Location of Hive

Most of what I have read says to place the hive in a sunny spot. However, there is also the school of thought that bees naturally place their hives in shade. I am a new bee keeper, and would lean towards doing what bees naturally do on instinct. I also have a large wooded area that I could utilize. Thoughts on mostly shady vs. mostly sunny? I am very interested to hear about both sides. Thanks!

Morning sun, afternoon shade
South facing, North if you are in the Southern Hemisphere.
Water source nearby
Shelter from the prevailing wind
Lifted off the ground

I have some hives facing south nestled near some trees, but also have some in open fields where crop circles are located, then some others are near a river that is also an ag area, then a few in under some huge old cottonwoods that are near orchards. They all seem to adapt just fine.

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If you live in small hive beetle land (the south) the more sun the better. Up here in the north (NJ USA) I place them anywhere and don’t do anything for beetles and the hives thrive.

People often assume that what the bees would choose is therefore best for them. This is sometimes, somewhat true, but when it comes to sun or shade, experience has shown they do better in sun even though they choose shade. Their instincts are also to plug up anywhere light comes in, but that eliminates top entrances. Experience has shown that a top entrance allows the moist air out and prevents condensation in the winter. So just because bees prefer it does not mean that it is best. The sunshine is especially important when it comes to small hive beetles or wet climates…

I believe the bees plug up top holes to keep cold air & draft out & not so much the light. I believe after millions of years of evolving that the bees DO know what’s best for them.

In choosing a location to start a new hive, the bees don’t have the advantage of always choosing a nice sunny spot. Nor morning sun or afternoon shade. They have to make the most of the best possible available spot the scouts can find in the area.

There is a myriad of other strategies for SHB besides a sunny spot. In fact, that doesn’t even appear on my “SHB strategy” list.

Yes here in the UK top holes are a no no (unless you are an old BBKA dinosaur). Top ventilation together with an open floor lead to a howling gale blowing through the frames.The bees propolise them up anyway if given a chance. Insulation keeps the inside of the hive dry.

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If you give them a large hole on the bottom where light is not coming through they seldom do anything to try to plug it. If you give them one high up where the light comes through (no matter how large or small) they will try to plug it. When gathering propolis you use this to your advantage. It is obviously the light they are plugging. Yes the bees USUALLY choose what is best, but in these two cases (light and sunny locations) they don’t seem to be correct. Everyone facing SHB says they do better in the sun and most experienced beekeeper have noted them being healthier and more productive in the sun.

When I get something in my eye, my instincts are to rub my eye. My instincts are wrong…

Is it though?
Could it be where the heat is escaping?

There are many ways to lose heat. Certainly that instinct seems to help with the heat escaping, somewhat. But there are moisture issues as well.

"I had a neighbor who used the common box hive; he had a two inch hole in the top which he left open all winter; the hives setting on top of hemlock stumps without any protection, summer or winter, except something to keep the rain out and snow from beating into the top of the hive. he plastered up tight all around the bottom of the hive for winter. his bees wintered well, and would every season swarm from two to three weeks earlier than mine; scarcely any of them would come out on the snow until the weather was warm enough for them to get back into the hive.

"Since then I have observed that whenever I have found a swarm in the woods where the hollow was below the entrance, the comb was always bright and clean, and the bees were always in the best condition; no dead bees in the bottom of the log; and on the contrary when I have found a tree where the entrance was below the hollow, there was always more or less mouldy comb, dead bees &c.

“Again if you see a box hive with a crack in it from top to bottom large enough to put your fingers in, the bees are all right in nine cases out of ten. The conclusion I have come to is this, that with upward ventilation without any current of air from the bottom of the hive, your bees will winter well without any cobs.”–Elishia Gallup, The American Bee Journal 1867, Volume 3, Number 8 pg 153

Yes, yes, yes :smile:
But with a mesh floor top ventilation is unnecessary.

I have not found that to be true. Moist air rises and if there is no top entrance it condenses on the cover and drips on the bees. It may work in some climates. It does not work in mine. An open mesh floor with nothing to block it, in my climate is death. When the wind is howling at 60 mph (97 kph) and the temperature is -27 F (-33 C) and the screened bottom board (open mesh floor) is wide open, the bees simply die from cold. 60 mph wind is not unusual any time of the year here. 40 mph is a windy day. 30 is breezy. 20 mph is a typical day. -27 F is the record, here (though I’ve seen -40 F (-40 C) two different winters in the Panhandle of Nebraska and one winter it was that cold every night for a month and a half) but we typically get a couple of weeks of -10 F every night (-23 C).

Also, what the bees can survive is not necessarily what is best. In my experience, what is best is no bottom ventilation and a small top entrance. This not only lets the moisture out, but is open even when there is snow and even when a lot of bees have died over winter. The entrance does not get clogged by dead bees.


@Michael_Bush are your bees out on a Prairie or similar? Can they not have a sheltering fence or is that not possible?

At 60 mph a fence wouldn’t stop the wind, but no, there is no fence. I have them on the high ground so they won’t get flooded and on the only level high ground I have. I would like to build a fence, but building windbreaks for 200 hives is not a trivial undertaking and not one I have had the time to do. Even then that would change a 60 mph wind into a 40 mph wind… or it would blow down if you tried to block too much. Here is my yard at my old house after one of many storms that have downed my trees:


Ouch! I suppose that is one of the challenges of Bee Keeping; using what your local environment throws at you and doing the best you can with it.

My bees are sheltered on 3 sides by 2 fences and a trellis and are only 60 feet from the house which brings it’s own problems - the flight path comes in over my house and I’m considering facing them at an angle so I can still see the entrance but turn the flight path so hubby’s car doesn’t take the brunt of the poop outwards flight once they take height over the house and the back yard is not a constant runway.

When we move house it is a big consideration for where the bees will go as to where we move

That just goes to show that what works great for one beekeeper in one climate might lead to disaster with another in a different climate.


Correct me if I’m wrong Michael_Bush, but didn’t I read in one of your reply’s to someone on another thread you at one time had a 175 colonies and lost them all.

OK, I will correct you. No. You did not.Sequence of events is always important. I had about four to seven on large cell back in the late 90s up until 2001 and lost them all several times while treating and while not treating for Varroa. 2002 is when I regressed them to small cell and natural cell size.

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Where to place to my first hive has officially confused me, this after I thought I had the perfect spot. We have 3 acres, 1 of which the house is on, with a meadow, so the hive can’t be here. The other two are side by side like 2 football fields with the “top” 1/5 of them a meadow, outlined with a creek running through, and gets the afternoon to evening sun only. Originally I thought this was the perfect spot next to a constant water supply and getting 1/2 a day’s sun. Other than keeping the hive facing south, is there any improvements I can make with this decision? Help! :slight_smile: