Hive SitingHive placement is one of the most important decisions you will make. An ideal location is out of the wind, with morning sun and mottled afternoon shade, away from dampness and cold. Hive placement should also take into consideration the flight path of the bees. The flight path should avoid areas of foot traffic, and should direct bees away from places where people and animals congregate or traverse. See the recommendations in the beekeeping reference books for much more information about how to accomplish these goals. You should discuss your proposed hive location(s) with any nearby neighbors. Let them know of your efforts to direct the bees away areas that they frequent, and that you will work with them to avoid any problems.
Screening, Barriers, Fencing, and FlywaysYou should direct your bees flight path so as to avoid neighbors and the public. Bees can be easily directed to leave their hives in an upward trajectory. Screenings, foliage, fencing, trees, shrubs, and barriers can be strategically placed to get bees to fly above head height. This will help to minimize human and animal contact.
Colony Temperament and BehaviorYou should monitor your colonies’ temperament and behavior. The temperament of the colony may change in response to many factors, such as food availability, repeated disturbances, or pests. Your job as a beekeeper is to monitor these factors and eliminate them if possible. Colonies that become overly-defensive and cannot be managed to reduce their defensiveness should be relocated or re-queened.
SwarmingHealthy colonies will swarm in an effort to reproduce. In general, a swarm does not behave aggressively, but a swarm in progress can be very disturbing to some people. Consequently, swarming is the source of frequent nuisance complaints about bees. You should manage your colonies to minimize swarming. The resources in our book and web link sections discuss swarm management extensively. We also dedicate at least one Guild meeting in the spring to the topic of swarm management, so be sure to attend. This is also an important topic to discuss with your neighbors. Educate them about bee swarming behavior. Let them know that swarms are generally not dangerous (in fact, they are really an amazing event to witness), and you will be managing your hives to minimize their occurrence. Let them know that, should any occur, you will be on hand to deal with them.
Considerate Hive ManagementBe considerate to your bees and your neighbors while working your hives. You should perform hive manipulations quickly and with as little disturbance to the bees as possible.
- Work hives when foraging activity is high – i.e. on warm, calm days, when most of the foragers are out of the hive.
- Avoid working your hives when neighbors are nearby.
- Avoid working your hives when your bees are defensive.
- Robbing leads to defensive behavior, so work your hives to prevent robbing activity, or avoid working your hives entirely when robbing is a risk.
- Have a plan before you go into your hive. This will help you to be quick and efficient, and minimize the disturbance to your bees.
- If you find something unexpected while working your hive and don’t know what to do, the best thing is usually to do nothing. Put everything back, and close the hive up. Take some time to decide what to do, and come back another day to do it.