Strategic Planning for Apiary Location

Reprinted from Kelley Beekeeping Newsletter, Jan 2015
Phill Remick
Beginning beekeepers have so many concerns occupying their bee-fuddled minds! First and foremost is deciding exactly where to place the apiary. Here is a basic strategy for planning this crucial endeavor.
Are there other colonies in the area? Take a spin to see if you can spot any existing apiaries within flying distance, say two miles or so from you. Know what competition you have for floral sources.
It takes about one acre (!) of blooming flowers, trees and shrubs for one colony to prosper (of course this is an approximation – actual acreage will vary). By using this rule of thumb, you can determine if there enough sustenance for your bee pals to make a living in their new neighborhood.
Let’s do the numbers. With packages the average number of bees per pound is 3,500. If you purchase a four-pound package, roughly 14,000 bees instantly become dependent on your expertise or lack thereof. Add a second or third package and the numbers rise dramatically. That’s a lot of mouths to feed. Mistakenly, many believe that generally possessing (or living near) a yard full of wild growth is adequate forage. Mark Twain once remarked, “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure, that just ain’t so.”
New beekeepers will benefit thoroughly from understanding local weather cycles – including wind patterns, floral sources, time and duration of bloom, length of bloom and, of utmost importance, whether plants are dependable pollen and quality nectar sources. Do your best to avoid acreage known for pesticide applications or field “hotspots” which have a history of being doused with chemicals. If your bees reside in this type of surrounding, get acquainted with growers, spray applicators and the bee inspector/county AG office; it is time well spent. Also, have a plan in case you need to move your apiary.
What about water? The majority of us don’t have a sparkling, babbling brook running through our desired apiary area. Fresh water is a must; you may have to provide this resource if not readily available (babbling brook optional). In the heat of the summer, honey bees require close to one gallon per day, per hive.
Your bee yard ideally will be an area with good drainage, in mostly open air and protected from extreme winds. It must allow easy, unrestricted entry during all seasons. If you have access to property with a locked gate – perfect! Place the bees where they have the least amount of visibility by humans (which can deter vandals), yet with plenty of sunlight. It’s just human nature; once neighbors spot beehives, any negative action that can be attributed to your colonies is imaginable. Keep your apiary away from out buildings that are in regular use, farm equipment, and avoid any populated, common space. Pools are another obvious issue; never, ever place bees near a swimming pool! I call this my “Out of sight, out of mind” policy.
Finally, don’t forget: we also want to face colonies east or southeast. Honey bees require direct sunlight in the morning and if possible, partial afternoon shade during the most intense heat of the day. Consider implementing this mode as the colony can warm up early in the morning, getting all the foragers out and about, which can increase your chances of a substantial honey crop.
Phill Remick is a former commercial beekeeper who teaches beekeeping classes, offers year round apiary troubleshooting, management and sells beekeeping supplies in Albuquerque’s North Valley. Contact him at www.NewBeeRescue.com

Article can be found in NMBKA Newsletter, March 2015

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