I would think you could use as few as four or five differing patterns, and it really only would help for densely-populated yards with few landmarks for the bees to orient on. I guess I'd consider them if I had rows of hives that are otherwise undifferentiated, but breaking up the hives into clumps and using the landscape to help them orient should reduce drifting with a lot less labor. Something as easy as a shrub, fence post, stump, jerrycan on top of a colony, anything really would help them visually orient more accurately. Unless your colony records just have to say "colony #3, path four, county highway 7 outyard" .
Bees, brews and fun
in Lyons, CO