Landscape Management Tips for Beekeepers
When considering where to place bee hives it is not easy for backyard beekeepers to have much choice. If you are limited to the size of an urban block or rooftop you may have several locations to choose from, but they are realistically all within 20-30 metres of each other. In this case you can choose the micro-location and therefore have some subtle localised control, but you have virtually no control over the macro (or landscape) level. Nonetheless it is worth a discussion so that we can collectively be more aware and understanding of what makes bees more productive and most importantly have an improved bill of health. We will try and look at landscape and local solutions to each point below.
If you find this blog helpful, please make sure you share it with fellow beekeepers and those aspiring to have bees. It may well contain some ideas that improve their understanding to be able to make more informed decisions.
Let’s get started:
Three out of ten of the key points in our previous blog, ‘10 Questions to consider before starting beekeeping’ relate to the location of your bees. It is clearly an important consideration as without enough food (nectar and pollen), water (for drinking and hive cooling) and safety (shelter from weather, pests and diseases) you may jeopardise the health and well being of your bees. At a minimum you may reduce the ability of your bees to produce surplus honey for you to harvest.
Apiary site location
Our previous blog post ‘How to – Choosing an Apiary Site’ deals with many of the factors of choosing a site for locating your bees. It also explains the idea of optimising your apiary location so that you can maximise gains and minimise risks.
If you have a small property and not many places to put your bee hives it will explain that you still have substantial control over site consideration. Some of these points include:
- Facing the entrance towards the early morning sun
- Protecting from hot afternoon sun and cold wintry winds
- Positioning with flight paths in mind
Check out the full article for more detail.
On a landscape level, beekeepers should be aware of the surrounding land use and consider the appropriateness of having bees. Having half a dozen backyard beehives right next to a school is probably asking for trouble but having the same near a standard residential area will probably bring many floral sources within proximity to your bees.
Quite simply, get on Google maps and look at what is within 3-5 kilometres of where you want your hives. Critically analyse what your bees will find and what might find your bees!
Pests and diseases should be a very significant concern for beekeepers as this can greatly impact your harvest, the viability of all your bee hives, the usability of your equipment (think diseases that render your equipment useless) and your impact on the bee population in your area.
It is difficult to manage on a landscape level as you can’t accurately determine the pest and disease status of other beekeepers and of wild colonies?
Siting your hives within a secure yard is relevant if you are in areas of North America where you have large mammal pests (bears, skunks etc, something I have little idea about being from Australia). This can avoid the disappointment of having your hives completely ravaged and destroyed.
Bees will not survive for long without water to drink and water to cool the beehive. However, bees are not appreciated in your neighbours swimming pool and it is not acceptable if you are trying to minimise casualties from drowning.
When considering suitable water sources for bees it is commonly known that they prefer still or slow-moving water. I had a leaky hose all summer once and bees would cover the ground near the leak consuming the water. There are many solutions and unique methods beekeepers have come up with.
This blog post about ‘How to Keep Bees Out Of Your Pool’ by Hilary Kearney (Beekeeping Like a Girl) shows great ways to provide water for bees to lure them away from swimming pools.
Flora – pollen and nectar
On a macro scale a beekeeper in an urban setting usually doesn’t have many issues with nectar and pollen availability. This is due to the amazing mosaic and diversity of plants from bush reserves, fruit trees, ornamental plants, lawns and no doubt weeds that are found within the urban landscape.
It can often be more challenging in rural areas where there are fewer species and therefore less variety of options for bees to forage. This can create times of the year that bees have a plentiful supply from large acres of crops, orchards or native forest but then times when bees can suffer a massive population decline or complete colony starvation due to a dearth in food supply.
On the micro level it is easy for a beekeeper to manage vegetation and options on their property by planting bee appropriate plants. There are dozens of articles about this but here are a few points to think about:
- Lawns can be a place for bees too. There might be weeds on your lawn, but they are an excellent forage source for bees all year round. Do you really need to get rid of them?
- Plant flowers which bloom at different times of the year. Consider plants that bloom for considerable time as opposed to a brief and generally unhelpful short flush of flowers.
- Let some areas of your garden remain a bit wild and unkept. This will create opportunities for forage that can’t be underestimated. It may even provide habitat for native bees!
- Variety equals abundance – plants lots of different plants
If you still feel a little lost without much control over your bees don’t forget you have the ultimate control as to whether you have bees or not. Perhaps some locations are best avoided. If you’re not sure give it a go and watch them closely.
If you haven’t started with bees or are very new, then these articles will help you out:
And blog posts mentioned above:
- How to – Choosing an Apiary Site
- 10 Questions to consider before starting beekeeping
- How to Keep Bees Out of Your Pool by Hilary Kearney (Beekeeping Like a Girl)