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  • Rearranging my Garden Apiary

  • General Q&A, Bee chat and only Bee chat please
General Q&A, Bee chat and only Bee chat please
 #5336  by Japey Edge
 18 Dec 2019, 09:31
Hello all,

My current setup isn't ideal. It wasn't planned and the stands were made last minute - just chunks of wood stacked, levelled then screwed together. I want to use the week I have off work to rearrange the garden a little bit. The hives are on the best side for protection from wind and they get the early morning sun too. As I'm going over 3 feet and under 3 miles (not a big garden :lol:) I wouldn't mind a bit of advice. I treated them all Apitraz around the same time (one lagged behind some may remember) and I will trickle them at the same time too (I'm coming from the angle if treatment is relevant for bees drifting due to new positions).

So below are two images - one is how my apiary is setup, the second is how I want it set up. Any advice on how to do this and if it's possible without hurting the bees' chances of survival etc. would be appreciated.



The garden slopes, I would like to dig a section out level - probably more than I need so I can increase hives along the fence line. I was thinking of just digging it out and sticking some flagstones down for a solid base and then bark chippings on top. The soil in the garden is awful - full of clay and random bits and bobs. This was a farmer's field up until 7 years ago...

Any thoughts?
 #5337  by AndrewLD
 18 Dec 2019, 11:12
1. Even with your different hive colours to avoid drifting (or they would definately be too close) there is no room to do manipulations without standing in the way of the bees, or space to put down boxes you have taken off. There's a good section on apiary layout in the Haynes Bee Manual and I would commend that to you. You need better access to the rear / sides and more work space. Hives this close could only work in a beehaus......
2. They may be sheltered and in good sun but with a changing climate; i am thinking it's too much of a sun trap and would get excessively hot. The dead air in the corner will not aid the bees' ventilation of the hive.
3. Moving hives over three feet - wait until they have been confined to the hives for a few days and put some foliage in front of the entrace to trigger re-orientation.
4. You might revise your hive stands and get them higher.
I have an idea there's going to be a lot more advice pouring in and I don't think any of it wil be in favour of your plan so what could be your alternative but this advice will do for starters :)
 #5338  by Japey Edge
 18 Dec 2019, 11:42
Thanks Andrew, I appreciate that advice. I am on board with getting more room as I have struggled with that during inspections when I was aided. Also they need a larger gap at the back as the trays have been difficult to remove. I am happy to space them apart, making sure I can freely walk around each hive.
I forgot to mention I was looking at making one long stand to seat the three hives on, but I might go for two doubles (leaving a spare space). There would be gaps between hives for inspections to occur easily/freely.

I'm happy for the advice to be different, rather than having my ears tickled and get into more bother :-) Thanks again.
 #5339  by Patrick
 18 Dec 2019, 13:33
Hi Jazz

When they are behaving, it’s winter and all going to plan then very close boxes is not an issue. But as you already know, soon as they are stacks of supers which need to be removed and piled to inspect, bees got aggressive, you want to do a split or unite next to a hive, swarm control splits etc - being bunched up close can become a right pain. It can also make inspecting adjacent hives tricky if they become defensive later in the season to wasps, robbing bees etc. If you are currently doing swarm control with a separate hive beside the original, you might do better using vertical splits, reducing your need for more “footprint” space?

Now is probably a great time to decide what you want as a maximum hive count and whether realistically your garden is the best place for all the higher number? I don’t know your total garden area, it’s layout, your neighbours and whether a rural or urban situation (and it’s not necessary to share online), but it might be worth considering if an out apiary partly meets your future aspirations better?

I am a great believer (tho never actually managed to do it myself of course), that fewer hives kept well are a much better proposition than lots of hives kept less well. Photo really useful, would think in current used space move them out from fence a foot or so and maybe shuffle up to fit in one or at max two more boxes unless you can dedicate more garden. You could even do a second row in front of first at a push?

I know people can keep hives in all sorts of tight spaces and on roofs etc but that doesn’t mean they are easy to manage over time. Notice how often pics of rooftop beekeepers have lovely new kit - makes you wonder how many keep up the less accessible locations for a few years?
 #5340  by NigelP
 18 Dec 2019, 15:23
Jazz reverse them so entrances face towards fence, p[perhaps pull them out a few feet to get them facing the will get them up and away. BUT I would wait until spring/summer to do this reorientation of 180 degrees. This time of year bees are very vulnerable on their short cleansing/water collecting .
Spacing is fine all mine are situated close together and any drifting is negligible. And they are your bees so do you care if a few drift....I don't.....and particularly with your colour schemes unlikely to be an issue.
In winter you can generally move a few feet anywhere after a cold spell with few problems.

I would lock them in whilst you do the work so you can move them out of the way, make your new stands and then stick them back.
 #5341  by AndrewLD
 18 Dec 2019, 15:50
I should clarify my advice re spacing. I do not think you can have them that close together without access from the rear (or the side if you have the frames cold way) and in your new layout you cannot get to the middle hive or the one against the fence. Plus, you do not want to be putting boxexes in front of the hives, much better to have them at the back. So I should have said you cannot have them that close as shown in your new layout.
And I think I'd move them one at a time not all at once.
As long as you differentiate the hives with symbols or colours that the bees recognize you should avoid problems with drifting but most British beekeepers do not mark their hives in this way. I think drifting is most undesirable and promotes disease and varroa spread.
The problem with pulling the hives out and reversing them as Nigel suggests is that if the sun is coming from behind you the bees will just fly out, up a couple of feet and then do a 180deg to fly back into your face when you are doing your manipulations (I tried this once :shock:

You mentioned hive stands. I'd love to post a picture of my stands (worth 1000 words) but have no idea how to get a photo into a message????? How did you get your photos into your post?
But a two hive stand works very well and if you have rear access you can leave a gap wide enough to get a third hive between them (plus space for your hands!) then you can pop a third hive between them preparatory to uniting or for a shook swarm and all sorts of good things that we need to do from time to time.
 #5342  by NigelP
 18 Dec 2019, 16:25
You need your images on a web site and then you click the image icon above and enter the url.
Talking of hive stands, Jazz, you could save yourself a lot of work with these adjustable Abelo ones....just add wood. I have about 6 sets of them and they are superb for migratory beekeeping as can be set up level on virtually any terrain.

 #5343  by Alfred
 18 Dec 2019, 17:22
Ive got my stands knee hight so I dont bend and lift at the same time.
I've put a wide area around mine with old carpet covered deep in wood chippings so I can keep the vegetation down without going near the hives.
I also have mine on slabs 900x300x50 pressed concrete (council type) leveled on a bed of sharp sand.
They are all drilled at the ends with eye bolts installed to ratchet strap the hives down.
There is a herd of around 50 wild deer that use the apiary as a playground and they are pretty clumsy
 #5344  by NigelP
 18 Dec 2019, 17:27
AndrewLD wrote:
18 Dec 2019, 15:50
I think drifting is most undesirable and promotes disease and varroa spread.
Think about drone promiscuity of hive choice. Seeley and others have described how drones regularly drift all over ones apiary from hive to hive and even from apiary to nearby apiary. Nothing much can be done about this.

I may simply be lucky in my garden hive directions but all mine (about 12) face into a hedge a few feet from their entrances. They exit and spiral upwards and fly off in all different directions. I have full access to all from the rear with plenty of space and to date have had no issues with sun positions and bees flying at occasional one I'll grant you. It was why I though Jazz'z fence would make an ideal "get 'em high" quickly scenario.
 #5347  by AdamD
 18 Dec 2019, 20:27
I would say that your first photo is better than the second - as you do need space to get around the hives - and if you wanted to do an A/S then you would want space between hives to place another one. (Of course, if SWIMBO doesn't want to see any more hives, you can do an A/S OVER another colony but it can get a bit cumbersome to deal with).

I use single hive stands and I can drag them about as needed - say if I want to combine one colony with one that's a short distance away, I can do a slow dance until they are close enough to unite. I have some on 3' x 2' slabs which work well and keep the feet of the sinlge stands off the wet ground.

I have also seen hives in a back garden facing the fence - and the bees fly up and away rather than flying across the garden.