Bees are versatile and adaptable insects, happy to live in a wide range of habitats. That gives you plenty of options when it comes to choosing the right location for a beehive.
Although you don’t need expansive land with endless flowers to set up a beehive, there are some best practices 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?
This 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. Of course, the hive should be in a safe place away from the public and you’ll need to tend to the hive, easy access is essential.
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 is a tough ask, so don’t feel that you must. Your bees will adjust to the conditions you provide.
1. Check local laws
Before you make any decisions about hive location, research your city’s legal guidelines. You may need a permit that requires the hive to be a minimum distance from public walkways. They may also have 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. In the United States, we advise facing it towards the southeast or south. Early morning sunshine will help raise the worker bees’ body temperature to 95°F (35°C) so that 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 is a distraction 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 reason to avoid beehives. If you have neighbors nearby, it’s a good idea to chat with them 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 much easier and the colony will probably thrive.
If you live in an urban area or some other place 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 involved in 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 breeze in summer will help keep the hive cool, so try to position the hive that’ll get some airflow. Gullies tend to be damp and still, so avoid them as your hives 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, you may also want to check out our checklist on how to winterize a beehive.
6. Easy access is essential
The best possible hive location isn’t much good if you have a lot of trouble accessing it. A quiet spot near the hills may sound ideal, but you don’t want to be lugging honey over too much difficult terrain in summer. If you can get to the hives easily, you’re more likely to visit regularly. Easy access means you’ll also have at least 3 feet of space behind the hive.
7. Find a level spot
A beehive needs to be level, so find a nice piece of ground that is perfectly level side to side. If possible, have the front about one inch lower than the rear so that any rain runs out of the hive.
If you only have sloped land, use some wood or any other leftover materials that can prop up one side to make it level.
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 a good way to help prevent predators. Insects and mice may still be able to get in, but an elevated hive will provide a little extra protection. You can make a stand out of wood, but a few cinder blocks will work just as well.
10. Stay away from excessive noise
Although bees may adjust to noisy conditions, they much prefer a peaceful, quiet location. 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
Try to locate beehives away from notoriously inquisitive dogs. Bees can also scare horses which isn’t ideal if someone is riding them. If you’ve got a position well away from animals, then use it.
12. Avoid areas that could be prone to theft
Honey isn’t cheap, which makes beehive theft a real possibility in some areas. You could have honeycomb stolen or worse still, the whole colony.
Place a beehive is an area that’s hard to access from the road. If that’s not possible, try camouflaging the hive or installing security cameras if needed.
13. Take other hives into account
If you’re positioning multiple hives, then keep a space of 2-5 feet between each one. This means you won’t have to walk too far to reach each one. 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 all around it and the hive will take up an area of roughly 16 inches by 22 inches. Of course, you’ll also need to take into account 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?
It isn’t recommended to place hives in a shed as there is insufficient light to inspect the hive and bees are attracted to lights if you have any.
Can you put a beehive in a greenhouse?
Although honey bees can be useful for pollinating your greenhouse plants, bumblebees are considered better 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 in search of 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 are perfectly fine for placing in old hives. Bees enjoy the fragrance of previous colonies and are more likely to stay if it’s been previously used.
Beehives can be placed almost anywhere, whether you live in the country or city. The biggest considerations are local laws and neighbors. Food and water aren’t such a problem as your bees will travel miles foraging if needed.
We’ve listed a lot of tips for placing a beehive but meeting all the criteria isn’t essential. Your colony will adapt to their conditions and soon get to work producing honey.
Keep in mind that you move the hive if needed. It isn’t ideal as the bees may be confused for weeks, returning to their old spot. But if things aren’t working out in the location you’ve chosen, moving them may be the best option.
Be sure to also check out our article on the threats to honey bees.