When choosing a beehive location, please consider the following
The Bees
The beekeeper
Neighbours
General Public
Pets and Animals

What do the bees need ?

Unfortunately for the bees, their preferences usually come last, after those of the beekeeper, the neighbours, the public and even other animals. However, we think their needs should be considered first.

Food

The bees need to collect both pollen and nectar. They get their protein from the pollen, while the nectar gives them energy.

For urban honeybees, a lack of food is rarely a problem, due to the large variety of flowers, found in gardens, parks and even on roadside verges.

Although probably not essential, it is always nice to see the bees collecting food from their own garden. please consider growing some bee friendly plants. The RHS has produced a list of their
Top 400 plants for bees and other pollinators
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Bee feeding on a berberis flower.
© Steven Holloway, who kindly gave us permission to use this image.

Water

Bees need water for two reasons.

They use it to keep their hive cool in the summer. The bees distribute water droplets within hive, then fan their wings which causes air movement. This in turn helps the moisture to evaporate, which has a cooling effect.

Bees also need water to mix with their stored honey before they eat it, or feed it to their young.

A good beekeeper will always arrange for a suitable water supply to be available, to supplement natural water sources. This can help prevent the bees taking a liking to the neighbours garden pond or bird bath.

Sunshine

In the UK, where temperatures are generally never too hot, hives can be placed in full sun. Alternatively, hives in dappled shade are always do better than those in full shade.

Furthermore, try to position the hive entrance facing the early morning sun. This will encourage the bees to leave the hive early and start to forage. None of us like getting up early to go to work, especially if it is cold and the bees feel the same way.

And don't forget the longer they are collecting nectar and pollen, the more honey they will make.
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Snow is not normally a problem during winter, as the bees form a winter cluster inside the hive
© Outlander, who kindly gave us permission to use this image.

Shelter from strong winds

Bees do not like the idea of strong winds blowing through their home, especially if they are cold winds. Damp wind just makes the situation worse.

There is also the risk of the hive being blown over if the winds are very strong. Shelter is the best defense, but putting a couple of bricks on top of the hive, while not looking too good will usually prevent this scenario.

Cold winters are not normally a problem, as the bees cluster together in the centre of the hive. The only time severe cold can affect a colony is when it follows on from early spring warmth.

Security

Unfortunately theft of hives has become more common in recent years. Vandalism is also a problem at some locations, with hives being overturned for pure badness.

Always consider the old adage "Out of sight, out of mind" for hives near public areas.

Luckily, urban hives in rear gardens and on roofs are rarely affected by these problems.

The Wishes of the Beekeeper

A new colony is a long term project, so always consider the needs of the beekeeper, long before the bees arrive.

Access

When setting up hives, and later on, when removing frames of honey, the shorter the carrying distance the better. Although the hives will break down into smaller sections, these can still be quite heavy.

On the rare occasion when a full hive is to be moved, this is usually done as a single unit, so easy access nearby for a vehicle is essential.

Working space

In order to inspect the hive, the beekeeper will need enough working space.

Sufficient room is requirted for the beekeeper, tools and for parts of the hive, when it is dismantled.

Access is always made from the sides or rear of the hive, so as not to disturb the comings and goings of the bees.

Try to have space for at least two hives.

Once the first hive is set up, even the new beekeeper will probably be thinking about adding a second hive. This is sensible, as it provides a backup plan, should anything go wrong with the first hive.
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A nice trio of garden hives. Each entrance is pointing in a different direction to help the bees know their own hive.
© Colin, who kindly gave us permission to use this image.

Safety

Many urban hives are placed on roofs, which often prove the perfect location. These sites are ideal, as long as they provide a safe environment for the beekeeper.

Most commercial building and church roofs, where bees are kept are very accessible and safe. They normally have some form of parapet wall and access to the roof is through a normal door.

Climbing up ladders, or crawling through a narrow window for access is not the preferred option, when gaining access to a rooftop hive. Although difficult at the best of times, consider trying to lift a heavy super, the section of the hive, where the honey is stored.

Although many urban hives are found on private garage roofs, these can be dangerous for the beekeeper. Perhaps, this option should only be considered as a last option.

Firm level ground with decent drainage

A good solid level ground is always best. Not only with this help the beekeeper, the hive can be level too. In actual fact, the hive will usually be tilted forward ever so slightly, to prevent flooding, as any water getting in the hive will run out.

Furthermore, since hives are usually placed upon a stand, these can tilt or even fall if the ground becomes boggy.

Neighbours

Before putting bees in a surburban garden, it is always advisable to speak to your neighbours first. Getting them on your side from the very start is always the better option.

Always try to explain the importance of a healthy bee population to all of us. The promise of some free honey can often help a doubtful neighbour to consider the arrival of several thousand yellow and black striped workers in a more positive manner.

You never know, your neighbour might 'get the bug' and decide to keep bees too.

The General Public

Hives should not be placed near any public access areas, unless a suitable barrier is in place.

Pets and Animals

Animals can be affected by bees, if their paths meet. Luckily, actions to keep bees away from people will also help keep them away from animals.

While not usually a problem for the urban hive, farm animals have been known to accidentally knock over hives. Perhaps they consider them as handy scratching posts. A sturdy fence can overcome this problem.

If there are horses nearby, whether in a field or on a bridle path, careful consideration should be made, since bees are known not to like the smell of horses.

A family pet may take an interest in a new hive and get stung. However, they will usually learn from the experience and keep clear in the future.
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Backyard beekeeping in North Carolina.
© Billy Bruno, who kindly gave us permission to use this image.

How to keep bees away from humans & animals ?

The most obvious method of avoiding posible problems is to place the hive out of the way, maybe in a hidden corner of the garden, rather than next to the garage door.

The Bee Flight Path .. this is important !

As the bees fly in and out of their hive entrance, they are following what is called the bee flight path. Just imagine planes departing and arriving at a busy airport.

If this flight path is disturbed, by people or animals, collisions can occur, resulting in stings, which nobody wants. The bees themselves do not want to sting you either, as they will die after releasing their stingers. In their minds, they are sacrificing themselves, for the good of the hive, which they assume is under attack.

To overcome this, beekeepers try and get their bees to fly above head height as soon as possible after leaving the hive. Position the hive near an existing wall, fence or even a hedge, so the bees have to fly upwards to get over it. They do not like to fly at an angle greater than 45°, so the barrier must not be too close.

Once they are high, the bees remain at this height until they find their food source. Many famous buildings in the UK have rooftop hives, but as the bees are flying quite high, the pedestrians below have no clue they are there.

I don't seem to have the perfect location

Don't worry, the perfect location for a new hive very rarely exists. The secret is to try and get as many positives as possible to at least give the bees a fighting chance of survival.

And finally ..

Try and sort out the final position of the hive before getting the bees. Once the colony is in the hive, it can be a problem trying to move it.

The beekeeping rule about moving a hive is "Less than 3 feet or more than 3 miles."