If you have just one or two hives, you can keep them at the bottom of the garden, away from disturbances. In cities, some are even kept on flat roof tops. For more than two hives, it is convenient to set up a dedicated site, called an apiary.
Traditionally, the use of an apiary site would be re-paid with honey. In the bee-judgements (Bechbretha, a 7th century Irish law tract on bees) the honey from the hive was to be distributed to neighbours according to how close they were to the hive, as the bees would forage on their land.
When you are choosing a site for an apiary to keep your bees, take into account the following factors:
Meeting the needs of the bees
- There should be enough forage
- There should be a water supply close by throughout the year
- Early sunshine so they can start foraging earlier in the day
- Shade from the mid-day sun
- Avoid frost pockets
- Make sure there is shelter from the prevailing wind
Meeting the needs of the beekeeper
- Easy access to the site – honey supers are heavy
- Space around the hives to allow inspection
- Storage for spare hives and equipment
- Position hives to avoid drifting of bees between the hives, as drifting can cause imbalance between the colonies,
- Fence the apiary to prevent livestock, such as cattle, deer etc, getting in. They may topple the hives, or cause other damage.
- Don’t have hives under trees as the dripping after rain may cause damp
- Chose a site that does not get flooded
- Apiary sites should not be close to public rights of way
- Avoid vandalism and theft by choosing a site that’s not visible to passers by.
You should try to avoid having the entrances of hives in a straight line, as this encourages drift. Having entrances at an angle can mean there is less chance of bees drifting towards other hives. If they are also angled away from each other it will help to give them clear flight paths. See below for suggested layouts.