Can I Use a Reflector to Increase the Amount of Sunlight in a Shady Location?
Ask the Expert!
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Devorah of Los Angeles asks:
We just cleared an area that’s 6 x 8 for school kids and congregants to learn about bees. It’s in a very visible spot, but it’s on the northern side of our property, and I fear there may not be enough sunlight to keep the hive warm through the winter despite living in a very hot part of Los Angeles. Can I use a mirror reflector to increase the amount of sunlight or will that harm the bees eyes?
Rusty Burlew answers:
Honey bees are extremely adaptable and can thrive from the equator all the way to Alaska in both sunny and shady areas, so there is no need for a hive to be placed in direct sunlight. In fact, left on their own, honey bees often select homes in very shady areas, including forests, behind barns, under bridges, and in homes that get no direct sunlight whatsoever.
Commercial beekeepers prefer sunny locations because it forces the bees to start foraging earlier in the day and work longer hours, which means they produce more honey. Other beekeepers, seeing what commercial operators do, often believe that is the best way. But you must remember that commercial decisions, such as sunny placement, are chosen for the beekeeper’s benefit, not for the bees’ benefit. Bees, like humans, are most comfortable with a mild exposure.
If your goal it to teach people about bees rather than achieve maximum honey production, a hive out of the direct sun is probably more humane, especially in a warm climate like Los Angeles. Personally, if I were beekeeping in LA, I would seek out the shadiest place I could find. I would also forego the reflector because it might intimidate the bees to have bright light directed toward them, and it also might interfere with their ability to navigate to and from their home. Bee navigation is based on the position of the sun, and a bright light might confuse them.