Can Beehives Open Toward a Fence?

Ask the Expert!

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Arnie asks: I am in Zone 8, I have three Langstroth hives next to a solid board fence. Can I turn the opening toward fence and how far away should the opening be from the fence?

Rusty Burlew replies:

Facing a beehive toward a barrier results in the honey bees gaining altitude very quickly, instead of the gentle slope that is usual. This placement actually has advantages, especially if the beekeeper has close neighbors. If you can get the bees to fly high, they are not nearly so noticeable.

But how close is too close is harder to answer. I have a hive that faces our driveway and sometimes, when we are trying to get the vehicles out of our way, we park the pickup very close to the hive opening, between two to three feet away. The bees continue to come and go without a problem. Generally, they just go up at a steeper angle, but some tend to fly to the side, and then up. In other words, instead of leaving the hive and going straight out, they leave the hive and go to the left or the right before going up.

Based on watching this, I assume that your bees will do something similar. I also think that the closer the opening is to the barrier, the more likely the bees will go to the left or right before they gain altitude.

Honey bees are very adaptable and they will be able to figure this out. On the other hand, you don’t want to crowd them to the point where coming and going becomes difficult, especially in the busy honey-making season. I think at least a three-foot separation would be best for the long term. That provides you, the beekeeper, with room to maneuver as well.

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