Placing your beehives is a tricky business.
Once you’ve located a suitable site, there are still many other things to consider. Get the position and orientation wrong, and you could cause problems!
So quite naturally, beekeepers often ask what direction a hive should face.
Thankfully, if you keep a few simple factors in mind, your bees will be buzzing happily in and out of the hive!
So which direction should I face my beehives?
There are no strict rules for facing your beehive in a particular direction. However, there are several guidelines that you should follow to help with hive orientation. Your location in the world and your climate can also influence the direction you choose.
As a general rule, you want to orientate your beehives to avoid direct exposure to things like sun, wind, and rain.
Your bees won’t thank you if the rain gets blown into the hive by gusts of wind during a heavy downpour! Neither do they want to be blasted with the sun’s rays on a hot day each time they leave the hive!
Some of the considerations to bear in mind when choosing the direction of your beehives include the following:
- Sunlight and warmth.
- Prevailing winds.
- Your approach path.
- Barriers in front of the hive.
Let’s quickly take a look at each of these…
Sun and warmth
The warmth of the sun can be helpful for hives. The direction you choose relative to the sun depends on your local climate.
If it gets hot for many months where you live, avoid facing the hive southwards. The heat of the midday sun could adversely affect your bees (You might also want to try to find some dappled shade for the hives in this situation).
However, facing the entrance towards the east could be beneficial.
The early morning sun will warm up the interior of the hive. The rise in temperature at the entrance will encourage honey bees to start foraging earlier in the day.
In other more temperate parts of the world, you’ll get the best results from a south-easterly direction.
In cooler climates, a southern exposure could help keep the hive warm in the winter. Likewise, a location where the whole hive gets plenty of sunlight is helpful if it’s cold where you live.
Watch out for prevailing winds.
As a general rule, don’t face the beehive entrance towards prevailing winds.
Shelter from the wind also provides better protection from the rain (strong winds will blow raindrops into a hive entrance if it is poorly orientated).
“That sounds great,” I hear you ask. But what are the dominant wind directions where I live?
In the northern hemisphere, the most dominant winds are northeasterly (mostly flowing from northeast to southwest). As a result, facing a hive towards the south and east will be more beneficial for the bees.
Interestingly, this coincides with the previous recommendation about sun and warmth! A south-east facing hive seems to win the day 🙂
In the southern hemisphere, the opposite occurs. The prevailing winds are south-easterly (blowing from south-east to northwest). Facing the hive more towards the north and west is better.
By the way, the closer you are to the equator or the 30-degree latitudes north and south, the calmer the winds in your part of the world. This is because of how high, and low-pressure areas alternate across the globe. For example, places in the US where winds are generally calm (on the 30th parallel north) include anything near the Gulf of Mexico, Florida, Louisiana, texas – maybe southern California, Arizona, and New Mexico.
The problem of drifting
Drifting happens when bees get lost and mistake another hive for their own.
Yes… They are brilliant at navigation, but occasionally they make mistakes, mainly if your hives are all pointing the same way, look-alike, or are too close together.
If a strange bee turns up at a hive entrance, they often get let into the hive if they carry pollen or nectar. Then the foragers become a part of that colony. The problem with drifting is that you can end up with some colonies that are smaller than others. It might also have an effect on the spread of disease.
One of the solutions to minimize drifting is to ensure your hives are not all facing the same way. For example, you can stagger your hives and rotate the entrances slightly relative to each other. Or you can set them up in a curve rather than a straight line.
Think about your approach path
The best way to approach a hive is from the sides or behind. If you obstruct the bee’s flight path (the entrance), you will disturb their movements, and they could perceive you as a threat.
Beekeepers need to make regular visits, so if your hive faces your approach path, this could cause problems. So don’t face the entrance towards the route you use to access the beehive.
Use of barriers in front of the hive
This comment mainly applies if you keep bees in an urban area. The idea is to avoid worrying your neighborhood by the presence of your honey bee colony. So many people are nervous about having thousands of bees flying around their yard!
Facing the hive towards a tall barrier such as a fence or a tall bush alters the flight path of honey bees as they come and go from the hive.
They will fly in the straightest line possible to the hive entrance if given a choice. This flight path could be across your neighbor’s gardens.
A barrier in front of the entrance will force bees into the air and avoid bees troubling your neighborhood barbecue parties.
Your neighbors might not even notice the bees at all!
So do beehives have to face a certain direction?
To sum up, the most recommendable orientation for beehives is facing southwest.
Consider prevailing winds and how much sun your apiary gets before placing the hives. Don’t face them towards the pathway you use to visit the hives and stagger the direction of the entrances to avoid drifting bees.