibility (options include bricks, concrete blocks, steel posts etc).
During harvest Flow Frames should be tilted backwards so that the honey flows out to the collection tubes. The slope of the hive for optimal draining is 2.5–4.0 degrees sloping backwards (a tilt of about 15mm (1⁄2") is enough). You have two options:
Chock up the hive when it’s time to harvest. Bees can be agitated by tilting the hive so wear a beekeeper suit and do this several hours before you harvest.
Leave the hive on a permanent slope. If sloping the hive backwards it is important to ensure that water can’t enter the front of the hive. A sloping landing board can minimise this.