Roe Valley Beekeepers Association

Beekeeping Advice

Apiary Design

The basic principles of apiary siting are similar in both home and out apiaries. 

Out apiaries will require additional special precautions depending on their circumstances.

There are three basic sets of requirements in apiary siting, some of which may be contradictory, and the final solution will be a compromise in most cases.  In this essay I will divide the requirements into three groups: The beekeepers requirements, the requirements of neighbours and co-inhabitants, and the requirements of the bee colony. These should in ideal circumstances take priority; otherwise the colony may not thrive and become productive.

Needs of the Beekeeper.

The beekeeper will wish the apiary to be close to his equipment shed, on flat ground, with easy access, and with a firm pathway. He will wish to site a shed for equipment close by. The site should be concealed from sight to avoid vandalism and damage.

Needs of Neighbours

Neighbours will not wish to see beehives in close proximity to their own property. The apiary should be away from areas of your own and neighbours gardens which are well used, and sited away from lawns, barbeque areas, play areas, washing lines, paths and community areas. Neighbours should be consulted in case one has a severe allergy, and they will require reassurance that bees are not normally dangerous. This will be accomplished if hives are in reasonably remote aspects of the garden and arranged so that flight paths lift the flying bees high overhead quickly (e.g. by placing a couple of meters from a hedge or fence.

Needs of Bees.

Bees will require a warm sunny area, with sufficient space around hives to be able to identify their own, and an easy flight path free of obstacles. They will require shelter from prevailing winds and from frost pockets and ideally would prefer south facing open sites away from overhanging trees. There should be a ready supply of fresh water, and ample opportunity for pollen and nectar collection close by.

Beekeeping activities should be timed not to coincide with other people’s use of their garden (e.g. parties, BBQs, play times etc). Beekeepers will want to present a calm external appearance to avoid anxiety, and should not have to cross open garden areas in PPE in full view of neighbours who may be alarmed. Bees, which demonstrate aggressive traits and following, are not suitable for small domestic gardens surrounded by neighbours and should be removed to out-apiary locations.

Out apiaries suffer additional problems; they will require to be well concealed to avoid vandal damage. They will need to be protected from foraging animals, and should be away from possible agricultural machinery. They will require easy access, as their manipulation will often be late in the evening. The out apiary location will depend on the circumstances and could be positioned at the edge of an orchard, on a hillside for ling heather honey production in August, or near an OSR field in the spring. If the out apiary is within 3 miles of the home apiary, its usefulness for new colony rearing and as an alternative site will be limited.

Good hygiene is central to good beekeeping. 

Where the apiary is cluttered and overgrown the potential for tripping accidents is present, and making sure your apiary is tidy can also reduce the possibility of spread of disease between hives. Examples of good hygiene include sterilisation of hive tools between use to avoid the spread of disease; avoidance of spillage of feed to minimise the possibility of robbing; removal of brace comb and old frames to avoid the spread of disease; keeping the apiary free of rubbish and weeds which might encourage vermin; the routine of cleaning and flaming brood chambers and supers between uses, the burning of rubbish and old frames, to avoid the spread of brood disease, and the cleaning of floors. Beekeepers should consider how their behaviour might affect the apiary in encouraging or introducing disease, and eliminate what risks he can.