Pre-newbie questions - backyard setups
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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2019
    Fort St John, BC

    Default Pre-newbie questions - backyard setups

    Good evening ladies and gentlemen! Few questions -

    So I've been struck with an interest in setting up an apiary in my back yard. My local bylaws would permit a maximum of two colonies and require a solid 6ft minimum fence.

    I have a 50x150ft corner lot which unfortunately has an elementary school across the street. (Hive and fence would be hidden from sight, but would be roughly 70ft from the playground)

    Would it be reckless or irresponsible to locate a hive in my back yard?

    Second thought - my wife has a small dog. How much buffer would you recommend setting up the fence for so that bees don't feel that she's a risk to the hive?

    Last - we generally enjoy bbqing and dining on our back porch. Would starting a hive in the yard change this dynamic?

    Many thanks for the thought

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
    Rensselaer County, NY, USA

    Default Re: Pre-newbie questions - backyard setups

    Thinking about the size of your lot - you likely could situate the hive so it didn't impact your own activities overmuch.

    A tall solid fence, or other boundary will move the approach/departure path sharply upwards moving the bulk of the traffic out of sight (and out of the hearing) of humans on the ground.

    The children at a school across the street will not be in danger.

    Your wife's dog can be protected by a fence that surrounds the hive area.

    But depending on where your hive is located relative to your BBQ and dining, you may feel cramped by the bees.

    I am trying imagine a space 50' X 150' (is that just the yard, or the whole property, including the house footprint?) in front of my hives. I have no barriers to raise the flight path in front of my hives, but I would say that the space 50 feet directly in front and about 30 feet on either side of the row of hives would be a place I would not hang out in on a regular basis without some kind of head-covering (hat, beekeepers' veil) to keep from tangling with the bees. And I am very comfortable around bees, working them bare-handed, etc.

    May I suggest that you hunt up a local beekeeper and visit their apiary this spring when the hives will be strong and very busy. That will give you the best idea of what to expect.

    People do keep bees in surprisingly urban areas, including on roofs.

    It's a very good idea to be thinking about this ahead of time.

    Good luck. (There are BTW, other kinds of bees, such as mason bees, which not honey producing, are fascinating creatures in their own right. They fit in anywhere.)


  4. #3
    Join Date
    Aug 2018
    Boston, MA, USA


    should be fine. I have 3 hives on my back deck. It is a 7000 square foot lot.

  5. #4
    Join Date
    Jun 2016
    Minden LA, (NW Louisiana)

    Default Re: Pre-newbie questions - backyard setups

    I second what has already been said.
    I have a hive on our 12X16 deck, the hive opening is under the bottom of the railing. We BBQ and hang out on the deck with no bee problems so far. (third year here). A few times I have had two nucs building up in addition to the main hive.
    We also have a hive at the opposite, front corner of the house, behind some waist high hedges. The bees have to immediately fly nearly straight up from the hive opening, and they generally keep going up. Our next door neighbors knew of the hive on the deck, but did not know there was a hive in the front for two years.

  6. #5
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA

    Default Re: Pre-newbie questions - backyard setups

    Bees are only really a problem in the direction that the entrance faces. Once they get airborn you won't notice them. A fence is often used to resolve this. Any animal who can run will likely be fine. Any animal confined near bee hives are at risk. Here's my list of criteria in order of importance:

    "Where should I put my hive?" The problem is there isn't a simple answer. But in a list of decreasing importance I would pick these criteria with a willingness to sacrifice the less important ones altogether if they don't work out:

    Safety. It's essential to have the hive where they are not a threat to animals who are chained or penned up and can't flee if they are attacked, or where they are likely to be a threat to passerbys who don't know there are hives there. If the hive is going to be close to a path that people walk you need to have a fence or something to get the bees up over the people's heads. Also face the hive away from the path or any area that people will be using a lot. For the safety of the bees they should be where cattle won't rub on them and knock them over, horses won't knock them over and bears can't get to them.

    Convenient access. It's essential to have the hive where the beekeeper can drive right up to it. Carrying full supers that could weigh from 90 pounds (41kg) (deep) down to 48 pounds (22kg) (eight frame medium) any distance is too much work. The same for bringing beekeeping equipment and feed to the hives. You may have to feed as much as 50 pounds (23kg) or more of syrup to each hive and carrying it any distance is not practical. Also you will learn a lot more about bees with a hive in your backyard than a hive 20 miles (32km) away at a friend's house. Also a yard a mile or two from home will get much better care than one 60 miles (100km) from home.

    Good forage. If you have a lot of options, then go for a place with lots of forage. Sweet clover, alfalfa being grown for seed, tulip poplars etc. can make the difference between bumper crops of 200 pounds (91kg) or more of honey per hive and barely scraping a living. But keep in mind the bees will not only be foraging the space you own, they will be foraging the 8,000 acres (32 square km) around the hives.

    Not in your way. I think it's important the hive does not interfere with anyone's life much. In other words, don't put it right next to a well used path where, in a dearth and in a bad mood, the bees may harass or sting someone or anywhere else where you are likely to wish they weren't there.

    Full sun. I find hives in full sun have fewer problems with diseases and pests and make more honey. All things being equal, I'd go for full sun. The only advantage to putting them in the shade is that you get to work them in the shade.

    Out of the wind. It's nice to have them where the cold winter wind doesn't blow on them so hard and the wind is less likely to blow them over or blow off the lids. This isn't my number one requirement, but if a place is available that has a windbreak it's nice. This usually precludes putting them at the very top of a hill.

    Not in a low-lying area. I don't care if they are somewhere in the middle, but I'd rather not have them where the dew and the fog and the cold settle and I really don't want them where I have to move them if there's a threat of a flood.

    If you live in a very hot climate, mid afternoon shade might be a nice to have, but I wouldn't lose sleep over it.

    In the end, bees are very adaptable. They really don't care, so make sure it's convenient for you, and if it's not too hard to provide, try to meet some of the other criteria. It's doubtful you'll have a place that meets all of the criteria listed above.
    Michael Bush "Everything works if you let it." 42y 40h 39yTF

  7. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2015
    Salt Lake City, UT

    Default Re: Pre-newbie questions - backyard setups

    My backyard hives occupy a corner space that is 30' x 8' I arrange the hives in an L shape facing into the corner. On the opposite side of the fence to south is a cherry tree and to the west is a willow tree. The bees fly up to altitude and fly over those trees, so the neighbors never notice them.

    If there is not a natural water source within 1/4 mile you need to provide one. My experience is that my bees ignore any water I put near the apiary, but they go for a water source that I placed 130 feet away. You'll need to take into account that there will be quite a bit of flight traffic to the water source and plan accordingly so you can still use your yard.
    Zone 6B

  8. #7
    Join Date
    Apr 2019
    Fort St John, BC

    Default Re: Pre-newbie questions - backyard setups

    Good morning everyone,

    Many thanks for the thought and notes!

    I hadn't thought about water traffic and source location - good consideration to have on the mind.

    The 50x150 includes the house foot print, front yard, garage, greenhouse, shed, porch, cherry trees, etc. For a few hives, would an 8x8 or 10x10 fenced off spot be adequate? For a dog who is outside in the back yard sporadically during spring and summer (windows open, usually short stretches), what distance of partitioning would you recommend from the hives?

    I'm glad to hear that patio bbq's won't be a write off.

    Michael Bush - your website is fantastic.

    Many thanks!

  9. #8
    Join Date
    Feb 2018
    Lambton Shores, Ontario, Canada

    Default Re: Pre-newbie questions - backyard setups

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Bush View Post
    Convenient access. It's essential to have the hive where the beekeeper can drive right up to it. Carrying full supers that could weigh from 90 pounds (41kg) (deep) down to 48 pounds (22kg) (eight frame medium) any distance is too much work.
    This may not be an issue in your backyard setup, but I cannot agree with Michael more on this. When I started I put my hives in an out-of-the way corner of our farm, mostly out of a misplaced fear that the bees may be a risk to my then 3y/o son or our pets. Long story short, bees are not near as aggressive as you think they are, kids love and are fascinated by them, pets generally don't care, but lugging honey boxes a half kilometer (1/4 mile) by hand, through a deep creekbed, will cause significant back pain (and swearing).

    Needless to say, I took advantage of the bees dormant period this winter to move those hives to a much more convenient location.


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