When to Use an Outyard

Moving Bees to A Different Location

When to Use an Outyard

Reading Time: 5 minutes

You enjoy walking to your backyard and visiting your hives any time you’d like, right? They’re close, accessible, and convenient. What more could you ask for? Well, maybe you’re beginning to have issues with bees getting caught in your hair whenever you walk out the door. Or maybe your neighbor is suddenly deathly allergic to bee stings — you know that person! Whatever the situation, there often comes a time when many beekeepers realize they need to utilize an outside bee yard — or an outyard as many of us call it — further from the home front. But how to decide if it’s time? How do you find one? Here are a few lessons I’ve learned along the way to determine if and when it’s time to move my bees to another yard. 

Bees Are Flying Everywhere 

If you have a single hive or two, chances are you won’t ever have to move your colonies to an outyard. However, the first season I realized it may be time to move my bees was the spring my son and I were stung on the head every single time we walked out the door. If a bee saw us, she flew straight for us and crash-landed in our hair with her mighty sting. It. Was. Not. Fun. We knew we had too many bees flying in our front yard. They had to go. 

Neighbors Are Complaining 

If you begin to feel you need to inspect your hives under the cover of darkness just so your neighbors don’t complain, you may need to move them. I once had a neighbor that hung out at her fence for nearly an hour waiting for me to finish my inspections before informing me that she had 12 bees hanging out at her pool’s drain. AND she was deathly allergic to bee stings. Of course, when asked, she didn’t carry an EPI pen for her allergy. She just “knew” she was allergic. So, the bees in that yard had to move. 

There’s Not Enough Forage 

When you see that your colonies are struggling just to bring in enough pollen and nectar to get by with little to no surplus for an entire honey flow season, the bees need to be moved. Not only is it expensive to constantly feed the bees, but bees by their very nature are designed to forage and not designed to eat sugar water every single day of the year. They need real honey and real pollen to thrive. So, if there’s no surplus honey, they need to move. 

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Knowing the forage capabilities surrounding the potential outyard is crucial to a successful location. 

So Now What? 

Once you decide it’s time to relocate your bees, it’s time to start looking for possible outyards. This often takes time as you need to not only locate individuals or businesses that are bee-friendly, you also need to scout an area to see what forages are available throughout the bee season.  

Experienced beekeepers are often the most accurate source of information on this matter as most of them know the forage for several counties around them. My mentor and other more experienced beekeepers gave me wise advice on the different areas to search as they not only knew the forage cycles and what was available in those areas, but they also were able to guide me away from the areas already populated by other beekeepers’ colonies.  

Knock On Doors And Offer Honey 

Once you have an area in mind, start knocking on doors. Most folks nowadays are hesitant when a stranger knocks on the door, so a nice business card can be helpful as everyone loves a beekeeper. For some reason, folks think we’re all super nice people that just need a place for our bees. And they often know that we tend to pay rent for their space in honey. Everyone’s favorite sweetener.  

So be sure, once you have a potential prospect, to offer the going rate in honey as rent. In our area, most of us pay with a case of honey, maybe two depending on the area and how many hives we set out in one spot. Just ask around your local bee association for the going rate and be sure to comply. We need folks to continue thinking we are nice people with weird little pets. So be nice to them. 

What’s In The Area? 

Just like you did when you set up your first apiary, you need to scout your chosen spot for the best apiary layout you can manage. Is there room to spread out? Will your hives have room to grow? Is there water? Is there shade? What about pests like bears, raccoons, skunks, etc.? Will the owner allow bear fencing, if needed? How many hives can you set up without bees flying into the owner’s hair? Is there a pool nearby? Look for potential problems prior to moving your bees to help avoid another move shortly down the road. 

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When selecting an outyard, determine just how much you and your bees can spread out as the apiary grows. 

Is It Accessible? 

It drives me crazy to discover I can’t get to my bees, whether it’s for a basic bee inspection, varroa mite treatments, or just because I’d like to check on them. Case in point: at one of my outyards, the caretaker decided a remote-controlled gate was a good idea for his driveway leading to the back acreage. Except he forgot to mention it to me. So, the day I went out at 5:30 in the morning to treat my bees for varroa mites, I couldn’t get in. This threw my treatments off schedule and messed up my entire day’s schedule because I could not get him on the phone until the next day. (This was the same location with the neighbor and the pool — time to move the bees.) 

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Bees must be checked even during bad weather, so ensure hives are accessible during the worst of weather for your area. 

Other obstacles to look for include flooded pathways to the hives during heavy rains. If the location is to be used in the winter, can you get in there to feed or to check entrances during snow or freezing rain? Does the nearby pond flood the area you intend to set the hives? Is it in a wetland area that is flooded during duck season? Does farming equipment ever block the entrance? Before you select a spot, it is best to think worst-case scenario because when you don’t, it very well may happen. And it takes a bit of effort to move bees in a rush. NO fun at all. 

Deciding to move bees to an outyard can be a difficult decision at times. Knowing when and where to make the move takes time, thought, and effort. But by keeping a few key elements in mind, selecting an outyard could be the best thing you ever do for your bees to keep the peace on the home front. But don’t wait until it’s time to make the move. Plan ahead so the move goes as smoothly as possible and isn’t a rushed endeavor. Your bees will thank you for it.   

Have you had to move your bees to an outyard? We would love to hear your experience in the comments below!

Originally published in Countryside July/August 2021 and regularly vetted for accuracy.

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