So you’ve successfully begun your beekeeping journey and you’re ready to expand. Whether you’re moving from your first hive to your second or looking to add to an already large collection, it’s important to consider how much land you will need to support your bees. Without enough nectar to go around, your bees won’t be able to produce honey for you and might not be able to support their hive. Keep reading to find out how much land you need to support your budding apiary!
As long as you have enough nectar sources to support all of your bees, you can have many hives in the same area. Each hive needs about one acre of flowering trees, plants, and shrubs in order to sustain itself and produce excess honey that you can harvest. If you have a large amount of space, you can add lots of hives! Most beekeepers cap their apiaries at about 35 hives.
Depending on where you live, there might be rules in place about how many beehives you are allowed to have. Certain towns limit the number of hives you can have based on how much land you own. This is especially true of residential or suburban areas. Before you add more hives to your property, check your local apiary laws. These could place restrictions on how many hives you can have or where you’re able to place those hives.
It’s also important to consider the time and resources that you have available to invest in your bees. Even if you can have 20 or 30 beehives, should you? It takes routine maintenance, some financial investment, and plenty of time to maintain a large apiary. How many people are around to tend to the bees, and how much time do you have to devote to them? It’s better to have a few hives that are well-taken care of than many hives that are neglected!
How Much Space Do You Need to Keep Bees?
You might think of beekeeping as an activity for people who live in the countryside, but more and more city-dwelling people are keeping bees in their backyards. As long as there is vegetation around, suburban neighborhoods can be wonderful spots for bees. Some people have even successfully kept bees on rooftops or apartment balconies! Consider how many nectar sources are nearby and consult your local laws to see what kind of laws are in place regarding beehive placement.
As stated above, a single hive needs about one acre of land to support itself. This acre needs to have lots of flowering plants that can provide nectar to your bees. One acre of nothing but grass won’t do them much good! Of course, the amount of land your hive actually needs depends on what kind of plants you have nearby, what the weather is like in your area, and how large your hive is. On average, bees are willing to travel up to 2 miles away from their hive to forage for nectar.
This means that they might venture out much further than one acre from their hive. But they also need plenty of nectar sources close to their home, so that they don’t tire themselves out by consistently travelling far distances. The bottom line? As a general rule of thumb, you should plan for about one acre per hive.
When bees can’t get enough nectar from the land around their hive and don’t produce enough honey to live off of, beekeepers sometimes buy syrup or other artificial foods for them. This helps the bees survive when they haven’t stored up enough honey, and it’s most commonly done when preparing a hive for the wintertime. Artificial foods are a short-term solution that can keep your hive healthy enough to survive to the next spring, but feeding bees from artificial sources is not a year-long practice. Finding natural food sources is the best thing you can do for your bees, and it will help you maintain good honey production.
See our list of the best pollen substitutes for honeybees.
What is the Ideal Beehive Distance from My House?
If you are a “backyard beekeeper,” the distance of your beehive from your house is an important thing to consider. It is perfectly safe to have a beehive near your house; your bees will not swarm out to attack you, even when you harvest honey from their hive.
Keep your beehive far enough from your house that your bees will not be bothered by human activity. If you spend a lot of time around your house or in your backyard, face the entrance to the hive away from the house.
Bees can be disturbed by too much human activity directly outside their hive and turning their entrance away from you will ensure that they don’t encounter a high-activity space every time they exit the hive. If you have pets or small children, place your hive someplace that is hidden from them or out of their reach. This is the safest option for everyone involved! Neighbors or visitors who don’t know a lot about bees might be frightened to see a hive in your backyard. Keeping your hive in a discreet location could prevent an unhappy phone call from the folks next door.
Choose a sunny spot for your beehive. Don’t place it in a densely wooded area or under large trees. Areas like this tend to be damp, dark, and dangerous – a tree branch could fall and hit your hive. Instead, look for someplace that is sunny, has nice air flow, and is dry. The ground underneath should be solid, dry, and sturdy. Your beehive will get quite heavy as it fills with honey, and if it’s set on soggy ground it could start to sink.
If you can, face the entrance of your hive to the southeast. This will expose your bees to early morning sunlight, and will make them more productive by encouraging them to start their day early.
Also consider your own comfort when you’re placing your beehive. Keep it somewhere that is easily accessible to you and not too far of a walk from your home. You want to be able to comfortably harvest honey when the time comes. Think of both your bees and yourself when you choose a spot for your hive!
Finally, remember that bees are quite resilient. Don’t worry if the spot you’ve chosen for your hive doesn’t meet all of the criteria detailed above. It’s more than likely that your bees will make do with whatever location they end up in.
Tips for Moving a Beehive in the Winter
Winter is a great time to move a beehive. When the weather gets cold, bees “cluster” inside their hive. They huddle together to stay warm and survive the harsh season. Clustered bees won’t fly around or leave the hive, so they can be moved quite easily.
When you move a beehive in the winter, be very slow and methodical. Handle the hive carefully and don’t jostle it or drop it. If your bees are disturbed and fly out of the hive or separate from their cluster, they are likely to die in the cold weather. Keeping your bees clustered should be your top priority.
Have someone carry the hive with you rather than dragging it along the ground, as this will make for a smoother trip for the bees. Strap a ratchet strap around your hive to keep it together. Try to be as gentle as you can, and your bees will have no problem on their little trip!
Starting your first hive, expanding your large apiary, or somewhere in between… wherever you are on your beekeeping journey, it’s always important to consider the space you’ve made for your bees. Make sure that they have access to all the nectar they need and keep them in a sunny, dry, and calm spot. They’ll thank you for it in lots of sweet honey!