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locating hive

Home Forums HoneyLove Forum locating hive

This topic contains 6 replies, has 3 voices, and was last updated by  Ronni Kern 4 years, 9 months ago.

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    Ronni Kern

    A dead tree that over the years has contained two large feral hives recently fell down. The bees had vacated a few months before. I am still not sure whether they were harassed into departing by hostile neighbors (their gardeners regularly trained a hose onto our property) or whether the bees just sensed the imminent collapse of their home and vamoosed. Anyhow, I loved the bees and now want to get started in actual beekeeping. I have joined HoneyLove and will start attending the seminars/sanctuary in January but in the meantime I am trying to figure if there is any place I can safely and legally situate a hive. My preference would be precisely where the dead tree was located since it faced southeast, overlooked a small fountain and was just over five feet from the property line, i.e. satisfying both Santa Monica and bee druthers. I am prepared to erect a six foot fence behind it to protect it from the neighbors. However, this was in our front yard which would make the SM “six-foot screen before departing the property” requirement difficult. The other logical place would be behind our garage but that area is fairly shady and to conform to the “facing away from nearest property line(s)” requirement, I would have to orient the hive opening west rather than south. Is this a huge issue in southern California? A third alternative is the rarely used deck off our second-floor bedroom. I raised this possibility at the last HoneyLove seminar I attended but was advised against it because the bees would be distressed by the vibrations of my walking on the deck to tend them. However I recently noticed a photo from last February’s LA Times of Rob McFarland’s hives on his roof so clearly this is done. Does anyone have any suggestions as to my best course of action? Thanks!


    Milt Ezzard

    Since I have a couple of dogs I don’t want to put at risk, I’m planning on locating my hives on the garage roof- A bit of a hassle, but I’m hoping it’s the best solution. They’ll probably be oriented with their entrances facing south unless someone advises otherwise.


    Ronni Kern

    Well, then there’ll be at least two of us with high-rise hives. I’m hoping one of the experts weighs in; otherwise I’ll raise the issue again at the next gathering.


    Ruth Askren

    A flat roof is a good place for a hive in terms of keeping their flight path well over everyone’s heads, but they can get extremely hot up there. Be sure to consider both radiant heat coming up from the black rooftop and also the beating mid-August- October sun. The roof-heat can be dissipated by putting your hives on a pallet. Providing a shade cloth to help in the hot season is something you might want to plan for now. It can be a problem on a roof to find a vertical pole to hang a shade from.

    If the deck outside your bedroom has a floor solid enough to walk on, I don’t know why it would vibrate enough to bother the bees. It should be able to bear about 300 pounds of weight though.

    Ronni, all the issues you mention bear consideration. There is no place for bees that is completely perfect. You don’t mention what city you’re in but I assume it is Los Angeles and so you are wise to try to conform to the Santa Monica code, because when it is legalized we will probably have something close to that.

    I consider the compass direction the hive faces to be much less important than several other factors. Here is my priority list:
    (1) As far as possible from a fenceline where the neighbors on the other side have children who play in that yard. That’s a no-no.
    (2) Facing along, not across, a property line.
    (3) Access for the beekeeper: must be accessible from outside. A balcony for example with a high wall, where you would need a ladder both on the balcony and outside, to get up to the balcony, would not work. You will be needing to carry heavy things back and forth, and some of those heavy things will have bees flying around them and/or honey dripping from them. You don’t want that in the house. Angled ladder access is okay, but you may also need the ability to raise and lower boxes on ropes.
    (4) At least four hours of direct sunlight, or nearly direct.
    (5) If hive is in a small yard where you may need to walk back and forth across the flight path, then an enclosure should be built, using at the minimum 6′ high reed or bamboo fencing (a “bee cabana”). Make sure to leave enough room to walk around the hive and be able to place hive components on the ground as you inspect.
    (6) Homeowner of hive must be able to secure young dogs away from the hive permanently. Ditto for children under the age of approximately ~7. I advise people with toddlers or soon-to-be that it might be better to wait if their space is limited.
    (7) Out of direct line of sight of neighbors. If next door you have an apartment building where the second story windows look directly on to your hive site, you might want to consider a different site. People become fearful when they see a hive opened and it’s not worth the hassle. Put it somewhere that people won’t be seeing it every time they look outside.

    I’m sure there are other things I havent brought in to the conversation. Glad you brought it up, it’s something we should discuss more often.


    Ronni Kern

    Ruth, thanks so much for all the valuable information. I am in fact in Santa Monica where I will be registering the hive, so conforming to their particular regulations is necessary for me. The deck in question does have a pretty solid wood floor (with the occasional knot hole). It has fairly widely-spaced railing uprights so I figured I would place the hive with an opening oriented to one of those openings which would give the girls free sailing out into the orchard below. Since the hive would be easily 30′ from that property line (and the pool beyond), I’m assuming that will be okay. I intend to put some sort of water source between hive and pool.

    The deck, however, does have a roof which is good in that it eliminates beating sun but bad because I am not sure if there are four hours of direct sun up there. I will have to watch. To get to it is simply a matter of opening the door in our bedroom and walking out. No ladders involved. My husband likes to hang his wet tee shirts and towels out there but that can stop. Otherwise it is not used at all.

    As you intuited, I am surrounded by people with pools and young children (either kids or grandkids) so if my hive were to be ground level and in the backyard (ie away from nervous front-yard eyes) it would definitely mean orienting west and again, I am not totally sure about the four hours of sun thing (I have two enormous bay laurel trees on the south side of my lot which makes the whole thing shady, especially in winter. I would severely prune them but my neighbors on that side also have a dense hedge at least 12′ high and probably more… so shade shade shade)

    I am extremely intrigued by your notion of a “bee cabana” because that had been my original notion for the front yard location where the wild bees had been with no problems for anyone. The mailman used to walk right by the hive without even noticing it. I had been discouraged from it, however, by Ormond Aebi’s book where he discusses bees needing twenty feet of take-off before a fence; and his cabana being thirty feet square. No way I have that much room!

    I will be getting a fuzzy black puppy in the spring, so I have Milt’s concerns about wanting to keep her safe. Thank you for addressing that. Another argument for the deck I suppose. Again, thanks so much for all this information to work with. I look forward to meeting you at the January meetings.


    Ruth Askren

    Ronni Kern

    Wow, what great photos! I am so inspired (though, really, I want that tree house). Thanks for the links.

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