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Apiary location (aka where do bees fly?)

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House Bee

Joined: 01 Jul 2019
Posts: 15
Location: Mid Wales

PostPosted: Wed Jul 03, 2019 11:20 am    Post subject: Apiary location (aka where do bees fly?) Reply with quote

I'm totally new to beekeeping, but I recently learned about natural beekeeping and the black bee project so now I'm (slowly!) building a hTBH and looking for somewhere to put it.

I live in a steep sided valley, it's maybe a half mile wide here, and the hills either side are maybe 100m (300ft) higher than the valley floor. The hive would likely be about a third to halfway up the hill, which is about 45° here.

My question is about how/where the bees would fly from the hive. I've been helping out a (conventional, hobbyist) beekeeper with a couple hives to get some experience, and I can see how the hedges and buildings on his site funnel the bees in various ways, but his place is flat and I can't map that to where I am... and I don't want to position the hive in such a way as to direct thousands of bees onto my neighbours back yard!

I know there's no real way to predict what bees will do, but does anybody have a feel for how bees might fly near the hive? Would they hug the ground, or fly straight and level (i.e. high into the air!), and would they forage roughly in a circle, or would they be more likely to funnel themselves along the valley floor? For example, right now the opposite hillside is more or less 100% put to making hay; there's fields and fields of full of white clover a 1/2 mile away, but if they stick to the valley floor they'll miss it 🙄
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Joined: 27 Jul 2011
Posts: 1857
Location: England/Co.Durham/Ebchester

PostPosted: Wed Jul 03, 2019 1:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Josh. Your concerns are I think unfounded. Unless the bees have found a fantastic source of pollen and nectar, you are very unlikely to see a stream of bees travelling in any direction. I have 10 hives right outside my back door facing in a variety of directions and only once can I remember seeing a steady stream of bees passing though my garden and having to duck to avoid them and that was because they were working a field of beans in that direction and the weather had suddenly changed and they were dashing home before the heavens dropped! Those bees are foragers though, so their sole purpose is to get out and collect stores and return... ie they are extremely unlikely to a defensive.
Where screening is important is if there is likely to be activity within a 10 feet radius of the entrance which guard bees might find threatening and in those circumstances some screening of the entrance is helpful. It also pushes the foragers upwards more quickly to above head height so that they are less likely to collide with people and perhaps get tangled in the hair of a passing person. If you are locating your hive on a hillside they will head off above head height pretty quickly. They usually navigate at about 15+ feet above the ground.
What I will say about locating a hive on a steep hillside is that if can prove challenging for the beekeeper. I have tried it a few times as part of my land is very steep and no use for anything else, but carrying items to the hive, standing on uneven, very steep terrain etc can all be more difficult and tiring, especially on a hot day in a bee suit.
Make sure that the location you choose is sheltered from the prevailing wind and ideally, face the entrance in a south or south east direction. If the hillside is quite open, planting some trees or shrubs to provide not only some shelter but also suitable resting spots for any swarms which emerge is also helpful.
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Quality Top Bar Hives by Andrew Vidler

Conserving wild bees

Research suggests that bumble bee boxes have a very low success rate in actually attracting bees into them. We find that if you create an environment where first of all you can attract mice inside, such as a pile of stones, a drystone wall, paving slabs with intentionally made cavities underneath, this will increase the success rate.

Most bumble bee species need a dry space about the size a football, with a narrow entrance tunnel approximately 2cm in diameter and 20 cm long. Most species nest underground along the base of a linear feature such as a hedge or wall. Sites need to be sheltered and out of direct sunlight.

There is a spectacular display of wild bee hotels here

More about bumblebees and solitary bees here

Information about the Tree Bumblebee (Bombus hypnorum)

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