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How apiary location effects "natural" beekeeping.

3242 Views 6 Replies 6 Participants Last post by  onebatymom
One of the topics that can be discussed in natural beekeeping, is apiary location. To have hives capable of surviving without chemical treatments, everything within an operation should be scrutinized. Apiary location or "hive placement" is no exception. Of course this all is "location" oriented, and may change, based on local conditions.

We know for northern climates, some basic facts.

1) Hives are more productive if in full sun. Many of the past written books, were written before many of the problems that plague today's hives. The main points years ago were that "hives have morning sun, and afternoon shade". This was for two reasons. One, so bees got moving early in the day, and two, to help beekeepers deal with the afternoon heat. Afterall, who wants to inspect hives in August at 2 pm, when it's 96 degrees out?

But we know that hives produce more overall when hives are in the full sun. They work earlier in the morning, later in the day, early in the spring, and later in the fall. You can see this demonstrated all the the time when you have a hive in spring feel the effects of the warm morning sun and compare that to a hive in the shade where morning dew does not "burn off" as fast. Do your hives a favor....put them in a location where they will have the maximum of sun. You can always as the beekeeper, crack a lid in mid-summer when the temps get high.

Many secondary diseases are also what they call "stress" diseases. These include chalk, SAC, and others. And they are directly impacted by such things as cool temps, moisture, and the ability of hives to operate efficiently by spending more time doing what they need to do, instead of dealing with providing additional cluster heat due to a cool shady location. The quicker they can break cluster, the more they can groom, deal with hive problems, collect nectar, etc. If a sun located hive can work 10% more over a shade located hive, that does not just translate into more nectar collected, it translates into a hive better able to deal with other issues.

When looking at a large apiary, where some hives were in full sun or full shade, hives in the shade have been shown to have a higher overall mite count. This is not due to mites "migrating" to the shade hives. It is directly linked to the hives ability to spend extra time in matters such as housecleaning, grooming, and working more throughout each day. Bees in sun operate more efficiently, and with mite control, that is not an exception. Bees handle mites better when hives are in full sun. The same can be said of hives dealing with SHB.

I give a presntation called "Building a silver bullet, one B-B at a time". One of the main points is facing the fact that there are no magic bees, and no magic hives. Nobody has mite resistant bees. They may have bees better than the next guy. But nobody has a mite resistant bee. And no matter what you hear, no "type" of box or comb, will provide mite resistance. Things many times are based on "this being better than that", which may be true.

But what you should do, is understand the small advantages of every equipment option and management task you make. By itself, it may not mean much. But a 5% here and a 5% there, really adds up when your talking about overall hive survivability. And hive location, with wind protection and full sun, helps tremendously. And why worry about all other things if your bees are disadvantaged by the very first thing you do, that being selecting a poor apiary site.

Hives in full sun....a step on the road to natural beekeeping succees!
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Fantastic writeup, thank you BjornBee!
bjorn it sure is good to have you here your knowlege here. Thanks for posting
I think the most important thing you said was: "5% here and a 5% there, really adds up when your talking about overall hive survivability." There's no single silver bullet for colony health, so you do multiple little things which tilt the scale in your favor. BUT, while I'm in 100% agreement with everything you wrote, I don't put my hives in full sun. Oh yes, I understand that from honey production to dealing with SHB, full sun is better, but it's important to note there are often trade-offs that need to be considered.

For me, there are two significant issues: 1) I'm keep bees for fun, not income. 2) I live in the woods. So if I only get 40 lbs of honey per hive instead of 60+ lbs, that's fine with me. And more than that, I like having my hives where I can see and enjoy them daily. For me, I trade-off the advantage full sun gives for the advantage of "extra attention" paid to my colonies by having them close.

So my point is that there are numerous "5% solutions" available and if we choose to disregard an "easy one" such as full sun, we need to plan on compensating with other ones in order to keep healthy, productive colonies.
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This is an interesting thread. Thanks BjornBee.

I would think that there are many of us hobby beeks who realise the benefits of full sun for the location of our hives but because of the individual conditions and space available to place our hives we have to make do with what we have. Indypartridge's situation is a good example where he has made decisions that may not be ideal in practice but suit his personal needs.

I suppose that what it means is that where we have to make concessions to our environment or our own personal needs then we have to accept that the management of our bees is going to require a more creative approach. It may mean facing our hives either east or west for example so that the larger surface area on the long side of the hive is in the sun's path and that the ends get the morning or afternoon sun (I dont really know if this is really a solution but give it as an example of the creativity that may be necessary). So whilst this may be a hypothetical solution to the shade issue, does the hive with the entrance facing east (shade or not) produce an increase of honey?

Just my ponderings (confused as they sometimes are)

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Have been thinking about that. We have trees to the east of the hives and also to the south of them. I have noticed that they do get going a little slow, but by the same token they are working until late in the evening. I've sat taking video of them and past supper time they are still returning with pollen. I will have to look around and see if there is a more directly lit area for them. Thank you for making that point so well. Elaine in TX
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