We all know that bees pollinate flowers which lead to plants producing the fruits and vegetables we eat, and that bees also create honey which is a delicious addition to many fruits or a sweet treat raw. But there are several bee facts you learn as you start to consider keeping bees that you probably didn’t know before.
For example, how you position your hive is very important to the health and happiness of your little buzzing friends. You want your hive opening facing south or southeast for optimum sunlight and wind protection. Depending on your area you may be more concerned about them overheating or getting to cold. Here in Maine, it’s definitely the cold! The more sunlight and less wind you can expose your bees to, the better. In northern climates you may even position the hive facing due east for the most morning sunlight.
The hive entrance, or openings between sections in the hive, have to be about 3/4″ of an inch in diameter. Smaller, and your bees will have trouble getting in and out. Larger and you are inviting both creatures and drafts inside the hive. When bees are brooding and creating new bees, their hive temperature must be at 94 degree Fahrenheit, regardless of the temperature outside.
As I’ve mentioned on this blog before, we are making top bar hives for our bees. I believe it’s the most responsible and natural way to keep bees, and it also helps to remove other dangers from the bee’s lives. In researching this post I found many beekeepers discussing ways to keep rodents out of their hives, and what height to raise their hive to for optimum bee happiness. Top bar hives sit well off the ground and remove many pesky hazards just by being out of reach.
One thing that concerns people about beekeeping is the possibility of being overwhelmed with bees in their yard and being stung regularly. Bees are only aggressive if they have something to protect (honey or a brood), so you shouldn’t have to worry about bee aggression unless it is late in the season and they are hording honey for winter. Even then, you should only be concerned when working directly with the hive and therefore disturbing the bees. As for lots of bees around your house, the first two or so feet close to the entrance of the hive will see heavy traffic. Bees travel in about a five mile radius around their hive to collect pollen and therefore, besides right in front of the entrance, you won’t notice a dramatic increase of bees on your property specifically.
Bees are magical little creatures that keep our planet going, and there are many things you can do to help their survival without investing in a colony yourself. Planting bee-friendly flowering plants and not using pesticides is a wonderful start. Support your local beekeeper by purchasing local and even raw honey instead of the grocery store variety. And you may not know this but bees get thirsty! Cultivating a clean pond or just putting up a simple bird bath will help a weary bee in her travels.