You've taken the classes, read the books, bookmarked all the blogs, and ordered your packages or nucs. Before you pick up those bees, check out these tips on how to ensure your site is prepped and ready for your bees! I've made some poor decisions in site selection over the years-don't repeat my mistakes!
1. Choose a site with good sun:
This is likely counter to what you’d assume, particularly here in hot Texas. However, the small hive beetle—a nasty little pest that loves to wreak havoc on hives—pupates in the soil. Giving your bees mostly full to full sun will ensure those babies just bake and is good integrated pest management.
2. Keep yard maintenance in mind:
You aren’t going to want to weed-whack near your hives (trust me.) If you can select a spot where tall grass and weeds won’t grow, that is easiest, but if not you may want to consider adding mulch or stones around your hive to ensure you don’t have to battle tall grasses to access the hive. I have one site where this just isn’t an option, and every month I get my workout with my sythe in hand.
3. Level your space:
Though you don’t need to get out the level for this exercise, as close to level as possible is ideal, particularly if you have a top bar or aren’t using foundation in your langstroth. You may want to have the ground tilted slightly (emphasis on slightly) towards the entrance to allow any water that may collect to run out easily.
4. Determine your stand situation:
If your hive is a top bar, your hive will likely come equipped with legs or you have already figured out what to set it on. If you have a langstroth, I recommend you raise your hive at least 6 inches off the ground. In the spring of 2015 we had biblical rains here in Central Texas, and those few extra inches saved a lot of colonies from drowning. Additionally, it can deter some other pesky pests as well. Cinderblocks work perfect for this—one under the front of the hive and one under the back and you are ready to go!
5. Solid Ground:
Speaking of cinder blocks, make sure your ground is fairly solid and won’t shift too drastically. A semi-soft earth, very heavy cinder blocks, and those same 2015 rains caused many of my hives to shift and sink a bit into the ground. Not too difficult to fix, but can be avoided.
6. Identify and provide a water source:
Bees need water for more than just their own consumption, it also is used to help cool the hives (think evaporative cooling) and to dilute crystallized honey. Bees will collect from lots of places, including puddles, condensation on plants, and damp rocks. However, they will also collect from places you may not want them, such as your kiddie pool, your chicken feeder, or your neighbor’s new swimming pool! To avoid your bees collecting in places you’d rather they not congregate, give them an appropriate water source within 10 feet of the hive. You want to do this before they establish a preference elsewhere! Keep in mind that bees drown very easily, so make sure to place floats, such as corks or sticks, or stones in the water.