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Okay, people raise bees everywhere, on top buildings and in their backyards, and in gardens and so on. I don't get it, but it shows that **** near anything is possible. :)

If one has limited space, such as a normal sized back yard. What is the best configuration of "stand", "rack", "hive", to be able to maximize space, and effectively still be able to accomplish splits, introduction of nucs and swarms, and maintain ongoing colonies for continued honey production?

It would appear that the common knowledge that 1 colony is never enough seems true. But what is a good size that can be maintained in a small-ish area.

How much distance or differentiation in color would be necessary to control drift? Or would having alternating entrances (N, S, E, W) allow them to be stacked right next to up, against, each other?

Is there any good reason to not standardize on a single frame size such as large or medium? I have seen lots of reasons to actually do so, but so far no compelling arguments not to.

If a nuc box is built to be supered (no permanently attached bottom board) and it is not more than 3 or 4 high, are there any other reasons (besides height and tippiness) to avoid such configurations?
 

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Rather nebulous questions.

A 'normal' back yard is totally subjective. My entire lot is .24 acre, my back yard is about 1/2 of that area. Yet down the street, lots are 1/2 that size. In the other direction, twice my size. The size of your house, garage, shed, patio, garden..... Exactly where in your yard and the size of the area you want to place your hives is totally unique. When I 1st began, I kept 2 hives inside an old 8x8 dog kennel, just to keep my dog away from the bees. Then my apiary grew and I had to eliminate the kennel. The dog learned quickly.

I have a small house on my large-ish (relative to my neighborhood) lot, with no garage and a 10x12 shed. I have plenty of room to work on my 4 hives and a split. 4 hives is the maximum allowed in my city.

In fact, all your questions are subjective and illustrate the fact that all beekeeping is local, and a lot of your decisions will be affected by local regulations and on your own situation.

You can make your hives all unique and face them all the same way, or make them all identical and faced different directions. It depends largely on where you put them in relation to your yard and structure. Bees tend to prefer E, S or SE, but I've seen feral colonies facing N or W.

I think you'll find 10 or 8 frame Langstroth hives to pretty much be the standard. I personally wouldn't stack nucs higher than 2 or maybe 3, though. It seems too unstable to me. Once a nuc is that big, I feel it belongs in full size boxes. Some people do keep colonies in nucs intentionally, but I think it's mostly for specific purposes such as swarm control, queen rearing or overwintering.

Try to stick with the common ways of doing things. It tends to be a smoother learning curve than trying to reinvent the wheel.
I had standardized on medium size boxes and frames due to weight considerations. Bad back, ya see.
But then I got into a situation with splits and swarms where I needed some additional equipment real quick, and my buddy gave me some of his standard Lang boxes and frames. so now I'm mixed. It's sort of a hassle, so I intend to work back to all medium equipment. Knowing the reasons 'why' to do a thing generally points to the reasons 'why not' to do a thing.
 

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Bees will use forty to sixty feet to make a flyway to climb up to and descend from altitude, or the take off and landing approach to the hives. But if there is an obstacle they will spiral up to altitude instead. In a small backyard that is used for other things as well, face the hive towards the fence, leaving enough space that you can access the front of the hive when necessary. Make the area behind the hives your working area, you need 3' of clear flat space there. You need a minimum of two hives so that you can deal with most problems, however two hives is not enough to be sustainable. IMO, sustainability happens at six hives. Some of those six can be nucs that are suitable for overwintering. I place my hives three to a stand with about 1' of space between them. I paint the landing boards different colors. Drift doesn't seem to be much of a problem.
 

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The stacks of 4 frame nucs on a standard 10 frame lang deep with divider will take care of splits on a single standard bottom. Using snelgrove division board will take care of queen rearing and swarm control with no added footprint. Gets around hive number limitations unless the bylaw officer happens to be a knowledgeable beekeeper. The side by side nucs on a single base are quite stable and can raise a honey crop too.
 

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