Nowadays, beekeeping is becoming an increasingly popular hobby. Many people would even like to make it a side job, as they can do it whilst maintaining their full-time jobs. Beekeeping is great, because it is not too demanding in terms of time and effort. That said, beekeepers must take caution when keeping hives in their homestead. They should make sure that the beehives are far enough away from the main household otherwise you may get ‘buzzed out’ 🙂
There is no hard and fast rule when it comes to the distance between a house and a beehive but the general rule followed is to make sure that the bees have enough space to get the altitude they need to fly up high without forcing them to go up over any home. This will allow them to spread out more when foraging.
It would be awesome if we could just say ‘keep your beehives at least 20 feet from your home’, but unfortunately it’s not quite as simple as that 🙂 In most cases, experts would say that you should just use common sense. However, because common sense in beekeeping isn’t really as common as some people would think, we are here to help you understand what you need to know about beehive clearance from the house.
How far away should beehive be from the house?
A growing number of people love beekeeping, whether it be to experience the flow of fresh honey or to make money on the side! The increasing interest in homegrown and organic produce has helped too, meaning the demand for things such as beeswax and raw honey has increased massively! In reality, what this means is there are way more people with beehives in and around their properties. And way more of these people are novice beekeepers and may wonder where to place those beehives 🙂
But beekeeping isn’t really something so simple that people would immediately know what to do in these situations. You can’t just keep your beehives anywhere thinking that doing so will allow the bees to do what they need to do on a daily basis. In fact, if you want to be a good and responsible beekeeper, you need to make sure that the beehives have enough distance from your home to help both the bees and your own sanity 🙂
One would immediately think that the main reason why keeping beehives a good distance away from the house is a good idea is to make sure that you don’t get stung by these bees the moment you go outside! Yes, this is one of the factors why you would want to keep your beehives far from your house! Noone wants to get swarmed and stung by bees as soon as they step foot outside their house, right? However, there is a more important reason for the clearance between your house and the beehives.
An important tidbit you should keep in mind is that bees, like a lot of different animals, need to be able to build up some momentum to gain altitude. As such, when bees exit a hive to go foraging, they don’t immediately rise up high into the sky since they need to pick up momentum first before they are capable of flying up to high altitudes.
That said, it is believed that, for bees to be able to gain six feet of altitude from the moment they exit the hive, they need to pick up momentum in about six feet of linear distance. This is similar to how a bird also needs a few feet of linear distance before it can soar up in the sky. It’s also similar to how an actual airplane needs to pick up speed linearly so that it can gain the vertical altitude it needs.
Now, when you factor that into the clearance that should exist between your house and the beehive, this simply implies that you need to give enough linear distance between your house and the beehives so that the bees can actually have enough room to fly and gain altitude whenever they have to go out to forage.
So, what happens if you don’t give enough space between your house and the beehives? Other than the possibility of having plenty of bees near or maybe inside the house and a few bee stings to go along with it, your bees will also need to put a lot of effort in just to fly over your house whenever they want to go out and forage.
However, because bees are similar to most other animals in the sense that they use their common sense and would rather fly in directions with the least amount of resistance, having your house too close to the beehives will force your bees to fly in the opposite direction. While this may not be harmful to you or to the bees, this decreases their efficiency because of how you will be limiting the places they can go to when they are foraging.
When you want your bees to be efficient workers, they need to be able to spread out more so that they won’t end up depleting the nectar in only a few foraging spots. You need to make sure that your bees don’t compete with one another for whatever nectar or pollen is available in only a few areas.
The key here is to have them disperse into many different places as much as possible by not limiting the direction they can fly off to the moment they come out of the hive. When you are putting your house too close to the beehives, the bees are going to see the house as one huge obstacle they would struggle to fly over. And when that happens, your bees are not going to want to fly in that direction.
So, now that you know how important it is to give your bees enough room to gain the altitude they need for flying, how much space should be there between your house and the beehives? Well, a lot of different experts say that you should just use common sense as this can be something that they say is easy to really figure out on your own once you know how important it is to have some clearance between your house and the beehives.
In our case, we also can’t give you a definite number because not all backyards or properties have the same dimensions. That said, it would probably best to give them enough room to gain some altitude depending on how tall your house is. One-story houses probably don’t need as much clearance between them and the beehives compared to two-story houses, but you still probably should give at least 10 feet of room in between.
Of course, because two-story houses are taller, which means that your bees need enough room to be able to fly to an altitude that would be enough for them to fly over the house without much trouble, you would probably need a bigger backyard so that your bees are as far away from the house as possible.
Another thing that you should take note of is that, as hardworking as honey bees may be, they tend to try to work as efficiently as possible so that they could maximize their nectar collection and honey production.
As such, if they are capable of finding the food they need to survive and produce honey without having to fly a mile just to find nectar, they would take the offer. So, if there are flowers or anything that bees can eat in your house, which is not at least 10 feet away from the beehives, the bees will probably try to get into the house in search of food. You don’t want that to happen, especially if you have family members and pets who are not as fond of bees as you may be.
So, in that case, this is where the clearance comes into play to deter the bees from trying to get into the house to search for food. After all, not everyone in your family would be so comfortable with bees around them than you are 🙂
Think of your neighbors as well, because this can also be problematic to them. If you live in such a tightly packed neighborhood where the houses are very close to one another, you might not want to raise bees in that community because of the fact that your neighbors may end up having trouble with your bees. Of course, if you really want to live your life as a beekeeper, you might want to consider moving to a bigger property where the houses are given enough distance from one another. That way, the only problem you have to think of is whether or not the bees are too close to your house.
How close can you place beehives?
At this point, you already know that you should be putting enough distance between your house and your hives for the reasons stated above. If that is the case between your house and your beehives, what about the beehives themselves? Does it also follow that they should be spaced far apart from one another as well?
The good news here is that beehives don’t need to be spaced too far apart from one another because there are little to no negative impacts when the hives are close to each other. Your only problem here is drifting, which happens when a bee enters a hive that isn’t its own hive by mistake. When drifting happens, the bees that enter the wrong hives may end up getting killed, and you don’t want your bees to end up dying as a result of them entering the wrong hive by mistake.
So, in that case, the minimum distance between hives should be at least six inches because that would give the bees enough room to distinguish which hive is theirs without getting confused with all of the other hives that are close by. However, we recommend that you should space your hives about at least two feet apart from one another, not only for the bees but also for yourself.
The two-foot distance between each hive is ample enough for you to be able to work efficiently. That’s because you would want your hives to be close enough to one another so that you can easily access them without having to walk far. Meanwhile, the same distance will allow you to be able to move your equipment between the spaces well enough.
As such, while your beehives can still be spaced six inches apart from one another, it would still be better if you could provide at least two feet of room between each hive so that you can also have enough room for yourself and your equipment. Of course, the larger the distance between each hive is, the less likely it is for drifting to happen.
Still, if you are operating on a larger scale, you can probably happily absorb the slight impact of drifting to be able to use your space more efficiently. These large-scale bee farmers would therefore happily keep the beehives as close to one another as possible for this very reason. This is quite common in commercial beekeeping farms, and they have developed special equipment that helps them work well in such tight spaces.
But, in your case, since you are basically a small-scale beekeeper working on beehives that are located in your backyard, it would be better for you to make sure that you could provide at least two feet of room between the beehives for safety and efficiency reasons.
If you really must keep your beehives closer, try to make sure that your beehives all look different. This could either be different styles, different colors, or both. Believe or not, this would help your bees recognize their home more easily!
Other Considerations for Beehive Positioning
For those who are looking for other tips on where to place their beehives and how wide the clearance between your house and your beehives should be, here are some additional considerations that are worth taking note of:
- You should be keeping the beehives on level ground instead of putting them on an uneven floor. The reason behind this is that bees are going to want to build their comb perpendicular to the ground. So, when the ground is not leveled, they would end up building comb that are also uneven. You also have to consider the fact that uneven ground would increase the chances of the hives tipping over.
- Place your hives in a spot that will allow them to see the sunrise. This should be somewhere in the south or the southeast portion of your property. The reason behind this is that, when your bees see the sunrise as early as possible, the sooner they will be able to get to work.
- Remember to keep your kids and your pets in mind. Children are usually afraid of bees because when they are close to them they fear they will be stung (it’s most people’s natural reaction). Meanwhile, pets are creatures that are naturally curious about their environment. And because children and pets are not really too careful when it comes to what they are doing and where they are going, you should make sure to keep your beehives as far away from the house as possible.
- Be mindful of the flowers and the gardens nearby. If you have flowers in your garden or if your neighbors have plenty of flowers as well, this can cause a problem. While you would want your flowers to get pollinated, it could be a problem if some gardens are too close to your beehives to the point that your bees will end up taking over there and easily cause you or your neighbors some problems (or at the very least unease).
- Keep in mind that wind can also be an important factor when you are keeping your bees in a spot away from your house. While your house should serve as a barrier against strong winds, you should still make sure that the beehives are protected well enough from the wind so that they don’t get blown over. This is one of the problems that rooftop beehives tend to experience. You can protect them from the wind by providing a windbreak that isn’t too high so that your bees can still fly over it without much trouble.
- Water is just as important for your bees as well. That said, be sure that there is an open source of clean water for your bees about 50 feet away from the hives so that they don’t have to fly a mile just to get a drink of water.
- Keep the beehives elevated as well, so that it will be easier for you to inspect them. The ideal height should be at the level of your waist so that you don’t have to lower your body too much when you are inspecting your hives. Of course, elevating your beehives will also reduce the chances of rot and mold invading them (as well as those hive beetles).
- Distance might be important for your hives, but you should also take yourself into consideration here. Honey can be heavy when there is a good flow of it, and you don’t want to see yourself carrying 50-pound honey supers for more than 50 feet on a pretty hot summer day.
- The hives should be placed on land that is dry and firm because of how this decreases the chances of the hives sinking into the ground.