Bees are versatile and adaptable insects, happy to live in a wide range of habitats. Beekeepers have many options for choosing the right location for a beehive.
Although you don’t need expansive land with endless flowers to set up a beehive, some best practices are worth following. We’ve pulled together our favorite tips on where to place a beehive for best results. Follow our advice, and you’ll have a happier, honey-producing colony that’s easier to keep and less likely to swarm.
Where should I place a beehive?
The ideal place for a beehive is on a level surface that drains well and is near water and flowers. Shelter from the wind and some degree of shade will also help keep your colony happy. The hive should be easy for the beekeeper to access but in a safe place away from the public.
13 tips for placing a beehive
The following tips for hive placement will help you find the right spot for your colony. Ticking off all these criteria isn’t essential, as bees will adjust to the conditions provided.
1. Check local laws
Before you make any decisions about hive location, research your city’s legal guidelines. Check the local permit requirements and policies, like minimum distance from public walkways. The hive may need to be kept out of sight.
You’ll find that some municipalities encourage the keeping of bees while others still outlaw it.
2. Consider the entrance direction
There is often debate about the direction a hive entrance should face. We advise facing the opening towards the southeast or south in the United States. Early morning sunshine will help raise the worker bees’ body temperature to 95°F (35°C), so they can fly off and begin foraging.
While some sunshine is okay, make sure there is also some shade. Full sun throughout the day will make the inside of the hive extremely hot. While bees can cool the hive by flapping their wings, it distracts from honey-making.
3. Allow for your neighbors
There is still fear from some people towards bees in the community. Those with bee allergies have good reasons to avoid beehives.
If neighbors are nearby, it’s a good idea to discuss your plans first to get them onside. Position the hives at least 25 feet away from neighboring boundaries.
4. Flowers nearby are a nice bonus
Having a good source of flowers next to the hive is ideal, and your bees will love you for it. It makes foraging easier, and the colony will probably thrive.
If you live in an urban area or somewhere with few flowers, don’t let that stop you from beekeeping. Your colony will travel miles to find food and water, so they’ll adapt to their conditions.
With the extra work of finding nectar and pollen, you’ll want to keep your hive numbers manageable. Also, there may be times when you need to help out by feeding the bees.
5. Adequate ventilation
A summer breeze helps cool bees, so position the hive to get some airflow. Avoid damp, still gullies, as the colony will struggle to stay dry.
Keep winter in mind when placing your hives. The top of a hill may be okay in spring, but the wind may be too much in winter. If you live in a cold climate, check out our checklist on how to winterize a beehive.
6. Easy access is essential
The best hive location makes no sense if it’s difficult to access. A quiet spot near flower crops and water may sound ideal, but not if it requires lugging honey over long stretches in summer. If you can get to the hives easily, you’re more likely to visit regularly. Allow at least 3 feet of space behind the hive for easy access.
7. Find a level spot
A beehive needs to be level, so find a piece of flat ground. If possible, have the front one inch lower than the rear so that any rain runs out of the hive.
If you only have sloped land, use wood or leftover materials to prop up one side and level it.
8. Keep foot traffic in mind
Facing a beehive towards nearby foot traffic isn’t a good idea. The bees could perceive people and their pets as threats and become aggressive. Instead, face the entrance away from public spaces.
9. Position the hive off the ground
Keeping hives off the ground is an excellent way to help prevent predators. Insects and mice may still be able to get in, but elevation will provide a little extra protection. Make a stand out of wood or cinder blocks.
10. Stay away from excessive noise
Bees prefer a peaceful, quiet location but can adjust to a noisy environment. Excessive noise may cause the bees to swarm to a new location or become aggravated. Consider factors like noisy machinery, loud music, and traffic.
11. Consider pets
Place beehives away from notoriously inquisitive dogs. Bees can also scare horses which is dangerous if someone rides past. In most cases, the ideal spot is well away from animals.
12. Avoid areas prone to theft
Honey is expensive, which makes beehives a target for theft. In areas prone to theft, keep bees in a location that’s hard to access from the road. Alternatively, try camouflaging the hive or installing security cameras as a precaution.
13. Take other hives into account
If you’re positioning multiple hives, keep a space of 2-5 feet between each. This placement means you will be able to reach each one easily. Avoid facing hive entrances towards each other.
Commonly asked questions
How much space do I need for a beehive?
You may be surprised at how small some beekeeper yards are. Your beehive will need about five feet of space around it, and the hive will take up an area of roughly 16 inches by 22 inches. Of course, you’ll also need to consider any legal requirements for beekeeping in your city.
You may also want to check out our advice on how many beehives to start beekeeping.
Can you put a beehive in a shed?
Most beekeepers avoid placing hives in a shed as there is insufficient light to inspect the hive. In freezing climates, temporary shed storage through winter may help the colony survive.
Can you put a beehive in a greenhouse?
Although honey bees will do an excellent job of pollinating greenhouse plants, they may become aggressive. Bumblebees are a better option as they are less aggressive.
Can you put a beehive in the woods?
You can place a beehive in the woods, and the bees will travel up to 2 miles for water and food. Conditions aren’t ideal for bees in the woods, so they won’t thrive like they would in a meadow of wildflowers.
Can you put new bees in an old hive?
New bees will happily build their new home in an old hive. They enjoy the fragrance of previous colonies and are likelier to stay if it is pre-used.
Beehives can be placed almost anywhere, whether you live in the country or city. The biggest considerations are local laws and neighbors. Nearby food and water are helpful, but keep in mind bees will travel miles foraging if needed.
We’ve listed many tips for placing a beehive but meeting all the criteria is optional. Your colony will adapt to their conditions and soon get to work producing honey.
Moving them may be the best option if things aren’t working out in your chosen location. Try to minimize these disturbances as the bees may be confused for weeks, returning to their old spot.
Be sure to also check out our article on the threats to honey bees.