This week's research in readiness for next week's beekeeping course is for us to find out what we need to consider when setting up an apiary, which is a place where colonies of bees are kept in a collection of beehives. As a budding beekeeper these are important things to find out about, as the last thing we want to do is cause unhappy neighbours and unhappy bees!
Will the apiary cause a nuisance to the neighbours or general public?
Will it be near any public footpaths or people in general?
People are generally frightened of bees. If they see the bees as a nuisance, they are more likely to complain which could mean the apiary will have to be removed.
Bees establish regular flight paths to their foraging sites so it's worth considering options on how to reduce the visibility of beehives where neighbours might not be happy with the thought of stinging fees right nextdoor. A couple of solutions is to use hedging or trellis to help lift the bees above head height to send them on their way to forage and avoid putting an apiary close to public footpaths, bridleways or roads.
Friendly bees are the best. Aggressive bees should always be replaced for harmony in the world.
Will there be sufficient food for the bees to forage?
Are there any other apiaries in the local area which might be affected?
Is the chosen space suitable for the number of hives that will be in the apiary?
Bees forage for nectar and pollen within a distance of 1-4 km. This may affect other apiaries in that area where other bees are also foraging within the same space, so check with other local beekeepers in the area.
Apiaries with good sources of nectar and pollen all year round that the bees can fly to with less people around is ideal.
Some beekeepers may even move their apiaries seasonally to exploit crops and other sources of nectar and pollen (such as oil seed rape, heather, or the dreaded Himalyan balsam which is fairly rampant down here in Devon!)
Is the environment suitable for bees?
Bees don't like wind, so check the hives are sheltered from strong winds. This helps the foraging bees when returning that they can easily land at the hive entrance and not blown away.
Bees also prefer warm and dry conditions which will help keep the hives themselves in good condition and water-tight. Avoid putting the beehives under trees as could be damp and less sunlight helping to warm the bees on colder days.
If the apiary is where there is livestock, to ensure its safety, and that of the livestock if the hive gets knocked over and we have angry bees, fence the apiary area to keep it from harm.
If there's isn't a natural supply of water close to the apiary, then the beekeeper will need to provide a drinking source for the bees. The bees will need something to land on, such as a floating piece of wood, for them to safely stand on while drinking.
Will there be suitable access for the beekeeper to reach the apiary bringing along equipment and for the removal/addition of supers to the hives?
As a beekeeper, we don't want to be spending too much time trudging backwards and forwards with equipment and when the honey is ready we don't want to be carrying heavy supers. This all makes for a happier beekeeper!