What are the factors to consider when setting an apiary? How many hives should you set up in a single apiary?
An apiary is a location where beehives of honey bees are kept. This is where multiple beehives are placed. It might range from one bee hive to hundreds of bee hives. Below are factors to consider while setting up an apiary.
Knowledge of bee plants
- One should know the bee plants in his / her area and their flowering periods
Duration of flowering plants
- There should be abundant flowers to attract the bees.
- Know the period between budding and actual flowering.
- Plants selected should be producing high quality honey.
- Among the best beekeeping vegetation areas are forest woodlands, grasslands with dense covers of flowering herbs/shrubs, thickets, agricultural crops yielding nectar in abundance can be good beekeeping sites e.g. sunflower, coffee, sisal estates legumes, bananas etc.
Source of water
- Bees require water for various uses in the hive, cooling, feeding larvae and own use.
- The Apiary can be close to the source of water.
- If there is no permanent source, water can be supplied in containers with floating sticks for bees to step on to avoid drowning.
- Apiary location should be away from public places, away from cultivated fields where large number of people work every day.
- Schools, highways and estates should be avoided so that bees do not become nuisance to people.
- The recommended distance from these utilities is more than 300 metres.
- Trees and bushes should surround the apiary.
- This makes bees to fly high when leaving and returning to the apiary, thus reducing the risk of becoming a nuisance to the nearby farms activities.
- The area should be fenced to exclude livestock and other animals that might disturb bees.
- Colonies should be sheltered from the scourging sun, frost, wind and floods.
- Wind cause drifting of bees and poor communication. Artificial or natural shade is necessary.
- A well-drained place is recommended to avoid absconding due to high humidity.
- Waterlogged soil cause rotting of hives and posts.
- Area must be accessible for ease in management of the apiary and transportation of honey
- An apiary should be free from areas with frequent attacks by pests (honey badger, ants and man).
- Avoid locations with frequent bush fires, alternatively cut the grass short in the apiary to minimize fire hazard or hang hives on trees.
Distance between Apiaries
- This depends on the acreage of floral sources and the number of colonies within the area.
- Apiaries should be at least 2-3km apart.
- It is recommended that each apiary should not hold `more than 50 colonies.
- In one acre of good forest woodland an average of 50 hives can be comfortably established without any problem.
- In areas with sparse vegetation like grassland it can be less than this figure – survey of bee plants is necessary before final figure is established.
- An apiary should be sited far from fields which are sprayed with pesticides to avoid bee poisoning and honey contamination. Avoid spraying when the plants are on flower or during peak foraging periods. It is important to use bee-friendly pesticides