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Should Beehives Be In Sun Or Shade?

We as beekeepers only want what is best for our stinger friends, and any good beekeeper knows that hive placement is one of the first things to consider when they have bees. There are many ways to place your beehives correctly, but one of the most important is the sun to shade ratio.

Most beekeepers believe that the sun on their beehives is better than shade. And, loads of beekeepers go out of their way to provide their beehives with the sun. However, wild swarms always go for shaded areas for their hives. They nest in trees that shade them during the hottest parts of the day.

Continue reading as we discuss exactly where to place your dear beehives and why. After all, where to place one’s beehives can be quite an interesting subject!

Cases Where More Sun Can Benefit Your Beehives

Back in the days when fewer threats showed themselves to honey bees, beekeepers quickly noticed that when a hive was warmed by the morning sun, the bees would start to work earlier in the mornings. At the same time, if their hives got some sun in the afternoons, The bees worked until dusk.

Of course, all these factors benefited the beekeeper by maximizing honey profits by giving bigger yields.

Researchers who studied feral colonies to see what the bees actually preferred found the complete opposite. When bees are given a choice, they always choose a more shaded area on the edge of a forest.

Most wild colonies have a hive entrance that faces south. This is clever because when the light of the morning pokes through the hive entrance, the bees know that it is their cue to start working!

Wild hives can also be found in areas with no direct sunlight from the sun rising until the sunsets. Usually, these hives might be high up in a tree, built in the framing of a barn, or even tightly wedged in between buildings.

All of these bee-selected locations prove that a bee colony can live and even strive in full sun, part sun, or no sun.

Why Your Hives Should Not Be In Full Sun

Direct Sun Will Create A Hot Hive

When you’re considering sun or shade for your beehives, you also have to think about the heat factor. Beehives that are placed in direct sun can get incredibly hot. This obviously means that the hotter a beehive gets, the harder all the bees have to work to keep it cool.

The brood has to be kept at a constant temperature of about 95 degrees Fahrenheit. In order for the bees inside of the hive to achieve this ideal temperature, they have to collect water and spread a thin layer of it around the edges of the brood comb.

Then, they will stand on the comb and continuously fan their wings at full speed to create air currents that evaporate the water. This technique is called evaporative cooling, and it sort of works like a DIY air-conditioner!

As cute and as fascinating this all may sound, the hotter it gets, the harder your bees will have to work to keep their brood from overheating. Too many warm bee bodies inside the hive will worsen the problem, so some of the bees may even leave the nest. You definitely do not want this for your hives or your bees inside of them!

Too much sun is unhealthy.

If your colony is in full sun, they will work harder, and they may eventually even swarm or abscond. In the worst-case scenario, where there is inadequate ventilation, paired with no water, the wax combs can melt, killing your bees.

This is especially true in very hot climates with long days. To keep your bees happy, healthy, and alive, ensure that they have enough water supply and correct ventilation. Even if your bees are in full sun, a screened bottom board or a screened inner cover and upper entrance can work wonders!

A combination of all these three can improve the flow of air through your hive and keep it cool. You can also consider painting your hive a light color, such as yellow or white, that will reflect the sunlight instead of absorbing it.

Seasonal changes

When it comes to beekeeping during the winter, challenges can present themselves by the dozen! One of these challenges is keeping your hives warm. In the winter, direct sun on your hives can keep them warm, even when the temperatures drop immensely.

You can maximize the warmth in the winter by reducing airflow through the hives. You can even choose to add a windbreaker to keep your hives the warmest they can be.

The Perfect Amount Of Shade And Sun For Beehives

If you live in a very damp or wet area that is swampy and gets lots of rain, placing your hive in a shady location may be a gamble. Your hives may have trouble staying dry, and we all know about the dangers of wet hives.

Some beekeepers believe that large amounts of shade encourage small hive beetles, but not all agree. Everything in beekeeping is dependent on your local conditions and what you do with them! This is why you may have to spend some time finding the perfect hive location based on your climate.

The ideal situation for any beehive would be early morning sun, late afternoon shade, and evening sun. When a hive is placed in exactly these conditions, it will cause your colonies to warm up early in the day and start flying about! By later in the afternoon, when the temperatures begin to drop, the hive will warm up again before the coldness of the night starts to set in.

How To Choose The Perfect Beehive Location

It is necessary to remember that the ideal beehive location might not always be possible, and this is okay! Honey bees are very adaptable to any amount of sunlight, so that you can give the sun or shade decision a lower priority for the time being.

Other challenges, like keeping your bees away from livestock and your neighbors, are much more important, just as it is important to place your beehives where it is comfortable for you as the beekeeper as well! Remember, nothing is worse than wearing a bee suit on a hot day, directly in the sun.

You will not be able to maximize all aspects of your beekeeping journey, so when it comes down to sun or shade for your bees, think about it but refrain from worrying about it. Most honey bees do well, regardless of their sun to shade ratio.

Instead, let’s focus on the perfect combination of sun and shade for bees. When you’re looking for the perfect spot to place your bees, never forget to look up! Are there trees around you? Do you see bare or full branches?

Trees can be a great addition for honey bees because the bare branches of sinter allow the sun to warm up your hives and keep them cozy. Then, during the hottest days of summer, the bushy tree leaves may keep the hives shaded and cool. This makes it obvious why feral colonies are so fond of placing their hives in trees!

  • Sun, shade, or both. Depending on what part of the world you live in and the temperatures at the peak of summer, keep watching the hours of sunlight and which areas of your yard are in full sun. Your hives should be placed where they will get direct sunlight in the morning.

As mentioned before, this will cause your bees to go out of their hives earlier in the day to forage. In the Northeast, hives can usually remain in the full sun for the entire season without the beekeeper having any problems. However, in places with much hotter climates, hives should be provided with some afternoon shade.

  • Little to no direct wind. Ensure that you place your hives in an area with a windbreak. Windbreakers can be anything from fences to shrubbery trees or bushes. Windbreaker will especially benefit you in climates where the temperatures drop below freezing points.
  • Give your hives some space in between. Make 100% sure that you put enough space between your hives to work with them. You should be able to comfortably walk between and around them, with and without your beekeeping suit and beekeeping equipment.
  • Your beehives should be the perfect height from the ground level. Elevate your hives on platforms like cinder blocks to help keep any ground moisture out while allowing you to work with your hives without hurting your back.

By elevating your hives, you will be able to lift them more easily as well. However, refrain from making their platform too high, as you do not want to struggle when accessing the honey supers during the foraging season.

  • Always have a water source nearby that you can trust. A water source should always be near your beehives. Good water sources are things like a birdbath or even a small water pot filled with pebbles for landing and water.
  • Facing entrances. It will benefit both you and your bees if you face their hive entrance opposite to foot traffic. Your bee friends certainly won’t mind, and this helps to prevent people and pets from getting stung when they walk in front of the hive entrances. Bees will think they are predators, and you do not want to be receiving hundreds of stings!
  • Pay attention to the ease of access. You should always be able to see your beehives and access them easily too. This will help you to provide your beehives with the care and inspection that they require.
  • Consider the chance of predators. Check with your local agencies to determine if you have any honey bee predators in the areas: common honey bee predators and animals like bears and skinks. You will easily be able to keep any predators out, though, with either strong fencing or mild electric fencing.

Conclusion

In my opinion, when it comes to deciding on the perfect placement for your beehives, you have far more complicated factors to think about than just the amount of sun and shade they will be getting.

We only want our beehives to flourish and do their best so that we can taster their sweet, sweet honey.  I hope you learned all there is to know about placing your hives in order for you to make the most educated choice for your and your bees’ comfortability!

Jaco Stander

My name is Jaco Stander. I’m from Cape Town, South Africa. I’m a registered beekeeper with the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform & Rural Development in South Africa. Registration number WC808. I live on a small holding where I keep my 16 beehives. Taking care of bees is a very rewarding feeling, contributing to keep our bee colonies growing and thriving, and as a bonus, enjoying that sweet pure raw honey!

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